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Campus Conversation on Race Relations

October 13, 2020

Band practice

President Johnson's comments to the campus family after WLC's Campus Conversation on Race Relations:

Fellow Warriors,

I want to begin by saying thank you. It has been nearly two weeks since we had our campus conversation on the critically important issues of race, racism, and racial justice. Since then, we have received about 300 completed surveys from students, faculty, and staff. You all shared some great feedback with us! We heard from individuals privately as well. Thank you for your response. This session was a conversation… we are so grateful it has led to follow-up conversations too… and we hope that continues. 

Also, as you know, this was a campus conversation meant for our Warrior family. In an age where information can so easily be shared and misrepresented, we believe that open and transparent discussions are needed more than ever. I want to assure you that if there is something you want to discuss with me or any other campus leader, we are ready and willing to meet with anyone - just let us know. With that, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few aspects of our unique higher education ministry. 

First and foremost, Wisconsin Lutheran College is a college that is grounded in the Scriptures. We recognize that the Bible and Lutheran theology distinguish between two kingdoms: the church and the state. The campus conversation that we had ten days ago was a conversation grounded in the church, not the state. It was not a conversation with a political agenda, nor did it represent any outside organization's views. It was a conversation with Warriors and for Warriors. It was a conversation about loving one's neighbor, regardless of race, and understanding the challenges faced in contemporary society regarding race. 

As a Lutheran liberal arts institution, we value the fact that the Christian Church has been a community that has welcomed people regardless of ethnic or economic backgrounds from its earliest days. We know that from the very beginning, God created humans in his own image and that we are renewed in that image through faith in Jesus Christ. We also confess that Christ's death and resurrection are for all and that his Great Commission sends us out to proclaim this good news to every nation. We rejoice that heaven is described in the New Testament (Revelation 7:9) as a gathering of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

Regarding the state, we believe that government is a gift from God with the purpose of working for citizens' good. We give thanks, and we offer our honor and respect to those whose offices enable them to serve and protect us. What a blessing! It is our prayer that our governmental leaders, regardless of party affiliation, would carry out their responsibilities with justice and in the best interest of all people. As we look ahead to an election coming up in November, God calls us as God-fearing Christians to offer our honor and respect to our elected officials even though we may not agree with them on every point. As a college, we will continue to remain grounded in the Scriptures while we live and act under the government that God has established.  

Finally, as a Lutheran liberal arts institution, we aim to explore Christian conversations about how we can best love, listen to, and serve our neighbors with the good news of Jesus Christ and with works done to His glory -  for the benefit of those around us. An integral part of a Christian liberal arts education is the opportunity to discuss challenging topics in a respectful, informed, and thoughtful way. It is our goal, guided by God's Word as people redeemed by Christ, to learn what it means to live in a world broken by sin. 

We are living in very challenging times. I think we all are feeling that way. But at WLC, we are blessed to know that in Jesus Christ, we are free. We are free to live in a country that allows us to have religious freedoms. We are free to converse with each other with patience and respect. We are free to live for our neighbors out of love. And we are free because we have a gracious God who sent his Son, Jesus Christ, for us so that our eternity is set in him. What a blessing it is then that as a campus community, Wisconsin Lutheran College is freed in Christ to remain grounded in the Scriptures, assured of God's grace through the Gospel, and compelled by Christ's love to learn, to live, to serve, and to love our neighbors. 

Warriors, thank you again. We have a few weeks to go before we reach our goal of holding in-person classes until Thanksgiving. So let's stand together. Let's discuss together. Let's learn and grow together, because we are Warriors Together. 


June 2 Statement from President Johnson on Racial Injustice:

Friends of Wisconsin Lutheran College,

It's with a heavy and sad heart that I address the events of this past week regarding the death of George Floyd and the subsequent aftermath that has been so disturbing, crushing, and heartbreaking. What happened to George Floyd, and others before him, was beyond egregious and there are just no words. Racism in America is so complex and so complicated - more than I can try to note within these brief comments, and yet here we are. The events of this past week are certainly deserving of peaceful protests and much-needed conversations. However, the unspeakable violence and looting is not the answer.

We know there are bad characters because of sin in every profession - in law enforcement, health care, on Wall Street, and in education too. To the vast majority of women and men in law enforcement who so courageously serve with integrity and honor and protect our communities and colleges too, thank you. Our hearts go out to you too.

More than anything though, I simply want to remind all of us that we need to be open to and engage in ongoing, tough, and honest conversations on race. We recognize that we don't have all the answers. However, we have a God who does.

The only way through this mess is grace - undeserved love and forgiveness that we only have in our Best Friend, Jesus. In Scripture when Jesus was asked about what are the greatest commandments... what are THE most important things for all of us on planet earth to know, Jesus said this: Love God. Love your neighbor.

That's it… love God. Love your neighbor… all your neighbors… of every tongue, every tribe, every nationality, and ethnicity. It's the beautiful mosaic of God's creation. So, as we continue to confront the past, and engage in really tough and complicated issues moving forward, love your neighbor. Live grace.

We also need to PRAY about this. Right now, we need to bombard the throne of God and ask him NOW to heal this nation like only Grace in Christ can. If your church hasn't prayed about this whole situation, ask your spiritual leader to rally the throne of God this Sunday and implore our God to help heal this nation and help us put this back together - to help us better love Him by loving our neighbor. As Christians, we need to lead in this healing and we need to pray about this.

Finally, we recognize that the unjust death of George Floyd and the recent events since highlights the persistent inequities faced by our non-white brothers and sisters. WLC stands with our community leaders and partners and recognizes that serious changes need to take place within our country, region, and our cities. Racism and systemic inequities in access to education, justice, and other aspects of society are unacceptable. We are committed to work alongside our community partners to ensure the safety, well-being, and security of all people.

Warriors family, we can't wait to come back together in August. What a surreal couple of months this has been. As the next generation of Christian servant leaders, we need you to help all of us keep living and loving like Jesus. Our world needs more Christian servant leaders like you - and I really believe this generation of young people has a fresh and unique perspective on this whole issue of race. We need to keep learning from you and with you… and we look forward to the return of our WLC family in a few months.

Warriors, love God by loving your neighbor. And pray mightily for God's healing of our broken country.


2020 Aerial with WLC and MRMC