Friday, July 10, 2015

How San Francisco Theological Seminary Betrayed Me

I loved being a student at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS). It was an open and accepting environment, I was able to deepen my understanding of God and my faith, and I made lot of incredible friends. As part of my Masters in Divinity degree, I got a concentration in Christian Spirituality, which included creating a thirty-four foot long mosaic mural in one of the common areas on campus. I called it “Faith, Hope, and Love” and it depicts my understanding of the work that God did to save humanity. The seminary is now using the mural as the basis of a $6 million fundraising campaign, and as the creator of the mural, I was proud that the images from it were going out into the world for what I perceived to be a good cause.

The four years I spent studying at SFTS were some of the greatest years of my life. I will always remember the profound learning that happened as a student and the fun times that I had, but now, my memories are tainted with the understanding of how the seminary actually sees me. Now that I am no longer a student, I am disposable. I am no longer a person to them.

Shortly after graduating, the seminary asked if I would work in the communications department. I agreed because I loved the school and it would be a steady source of income that would allow me to stay in the area while I completed my ordination process. I was told that I would have a job for two years, as part of a pilot program that would help recent graduates by providing gainful employment in a job that one might possibly be ordained into.

A year and half later, I was fired for no reason, without any warning.

The school continues to use my mosaic for it’s fundraising campaign, and there is even a video of me talking about the mosaic on the giving page of the website.

I was utterly betrayed by this institution. The school appropriated my work for its own use, and then fired me with no regard to my relationship with the school.

Before all of this happened, I was one of the school’s biggest cheerleaders. I loved SFTS, and I did everything in my power to help it succeed. I worked hard and focused all of my creative energies on ways to help the school. But, my work was not appreciated. Recently, I met someone who was thinking about going to seminary. My gut instinct was to recommend SFTS, but I didn’t, because I didn’t want to be the person who recommended SFTS if he decided to go there and then ended up having a bad experience. I no longer trust the institution. I think a lot of the people there have forgotten what it means to be Christian.

One of the most important parts of being a Christian is being in relationship with other people. Jesus told us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are supposed to care for and love each other. If the people at SFTS are incapable of doing this, how can we expect them to teach it?

I know that there are good people working there, on the staff and on the faculty, but they are not able to stand up to the institution, and it pains me that in writing this, I may be hurting them. But, I am powerless against this institution, and this is the only thing that I can do to make sure that my voice is heard. I have no faith that this institution is capable of doing the right thing. This may not always be true, and I hope that this changes. But, it’s true now.