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Working toward God's Shalom

President Lindsay Chairman Smith

Read an update about the November 1 incident ➔

August 28, 2020
Dear campus community,

May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you as we start the academic year. We write today, as president and chairman but also as partners in the Gospel, to share several strategic priorities around Gordon’s commitment to Shalom, the peace and prosperity of God we experience in community. You may be aware that our vision is born out of a theological commitment to honor the imago Dei (that is, the fact that we are all created in God’s image and are worthy of dignity) and the Missio Dei (the work of God as it is carried out in our community). Undergirding Shalom is Christ’s command that his disciples love (agape) one another. As important as priorities, programs, curricula, campus activities are, for a Christian college, learning and practicing the sacrificial love our Lord commands of us is of greatest importance. For over 130 years, Gordon has been a place that educates a diverse group of women and men toward intellectual maturity and Christian character within the context of agape. Over the last ten years, we have significantly increased the ethnic and racial diversity of our on-campus community with a 75 percent increase in domestic students of color and a more than doubling of our international students on campus. This has dramatically enhanced our community in numerous ways, and we thank the good Lord for these gifts. At the same time, we must and will do more to practice the Shalom of God here on campus. 

Nearly seven years ago, we initiated a rigorous evaluation, conducted by a panel of outside scholars and experts, to lay the groundwork for a strategic plan around issues of diversity and community at Gordon. This was reviewed carefully by the Cabinet and the Board of Trustees and shared broadly with faculty and staff. A number of priorities became part of the current strategic plan (known as “The 20/20 Project”).

Representative positive steps from some of these initiatives can be seen in the following ways:

  • The drafting and approval of a theological statement on the value of diversity (which became the Shalom Statement)
  • More people of color among the College’s leadership (including the Board of Trustees and senior administration) as well as among student leadership roles (GCSA, Presidential Fellows, student-athletes and honors programs)
  • More support for ALANA and student organizations, including the formation of a Multicultural Initiatives Office (MIO), and institutional support to student-led initiatives like AFRO Hamwe
  • Greater institutional consideration in programming for issues and priorities that might arise in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month and Women’s History Month, including chapel and convocation speakers, campus activities, as well as articles and features in Stillpoint and on The Bell 
  • Training and development for student-leaders (through things such as the Redeemed Mosaic conference or, more recently, the Sealed Leadership Conference), for new employees (through Gordon Vision Day) and for emerging campus leaders (through Learning to Lead at Gordon)
  • More diverse thinkers and perspectives informing the curriculum, with particular focus on The Great Conversation seminar as well as Christian Theology and all core literature courses.

Despite these advances, we are not where we want to be in terms of both programs and relationships.
The College must—and will—do more to support a campus that increasingly looks like the rich mosaic of diversity within the Kingdom of God. So today we announce a number of additional initiatives that we are undertaking this year. These are not designed to be a comprehensive list of activities; but they represent concrete actions we are taking this academic year, and they serve as a helpful starting point. We are grateful to Dr. Nick Rowe for his wise leadership in this space, as well as the Multicultural Affairs Committee, and strong student leadership voices for helping to inform these initiatives. They fall into four major categories.


Over the summer, the Academic Programs Committee met with GCSA and AFRO Hamwe leadership and worked collaboratively to develop a curriculum and learning outcomes framework for a Black history course that would be a part of the College’s core course offerings. This valuable student and faculty collaboration is a model for the essential work that will continue to be required as we move forward with meaningful curriculum developments. Immediate next steps include discussions among faculty leaders and academic divisions, after which it is our expectation that the full faculty will review the recommendation during the current semester. If approved, this curricular reform will represent the most responsive curricular request relating to the core curriculum in Gordon’s modern history. In addition, the academic division will assess and revise one-third of our current undergraduate course syllabi to include more Black and Brown voices by January for implementation in the 2021-2022 academic year. In addition, APC is committed to implementing ways to better attend to the diverse experiences of our students of color in our curriculum, pedagogy and campus culture. This is a significant undertaking, and we are gratified to see the shared commitment among our faculty and students in responding to our Shalom commitments and where the Lord is leading us.  

Campus Life

The Clarendon Scholars will be participating in a joint worship service of the Global Honors Institute taking place this weekend, and collaboration between the GHI and MIO teams will continue through additional opportunities over the fall and winter. In addition, Student Life, GCSA and the President’s Office will collaborate to augment programming associated with Dr. Marla Frederick’s planned visit in January to expand MLK remembrances on campus (Dr. Frederick was one of the external experts who led the evaluation in 2014 and later served on Gordon’s Board of Trustees; she is recognized as one of the global experts on issues of race and religion). We endeavor to do something similar around Women in Leadership in combination with Dr. Elaine Howard Ecklund’s visit in the spring and with Dr. Jemar Tisby as he visits campus to deliver this year’s Franz Lecture. The Chapel Office remains deeply committed to the work of caring for and ministering to all members of the student body. Chapel services and our newly added Sunday Morning Worship and Monday Evening Vespers will continue to feature a diverse group of local preachers and on-campus student ministries. Additionally, the Chapel Office is working closely with Dr. Nick Rowe, associate vice president for student and global engagement, to address the specific needs of our Black students in these difficult times. 

Training and Development

Building upon efforts undertaken in recent months at the Cabinet level, we will engage an external expert to supplement faculty and staff development by conducting several day-long training sessions for full-time employees during the weeks of December 7 and 14 (at the conclusion of the fall term but before the annual Christmas break for employees). This effort, to be headed by Human Resources, is part of how we will expand the College’s commitment to Shalom within the context of Gordon’s distinctively Christian workplace. Staff colleagues in student-facing departments, as well as full-time faculty, will participate in special modules as part of this training effort to address particular opportunities they can advance Shalom in their respective areas of responsibility. Because of the external funding the College recently secured, we will also pilot a leadership-development program for campus managers, with particular interest in advancing Shalom through Gordon’s Christian workplace.

Faculty and Staff Recruitment

Beyond recruiting an increasingly diverse student body, the most important ways we can add diverse voices to our campus is through recruiting more diverse faculty and staff colleagues. Over the next six months, Human Resources will be overhauling our church/ministry leader outreach strategy in consultation with the Office of Church Relations in an effort to expand and deepen the pool of qualified candidates for positions as they become available. As part of this, we intend to revise every aspect of our recruiting and hiring process—from job descriptions and position announcements to candidate interviewing and new employee on-boarding—with a greater focus on advancing Shalom and bringing more diverse, mission-appropriate candidates and perspectives to the College. This process will take at least twelve months, but we hope to share demonstrable progress in this area within six months’ time.

These are lofty ambitions, and behind these four major foci are more than a dozen concrete objectives we will be reviewing at the Cabinet and Board levels in the months ahead. As we have said before, change is a process and not an event. It saddens us when individuals and institutions fail to live up to their ideals, but if this work is to be successful anywhere, it must first take root in the context of a Christian community like Gordon. The two of us signing this letter hope to demonstrate—in visible partnership as leaders at the College and as a White man and a Black man—how Gordon’s commitment to Shalom not only serves our students better, but also embodies a more faithful Christian witness in preparing the people of God for the work of God.

Peace to you,

Michael Lindsay signature

D. Michael Lindsay

Herman Smith signature

Herman J. Smith
Chair, Board of Trustees