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President James L. Edwards,
As an alumnus, former staff member, donor, and lover of Anderson University, I felt an imperative to convey to you my thoughts regarding AU’s involvement in issues of civil rights.
As a student I can recall numerous instances in which you spoke about your participation in the Civil Rights march as an AU student. I commend you for such brave action. I hold a great deal of respect for you and for all who struggled in solidarity with our black sisters and brothers during that era of our nation’s history. I respect your willingness to stand for what you knew in your heart was the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences. I believe that standing against injustice is a moral imperative that we all bear, as Christians and as human beings.
Having studied the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero and other great non-violent resistors, one commonality that they all share is a willingness to stand for what they believe is right regardless of any consequences. Oftentimes these consequences are serious, as the tragic ends of King and Gandhi clearly illustrate. Yet, their resolve and commitment to justice have inspired billions around the world for decades after their deaths.
I believe that we face another opportunity to stand in solidarity with millions who have been denied basic civil rights. Our nation has a well-documented history of denying rights to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders and queers.
Thirty years from now, what will AU’s record show on this issue? Will it show that our students, faculty and staff took bold steps to advocate for LGBTQ rights? Or will it indicate a reluctance similar to that of the white moderates whom King so sharply criticized?
I understand that posturing an open and accepting attitude towards queer sexuality would have sweeping and fundamental implications to the culture of our school. It would mean reevaluating how our Admissions department reaches out to students. It would mean readjusting our messages to the concerned parents of prospective students. It would have implications on who we cultivate as donors. It would affect our accreditation with the CCCU. Most significantly, it would seriously alter our relationship with the Church of God. These are serious consequences, and such decisions should not be made lightly.
Nevertheless, the right thing to do should not be avoided because of consequences. If I have learned anything through studying the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., it is that we must stand on the side of justice regardless of the cost, and we must have faith that God will see us through. As dire as these consequences may temporarily be, do they outweigh the risk of being remembered like the white moderates whom King considered almost more of a stumbling block than the KKK?
Those who struggled and suffered during the Civil Rights movement are celebrated and revered. Decades from now, I want my alma mater to be remembered in this way. I do not want it to be said of AU that we preferred “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” If AU is to continue to be remembered for it’s bold participation in fighting for justice and civil rights, we must stand with our LGBTQ sisters and brothers.
Do not take the cowardly route of sidestepping the issue by citing concerns of money, recruitment, accreditation and church relations.
Someday when my children ask me what kind of place Anderson University is, I want to be able to tell them about more than a beautiful campus with friendly people. I want to recall stories of brave and bold actions taken across decades. I want to tell them that AU has a long, proud history of standing for civil rights. I want to tell them that AU is more than an academic institution; it is a place that stands for justice.
Class of 2003