An Invitation from SUMMA

A letter from the Rev. Canon Christoph Keller, Th.D.

I write to invite you to an event that I hope may attract your interest: a high school student theological debate concerning same-sex marriage.

SUMMA: A Student Theological Debate Society was begun two years ago to offer high school students tools for reasoning, with knowledge in depth of the Christian theological tradition. Students enter the program through a week of summer camp at Sewanee’s School of Theology. It is a pilot project, started in Arkansas, now with plans for national expansion through the Programs Center at Sewanee.

In SUMMA’s young history, we have debated three resolutions: (1) Capital punishment is morally justified. (2) “Complete separation between the state and religion is best for the state and best for religion” (Justice Felix Frankfurter). 3) Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (“Outside the church there is no salvation”).

This March 14–15, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock, our students will debate the definition of marriage given in the Book of Common Prayer:


Christian marriage is a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God.

Twenty-seven debaters plan to participate in teams of three. Through the course of the tournament, each team will debate both for and against the resolution.

Debaters are preparing through reading and seminar discussions, including, for example, the 2010 traditionalist-liberal debate in the Anglican Theological Review, “Same-Sex Relationships in the Life of the Church.” In discussing that debate over same-sex marriage, students evaluated arguments using the criteria by which debates are judged in SUMMA. (With students and coaches all voting, exactly half gave the debate to each side.)

Our students know that with the upcoming debate they are taking on a challenging issue, one that carries high personal stakes for many, and significant implications for the church. I have told them what I believe is true: that they can meaningfully contribute to the wider discussion about same-sex marriage that is taking place throughout our society and church.

As pastors and teachers who also contribute to that discussion, I thought you would like to know of this event in Little Rock. Should circumstances permit and the spirit move you, we would be delighted to welcome as many of you as may be able to join us and watch as the debates unfold.