The commitment to diversity at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary is a confessional commitment, that is, it is an integral part of our confession of faith. As such, we listen to the voice of God as he speaks in his Word and seek to express in our lives the hopes we confess. The following theological considerations inform our commitment:
In essence, embracing diversity involves both overcoming a problem and as well as embracing a blessing for the Church. The problem is older than Babel, where humanity’s self-centered, self-aggrandizing, self-chosen ways at last moved God to curse the world with a division of tongues. The selfishness and conflict present from Adam and Eve’s first sin now could find new outlets. We have lived with sinful prejudice, racial hatreds, minor conflicts and major wars ever since. Not only do our varying languages and cultures make it difficult for us to understand one another, our innate self-centeredness and loveless lack of goodwill make it nearly impossible.
But our faith teaches that our God in Christ reversed the curse of Babel at Pentecost. He was determined to create out of many tribes, tongues, and people, one new humanity—for the praise of his grace. The Church knows only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all” (Eph 4:5-7). We are called to live together in love, humbly “considering others better than ourselves” (Phi 2:3).
This blessed unity does not erase diversity. Several times Paul illustrates the reality of the Church with the picture of a single body with many members. Both statements are therefore true: There is a profound unity in the one body. There is a rich diversity in its many members (1 Cor 12:12ff). This is God’s choice and doing (1 Co 1:18, 24). “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Eph 4:7).
The call to love one another includes a summons to appreciate the variety of gifts God has given us (1 Co 12:14-27). Transformed by Christ’s grace, differing gifts are both necessary and useful for the well-being of the one body.
By faith we believe, teach, and confess that this Church truly exists and is a spiritual reality. At the same time, we recognize that the church as we see it in this world is hidden under the cross. Sin causes many divisions in the church’s outward appearance. Not all of them can be overcome.
For instance, we cannot embrace or make common cause with those who persistently teach “contrary to the doctrine we have learned” (Rom 16:17). Love for others cannot come at the expense of truth. We must speak a humble “no” when people advocate varied teachings or promote diverse lifestyles that conflict with natural law and the clear teachings of Scripture. We are bound to speak the truth in love, remembering that there is no love without truth, nor truth without love.
Yet even among those who share the same doctrinal commitments, sin is no stranger. Loveless attitudes, self-centered mindsets, a graceless sense of superiority and privilege over against others from different backgrounds, cultures, and races—these are evils with which the visible body of believers has always and will always have to contend this side of glory. Recognizing the pervasive reality of sin even among believers, however, is not to celebrate it.
As those under grace, we will not allow sin to be our master (Rom 6:14). We will throw off those sins that so easily entangle and fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:1-2).
It is good, then for the people of God to struggle with the tension between the one and the many (1 Co 12:12). How do we affirm the unity of the body without crossing the line into an attitude of disregard and disdain for the variety of gifts that God has given? How do we cherish the rich variety of gifts God has given his body without losing sight of our unity and descending into disorder? How do we affirm—at the same time—both the truth of 1 Cor 12:21 (“The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I don’t need you!’”) and 1 Cor 14:33 (“God is not a God of disorder, but of peace”)? To that end we commit ourselves as an institution to the following objectives:
- To foster cultural sensitivity among our faculty and students.
- To encourage active listening “with the heart” so as to better understand those with whom we speak.
- To provide safe opportunities for those from diverse (non-ethnic/racial majority) backgrounds to share their experience with the rest of the body.
- To allow no obstacle in the path of ethnic and racial diversity on our campus, both in the student body and faculty.
- To strive for a seminary family which reflects the kind of diversity promised in Revelation 7: “from every nation, tribe, people and language.”
- To recognize the difference between truth and error when evaluating current conversations regarding matters of diversity in our society.
- To maintain a grace-filled appreciation for the “one Lord, one faith” truths that unite us.