June 4, 2020
Dear NTS Community:
As followers of Jesus who was himself a person from the margins of society, the community of Nazarene Theological Seminary affirms our solidarity with those who have been marginalized. This is the heart of our identity that forms our theology and mission.
The killing of George Floyd in public view forces us to remember that this has happened countless times. Too many of us have looked away, ignored, or even tried to explain away this violence. It is time to repent. It is time to shout, “This must stop!” The prejudice, racism, arrogance, and violence that come to light in these tragedies are not consistent with our Christian identity, nor are they incidental or peripheral to our shared story. They are embedded deeply into the very construction of a society that benefits some at the expense of others.
In this moment of anguish and outrage, I find myself also compelled toward listening. This is partly because I recognize that anything I would say comes from my life experience of privilege and protection. It is also part of my faith conviction about what is most needed in human relationships as we reflect God’s self-giving love.
Nazarene Theological Seminary affirms that in order for all human life to matter, black lives must matter. Our mission at NTS is to form those whom God calls to be faithful and effective ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to participate in the reconciling of the world to God, to one another, and to creation.
We do this work in the heart of Kansas City which has its own painful legacy of racial exclusion and violence. We acknowledge that we must do better than we have in the past preparing our students to stand against racial injustice and work to repair the damage it inflicts. The NTS Board of Trustees authorized and funded a Diversity Task Force in April 2019 that is beginning work on a range of actions for this learning community.
Yet, even as we grieve, we do not lose hope. We “live and move and have our being” in Christ (Acts 17:28) who is “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5). We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and that the Spirit is working to bring the promise of redemption to fulfillment. Sin, violence, abuse, hatred, and all evil will give way to love.
On the journey ahead, I want to say to especially to our students and alumni who are persons of color: We will sit with you and listen. We stand with you and join our voices. We commit to the work of uncovering, confessing, and countering individual and systemic racism. And, we love you.
The peace of our Lord,
Rev. Jeren Rowell, Ed.D.
President and Professor of Pastoral Ministry
Nazarene Theological Seminary