June 13, 2016
I believe I speak for the entire Perkins community in expressing profound sorrow over the dozens of innocent people senselessly murdered yesterday in Orlando. I trust that everyone who reads this will hold their families and friends in prayer and will unite in solidarity with all others -- including persons of other faiths or no faith, LGBT or straight -- who work to create a world in which needless tragedies are less and less the norm.
Such events have many negative repercussions that we must counter, not so much with words as by actions. They give fuel to those who see all religion as a dangerous relic of our primitive past. They encourage anti-Islamic bigotry, which in turn works to disenfranchise the vast majority of American Muslims who have no sympathy for violent extremism. And, above all in this case, they cause LGBT people to feel even more marginalized and threatened, having now been targeted for the worst mass shooting in American history.
I trust that Perkins is and will become even more a place where all are not only safe, but welcome, not only tolerated, but, in and through Christ, loved -- a place where we can discuss and even disagree vigorously while trusting, honoring, and caring for each other. We do not expect Perkins graduates (any more than Perkins faculty and staff, for that matter) to be of one perspective, but we can strive to be of one heart and one spirit. I greatly value our school’s diversity. We aim not to indoctrinate, but to educate. One important result is that we come to understand more deeply and sympathetically those with whom we disagree, whether conservative or liberal (or however else we may dichotomize and divide the Church), realizing that we all see through a glass darkly and know only in part. Indeed, one of the truest marks of great learning is not certainty, but humility.
Read the New Testament carefully, and you’ll discover that a great deal of its theology was composed with the pedestrian goal of helping members of these remarkably diverse early faith communities to get along with each other. Almost without exception, the strategy employed was reference to the example of Jesus, who sought out those on the margins, who served the least, and who eschewed violence. That is of course also our standard--within Perkins, within our individual faith communities, and in all our actions within the wider world. As Paul put it in Romans 12:15-18,
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Grace and peace,
Craig C. Hill
Dean-Designate, Perkins School of Theology