Earlier this morning, President Joel N. Lohr shared the following message:
Dear Hartsem community,
Throughout our country and others, including my own native country Canada, protests have broken out in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The protests have drawn attention beyond these individual tragedies to address much larger and longstanding issues of racism and injustice in our country.
With you, I am appalled, angered, and saddened at racism in all its forms and in all places. I grew up in a home where my parents taught me to love all people equally. Growing up with adopted siblings of color taught me firsthand how important love is and how deep-rooted racism can be. Like so many of you, over the past few days I have watched videos of our country breaking down in pain. In tears, I watched videos like that of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaking to her Atlanta community and our country, and yesterday, instead of trying to find an online church in which to worship, we as a family listened to the entire “I Have a Dream” speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His words are as powerful and relevant today as when he spoke them nearly sixty years ago. That should give us all pause.
Hartford Seminary has a long history of action in overcoming systems of discrimination and oppression. We have long supported women in ministry by being the first seminary in the country to welcome women in 1889, and our earliest photos show persons of color studying in our classes. What many may not know is that Bennet Tyler, first president of the Theological Institute of Connecticut and the founder of Hartford Seminary, was active in the abolitionist movement, and worked in a number of important anti-slavery groups while serving as our President in the early 1800s. Today, we continue this work through our programs, degrees, and initiatives, not least through our Black Ministries Program, guided by the ever wise and able Rev. Dr. Benjamin Watts.
And yet we need to do more. Violence against any member of our society is not acceptable. It is contrary to the God we worship and the faiths we practice. We need to speak up. We need to work for change. And we also need to repent of the ways we have been complicit in the wrongs and ongoing violence in our society. In this time of social distancing, and as we seek to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus, this will not be easy. I am calling on you to join with me, our faculty, our staff, and our seminary leaders to work for meaningful and long-lasting change in our country. This moment cannot go to waste. God is up to something in our world. In whatever ways we can and wherever we are, let’s work for the change we need to see in our country and world. And in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., quoting from the Book of Amos, let us “not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
Joel N. Lohr, Ph.D.
President, Hartford Seminary