Pt. Loma Nazarene Dean Fired for Supporting Backer of LBGTQ Rights

by on April 6, 2023 · 9 comments

in Education, LGBT rights, Ocean Beach

Mark Maddix

By Ken Stone / Times of San Diego / April 6, 2023

A Point Loma Nazarene University dean was fired three weeks ago, allegedly for siding with a colleague who lost her job at the church-affiliated school for backing LGBTQ rights.

The dean, Mark Maddix, has hired San Diego attorney Josh Gruenberg to deal with the school.

According to school alumnus Lauren Cazares, founder of Loma LGBTQIA+ Alumni & Allies Coalition, PLNU Provost and Chief Academic Officer Kerry Fulcher fired Maddix, dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry.

“With no previous disciplinary actions or concerns, Dr. Mark Maddix was fired due to what the provost claims as ‘insubordination’ for his support of former adjunct professor and minister Melissa Tucker,” said the release.

Cazares says Tucker was “blacklisted,” effectively fired from her alma mater.

“Melissa Tucker was removed … for being a public ally to the LGBTQ+ community and Mark Maddix was fired for not standing by the homophobic and discriminatory decision,” she wrote.

Maddix was allegedly fired March 15, two days after starting his sabbatical. Maddix would not comment on the case when contacted by Times of San Diego but said he had retained an attorney.

His automatic email reply says: “From March 13 to May 28, I will have limited access to email because I am on sabbatical and vacation.”

On Thursday, Gruenberg said: “We think he was wrongfully terminated and we will give the school an opportunity to address the issue before we file anything.”

Lora Fleming, the school’s director of communications, issued this statement: “While we cannot provide specific details on personnel issues, especially with the threat of potential litigation, the decision to suspend Dr. Maddix’s employment was not based on anything related to the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Litigation might be a challenge, however, since recent court decisions protect churches and church-related organizations from lawsuits under the so-called “ministerial exception.”

According to a legal blog, “One does not need to be an actual minister – or even administrator – for the exception to be applicable.”

The post continued:

The ministerial exception may protect religious institutions from claims of employment discrimination that aren’t solely about religious discrimination.

The California Supreme Court in the past has expressed empathy for employees at religious institutes (mostly schools) unable to sue for employment discrimination under the law when they’d otherwise be able to, but for the ministerial exception. It remains a significant barrier to some claims.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a racial harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claim by a California Catholic high school principal, who the court found qualified as a minister under the ministerial exception.

Theologian Thomas Jay Oord, an elder in the Nazarene Church, told Times of San Diego that “the firing of Mark Maddix is not the way of love.”

“Maddix has been an example in his life and teaching for decades, and his standing with harmed and hurting people is exemplary,” he said via a Facebook message. “The university and the Church of the Nazarene have views on human sexuality that do not align with their more fundamental theological commitments to Jesus’ love. Those views on queer matters must change if they are to be stay true to their core message.”

On Facebook, Jessica Ann Hiatt said she was angry and “deeply grieved” by the Maddix firing, which became widely known Wednesday.

“I did my undergrad and graduate work at Northwest Nazarene University, and had Mark Maddix as a professor,” she wrote. “As the Church of the Nazarene, and other Christian churches and denominations close ranks against the LGBTQIA+ and those who stand with them in love, the church moves farther and farther away from the example Jesus gave.”

Sources say Maddix’s colleagues are worried about their own jobs, and are “strategizing on how best to respond.”

Lainie “Elaine” Alfaro is editor of the school newspaper, Lomabeat.

She said her staff is working on a story.

“I believe most students and faculty didn’t know Dr. Maddix was fired until this document was sent out yesterday based on our inquiries for interviews,” Alfaro said via email.

“Our staff didn’t receive a tip on this story till a few hours before the email was sent out. … Most faculty are not willing to talk because it is a recent development and many are awaiting administration to actually address it.”

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Does zant save April 6, 2023 at 9:18 pm

What a ridiculous “school”. Tax them.


Chris April 7, 2023 at 10:14 am

Color me ignorant as I don’t know much about the Church Of Nazarene. I always thought it was a conservative leaning entity that frowns on LGBTQ so my question would would people who disagree with the church’s stance want to work at this university in the first place?
Interestingly, here is the school’s policy regarding LGBTQ students:


Frank Gormlie April 7, 2023 at 11:35 am

Chris, actually a poll was taken of students at PLNU a few years ago, and religion was only cited by a minority as the reason they attended the school.


Chris April 7, 2023 at 6:21 pm

I know many students don’t choose that school for religious reasons, but it seems staff have to abide by a certain code of ethics.


Kendra (they/them) April 12, 2023 at 2:26 am

Hi, can I ask where this PDF is from? Is there any info on when it was written or who wrote it?

“After examining the policy together, participants expressed concern that many LGBTQ students felt marginalized not by the stance taken, but by the particular language used in the Student Handbook” feels like quite a bold faced lie to me, as a person who was facilitating that Voices of Love conversation, and having those excruciating meetings with administrators trying to get them to understand how deeply harmful their policies were/are. It was absolutely about the stances, not just the language (though that was certainly atrocious too). It’s honestly devastating and infuriating to read that this was their takeaway from those meetings, that we just wanted them to use nicer language, not actually stop discriminating against trans & queer people.

I will say that in my opinion/experience, quite a few professors have substantially more loving, intellectually rigorous, and Christ-like stances on queer issues than the administrators and board of trustees do. I think there are actually a decent number of professors delicately navigating trying not to get fired while also trying to really show up well for their queer students, and cultivate educational and/or spiritual spaces that are safer and less traumatizing. I think the presence of those professors is very literally life saving for a lot of us.


Geoff Page April 13, 2023 at 11:22 am

Where else but The Rag do you find such detailed, real information expressed so well. This is much of what The Rag is about. It sounds like a sad situation, hopefully it gets resolved so people don’t have to delicately navigate their days. When does, be sure to come back and tell everyone.


Roderick T. Long April 24, 2023 at 2:19 pm

“[Why] would people who disagree with the church’s stance want to work at this university in the first place?”

Most religious organisations and movements encompass a variety of different interpretations of their fundamental principles. Hence it often happens that teachers at a religious school will have a different interpretation from that of the management.


Dr. Jack Hammer April 7, 2023 at 10:27 am

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

—Martin Niemöller


Geoff Page April 7, 2023 at 12:53 pm

You know, Hammer, I used that same poem to make a point on Twitter and it became a Twitterstorm by a whole bunch of very small minds who did not understand the poem was not just about the holocaust. Keep you head down.


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