Dear Sisters, Brothers and Kin of the reJUNEvation and St. Andrew’s College community,
I am writing to you in respect to when we learned about the statement that came from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) Latino/a Presidents and Deans, the African American Presidents and Deans, and the Asian Descent Presidents and Deans that was presented during ATS’ Biennial gathering. Our learning of this statement arose while we were in community during ReJUNEvation. As a result, a clear sense developed of a need to respond to our understanding, at the time, that ATS did not endorse the statement. As we will discuss, our understanding did not fully appreciate the context of the ATS Biennial. As I transition into the role as Principal, therefore, I hope the following honours your voice.
Our initial response included tension and confusion, perhaps even anger. Our reaction was clearly connected with our context of journeying with Dr. Harvey through this year’s theme: Zacchaeus, You Come Down! The Call to Repair in a World of Colonial-Settler Racism.
I have since learned, from Christine Mitchell, about the rich and clearly difficult conversations in which ATS was engaged. As Christine was present during the Biennial gathering, she took the time to walk me through the context. As well, she has kindly let me know I can share that information more fully with anyone who wants to know more.
I have come to appreciate the tension the ATS navigated as they represent ecumenical and interfaith partners. It is clear they were aware of the Statement’s import. In this awareness, they wrestled with their mandate of nurturing exceptional educational experiences for members and the prophetic call intrinsic to the Statement. That they took this seriously is apparent as I have come to understand that the Statement was revised several times to reflect, more broadly, the interfaith and international membership present.
Though I remain, somewhat, unsure about the outcome of not endorsing the statement, I affirm ATS’ intention to make space for this conversation. In that space, I have come to appreciate that the Association recognized and valued the differences present. In the end, rather than engage in social issues, they chose to uphold that which binds the Association, namely a commitment to academic excellence. As I have been reminded, the Association is not them, we (as Christine’s attendance demonstrates), it is us: we are ATS. In their (our) choice, I believe they modeled how to live in the paradox of differences. They created space to nurture an opportunity for respectful engagement, in order for relationships to thrive.
Finally, I invite you to consider this invitation. After discussing and exploring the context of the Statement’s development, there is an opportunity to endorse it, which I have already done. The Statement can be found here: https://psr.edu/immigrationcrisis/.
I thank you for your challenge and direction during ReJUNEvation. I pray this reflection, if not fully reflective of our initial intention, is well-received and look forward to continuing the conversation with you in whatever manner feels helpful.
Yours in faith,
Dea. Richard Manley-Tannis
St. Andrew’s College