President Nieman responds to Chauvin verdict
April 20, 2021
This afternoon, in my role as president of the seminary and alongside many other people, I mark the news of three guilty verdicts issued against Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. I mark this news because it is historic and overdue, and also because it bears complex feelings. It does not bring back the life of George Floyd, and so some cannot celebrate. It does not stem the tide of violence visited on Black and Brown persons in this country that continues to this day, and so some feel little relief. This news is but a moment that begs us to ask why it has taken so long and whether it will ever be the norm and not an exception.
I write on behalf of the seminary because George Floyd’s death and the subsequent trial intersect with our formative mission as a school. In his death and so many others before and since, our society (including our students, staff, and faculty) has known harm of the highest order. More acutely, Black and Brown persons have borne endless trauma at the hands of white supremacy that cannot be ignored and merits honest response. As a school, we prepare leaders to engage a public ministry that seeks healing amidst such harm and honesty amidst such trauma. To avoid these matters today is simply to neglect our core mission.
And so we speak – but what as a school shall we say? First, that this is a complicated time for many people whose recognition of the trial’s outcome only awakens a deeper grief for all the other times when justice has been deferred or denied. LSTC stands with those who are thankful and sorrowful all at the same time, and pledge to hear their lament, including lament that arises within our own community.
Second, we name that this country has never attained the ideals of public trust and accountability in the name of which it was founded, and this afternoon’s news does not change that ongoing fact. Today may signify that change can happen, but not that it automatically will happen, let alone be sustained. We commit to engaging the ongoing work of dismantling racism and white supremacy.
Finally, we realize that deep at the heart of what has happened today is a hunger for real justice for those who are so gravely mistreated, and a desire to speak hope that confounds the cynical counter-messages within our society. As an institution of faithful persons, our work will continue to be forming messengers of hope who seek tangible justice for all God’s children.
May God bless you tonight with the peace given by our risen Lord in the words heard this past Sunday (Luke 24.36) – not the peace of quiet passiveness but of resurrection disruption that drives us out in mission to give healing, speak truth, take risks, and offer hope. We are committed to accompany others who work for racial justice, particularly Black-led organizations. We also long for your company in our next steps built on the promise and possibility of the news we have heard this afternoon.
James Nieman, PhD