Pasadena’s Fuller Theological Seminary fires pastor Ruth Schmidt after dispute over gay marriage, LGBTQ+ issues

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PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) — Ruth Schmidt said it’s been a couple of months since she was fired from her position as a senior director at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.

The institution’s community standards she would have had to sign are in contrast with her open and affirming position on LGBTQIA+ rights.

“That’s when the rubber met the road and I was like, ‘I’m getting ordained this year, my ordination vows are going to be to affirm gay marriage. I cannot wait to marry gay folks,'” Schmidt told Eyewitness News.

Schmidt, a queer pastor, was raised in a conservative church in Kansas City. Her faith journey led her to Fuller to examine theological questions, including the role of women as leaders and queer communities.

A human sexuality and ethics course led by a doctoral student and professor who came out to his students as gay was transformative, she said.

“He laid out all of the gorgeous queer theory around theological reasons why it is not only OK to be gay and lead a church, it’s actually beautiful,” she recalled.

Schmidt describes a conflicting experience in which some students and staff are queer-affirming or part of the queer community, while the seminary’s community standards are not.

Fuller Theological Seminary did not comment on Schmidt’s case, citing confidentiality. It said that all students and employees are informed about its community standards at the onset of their relationship with Fuller and are expected to uphold them.

The standards state in part: “Fuller Theological Seminary believes that sexual union must be reserved for marriage, which is the covenant union between one man and one woman…”

In 2016, Schmidt signed the standards as a student, then again in 2022 as part of a promotion.

“That was when I was surprised by the document, and I was given three weeks to sign it,” Schmidt said.

“We were still coming out of the pandemic,” she added. “I needed a job, and so I wrestled with it for a long time because my integrity was just like, ‘Alert! You cannot sign this.'”

She decided it would be the last time and most recently, presented a legal proposal.

“I said, ‘I will sign the community standards if you let me also sign this legal rider that says I have religious freedom as well,'” she said.

It was rejected. In January, community members rallied on her behalf.

The institution said its president sent out a community update some weeks ago stating in part that it was in the “intentional season of deliberation and discernment related to issues of human sexuality.”

“I want the board at every Christian school to be aware that we’re not in opposition with them. We’re actually looking to work with them, and we don’t want special treatment, but we do want equality,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt would like to be part of movement to apologize to queer communities and engage others in this conversation.

“There are Christians who are queer, silently suffering at Christian schools all over America, and we need to be talking about it,” she said.

Schmidt has accepted a job as a pastor and plans to be ordained under United Church of Christ, which is an open and affirming institution.

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