* Dr. Mark Yarbrough, president of DTS, read the following statement in a chapel service on January 15, 2021.
Official DTS statements regarding our nation’s events this past year have intentionally been sparse because raw emotion frequently prevents the ability to listen, speak, and assess with Christian charity. The recent flood of words has been overwhelming. However, today, we have the privilege to reflect, respect, and learn from the lasting influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our country. He acknowledged the brokenness of our culture and yet exhibited hope for reconciliation. Therefore, it seems appropriate, even essential, to convey Dallas Theological Seminary’s heartbeat, conviction, and posture toward the role the body of Christ plays in our current cultural moment, and specifically as it relates to racial reconciliation.
A Broken Culture and Available Redeemer
Activities during the past few months, and indeed the past several days, have reminded us afresh of human depravity. The Bible calls it sin. All human beings are sinful people. Our theological anthropology understands that, in and of ourselves, we are dead in our sins. We are lost. We are alienated from God and constantly moving toward self-destruction. The writer of Ecclesiastes said long ago, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Eccl 7:20, NIV). This detailed assessment of all people and all cultures demonstrates the fundamental need for redemption.
But praise God! According to divine revelation, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth, is God’s path for human redemption. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the Messiah of God who willingly submitted His life as an atonement for sin. As a result, God’s love has opened heaven’s doors so that we may be restored to Him by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ and His completed work on the cross. This gospel of salvation is for Jew and Gentile, male and female, for people from every land, people group, and nation. The gospel is open to all who believe (John 3:16).
For those who stand forgiven because of trust in the work of Christ, Jesus promises and guarantees eternal life. But He also longs to make a difference in how we live and interact in this fallen world. God has always expected His people “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [Him]” (Mic 6:8, NIV).
Waiting for Redemption
Believers—followers of Christ—await the consummation of our redemption. Unfortunately, we struggle with the world, our flesh, and Satan as we wait. Sin can still captivate our hearts and priorities. When it does, we lose our way and develop blind spots. We become too enamored with the world we live in as opposed to the one to come. We fail to look up in the manner admonished by the Apostle Paul, “. . . set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col 3:1–2, NIV).
Paul’s charge is critical because when we look up—our heaven-centric gaze empowers our priorities, attitudes, and responses below.
We should not be surprised when the world sets its mind “on earthly things.” That’s what unbelievers do, thus what the world does. But tragically, Christians can fall prey to the same tendency. Our words and works often grieve the Holy Spirit as we follow the world’s patterns. The recent political and social upheavals break our hearts. The loss of life is grievous. As a seminary, we condemn the vitriol and lack of civility so frequently evident in political and social arenas. Friends, hatred is a poison that will derail any system, including political parties, companies, ministries, and the local church. Sadly, it happens at Dallas Theological Seminary.
How do I know this to be true? Because no person is without sin, no people are without failure, and no entity is without stain—not on this side of eternity.
An Apology from DTS
At DTS, we acknowledge our past and present sins, our American forefathers’ sins, and those of the American church. We acknowledge that the trade and treatment of enslaved people—people created by God to mirror His image—was evil, unrighteous, and often justified by misuse of Scripture. And this slavery led to tragic divisions both in the nation and within the church of Jesus Christ.
After the national declaration of emancipation, divisions remained in the US as African American men and women were denied their rights in various institutions, such as the legal and educational systems. The division also remained in many white churches. Despite the gains of the Civil Rights era, racism and prejudice continue, both against African Americans and others. Unfortunately, racism and prejudice still exist within American culture and the body of Christ. It is a horrific blemish on the history of the nation and the church.
This day of remembrance for MLK gives me, in serving as the president of Dallas Theological Seminary, a public opportunity to reaffirm my personal and our institutional apology for our past racial sins. While beginning with a bold and noble vision for theological education, DTS did not advocate for African Americans as much as it should have. Proactive change should have replaced complicity.
Today, well over half a century since DTS admitted its first African American students, we strive for full Christian reconciliation, relationships characterized by mutual love and respect. Such striving is wholly consistent with Jesus’s command to love one another (John 15:12, 17). Consequently, we denounce all forms of racism and ethnocentricity, whether explicit or implicit, by commission and omission.
Brothers and sisters, I encourage us to search our hearts and repent of any form of racism. If we, as members of our board, faculty, staff, or student body—past or present—participated in sinful, racist deeds or expressions toward other image-bearers, I implore us to repent. God always responds favorably to repentance.
To those wronged, I ask for forgiveness for the suffering we have caused and have contributed to by action and inaction. If you have experienced racism at our hands, I ask your forgiveness. Through the power of the Cross, I ask for forgiveness. And through the power of the Cross, will you forgive us?
A Way Forward
We at Dallas Theological Seminary, as part of the Christian community, happily serve under the mandate to uphold and adhere to the orthodoxy of the faith and also the ethical mandate expressed in it. Theology considers not merely what we believe but how we live. The world must not only hear about God but see the change He makes in our lives. As Colossians 3:12–15 states,
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (NIV)
In light of this, let us remind one another of several vital truths:
- Our allegiance is to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our commitment is to Him and His leading.
- Our alignment is with the kingdom of God in its current and future forms.
Jesus’s future, pervasive rule on earth guides our priorities now.
- Our ambassadorship is a ministry of reconciliation.
Reconciliation to God, through Christ, is the foundation of peace with others.
- Our actions should reflect the grace of God bestowed upon us.
God’s abundant grace models the extent of grace we must show others.
Progress Today and Tomorrow
DTS’s mission is “to glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of His Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide.” Embedded in that statement is a heartbeat not only for all peoples and nations but a faculty, staff, and student body who celebrate and reflect the diversity of God’s people around the world.
By God’s grace, we have made progress. DTS has become a community of men and women differing in ages, denominations, ethnicities, countries of origin, and giftings. We have designed our programs to reach students worldwide, and in some cases, in their own language. Our faculty and staff increasingly reflect the diversity of the students God has entrusted to us. And to help navigate this change, we have articulated a Statement of Unity, Diversity, and Community and established an Advisory Council on Unity, Diversity, and Community, many of whom contributed wisdom to this statement.
But as the recent events remind us, we have a long way to go. On this day, I call DTS to move toward a tangible and robust vision for living and ministering together as the people of God. As we move forward, DTS will focus on select initiatives to help us grow into the community that we long to be—a community that represents people from all countries and ethnicities under the banner of Jesus Christ our Lord.
These initiatives include:
- Defining institutional values that prioritize how we love, respect, and honor one another within the DTS family. At all times and in all places, our words and actions should reflect the gospel of grace, pursuing Christian growth characterized by Christ-like maturity.
- Pursuing qualified administrators, faculty, staff, and students from across the nation and around the world. The seminary’s commitment to formal and non-formal educational offerings requires that we recruit competent employees with multicultural experience and establish specialized financial scholarships for students with limited access to theological education.
- Improving our employee onboarding experience and training to account for our institution’s changing demographics. As a global community represented by multiple ethnicities, we can improve on how our employees demonstrate love and respect toward one another and students.
- Helping students grow in their ability to interact constructively with other students and professors. The diversification of DTS requires training that helps us learn to honor the Lord and one another as we participate in a learning community.
DTS desires to grow into a community fueled by the grace of God, centered on the Son, and led by the Spirit. We are committed to fostering a family that respects all people, corrects wrongs, listens well, loves sacrificially, and learns to forgive and be forgiven.
May we who study and serve the Lord at DTS always celebrate our family identity and spiritual unity in Christ as our community’s foundation. And by God’s grace and through the growth He nourishes, may DTS become a reflection of that anticipated kingdom to come, that community of men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation bound together to worship and glorify our great triune God.
Mark M. Yarbrough
About the Contributors
Dr. Mark Yarbrough serves as the sixth President of Dallas Theological Seminary and is a professor of Bible Exposition. He has been in a variety of positions during his tenure at DTS: Research Assistant to the President, Executive Director of Information Technology, Associate Dean for External Education, Vice President for Communications, Academic Dean, and Vice President of Academic Affairs.
His love for the classroom draws him to the Bible Exposition department where he serves as Professor. Along with his responsibilities of leading DTS, he serves as an elder of Centerpoint Church in Mesquite and travels extensively leading tours and speaking at conference centers. Mark has recently authored Jonah: Beyond the Tale of a Whale and Tidings of Comfort and Joy. He has been married for thirty years to Jennifer, his high school sweetheart. They have four adult children, one son-in-law, and reside in Sunnyvale, Texas.