By Associated Press - Thursday, August 2, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - The dean of the Duke Divinity School stepped down from the position Thursday, and a professor has been named to replace her.

A statement from Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth said Elaine Heath announced her decision was effective immediately. No explanation was given for the move.

The statement said Heath will remain on the divinity school faculty as a professor of missional and pastoral theology. Kornbluth said the school looks forward to Heath “continuing as a member of the Divinity School faculty to advance her work on several emerging initiatives that bridge the academy to the church and the world.”

L. Gregory Jones, a professor of theology and Christian ministry, will serve as dean, a position he held from 1997 through 2010. Jones will also help in the search for a new dean.

“If you are surprised to be reading this message from me as your Dean, rest assured you are no more surprised than I am to be writing it,” Jones wrote in an email reported by The Chronicle, the school’s newspaper.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports Heath had encountered controversy in her two years as dean. She was involved in a dispute with professor Paul Griffiths, who was disciplined after he complained in a school-wide email that diversity training was “a waste” and “anti-intellectual.”

Griffiths resigned in protest after he was targeted with disciplinary proceedings. He said Heath had banned him from faculty meetings and threatened to pull school funds for his travel and research.

Heath had been the target of criticism about the school’s treatment of lesbian, gay and transgender students at the United Methodist Church-affiliated seminary. In February, student protesters stormed a state-of-the-school speech by Heath.

She formed a task force at the school to work on those issues.

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