Virginia Theological Seminary: Statement from the dean

Posted Aug 14, 2017

[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


Comments (2)

  1. Pjcabbiness says:

    “The mystery of white sinfulness”? Are you serious? What an irresponsible, inflammatory, racist comment. Racism is wrong. Period.

  2. Doug Desper says:

    Dear Mr. Dean –
    Your call to reject racism must include your own comments about “white sinfulness”. All of us – of every race – have “sins of the fathers” that are part of our history. Slavery would not have existed were it not for the greed of whites that met the equal greed of native Africans who sold their own people into bondage. The liberal progressive talking point framework will not work in the tragic events involving the city of my nearby neighbors (Charlottesville). The despicable white racists were there, yes. They were there under a legally granted permit to speak and then get out. Had they been allowed to speak and leave the entire world would have heard them and knew them for what they were. They would have been the sole insidious evidence of what we do not want to be. As it is, there were caravans of traveling agitators from Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Communists, and a disturbing brew of the deranged (including paid protesters) that came to town and made up this tragedy. They came to town, agitated, stuck their chins towards the police and white supremacists and wanted a confrontation. These people “on the other side” have spewed their own brands of hatred enough to know them for who they are, so let’s tell the whole story. It is immoral for Episcopalians to have been walking the streets of Charlottesville with “Black Lives Matter” signs while being deliberately oblivious to the hate speech and violence perpetrated by BLM. Boiling this down to “white sinfulness” is too simplistic. The real sin is “elitistism” and it is fluently practiced by many of all races and backgrounds with often violent results.

Comments are closed.