A letter to the Johnson community from President Smith

Over the past few days, the protests, the rioting, and the national conversation about racism in America have escalated. Like you, we have watched, read, prayed, and grieved.

Some people have reached out via social media to ask why Johnson University has not made a public statement expressing our position on these events. This is a fair question. On the one hand, as we responded to those questions initially, we prefer to let our people and our programs represent us instead of issuing press releases. If there is no substance behind our words, then any public statement is meaningless rhetoric or, even worse, virtue signaling. But if our commitment to peace, justice, and equality is evident, then public statements are unnecessary. Johnson University seeks to display its commitment to justice through our work and our life together.

In addition, there have been other significant events related to racism, immigration, and related issues in recent months that have divided our country and directly affected our students. We have not made a point to comment on those events publicly, again believing that our actions are a better way to effect change.

However, we do not want to communicate to our students, our alumni, or our community partners that silence on these issues indicates indifference. Words may be inadequate, but we understand they can be important right now. So we want to reaffirm publicly what we teach and try to live out in our life together: Johnson University is unequivocally anti-racist. As a university we are working to learn, listen, and improve in being a diverse community that welcomes people of color and supports organizations working for justice in Knoxville and Kissimmee. Our mission is to educate students so they can extend the kingdom of God among all nations, and we look forward to the day when the words of Revelation 7:9 will be realized while also realizing the call of the gospel to be part of God’s reconciling work here and now.

We are grieving with all those who are grieving right now, and we’re praying for our students, our staff and faculty, and our country. A time of prayer and lament is being organized on both of our campuses and we’ll share those details soon.