Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As we prepare to welcome one of the largest incoming classes in Redeemer’s history and as we break ground on a new facility, this is truly a school year unlike any other we have experienced. I am taking a moment to acknowledge that this year’s transition comes at a time that has produced much anxiety, discomfort, and frustration. Beyond the pandemic, in our broader society and at Redeemer, issues around race and identity are significant concerns. Therefore, I want to begin the academic year by clarifying Redeemer’s perspective on these matters and by sharing a commitment and preliminary plans to address them.
In all we do this academic year, we must exemplify and enhance a culture of love and respect for everyone on campus. Redeemer condemns mistreatment of any kind, including violence, harassment, discrimination, and intimidation. We will continue to work hard together to live that out regardless of disagreement or difference.
Earlier this year I sent a letter to the Redeemer community about racism that expressed our grief alongside the Black community, which has experienced a history of inequity, injustice, and the misuse of force. At that time, we called for these injustices to be addressed quickly, and we committed to exploring ways to engage this issue on campus this fall.
Also, as you may have seen reported in the media, Redeemer has become aware of a group of students, faculty and alumni who have come forward personally and publicly to share their experiences and support for those identifying as LGBTQ+ at Redeemer.
Redeemer wants to be a campus known for care, compassion, and respect where all members are treated with dignity and worth. Individually, and as a community, we grieve and regret that any student may not have had the caring and respectful experience that Redeemer aspires to create on campus. We want Redeemer to serve as an example of loving engagement across disagreement or differences. As such, we are committed to hearing and learning from diverse voices, ensuring that we express our Reformed Christian identity with humility, kindness, prayerfulness, and care so that we are a community where people feel respected and heard.
I admit that this is not an easy task with a simple clear path, but we have already started the work. In that light, once we are able to safely open campus and launch classes in the context of COVID-19, we will be launching a multi-faceted initiative that seeks to explore the lived experiences of the campus community and help Redeemer to live out its Reformed Christian mission in increasingly positive ways. I will provide an update to campus on our progress by the end of October.
Some of the objectives and specific actions include:
- Listen to individuals and members of under-represented groups through anonymous surveys, and discussion groups to better understand their perspectives and experiences at and with Redeemer
- Facilitate conversations about the relationship between race and theology that include diverse voices and perspectives from Christian academic communities
- Improve awareness and training about Redeemer’s Personal Respect Policy
- Assess classroom culture to ensure that students can be honest and inquisitive without fear or recrimination
- Enhance communication to both prospective and current students, faculty, and staff about Redeemer’s beliefs and policies
- Ensure that regular and periodic review processes and policies include attention to the experiences of under-represented groups.
Amidst this effort, Redeemer remains committed to its founding mission, rooted in the Reformed Christian confessions, perspectives, and traditions, including the beliefs and policies that flow from them. We believe that building a positive, healthy, and respectful environment is part of an holistic Reformed Christian worldview which recognizes Christ’s sovereignty and restoration in all areas of life.
My aim is that we can grow to better understand how to live out Redeemer’s distinct mission in truth and love. I recognize that there may be some who disagree with Redeemer’s beliefs and policies. I trust that the actions detailed above will demonstrate our commitment to creating a community where those who choose to join will feel welcomed, cared for, respected, and free to engage in healthy and constructive conversations even amid differences.
There is much to be done, and it might seem daunting during the most normal of times, let alone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please join me in prayer for wisdom and for God’s will to be done as Redeemer engages these issues, and experiences are shared in the weeks and months ahead. Let’s move forward in faith together, relying on God’s mercy and grace.
Robert J. Graham, PhD