The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Rev. James St. George — a former Chestnut Hill College adjunct professor who was dismissed last month for being openly gay — has found acceptance at Penn.

On Feb. 24, St. George’s teaching contract with the Catholic Chestnut Hill College was not renewed because his blog posts about his relationship with his long-term partner were “at odds with the beliefs and mission of Chestnut Hill College and the Catholic Church,” Chestnut Hill President Sister Carol Jean Vale told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

After reading about St. George’s situation in the press, Andrew Lamas, a faculty member of the Urban Studies Program at Penn, invited St. George to guest teach in his course, “Religion, Social Justice and Urban Development.”

Far from a conventional lecture course, the class typically opens with a series of Qigong poses lead by retired Unitarian minister, Rev. John Gilmore. This is followed by a round-table discussion of the assigned readings lead by Lamas.

“We are very pleased to have Rev. Jim St. George as a part of our class this term,” Lamas wrote in an email. “His participation in class discussions has enriched us immeasurably.”

St. George is the pastor of St. Miriam, which is part of the Old Catholic Apostolic Church of America, a denomination that does not ordain priests based on gender or sexual orientation.

While Lamas’ co-teachers are not on Penn’s pay roll, faculty members are permitted by the University to bring alternative and controversial perspectives into the classroom.

“Lamas is certainly entitled and encouraged even, to present interesting points of view … in his class,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dennis DeTurck said. “We don’t monitor or censor anything that goes on in our classes.”

St. George explained that as someone who is “social justice-oriented,” he’s been able to offer his perspective on real-world issues.

“I think there’s always a tendency in academia to apply theory. But theory doesn’t go too far in the real world,” he said. “Not only am I a parish priest — and I deal with a lot of brokenness in the world — but I’m also a trauma chaplain, so I deal with real brokenness.”

St. George also said that he hopes students have learned from his experience with Chestnut Hill College.

“To every story, there are three sides,” he said, adding that this controversy highlights how what individuals read may impact them.

College and Wharton junior Besan Abu-Joudeh said having different perspectives voiced in the classroom, such as St. George’s, has been beneficial for her in gaining further insight into the material.

If gay rights were to come up, for instance, she’s said, we have a person speaking from the perspective of a gay cleric.

“It makes everything so much more tangible,” she added. “That’s why diversity is so important.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.