June 2, 2020
We live in a fractured, sad, frightening time. That is a reality brought home to us by the tragic events of the last week in the United States.
We also are members of a College Family — The Home We Love So Well — that is heir to two traditions that give us the hope to live in and through this time to the dawning of a better day: the Christian faith and American constitutional democracy. And, so, brokenness, sadness and fear never have the last word. The hope of reconciliation, joy and courageous rebirth does have the last word.
Over the last two centuries, Montgomery, Alabama, has been the place where American religious, political and cultural roads have crossed most decisively and where the human communities in which we live have been most profoundly shaped. I was so gratified to hear Mayor Steven Reed’s speech on the evening of June 1, in which he acknowledged not only the pain of the present but also the pain of the past that has given rise to our current pain. But he did not stop with an acknowledgment of pain. Mayor Reed spoke of the path forward for Montgomery as a path he hopes will reflect the transformative Civil Rights Movement of Mid-20th Century Montgomery, a path that embraces non-violent protest against evil. It is a path that reflects the Scriptural ideal of Beloved Community.
That movement, steeped in both the Christian faith and in American constitutional democracy, led to a time of both religious and national rebirth. The power of that movement translated practically into the dramatically increased inclusion of those citizens who had not previously been given the opportunity to participate fully in either the Methodist Church or in the United States of America. Huntingdon College, our family, lived through that time, embraced the challenge of that time, and became better for it. We are the beneficiaries. And as the beneficiaries, we have the obligation now to apply the wisdom learned in that day. We have the obligation to apply that wisdom in service. Wisdom applied practically through a life of service is both the ethical heart of the Christian life and the ethical heart of responsibly formed American citizenship.
Words that I spoke in my inaugural address on April 16, 2004, are even more important than they were when I first spoke them on the Huntingdon Green that beautiful spring day: “Today — in a nation and state blessed by incredible riches, but where the poor and socially marginalized still struggle to realize the basic happiness promised in the Declaration of Independence and the full equality promised in Scripture — it is incumbent upon Huntingdon College to foster an environment where we continue to fathom the most fundamental issues of human life…. Our American Constitution reminds us that this ‘more perfect union’ in which we live exists for the equal protection of all its citizens, to the end that the ‘life, liberty and pursuit of happiness’ promised in the Declaration of Independence might become a reality for us all. Likewise, the prophetic and apostolic traditions of the Church hold that a just society protects all its citizens, that the weakest are deserving of special care by the strongest, and that God’s vision of life is one where all peoples live in peace.”
As I concluded my inaugural address that day, let me conclude this letter to our Huntingdon Family with an invitation and a challenge for this day in June, 2020: “To the end that Huntingdon College engage in a vital intellectual and spiritual life where we reflect and act on the means by which our two formative traditions — the Christian faith and American constitutional democracy — might foster a more free, more generous, and more just society for the 21st Century [to that end] I invite us to rededicate ourselves this day. That is who we are. That is what Huntingdon College has always been most properly about. May it always be so.”
Faithfully your President,