Written by: President Jim Dunn

On behalf of the Oklahoma Wesleyan University community, I recognize the sin of injustice to the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. They are but the latest in our nation to have lost their loved ones through violent and unjustified actions. Ongoing incidents are blurring what the real issues are: the unequal treatment of people of color in the United States of America, the good of what our faithful law enforcement officers do on a daily basis to serve and protect us, and the heart of all good, godly people in our country who want nothing other than to love others as Christ loved us.

Today I must go beyond speaking personally about these matters and express where Oklahoma Wesleyan University stands as a Christian university committed to influencing culture with the Grace and Truth that comes from having a transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. We will not be silent. We cannot look away.

Specifically, I lament and grieve the pain and frustration felt by black Americans and other minority students, faculty, and staff of our own OKWU community. The weight of discrimination and injustice are too heavy to carry or understand. The unhealed wound of racism extends into our own diverse community. We are not perfect, and we acknowledge our own failures even when unaware. This must be acknowledged and acted upon appropriately.

Racism is not a political issue, nor should someone’s response to it depend on their political beliefs. It is an issue of humanity, and as believers of Christ, it is a biblical issue. 

To understand where we are today, we must acknowledge where we have failed in the past. It is not enough to condemn racism in our society; we must be willing to condemn it where we see it in our own systems and churches. And perhaps the most difficult, we must seek out and condemn it where we see it in our own hearts and minds. 

A Wesleyan View of Racial Reconciliation states, “Scripture is clear that all people are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), that Christ died for every person (1 Pet. 3:18), and that followers of Christ are called to be co-heirs of the kingdom of God (Gal. 3:28-29). We also know that as believers, God has reconciled each of us through Christ and has called us to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20). Therefore, we ought to actively promote peace and reconciliation with God and one another as we anticipate that time when every nation, tribe, people and language will worship together before the throne of God (Rev 7:9).”

Oklahoma Wesleyan University is part of The Wesleyan Church, a denomination that carries a strong history of fighting for social justice and holiness. “The early Wesleyan Methodist Connection was an influential movement in the fight against slavery in the mid 19th century, as was displayed in their response to the Fugitive Slave Act, their work on the Underground Railroad, and their willingness to go to the Southeastern United States with a strong antislavery message. The Wesleyan Church also promoted integration among blacks and whites and encouraged people to actively oppose the practice of slavery until it was finally abolished at the end of the Civil War” (Reconciliation). 

But the issues of racism and injustice didn’t end with the Civil War, and that same document acknowledges that The Wesleyan Church moved away from its social justice and social holiness emphasis in the days after. “A movement that began in the trenches in the fight for social righteousness was now more concerned exclusively with the experience of personal holiness, to the exclusion of social holiness.” 

I hope you’ll forgive me going so far back in the past. To understand where we are today, we must acknowledge where we have failed in the past. It is not enough to condemn racism in our society; we must be willing to condemn it where we see it in our own systems and churches. And perhaps the most difficult, we must seek out and condemn it where we see it in our own hearts and minds. 

All of us need the transforming work of Christ in our hearts and minds. We all need to keep our eyes on Him and His truth, declaring that all humans are created equal by Him and for Him. I am thankful that Oklahoma Wesleyan University is a diverse and vibrant community, and I hope that it is and will be a place where our students can find unity now and in the future. 

The OKWU community will continue to engage with students, faculty, and staff. I have asked for a thorough review of any policies and practices that do not promote our goals for inclusive excellence and to provide me with proposals for positive change. Our employees will reengage in training and development to build diversity and cultural competency, to understand the role and impact of unconscious bias, and to leverage civility and workplace mindfulness skills to become a better OKWU.

I have asked that we examine our university hiring practices, analyze university policies and procedures that may be unnecessarily biased, and implement intentional steps for engaging our diverse community more, like formal conversation groups to connect students, faculty, staff, and administrators.

To our OKWU family and friends, we pray you will join us in listening, learning, and leaning in. Together we seek Christ’s peace, redemption, and grace for our country.

All of us need the transforming work of Christ in our hearts and minds. We all need to keep our eyes on Him and His truth, declaring that all humans are created equal by Him and for Him. I am thankful that Oklahoma Wesleyan University is a diverse and vibrant community, and I hope that it is and will be a place where our students can find unity now and in the future. 

We must commit to doing simple things each and every day that can bring change. Yes, pray. Yes, repent. Yes, represent. Yes, get out of your comfort zone. Yes, speak up. Yes, train as many as you can regarding biblical expectations. Yes, listen, and learn. By all means, digest what the Holy Word is proclaiming, think before speaking, have a conversation, and love your neighbor as yourself in daily, tangible ways no matter who they are or where they have been in life. In the Gospels, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He also said, “You are the light of the world.” When we see darkness in the world, may we always seek ways to be the light of Christ shining brightly for Him and His Kingdom!

I commit, as OKWU’s President, to listen first. I pray for wisdom from the Lord, and the courage to seek just practices in how we operate on a day to day basis. I pray that we will seek Jesus most of all and that we will be a community characterized by our personal and corporate transformation through the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ.

 

For the Transformation of All!

Dr. Jim Dunn

OKWU President

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