June 2, 2020
Dear Millsaps College community,
Less than a month ago I stood—virtually—in front of our 2020 graduates for a Commencement ceremony and discussed order and disorder. World events during the weeks leading up to May 9 reminded me that we live in a universe in which contrasting manifestations of order and disorder are played out before our eyes, with God giving us the capacity to promote the former and confront the latter.
Sadly, the senseless death of George Floyd on May 25 and the ensuing peaceful protests with some turning riotous have brought to light heightened disorder—near complete disorder—with all of us struggling with how to address the feelings of fear, grief and despair.
Our college is one with a strong heritage of striving toward social justice and equality. As a community we are dedicated to equity, inclusion and respect for the rights and dignity of all. And as a Methodist-related institution that emphasizes moral, intellectual and spiritual growth, we embrace the United Methodist Church's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, "racism, manifested as sin, plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself . . .We oppose the creation of a racial hierarchy in any culture. Racism breeds racial discrimination . . . Therefore, we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons."
I join the thoughts of our Student Body Association in their June 1 message and also ask that, as a community, we affirm our commitment to the Major Call. In addition, I am asking the leaders of our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Center to mobilize and begin to create new space on our campus—virtual and, soon, in-person space—for discussion and action planning. TRHT will communicate next steps to the community soon. In addition, the Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton will speak on the subject of racial healing during his upcoming Reflection from Yates Chapel Wednesday, June 3, at noon on Facebook @millsapscollege.
I encourage all of us to be gracious and kind to one another, to engage with respect and empathy, and to know that we will continue this important work in the spirit of breaking down racial hierarchies and living into the values we pledge to one another at the beginning of each year—the values of honor, duty, justice, compassion and service. We will, together, find order from this disorderly time.