A former chair of theology was asked to leave his post at the evangelical Azusa Pacific University (APU) after coming out as transgender. Heather Ann Clements, now identifying himself as H. Adam Ackley, was asked to resign halfway throughout a five-year contract.Mr Ackley and APU have agreed to split ways with the university continuing to pay him for the rest of the academic year, though denying insurance for the medical treatment needed for gender transition. Ackley also expressed his wish for other professors to take over his classes: “I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity. I did get the message that it has to do with their concern that other people will have problems not understanding transgender identity.”
APU have declined questions regarding Mr Ackley’s employment, in order to “treat all parties with dignity and respect”. The university stated, “It is an ongoing conversation and a confidential matter.”At 47, with two children and getting a divorce, Ackley spoke out about Christian transphobia. He admitted that in his struggle against “Christian shame as a transgendered person”, he carved crosses on his body. “Told by my spiritual advisors and then spouse that recovery, sanity and preservation of my family required me to deny my now recognised transgendered identity, I once again struggled with self-medicating self-injuring, and self-starving of the female body during a suicidal relapse.“I tried to be the best Christian woman I could be… but I have to accept something difficult about myself,” he said. “I’ve never been fully myself, I’ve always been living a lie.”
APU students have mostly been supportive, with 1500 signing a petition in response to “create safety for transgender students and faculty” at the university. However, one law student admitted that Ackley’s presence on campus “is distracting and would take away from the theological importance of the classes”
APU describe themselves as “a private, interdenominational, evangelical Christian university”. Their statement on human sexuality states: “Humans were created as gendered beings”, though does not include an explicit policy on transgender identity.