President's Message on Charleston Shootings
Words cannot express the grief and sadness that I have felt over the shooting of nine African-American sisters and brothers at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last week. I know those emotions are shared throughout our CST Community of students, faculty, alumni/ae and friends.
Dr. King often spoke of the interconnectedness of humankind – “inextricably linked as a single garment of human destiny” – a fundamental truth taught by many religious traditions that shapes our understanding of justice and dignity. We as the CST community are inextricably linked to Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Rev. Sharonda Singleton and Myra Thompson.
We are linked to them through our School’s relationship with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 2013, CST signed an agreement with the 5th District of the AME to prepare AME clergy to serve their church and our world, as Revs. Middleton-Doctor, Simmons, Singleton and Pinckney did. We are linked to them through our shared commitment to ministry that creates a real and tangible difference for the world we live in. And we are linked through the most basic and fundamental of bonds – our shared humanity.
Like so many others, I am weary of responding to heinous violent acts committed against my African-American sisters and brothers by agents of the state or by so-called “lone wolves.” I am weary of inaction on the part of our public officials to pursue sensible and responsible gun control policies. I am weary of the sustained willful ignorance of our society towards the bitter rod of racism that continues to punish peoples of color who live in this country, and most especially African Americans.
It would be easy to give in to weariness, cynicism and despair. In many ways, the pragmatic response would be to simply give up. But African American history shows us a different way. For centuries now, African Americans have proven that with prophetic persistence we can overcome oppression and injustice. Their example demonstrates that the response to weariness should be to proclaim, “I ain’t no ways tired,” as the spiritual goes. As people of faith, our sisters and brothers from the Black Church tradition have taught us that we can, and we must, trust in God’s vision of a single human family. And we must all do what we can to strive for that vision to become reality.
This past February, Dean Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook and I issued a letter in response to a call by our African American colleagues as Deans and Presidents of Theological Schools. In that letter, we expressed our commitment to making CST a school that strives to advance the causes of justice and inclusion. We lifted up the importance of nurturing and encouraging prophetic imagination in our community of students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae and friends.
Claremont School of Theology will not waiver in that commitment. We will not allow the vibrancy of our imagination or the intensity of our effort to be diminished by ignorance, hard-heartedness and cold-blooded violence.
As president, I call upon the entire CST community to renew its commitment to pursuing an end to racism, injustice and oppression, no matter how many generations it may take to ultimately achieve. And I encourage each and every one of you with these words of instruction from Paul:
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-12, 21).
These words form the blueprint for our effort. I look forward to marching forward with sisters and brothers of every race, gender and tradition who make up the CST community to do our part to bring our imagination into reality.
Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan
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