An Open Letter to Calvin Seminary by Ronald Hunsucker

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An important shift is being made about the study of theological education as regards hospitality. The shift is to a person centered and holistic education. When we think about it and the role of seminary by reason of practice, mission, and faith formation I think of the school in relationship to racism and the perceptions others have of the institution. It’s important to be clear that Calvin as an institution of European and American heritage is racist. Let me explain what I mean by that. Structural racism is a reality where an array of dynamics combine to normalize the marginalization and diminished opportunities and perspectives of people of color. Calvin Seminary’s roots have played a part in not hearing the voices of minority populations and ensuring that the leaders of the church also not prioritize these voices. Calvin Theological Seminary needs to be a place of formative education that is for the benefit of those outside of the cultural mould that Calvin Seminary has perpetuated. For the benefit of all. I think it’s important to focus on this for a moment. So often, we focus on other important issues in class such as, the Arminian heresy. This is as important to focus on for a moment. Ignatius of Loyola said, If our church is not marked by caring for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, we are guilty of heresy.Accordingly, have we felt called to dismantle structural and institutional racism? It’s heresy not to.

To not work at access to racial-ethnic minority students and the segregation so prevalent in our student center and churches is not committing ourselves to sharing resources with each other. In other words, the question of dismantling institutional and structural racism can be asked this way, “How unified are we in participating in Christ’s community?” Do we presently see black and brown students at our seminary feeling safe and in solidarity with students from European-American heritage?

Hospitality has often been thought of as welcoming people of color to the seminary and our churches. However, we have left out how they are relevant to our places of study and worship. They have not able to experience as students and people in church how we will share with them in dismantling structural institutional racism. It’s time to stop looking at them in class when we need a person of color agreeing with us on cultural issues. It’s time to start letting them share with us how we can better share resources with black and Latino students in the Grand Rapids region. This is what Christian leadership and theology looks like developed from the doctrine of discipleship. Forming an understanding of Christian community means that we are breaking down and dismantling the structural racism so present in our places of study and worship. Being hospitable does not only mean “Hi! Welcome to Calvin Theological Seminary.” From my experience during my first semester ever at CTS, people told of professors who make students second guess ever coming here in the first place. Knowing that some professors and faculty are now emerging as leaders in dismantling of structural racism is a start, but we would like to see more of the Calvin Seminary community on board with the importance of these issues. They set the example that also means being present, ready, and attentive to when people need us in the pain that life is. To not do this is heresy.

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