Dear Luther Community, I’m writing with an update on the diversity and inclusion work we’re undertaking at Luther Seminary. Open communication is a crucial part of any institutional change effort, and we are committed to providing frequent updates to ensure everyone is caught up on what is happening and to hold ourselves accountable to each other.
To that end, here are the most recent action steps:
Over the past two weeks, the student council and I have held three listening sessions–both in person and online–for students to share stories and experiences. It has been a sacred honor to hear everything that was so courageously shared. Thank you to all who participated.
The student council president and vice president, Tom Gehring and Tim Schroeder, presented a summary of the listening sessions to the faculty at their meeting last week.
A group of students from Luther Seminary composed a powerful letter confessing the presence of racism at Luther and calling our institution to shine a light on it and repent. This letter was sent to the faculty and staff of the seminary, and a version was presented to the board in their February meeting.
During their February meeting, the board’s first plenary session was dedicated to addressing issues of inclusion and diversity at Luther. The board expressed its intention to pursue training on diversity and inclusion.
Action steps that are currently in process include:
Ongoing, mandatory trainings for all faculty and staff, including day-long retreats, face-to-face workshops, and online trainings. The first full-day, off-campus training for faculty and staff will take place in April. Human Resources Director Arnita Walls is working to secure others.
A new section of the website is being created to highlight all the work that is being done to address inclusion and diversity at Luther. This micro-site will be accessible to the entire community and interested stakeholders and will include updates, reports, resources, initiatives, and reflections. This will be going live in March; watch for an update soon.
A committee has been assembled to draft a welcome statement that is grounded in Luther Seminary’s commitment to being welcoming and hospitable to persons of all backgrounds, ethnicities, countries of origin, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, theological commitments, and political perspectives. In an increasingly polarized world, the gospel calls us to hold space for one another, and this commitment will be a key driver of our work moving forward.
Institutional transformation is difficult work. It requires sustained attention over time, with efforts on multiple levels at once, including structural, curricular, and cultural. And it is deep work. It isn’t about mere political correctness or putting bandaids over the wounds in our community in the hopes that everything will go away. It’s about the call of Jesus to be transformed in our bodies and souls–to confess and repent and emerge from darkness into light by the grace of God.
I invite the entire Luther community to journey with us, to provide counsel and wisdom and to engage deeply in these efforts. Additional updates will be provided on a regular basis. Thank you to all who are already showing up and supporting our call to reflect the love of Christ.
Grace and peace,
Robin Steinke, President