Mark Bailey is the President of Dallas Theological Seminary, where I was a student from 2002 to 2005. Dr. Bailey has served DTS as president for nineteen years, and will transition into the chancellor role on June 30. He will be succeeded by Dr. Mark Yarbrough on July 1, 2020.
On behalf of the seminary, Dr. Bailey issued a letter to the DTS family on Thursday, June 4 in response to events in my nation in these last days. He stated:
A Prayer and a Plea for Our Nation
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)
Dear DTS Family:
As we watch the news and see our city streets in turmoil, my heart, like many of yours, aches. We all yearn for righteousness and peace. All Christians should feel extremely bothered, hurt, and righteously angered over the recent tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, not to mention all others who have needlessly died due to racial injustices and systemic racism. In many ways, the heart cry of the prophet Habakkuk expresses much of our current frustrations:
Racism is a grievous sin, resulting in systemic oppression, and does not display our Lord’s heart. It is demonic, and we, as the body of Christ, are called to stand against it. While equal treatment and justice are American values that we proclaim, too often they are not experienced by all people.
At Dallas Theological Seminary, we denounce racism and all forms of racial injustice (DTS Statement on Unity Diversity and Community) and continue to learn how to live that out in practical and proactive ways.
Jesus commanded each of us to “treat others as you would like to be treated” (Luke 6:31). Openly speaking up for the marginalized and mistreated is a mandate found throughout the Bible. Proverbs 31:8-9 states, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The abuse of power creates chaos at every level of a culture. The words of James 2 also echo in our ears, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
Proverbs 29:2 explains, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The world continues to witness the groans of hurting people. Throughout our history, those who should speak do not say enough in defense of those who are oppressed because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity. The unheard groans of oppression eventually lead to more suffering, grief, unrighteousness, and unfortunately, human vengeance. The family of DTS, as the body of Christ, collectively repents for the ways we do not honor Christ’s mandate and image Him well. We collectively mourn with our brothers and sisters who experience the damaging oppression of racism and live in fear as a part of their daily experience. We also join the voices of those protesting peacefully who have rightly denounced the violence and vandalism that distracts from the root issues.
If we want to see a decrease in social unrest, the church of Jesus Christ needs to lead out and speak up against all injustice and unrighteousness. “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov. 29:18). We must model righteous anger and seek productive ways to join the protest against racism. We must seek the Lord and pursue innovative ways to bring change. History teaches us that God is honored, and change happens, when ministers and faith leaders are at the front of the charge, guiding the way. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us to “… seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Our words can’t adequately speak healing and comfort to the centuries of injustices people have faced here and abroad, but the Word of God can. Our apologies may come across to some as hollow and self-serving; our goal at DTS remains to teach truth and love well. We desire to continue to grow in love, to bear the image of Christ better, and to reach our neighbors with the healing and love the Gospel of Christ brings. Please continue to pray as we move forward as God’s instruments of healing and change.
Three of our distinguished alumni have recently spoken about the events happening in our nation. I invite you to listen:
- Dr. Tony Evans, Senior Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Church
- Dr. Eric Mason, Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church
- Pastor Bryan Carter, Senior Pastor of Concord Church
Mark L. Bailey, PhD
I reflected on these same matters Friday in my eNewsletter. In 2002, my decision to attend Dallas Seminary was largely discerned in connection to my love of the Scriptures. I wanted to know the Bible, and DTS seemed to be the place where I could learn to do that best. I continue to value Dallas Seminary’s commitment to the Bible.
Dr. Bailey’s letter is thoroughly biblical. His response is rooted in the witness of the Word of God. I also received his words as being offered in humility, in grief, and in love. For that, I am deeply thankful. Dr. Bailey reminded me that as an ambassador for Christ I am called to live according to what is true and to evidence those commitments through love. As a minister of the gospel, I am called to do so with courage.
Acts of love include the commitment to pray and to listen. Prayer is not passive, but active, and is a first response. Listening, also, is an action.
But the question before us remains: “How do we serve as God’s instruments of healing and change?” What does God’s Word call us to do? How does the church exercise obedience to the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, and how does this take shape in our nation at this moment in time? That’s a matter for discernment. We need wisdom.
In Isaiah 1:17 we are commanded: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
I find it significant that justice is described as something we are to seek and to do. Seeking leads to doing. But then, once done, seek. With justice, we are always on the way. Christian hope offers us a vision for what we are seeking, for on the day of Christ, our quest for justice will reach its end. Until then, we wait, we long, we cry out, we work. Pray. Listen. Discern. Act. Explore the options, consider them with God, and then do what is right. As an individual, act. Better yet, bind yourself to the church; let’s be the people God has always called us to be.