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Pastoral Letter in Light of the Murder of George Floyd

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist

5 June 2020


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. ~II Corinthians 1:3-4

There is no perfect response to murder, anger, protests, riots; all living on top of a substratum of racism. We, the Gordon-Conwell community, have many different responses and some have been helpful, others less so. Many assumptions are being made based on partial information and personal experiences. And some things have become much, much clearer than ever before. Discernment is needed to know the difference.

Social media makes it easy to respond quickly, incite emotions and then think later. Still, we must respond…thoughtfully.

I have been too slow to reach out, and then I have reached out to others in ways that were not helpful. There is no perfect response, and yet times demand a response.

We need to admit this up front….and apologize.

My words in this pastoral letter will be few.

First, as a community, and speaking from the office of President, we denounce racism, for it is a deeply rooted disease that infects the soul of America. We denounce it as Christians first and then as human beings, and finally as Americans. Those of us who are white Americans confess that we have not been vigilant in naming the disease, and we have not been persistent in working to eradicate it from our institutions. People die because we do not act decisively against a corona virus. People die because we do not act decisively against racism.

Secondly, I want to call on all of us at this time of crisis to remember and revisit our unity in Christ. Our unity is based on forgiveness—forgiveness that is given to us by the one who suffered for us. Let’s be clear: to forgive is one of the hardest things we will ever have to do in this life. But it is the core of the Christian faith.

Satan would be very pleased if we would give up trying to understand our differences, if we just flat out rejected the poor responses from others. This, of all times, is a time for holding hands, not holding grudges. It is a time of risking reaching out, not fearing how we may be received. It is a time of holy patience held in the same body as decisive action. It is a difficult time, but it is especially a time that we need to affirm our unity. The world needs to see this unity.

Finally, and these are words for those who are not African American. Receive this wake-up call as a call to live a different type of life regarding race and difference in the future….for the rest of our lives. Accept 2020, not just as the year of Covid-19, but as the year we turned from sitting in the balcony to walking on the road. This is the year that we began to really listen—and to really hear– African Americans and I began a life-style of intentional inter-cultural friendships. And this is the year that I took risks of love and made mistakes trying to connect and listen and support. No more excuses.

Maybe more than ever we now realize the need for good biblical, contextually appropriate theological education. We need leaders who are humble enough to admit errors and courageous enough to defend the broken-hearted and defenseless. We need leaders who lead by example, the example of the suffering servant.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.