Friends and Visitors to Bethel, my warm greetings!
These pages offer interesting facts and plans about Diversity & Inclusion at Bethel College. But there’s a story, too. It’s in me.
Check my picture. Truth is, I am a living, breathing stereotype. No surprise a middle-aged, bald, sometimes-bespeckeled, white man presides over a Midwestern college! The guy in that photo is a second-generation college student who graduated with no college debt, and enjoyed an affluent, suburban childhood, full of opportunities. I had a happy, in-tact home. Dad owned a successful business. Mom was a teacher. Both grandfathers were pastors. For goodness’ sake, I was even quarterback of the football team, married a cute gal, had three kids, and set-up life with a white picket fence, literally! Even my son-in-law is All World.
It’s an embarrassment of riches. Life is good. But it’s cliché.
While Bethel College has never been an exclusive or racially charged place, most of our institutional history was led by folks with my experience too. Historic photos in the halls of our administration building feature former board members, presidents, professors, and seminal leaders who look like me and had, in large measure, my life experience.
The problem for me, despite being raised in the church and practicing hospitality and generosity, was that my 20s were filled with thoughts of reverse discrimination. Quota-thinking in hiring, promotions, or admissions bugged me. I didn’t get it.
But many years ago, I converted in a couple of ways. First, the concerns of Diversity took residence in me. I lived in Korea, became custodial parent of a Korean high school imigrant to our home in the United States, visited a lot of countries, and got into relationship with friends of color in my town. I came to see contextual reasons – not just personal ones – which correlate to a flourishing or struggling life.
A far more important conversion, however, was my decision to follow the leadership of Christ. He put new eyes in me for what is His Kingdom and His people. He instructed disciples to seek that God’s will be done on Earth just as it is in Heaven. Imagine that! Since Scripture says that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, man or woman, slave or free, your eyes and heart change. You don’t look at people, you see them as He does – enormously valuable, gifted, and called to fulfill a meaningful purpose. That changes everything. As we remove barriers to this flourishing, and enable everyone to maximize their potential in Christ, it brings Heaven to Earth in the here-and-now!
Bethel has done great work on this value for decades. Diversity & Inclusion probably isn’t a stark and grievous problem to fix, but a strength to serve. We haven’t failed, but surely aren’t finished in bringing Heaven to Earth. We don’t yet love perfectly across gender, race, and culture. But our aspirations can still define us. We have the will to see Heaven on Earth in greater measure.
I want our students of color – now one out of every five Bethel students – to flourish. Others do, too. That’s why Diversity is an institutional value to help employees and students of color be truly welcomed into our community and Inclusion values that we help others remain to completely fulfill God’s best plan for their lives.
Redgina Hill leads us well in this aspiration. Join us!
Gregg A. Chenoweth, Ph.D.