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Dear WTS Community,

These past few months have been incredibly difficult as we have grieved the loss of lives, community, routines, and expectations due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This last week was monumental as we mourned the loss of over 100,000 lives to this deadly virus here in the United States.

Last week was also painful because we witnessed the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. His death once again called attention to the suffering and lament of the African American community, whose collective experience has all too frequently been marked by injustice and brutality. The death of George Floyd concluded a span of a few weeks where we grieved the loss of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and invoked the memories of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and Laquan McDonald, among many others.

Incidents like these remind us of the long history of injustice and racism in our country. This past August marked 400 years since the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, and much remains to be done on both relational and systemic levels to ensure justice and equity regardless of the color of one’s skin.

Incidents like these also cause us to lament how some law enforcement officers have misused and abused their authority, thus overshadowing the dedication and commitment of those public officials who put their lives at risk every day for the sake of others.

This past week reminds us that violence is not the answer. The groundswell of protests represents the hurt and frustration that the African American community has experienced through the criminal justice system. Let us not gloss over the pain that led to these protests and the sincere cry for justice that continues beyond the violence. We remember the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” At the same time, the small minority incidences of violence and looting, whether committed by those genuinely frustrated or by those simply taking advantage of the situation, often end up hurting the very businesses, communities, and people the protests aim to help.

This past week also reminds us that while we live in a polarized society, God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and that he has given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:19). God has also called us to rejoice with those who rejoice, to mourn with those who mourn, and not to overcome evil with evil but to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:15, 21).

Over this past year, the diversity committee at WTS has worked on a statement on racial and ethnic diversity at our institution. The proposed statement includes the following affirmation:

We affirm that all human beings are in the image of God, and we uphold the full dignity and worth of all people of all racial and ethnic identities.

We therefore reject any direct or indirect discrimination against, and devaluing or dishonoring of, any person on the grounds of race or ethnicity.

In the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we commit to discerning and uprooting all forms of racial prejudice, individually and in our institutional culture.

I share this not because we have arrived. We have much work to do. I share this because this proposed statement not only demonstrates our commitment as an institution, but also is a much-needed reminder for such a time as this.

In this season of Pentecost, when we remember how the breath of God fills us with the Holy Spirit, our country is protesting the death of a man who cried out, “I can’t breathe.” Jesus Christ did not turn away from suffering such as this but took it upon himself. Before he rose and sent the Spirit, he struggled for breath on the cross. Pentecost Sunday is a powerful reminder that we do not strive for reconciliation or fight for justice alone. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has come to make all things new (Rev. 21:5). Through the cross, justice and reconciliation with both God and fellow human beings are possible. Let us continue to be Spirit-filled people in this world, crying out for justice, proclaiming peace, and joining in God’s work of reconciliation wherever we go.


Soli deo Gloria,
Felix Theonugraha,
President

 

 

View the webinar: Race and the Church: A Christian Response to the Death of George Floyd.

In this episode, Dr. Greg Lee, Associate Professor of Theology and Urban Studies at Wheaton College, discusses Augustine and Mass Incarceration. Much of Dr. Lee’s work appropriates Augustine as a resource for addressing contemporary issues of church and society. A resident of the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, he is especially interested in urban questions of race and class, which he approaches from a distinctly Asian American perspective. WTS student and Wheaton grad Anna Erickson sat down with him.

This conversation comes as a follow-up to the event sponsored by Western Theological Seminary and Hope College‘s Saint Benedict Institute, “An Augustinian Theology of Mass Incarceration.” 

In this episode, Dr. Greg Lee, Associate Professor of Theology and Urban Studies at Wheaton College, discusses Augustine and Mass Incarceration. Much of Dr. Lee’s work appropriates Augustine as a resource for addressing contemporary issues of church and society. A resident of the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, he is especially interested in urban questions of race and class, which he approaches from a distinctly Asian American perspective. WTS student and Wheaton grad Anna Erickson sat down with him.

This conversation comes as a follow-up to the event sponsored by Western Theological Seminary and Hope College‘s Saint Benedict Institute, “An Augustinian Theology of Mass Incarceration.” 

 

When it comes to the work of racial justice, this year’s Stoutemire lecturer Dr. Leah Gunning Francis says two things the church needs are courage, and the will to listen.

“The dominant narrative in our world is ‘everyone has an equal chance of success.’ All you need to do is pull yourself up by the bootstraps and you can be successful just like XYZ person over here. Well we know that’s not true—the playing field is still not equal or level,” she says. “You now are going to have to take the time to listen to people’s experiences and perspectives that you might not be accustomed to listening to.”

When it comes to the work of racial justice, this year’s Stoutemire lecturer Dr. Leah Gunning Francis says two things the church needs are courage, and the will to listen.

“The dominant narrative in our world is ‘everyone has an equal chance of success.’ All you need to do is pull yourself up by the bootstraps and you can be successful just like XYZ person over here. Well we know that’s not true—the playing field is still not equal or level,” she says. “You now are going to have to take the time to listen to people’s experiences and perspectives that you might not be accustomed to listening to.”