From Chase Bannister
My heavens - I've been reading and hearing about these last months at Duke Divinity School, and it strikes me that it is partly my responsibility to share with you that I, along with so many, expect more from you than this.
I'm troubled at your narration of the new-student orientation interchange as a 'grave misinterpretation' by students. This language is—in and of itself—ontologically belittling, a behavior-trait incongruent with my experience of your character and integrity. Re-read your words from another lens, and I sense further exegesis will make clear to you the need for swift and potent apology to these students for your diction.
Moreover, perhaps you will use this opportunity to do the real work before you, mustering courage to publicly retract your words from your text, The Moral Vision. Doing so will allow you to lead from a location of vulnerability rather than of placation and accusation, entrenched patterns happening around you (and through you) to which you may be too close to fully perceive.
It is time for you to express that both your long-published words and your recently-spoken words, while perhaps well-intentioned, were (and remain) fracturing of the body, and, at root, wrong. I've treated far too many of your students over the years, traumatized by the active and passive oppression, neglect, and identity-shame experienced in the classrooms under your cure. You have a depth of wisdom profound enough to know that simply parroting the demeaning Disciplinary out-clause that all are of "sacred worth" is a curtain behind which you can no longer hide, as it continues to be rent asunder day by day, thanks be to God.
I know you to be a wonderful and thoughtful scholar, and a wonderful and thoughtful human. In fact, I'm no longer convinced you actually believe that lives and loves of persons of differing sexual orientations are "incompatible with Christian teaching;" yet, for whatever reasons, you live in fear of letting this be known to the wider world.
There comes a time, Richard, when The Church needs you to anathematize the politics of Methodists, money, and the maladaptive morality therein. These politics have hurt too many people for too many years in ways only describable with sighs too deep for words.
From the pulpit of Duke Chapel more than 10 years ago, Peter Storey—your friend, my friend, (and for those who may not know, Nelson Mandela’s chaplain whilst imprisoned on Robben Island during apartheid)—said these words to us—prophetic words one might hope would’ve incubated more truth and reconciliation in the space of a decade:
“Until you lead your congregation to engage with that real world, your pastoring will be mere pampering – your proclamation will be a religious form of talking to yourself. It’s only too easy to slip into that self-deceiving mode: some of the very people who speak most about reaching the world are right now directing a ruthless civil war inside the church, all about keeping some people out. For shame! For shame!
Resist with all your might the temptation to play “church” while the world bleeds… Pray that through your ministry, your people will learn from the Crucified One what it means to have arms nailed wide open in welcome to all God’s children, especially those wounded by religious legalism and bigotry.
This is the kind of food your people will not always thank you for, but you are not called to trim your Gospel to fit their prejudices. That might make you popular, but it will not make them Christian.”
-The Rev. Dr. Peter Storey, The Heart of All Ministry, May 8, 2004
Be of good courage, Richard – I stand poised to help in whatever way I can.
Os justi meditabitur sapientiam,
et lingua ejus loquetur judicium:
lex Dei ejus in corde ipsius
et non supplantabuntur gressus ejus. Alleluia.
Yours in accountability and with trust,
Chase Bannister is Founder, Vice President, & Chief Clinical Officer of a specialty behavioral health hospital for young people with eating disorders in Durham, North Carolina. Chase is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and is credentialed by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals as a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist.
Chase earned concurrent graduate degrees from The University of North Carolina (MSW) at Chapel Hill & Duke University (MDiv), completing residencies in clinical social work at Duke University Medical Center & Duke University’s Counseling and Psychological Services.
Chase held the clinical directorship of an acute residential treatment center for adult women with eating disorders--for many years, and has been a mental health provider across the spectrum of care for persons with severe eating disorders.
Chase is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders, and The Eating Disorder Coalition, and The Residential Eating Disorders Consortium, where he works alongside The Joint Commission to establish core standards of care for 24-hour eating disorder programs in the United States.
He serves on the medical advisory board of Mental Fitness, Inc., and is a constituent member of the Weight Stigma Stakeholders Group, an advisory coalition offering counsel to the Office of The First Lady and the Nation's Let's Move campaign. Chase regularly presents at universities, hospitals, and national conferences on ethics in the provision of healthcare.
Chase is a recipient of The Arthur B. & Ida Mae Rivers Award for Integrity, Virtue, Gentleness, and Character as well as The L. Harris Chewning Award for Scholarly Achievement, and Intellectual & Moral Integrity.