[Virginia Theological Seminary] Charlottesville, Virginia, August 2017 will unfortunately go down in history. The shocking murder of Heather D. Heyer, just 32 years of age, while she protested the white supremacists who had come to Charlottesville, is a crude and brutal reminder that racism is still an ever present reality that forms a tragic worldview that expresses itself in violence and death. Along with Heather, we remember in our prayers Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, the two State Patrol troopers who died on Saturday, and the many others wounded, including those who remain in a critical condition.
For a seminary committed to the Gospel, we read the events of Charlottesville 2017 through the lens of the Gospel. We see the sinfulness of humanity—we see the persistence of conspiracy theories, hatred, and paranoia that forms the basis of the white supremacist worldview. We see the persistence of sin. For all of us who imagined that the victory of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was enduring and secure, Charlottesville 2017 is a cruel reminder that just below the surface racism is seeking to “take the country back again.” We see the tragedy of suffering, where we trust the Crucified Christ is present. And we see the Church seeking to witness to a Gospel that rejects any ideology that denies the full humanity of all.
I am proud of all of our VTS alumni who were present in Charlottesville. Bishop Shannon Johnston had encouraged clergy to attend. His call was heard. And the Episcopal Church wants to point to a world which is different—a world in which racism is explicitly condemned and persons commit to anticipating the reign of God in our society.
Let us hear the challenge of Charlottesville, VA August 2017. The mystery of white sinfulness that allowed centuries of slavery and decades of segregation and even now seeks to recreate a racist society was present on Saturday. We must not be complacent. We must all work hard to eradicate the sinful dispositions that allow racism to thrive.
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D.
Dean and President