April 4, 2022
Dear Luther Seminary Community,
We on the Luther Seminary faculty honor how tenacious, industrious, and courageous the Student Council and RIC sub-committee members have been in their attempts to have their voices heard. Your proposal was clear, careful, and persuasive. You have demonstrated an enviable persistence in the name of God’s love and grace for all people. Your voices and your proposals deserve expression in fair and generous conversations about the health of this learning community. Therefore, we call on the administration and the board to give the students’ proposal a full and generous hearing.
We believe in the full personhood and bodily integrity of all Luther Seminary students. We believe in the infinitely creative and loving ways that God has placed us into relationship with one another. We acknowledge that Luther Seminary has been complicit in historic structures of racial, ethnic, and gender injustice. God is calling us now to help break down these harmful, humanly-constructed social structures.
We apologize to the Student Council and RIC sub-committee for our slowness and hesitancy in publicly supporting them as they attempted many times and in various ways to open up a conversation with the board about entering into a discernment process on becoming a Reconciling in Christ Institution (RIC).
We also regret that we have taken part in the harm that has been done to students both through institutional miscommunication and in our own classrooms. We have not used our power or privilege to step in and help when we were needed by the Queer students in our learning community. Our actions and inactions have caused direct harm to many LGBTQIA2S+ and BIPOC students. We have not fully recognized the courage of such students who historically have struggled to be seen and heard properly in the overwhelmingly Euro-centric, heteronormative culture at Luther Seminary. We believe that those struggles need to be named, grieved, and confronted as part of a more comprehensive effort of truth telling with the aim of repairing this learning community.
As part of our commitment to all of our students and our desire to assist all of them in their faith formation toward a more generous and mature devotion, we affirm the infinite variety of persons, all of whom have been created in the image of God, and we are grateful to God, who has called students from every gender, racial, and ethnic identity to join our learning community.
We also thank the Luther Seminary staff persons who signed an Open Letter last week for their courageous letter and their leadership on this issue. We will partner with the Luther Seminary staff so that any and all dialogue about justice, safety, and belonging for all students, or any other issue affecting LGBTQIA2S+ or BIPOC students can be addressed with timeliness, justice, and professionalism.
In response, we commit to using what power we have to urge the Seminary administration to revise internal processes so that the Student Council as a governing body can have more direct access to the board in the name of Luther Seminary’s vision to be a leader in faithful innovation for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In addition, we will dedicate our time and resources to the following actions:
1. Provide clear ground rules around language and justice for historically marginalized students in our syllabi, in our learning materials, and in our classrooms.
2. Seek out training opportunities to improve our pedagogical practices for the sake of learning more deeply about the experiences of those with marginalized identities in our classrooms and how heteronormativity and Euro-centrism function to silence such communities in learning environments. We desire to partner with academic leadership and the ABIDE committee on this commitment.
3. Investigate ways that the Seminary can improve its internal process so that students are welcomed into and respected in strategic and reparative decision-making about all aspects of students’ experiences as members of this community.
4. Communicate with the Student Council regularly regarding our progress on these goals in the name of transparency and accountability.
We believe the love of God can hold all things together in the name of Jesus Christ and through the rich generosity of the Holy Spirit. Grounded in the promise of the Incarnation, we recognize that a person’s views or opinions cannot negate and should not be allowed to threaten another person’s existence.
The Christian faith does not participate in the zero-sum games of human politics. Rather it offers a vision of a non-competitive human community which values each person’s existence and where each person can learn in safety and authenticity.