June 10, 2020
Dear Biola Community,
We are in the midst of some hard weeks, none I can remember more trying. I have a few important things I'd like to share with you today.
The current torment and long history of racial injustice permeating our nation is palpable. For centuries racial oppression was legal, ending after I was born. The progress and the struggles these past two generations have hardly erased the racism and injustice against too many in the African-American community. This grieves the heart of God. The cure is not a quick fix but a long road. The wounds are too deep. We have much farther to go.
The recent killings of our black brothers and sisters like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many more call God’s people to speak and to act. Genesis says, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” No one was created more favored than others. From this Bible proclamation and in light of so much happening in our nation, we must stand together and agree together that black lives do matter. We must amplify the call for repentance, justice and courageous change within ourselves, our homes, our communities, our churches, our institutions and our systems. We must publicly denounce racism, hatred, indifference, the loss of innocent lives, police brutality, violence, rioting and destruction that sets back families and neighborhoods.
I am listening, reflecting and learning from my black brothers and sisters. In recent days they have communicated to me that they are exhausted spiritually, emotionally and physically. With a willing spirit, it’s time to lament and grieve with one another.
It’s time not just for our sympathy. It’s time also for our advocacy. Maybe this will be the tipping point for our nation, for Biola. I want to stand with those whose dignity continues to be robbed because of the color of their skin. I’ve never experienced this indignity, but I cannot be on the sidelines only listening to those who have. Sympathy without advocacy is hollow.
Sympathy with advocacy, this is what we need. Communities across the country, especially communities of faith, must travel this justice road together and in the same direction. We need to acknowledge it’s a long road that takes tireless perseverance. History has shown that this road has too many rest stops, exit ramps and U-turns. Too often, we accelerate with each shocking injustice and then decelerate or merely inch forward when the headline fades. Too often, tragically, we stop altogether or even go the other direction. We need to travel the long road at a pace that does not let up and in a direction that is not rerouted.
Yet in the past, we have let up and rerouted. This has happened at Biola, even under my watch. We have started diversity initiatives and then forgotten them. We have succeeded in some areas and failed in others. I own it: my words were not always followed by my actions. And for that I am sorry.
Let us commit. For the sake of human dignity and for the sake of the gospel, let’s move as God’s people in earnest toward the eradication of the cultural, ethnic and other barriers coming between men and women made in the image of God. We have much farther to go.
I have heard from beloved students and alumni how important it is to speak up and how important it is to follow up. Speaking up is sympathy. Following up is advocacy. I have heard them ask me what is being done at Biola. Let me provide some answers.
Long before May 25th when Mr. Floyd was killed, we set in place a process to develop and activate plans for strengthening our unity at Biola while also understanding how to live into the beauty of our diversity. Biola’s plans are reflected in our forthcoming Institutional Diversity Strategic Plan grounded in our Board-approved Theological Statement on Diversity. This work involved those from across the university, spearheaded by our Chief Diversity Officer Tamra Malone and widely-represented by a University Task Force.
In light of the rising racial tensions, I recognize the importance of this moment and not waiting until the fall to announce and implement our plans. We are listening, we are working, and we are responding in a positive, constructive manner. Here is some of what has happened recently, is happening now and will happen soon.
- Host times of student lament. On March 11, we held a Community Lament in Calvary Chapel, an honest time of respectful, raw and humble dialogue where students shared their feelings and lived experiences at Biola. This reminded me that we have work to do and steps to take. We promise to continue this conversation in the fall.
- Prayer vigil. Next week, we will host a prayer vigil for our nation and for our university with Scripture reading, prayer, confession and worship, recalling the pains and wounds that have affected so many for so long. More details will follow.
- New faculty diversity role. Our Institutional Diversity Strategic Plan includes appointing a faculty leader who will work across all schools on critical topics on how healthy diversity and cultural humility components are woven into course pedagogy, curriculum and advising. I am happy to say that Assistant Professor of Theology, Dr. Leon Harris, will be stepping into this new role beginning in the fall.
- Education for students. Many have called for making SCORR mandatory. SCORR has been a national event designed to engage students and administrators from various colleges in the work of racial reconciliation. As reconciliation at Biola is a priority, we desire to create an opportunity this fall exclusive to our community and needs. These requisite educational sessions on diversity and justice, for all students, will be facilitated by faculty and staff and framed by our Theological Statement on Diversity. My commitment has been that as we talk about diversity more we will do so biblically.
- Leadership and employee education. A similar education on diversity and justice will be given to our Board of Trustees, faculty and staff in the 2020-2021 academic year as we seek to equip and serve all of our students.
- Lament opportunities for employees. This summer, staff and faculty will be provided lament opportunities to process, listen, learn, pray and grow in light of recent events.
- Active praying and listening. Many of us at Biola have joined Christians across the nation and around the world praying publicly, speaking Scripturally, listening carefully and posting regularly on the deep wounds experienced at so many levels by our African-American brothers and sisters. In a posture of listening to stories from the city and praying for our nation, several Biola administrators joined other leaders at a recent George Floyd memorial.
- Fall return to campus. We are developing re-entry conversations that address the well-being of all of our students upon returning to Biola to promote campus attitudes, statements and actions congruent with the principles stated in our Theological Statement on Diversity.
- Include alumni voices. Our alumni voices are important and we hear them, and we will engage and enhance communication with them on ways to strengthen the mission of Biola by how we approach diversity through surveys, focus groups and conversations toward making their alma mater a better place.
Biola community, this is simply an insight into what is underway. Please join us in prayer as we move forward.
Last week David French, who will be with us this fall discussing the election, put it this way: It’s hard even to begin to describe all the ramifications of 345 years of legalized oppression and 56 years of contentious change, but we can say two things at once—yes, we have made great strides (and we should acknowledge that fact and remember the men and women who made it possible), but the central and salient consideration of American racial politics shouldn’t center around pride in how far we’ve come, but in humble realization of how much farther we have to go.
We have much farther to go. As stated in our Theological Statement on Diversity, “We recognize that the pervasiveness of sin impacts both individuals and institutions. We confess to being a broken community in constant need of healing in relation to our past and present.” As long as we stay thoroughly grounded biblically and don’t depart from keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, we will do the right thing. Our commitment to God includes our commitment to each other.
Once again, I invite you to stand with us as we stand with Christ for those in the black community and for all people who need brothers and sisters to advocate on their behalf.
I’m committed to continued personal growth and university growth as we move forward loving the Lord our God with heart, mind, soul and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This is a journey that must be done together. We have much farther to go.
Barry H. Corey
Biola University is a leading Christ-centered university in Southern California that offers a premier, nationally ranked education and has been named one of the nation's “up and coming” universities by U.S. News & World Report four times in five years. Founded in 1908, Biola is committed to the mission of biblically centered education, scholarship and service — equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. With more than 6,300 students at its Los Angeles-area campus and around the world, the university offers more than 150 academic programs through its nine schools, ranging from the B.A. to the Ph.D. For more information, visit www.biola.edu.