Why Diversity Matters

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve been thinking something since June 2016 when I first read a blog posted by a new faculty member at Northeastern Seminary. It has stayed with me because I was overcome with emotion as I read it. Touched by the transparency and grace in which the blog was written, moved by a reality I do not know and confronted by my responsibility to make a change. Yes, one blog (and the moving of the Holy Spirit!) can do that.

I grew up understanding that all people are created by God and my job is to see and love those I come in contact with. And I agreed with that. In my own naïve mind I thought knowing this was enough. Most of my education has taken place in Christian communities, unfortunately not reflecting the beauty of God’s diversity. As I began my professional career I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a part of diversity training and began understanding my own limits and biases. I learned I have privilege and access that others do not.  I learned I have a responsibility, given my privilege and position, to create access for others. To imply that I have “arrived” or understand fully would be an overstatement. I am still continuing on this journey of fully understanding God’s intended world.

After reading the June 2016 blog what came to mind was “This is why diversity matters!”

Diversity is important because it allows us to have a community of different perspectives. It allows us to begin to understand each other in new ways. It challenges us to break down the stereotypes around us and in our own minds. But what I read in this blog is different. It shows me diversity matters because we need to see ourselves in those around us. We need to see it in faculty, staff, students, alumni; teachers, lawyers, doctors, pastors and leaders. And yes, we needed to see diversity at the highest positions in our country. As I read this blog I heard why having a diverse campus for our students, our faculty and staff is important. And I heard that without it we may never fully understand the fullness and richness of who God is.

Today, as we celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who stood tirelessly and faithfully in the face of opposition to gain freedom and equality for the oppressed, I am reminded of why diversity matters and the action I am called to take.

The blog that opened my eyes was In God’s Good Time: On My First Class at Northeastern Seminary, written by faculty member Esau McCaulley. With his permission I have attached the link below. I encourage you to take a moment to read it. As I carefully read each word he wrote, I heard his heart, I heard his joy, I heard his pain and I heard his hope. May his words spur you to a new way of envisioning God’s kingdom and the world around you.


An Undeserving Gift

My favorite childhood memory of Easter is at my Grandma and Grandpa Stevens’ house. The extended family would come together for the afternoon meal, for which Grandma had prepared all of our favorite foods. My favorite? The deviled eggs. Each person had his or her favorite food and Grandma would make an extra amount of whatever it was you loved and send it home with you after the meal. As a young child, I never thought about the hours she must have spent preparing and cooking so that all 15 to 20 people could go home with something. I loved this day and my personal plate of deviled eggs because I felt special and I knew Grandma loved me. Looking back now, all I see is the selfless acts of love and her sweet smile that was always patient as we ran in and out of the kitchen waiting for the meal to be served.

This week I have been reflecting on the selfless gift given to each of us. How amazing it is that God would send his son to die on the cross, so we might have eternal life. I am aware of my own limits and in awe of such grace. How truly humbling to be so undeserving, yet given such a gift.

As we break for Good Friday and the Easter weekend, I pray each of you will be able to be with those you love, and have time to reflect on the amazing gift of salvation we have been given. Death could not keep him – He is Risen!

Email sent to the Roberts and Northeastern community. 

Homecoming 2015 – where legacy and future come together!

Homecoming 2015 was fabulous! It is hard to find the right words to articulate what made the three days so wonderful.  The alumni who descended on the campus brought an energy and love seen in their smiles, tears and sharing of memories.  The class reunions, with yearbooks open and old hairstyles revisited, brought alumni back to the deep sense of community they shared as students. The children of alumni, faculty and staff added laughter and joy, whether in the bounce house or at an athletic event. The current students brought energy under the big tent, sharing the exciting activities and their passion around student organizations. And there were the athletic events. Although there wasn’t a Redhawks soccer game, lacrosse, tennis and volleyball provided exciting games.  The weather was outstanding! I could go on and on…It was everything you would wish a homecoming to be.

Amidst all the excitement and energy there were two other significant moments over the weekend – two events that leave me almost speechless:  the dedication of the Crothers Science & Nursing Center and the dedication of the Dorothy Whittingham Nursing Simulation Labs.

On Friday morning the community gathered to dedicate the new Crothers Science & Nursing Center.  The building, over 40,000 square feet of science and nursing simulation and lab space, was named in honor of former President and First Lady Bill and Rilla Crothers by an anonymous donor. That act alone is worth noting because of the humility and grace in which the donors gave. The donors’ grace was matched by the gracious words of Bill and Rilla when they humbly acknowledged the moment and expressed their gratitude to the staff, faculty and colleagues who served with them.  Throughout the day and weekend the new building was praised and admired by scores of people who toured it, by the news media coverage and during the many other events of Homecoming.  There are many stories to tell, but I encourage you to personally visit the new building to see what all the “buzz” is about.  This new building represents God’s faithfulness and his ability to use people in advancing his mission.  He did that through the leadership of the Crothers and it is represented in the beauty and totality of this amazing new facility on our campus.

Ribbon Cutting on Crothers Science & Nursing Center
Ribbon Cutting on Crothers Science & Nursing Center
Rilla and Bill Crothers
Rilla and Bill Crothers

On Saturday afternoon we dedicated the Dorothy Whittingham Nursing Simulation Lab, which is a significant part of the Crothers Science & Nursing Center. I was amazed by the number of alumni at the dedication – how many had been impacted by the life of one visionary leader. To have known Dorothy would have been a gift. The stories told revealed her belief in students, her strong leadership and her commitment to advancing transformational education in the lives of those she educated at Roberts.



I could go on and on about homecoming but will leave you with a short video that captured some of the events.

Guided by HOPE

Have you seen faculty or staff from the College or Seminary holding a little compass? Or seen one on a desk or even attached to a watch – have you noticed? On August 19th, Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary met to kick off the new academic year.  Anticipating the arrival of students, our purpose was to recognize those who have served at the College and Seminary, welcome new members to the community, and worship together. Even more important than ushering in the new academic year, though, we focused ourselves as a community on the year ahead. Our theme: Guided by HOPE.

We are a community that has been Guided by HOPE for almost 150 years!

While I was on vacation this summer I did a lot of walking and reflecting on where we are as a College and Seminary. I kept coming back to HOPE.  Last year the emphasis was Letting Hope Shine – letting the hope of Christ shine in our community and beyond. The theme was motivating as we engaged in the community at new levels and took the story of Roberts and Northeastern around the country, sharing our story with alumni and friends. So why would we continue with a theme of HOPE for a second year?

It comes back to who we are, where we are and how we will move forward. As we view the future it is apparent there will be opportunities and challenges in the upcoming year. How will we face it? Through our dependence on Christ: The HOPE of Christ and confidence in His leading. All of our accomplishments and all of the goals we hope to achieve mean nothing if we aren’t anchored or guided correctly.

The idea of being guided suggests an image of a compass. A compass is an instrument designed for navigation. Usually it has a magnet needle that points towards the earth’s magnetic north. It is believed that the earliest compasses were most likely invented by the Chinese for varying purposes, but certainly used for navigation. At our Kick-Off, each faculty and staff member was given a compass as a reminder of who guides us and to put our hope in Him.

Guided by Hope

There many challenges around us. One of our goals will be to remain anchored in Christ – seeking and asking Him to show us His ways – to show us His path, and to be open to His leading. But that takes discipline and seeking after him.

This next year, with all that needs to be accomplished and all that is ahead, our goal is to put our hope in Christ – the hope for the future of the College and Seminary – and allow ourselves to be guided by Him. To pursue Christ in our daily life – to rely on His strength throughout the year and to seek Him first for wisdom. May we be Guided by HOPE!


Psalms 25:4-5:

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

Help us, Lord

I am heartbroken.

This week tragedy happened again. Lives were taken, hatred won, and we were left to make sense of another example of the racial tear in the fabric of our community. As I read through the stories of each of the nine victims of the AME shooting, my heart broke. These were our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, colleagues, neighbors, pastors and fellow believers. They were members of our community.

Earlier this week I attended a one-day seminar sponsored by Northeastern Seminary entitled Power, Inequity and Reconciliation in the Church, led by Dr. Christena Cleveland, who challenged us to listen… to listen to what is being said by ALL our brothers and sisters. As I have prayed and mourned the recent acts I have also been attempting to listen. At the risk of not articulating perfectly, I ask you to hear my heart as I try to make sense of what I am hearing in this challenging time.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Martin Luther King Jr.

We live in a fallen world, a world where hate and racism exist. The recent act in Charleston, South Carolina reminds us once again of our painful history as a divided nation. It is true that many around us love as Christ called us to love and are examples of living in community. But there remains a deep weed in the garden of our lives, an ugly weed that appears far too often. It divides our country around surface topics of personal defense and justification, and we slide into the posture of defending our position instead of listening to each other. I am guilty of this pattern even while trying to make sense of the senseless. Log into any social media today and you will hear debates brewing around our interpretation of what just happened in Charleston.

Injustice happened. Lives were taken. A community was impacted. A church was targeted. A people of a specific race were attacked. Wrong happened and we are left reminded we have not yet learned to live out our calling of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Dr. Cleveland also pointed us to Philippians 2 as a model for how we are encouraged to live within community.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:1-5, NRSV).

My attempt at listening reminds me I must rest in these words, and I am prompted to think of others first and stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters.

Help us, Lord.

What about our work at Roberts and Northeastern? What difference are we making in the lives of our students and community? Are we modeling what Christ is asking us to do? Are we regarding others better than ourselves? We were founded to educate for character and I can’t think of anything deeper or more important than teaching our students how to model their lives after Christ.

Educating for character isn’t easy and requires hard work as we embrace our call to impact the world for Christ. To do this we have to discuss the difficult things of this world and challenge our own thinking on issues of race and discrimination. We have to embrace Imago Dei (the image of God) and allow learning and listening to occur. As President, I continue on a journey of breaking down my own stereotypes and preconceived ideas about the world around me. But to create a community that reflects the Kingdom of God we must be willing and ready to be uncomfortable and stretched. I believe Roberts and Northeastern can be part of the change and make a difference by listening and engaging with the community around us.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge those who lost their lives this week and encourage each of us to be in prayer for the families and communities of Charleston and the AME Church. In discouraging times I turn to music to lift my spirit and redirect me to Christ.  I leave you with the words of a wonderful song, proclaiming who is in control and who holds our future. It is Him – the great I AM who overshadows the hate and pain in our world and gives us hope for the future.


 By Eddie James

I am the Lord, I’m the Almighty God
I am the One for whom nothing is too hard
I am the Shepherd and I am the Door
I am the Good News to the bound and the poor

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am the Righteous One and I am the Lamb
I am the Ram in the bush for Abraham
I am the ultimate Sacrifice for sin
I am your Redeemer, the Beginning and the End

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am Jehovah
And I am the King
I am Messiah, David’s offspring
I am your High Priest and I am the Christ
I am the Resurrection, I am the Light

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am the Bread and I am the Wine
I am your Future so leave your past behind
I am the One in the midst of two or three
I am your Tabernacle, I am your Jubilee

I am, I am
I am, I am

I am Hope, I am Peace, I am Joy, I am Rest
I am your Comfort and Relief from your stress
I am Strength, I am Faith, I am Love, I am Power
I am your Freedom this very hour!

I am, I am

I am, I am