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President Stephen Jones’ Statement, MLK Day, 2014

Want to apologize to Mr. Daulton for making a liar out of him. Dr. Short is coming, but I asked for just a couple of moments to share something with you that’s on my heart and something that I haven’t shared with you as a present group of students since you’ve been here. Wanna say something. Today is Martin Luther King Day. It is a holiday. We’re in school. In fact, the only people who really get the day, I think, and other holidays, bankers – what a life! – and the postal service and, and folks like that. I know other people I am working with, they’re working in town today as well.

But I want you to understand, in our not celebrating taking the day off, it is not making a statement about the holiday or about the cause of which Martin Luther King, Jr. was the most notable champion. It was needed. It was good. And it has been what our nation needed. So I want you to understand that.

We, if you’ll think about it, we also don’t take off Labor Day. You go through school through Labor Day. We go through Veteran’s Day. We go through President’s Birthdays. In the summer we go through Memorial Day, we work through Memorial Day. There… because everything is compressed and we’re doing a lot. And in order to have such a short school year, and you just got back last week, to take a day off just does not work in the calendar for this holiday or numerous others. So I want to put it in that context, but I also want to be honest with you about the past…

Okay, I’m a South Carolina boy. Um, I’m proud I’m a South Carolina boy. I’m thankful for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m proud of everything that South Carolina has always been. There were wrongs in our past, just as there were in the Northern colonies and Northern states prior, and in Britain prior to coming to the US. And I’m sure I’m going to get a couple of letters from folks who tell me I’m really not a Southern boy after this. I can usually count on about two of those. But I want to say this: there are things in the University’s past that I wish were not, just as there are things in South Carolina’s past that I wish were not. There were things over which I had no control, was not around, but things that do exist. And I wish that it had been different. And though I read a secular author who said that it is unfair to judge the motives of people in the past based on the knowledge that we have today because there is such a thing as progressive understanding, when it comes to the matter of race, in that instance we could have understood. We have the light in scripture. We should have understood. But instead of seeing what Scripture said and championing that contrary to society, we allowed society’s lenses to set our view of Scripture and then of application instead of the opposite, which is what our burden is for all of you: that the scriptures set our lenses of how we view things around us.

And we s…, we began in 1971, was the first year that we accepted African-American students. That was about five years behind other institutions, both public and private, but it should have been before those secular institutions. And then, until fourteen years ago, in 2000 we maintained a “no interracial dating policy.” Now that policy existed here before we even accepted African-American students, so I want you to understand that policy didn’t come because it was aimed at African-American students. It actually was an incident between a Caucasian student and an Asian student, and that both families came to the University and said “we want something against this because we don’t agree in inter-mixing races.” That’s how it began, but again, it shouldn’t have been and it lasted too long.

I came to this role in 2005. In 2008, collaborated with Dr. Hankins. I was on my way to Zambia. We conversed about the need for a statement that went further than any statement we had made previously. And he took our discussion, put it in print, and then I did some work on it from Zambia. It’s still there, on our… if you go to the BJU website and you look at, you search for “race statement,” it’s there, still posted. And it says that we were wrong in our slowness to accept African-American students and in maintaining the Africa…. the, the “no interracial dating” policy as long as we did. That we were not the representatives of Jesus Christ that we should have been to the world around us. That we conformed to society instead of being anti-society, a sub-culture of Christians, like we are called to be. And in misrepresenting Christ we also hurt others: previous generations of students, and others who didn’t come as students because of policies that we had held.

And I want faculty/staff to have the freedom to discuss these things with you. Again, I’m not defending anything. I’m saying I wish it hadn’t been. I’m just laying it out to you. This… These things did exist. But I don’t want it to be something that we, you know, feel we have to quarantine and say that it never happened. It did, unfortunately. But, what I want to come back to, after addressing it and saying that, yes, it did exist though it shouldn’t have existed; I want us to come back to the fact of what our generation can and should do. Because there is something, there are things we can do about it. The past we can’t change. We can say we’re sorry for, ask forgiveness for. But the present we can make choices about. And here I want you to hear our heart as an administration about the present and the future.

Diversity is God’s idea. When you look at creation, when you look at individual species and you, you get down to that level, the species level, those, those creatures that can mate and have offspring – according, the scriptural word would be “kind,” “each reproducing after its own kind” – even among, within a species there is incredible diversity. And that’s God’s idea. And it’s His idea, Paul [sic] reveals in Acts 17, for the purpose of causing people to seek after God. But, in Christ, the divisions of the nations and the races and the tongues, when we come to Christ, those divisions disappear and we are made one. Before Christ, that was foreign. Let me just share these verses:

Titus 3: 3-8 “For we ourselves were also sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, (and listen to these words) hateful, and hating one another. (That’s the common state of the unsaved and the nations and the races in the unsaved view).

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

And “heirs” there is altogether one family made heirs. And Colossians 3: 11 makes it clear that in the church, in Christ “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” And the beauty of God’s creation and variety and diversity is magnified even more in the unity that should be found to a higher degree than it is found anywhere else in our world, in the Church among the people of God. And my burden for the University is that we increasingly, that our complexion as a University, that we increasingly look like the nation around us. Now there’s some challenges to that, because in most of our churches, if we’re honest most of our churches don’t look like the complexity of the communities in which they’re grounded and founded. And so, those churches that send students to the University, I would hope that they would have a gospel outreach that would bring in from all nations and kindreds and tongues and races, but in the meantime as the Lord is working in those places and in those churches, we also have initiatives, initiatives that are specifically aimed at helping minority students come through financial aid that’s available to them; at finding minority students outside of those churches, in other places finding “right fit” students, believers that this is the right fit for them, but who may not be in many of the churches, other churches that send students to the University.

Now I want you to look around you. Alright. Just take a look around. What God has done here is a miracle. For those of us born in the US, coming from Christian schools, we probably take it for granted. But to have men and women from different nations, from different races, unified in Christ, this is a miracle. And it is a testimony to the gospel; a testimony that should be our distinctive before a lost world, that the lost world looks at us and says “see how they love one another.” And that’s our burden. And we have been proactive in making changes to try to avoid things that aren’t even problems yet, but could be perceived as being Rachelly, racially motivated or result in something that could be racially divisive. And we are intolerant of anything that would divide us as a University family or make any students feel second class. That is wrong and it is not tolerated. Jesus unites us in this place. And in fact when we stand and we sing like we did as Dr. Janson led us today, it is just a foretaste of the day that we will stand before the throne from every kindred and tongue and race and nation and we will worship and give praise to the Lamb who has brought us to our God and Father.

One Savior. One God. One Father.

And I want you to understand that that’s who we are as Bob Jones University. That’s what we believe. And that, by God’s grace, is what we are committed to live out today and in all the days to come. Dr. Short.