As many of you in the Gateway community are aware, a few weeks ago the Council of Seminary Presidents (CSP) released a statement that had three major components:
- Reaffirm our commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM) as our confessional statement,
- Restate our condemnation of racism, and
- Declare the ideology supporting Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality (CRT/I) as incompatible with the BFM
Participating in this joint statement did not break any new ground for Gateway Seminary. It expresses our current and continuing policies and practices on the three key points listed above.
- We use the BFM as our confessional guideline for evaluating instruction,
- We oppose the global problem of racism, and
- We interact with, but do not adopt, secular viewpoints as foundational to our curriculum.
Let me comment briefly on the final two points.
Our well-document opposition to racism in all its forms – repeatedly communicated in my messages, lectures, blogs, and podcasts – remains unchanged. Our institutional commitment to being a multiethnic, multicultural training center for a global ministry workforce also remains unchanged. In a recent President’s Convocation, I said:
“Most Christians share this position (a strong stand against racism and its legacies in all its forms) – based on the biblical conviction every person is made in the image of God and supports civil rights for everyone. We are outraged by racist actions, attitudes, policies, and practices. We oppose them and want them stopped. For me, this has been a personal quest for much of my adult life.
For more than 25 years, my life and leadership has been in a multicultural, multiethnic context. For ten years, I led the Northwest Baptist Convention with churches worshipping every Sunday in 16 languages. For the past 17 years, I have been the President of Gateway Seminary. We have been called, by one national educational leader, ‘the most multicultural seminary in the world.’ At Gateway, about 65% of our students are non-Anglo. Our employees also reflect this diversity. We work every day in a diverse environment where people capitalize on, not divide over differences.
Not only do I work in that environment, I live there too. I live in a multiethnic California neighborhood where I am a minority. In our neighborhood, Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans, and Anglos live together, play together, watch out for each other, and cooperate to solve problems. We make it work because, once again, while we acknowledge our differences we focus more on what unifies us than divides us.
Besides where we live, we have also chosen to be a minority in our church membership. We have been members of a predominantly African-American church for several years. We joined this church for two reasons – its steadfast and forthright commitment to the Word of God and the opportunity to model relationship-building as Christian leaders.
Opposing racism by living and working among diverse people is not sociological theory for me, it’s daily reality. It has changed the way I think about community, lead an organization, and worship God. Opposing racism, celebrating diversity, and building communities are part of who I am, how I live, and what we stand for at Gateway Seminary.”
Our resistance to adopting secular viewpoints as foundational to our curriculum has also been clearly communicated prior to the CSP statement. For example, in a blog earlier in 2020, I listed several ideologies and worldviews (including CRT) as examples of “human-generated ideas which captivate our thinking with promises to resolve societal or personal problems. ‘Be careful,’ warns Colossians 2:8, ‘that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ.’”
Rejecting secular positions as foundational to our curriculum does not mean we do not address the problems raised by those viewpoints. On the contrary, Gateway is well-known for interacting directly with secular philosophies (like hedonism, syncretism, etc.) and movements (redefinition of marriage, gender, etc.). Holding to biblical positions in the face of cultural pressure in California, the Western United States, and among our global audience has required resolute determination which we have demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate.
Gateway is a global seminary that must teach students how to confront racism in all its forms around the world. The Bible, the gospel, and a worldview resulting from serious theological refection are sufficient for that global task. Our primary method for confronting racism is seeing people transformed by the gospel and then expressing their discipleship by reforming systems around them. In short, our focus remains gospel-sharing, disciple-making, and church building.
At Gateway, our multiethnic, multicultural workforce and student body demonstrate the best of Christian unity as we fulfill our mission together. While we grapple with the current debates in that context, let’s learn from one another, love one another, and continue our mission of expanding God’s kingdom around the world.