April 5-6, 2018 A student, Dean and Dr. Krentz meet to discuss the complaint of racist words uttered by Dr. Krentz on February 28. A request for public confession and plan for right action is made. The plan for right action is received and shared with Black peers but no public confession has been made.
On the evening of April 5 a student confronts Acting-President Dunlop over his “watermelon” statement in a public forum. Here is the statement the student read aloud:
Bishop Dunlop, my consistent witness to the crises of the last three months has been a posture of lament and a call to public confession as the correct first step toward both forgiveness and right public action. I’ve made these calls to right public confession in letters to Dr. Latini, to our Board of Trustees, and now I make this call to confession to you in person.
In our meeting on Monday, March 26 we spoke about Luther’s theology of two kingdoms. You rightly referenced how in the kingdom of the Spirit of God’s Grace we may rightly come to forgive our siblings in Christ who have publicly confessed that they’ve wronged us even while we cannot allow that sibling a continued leadership role in the earthly institution due to the hurt caused and the healing that may come only with time.
Bishop Dunlop, I am sick, sick with fear for my siblings in Christ, sick with anger for how this institution continues to treat its most vulnerable members. On Tuesday, March 27 you attended a meeting of Urban Theological Institute (UTI) students, select faculty and a small group of white lutheran students. I was one of these white allies present in the meeting to make our public confession of how we as white lutheran siblings have failed our peers of color. Prior to the UTI meeting you attended an Advancement team meeting in which you made a racist reference to the Black community of ULS when you said “I feel like this [situation at the Seminary] is like the Israelites who wanted to return to Egypt because the watermelon is better.” (For my white peers who may not get the reference, watermelons have been viewed as a major symbol in the iconography of racism in the United States.) In this statement you were suggesting that my Black peers and colleagues were like the grumbling children of Israel lost in the wilderness. You wrongly diminished the perpetual cries of my African descent peers as the whines of an unfaithful tribe rather than seeing them rightly as the grieving laments of a people continually condemned to the margins of society and the margins of this seminary. The staff members present in the room further reported to me today that you made this statement with laughter and mirth. They have rightly filed complaints against you for this racist micro aggression. I issue my complaint now in public.
You cannot continue to stand as a leader of United Lutheran Seminary. By what you have done and by what you have left undone, you have perpetuated fear and anger in our Christian community. You have not loved us with your whole heart; you have not loved your Black neighbors nor their white allies as yourself. As I await your confession to me and to my peers for the ways in which you have continued to demean us as the full and diverse body of Christ, I will again enter a posture of lament by ceasing my work as a student until you confess your wrong doing. I offer no hope to you that right relationship may one day be restored, only that these racist words said by you be rightly confessed for any possible progress. I await your confession.
Jim Dunlop replied with a partial denial saying: “I do not remember saying it. It is something I could potentially say, due to the story resonating with me. If there was a tape recorder, if there were notes taken, then…” On April 6 this student informs some faculty and the Boards Acting-Chair of this public request for confession for the watermelon statement. The Board Chair informs this student she has recused herself from investigating Acting-President Dunlop. Other board members follow her lead in recusing themselves of investigating Acting-President Dunlop’s racist words and actions.
It is important to note here that the statement made by Jim Dunlop and the complaints that followed have been investigated by a human resources firm hired by the Board of Trustees. This is not the only incident in which complaints against Jim Dunlop have been filed, but it is one that is most widely known among the students. As of July 2018 many complaints against Jim Dunlop had been substantiated and reported to the board. Yet Jim Dunlop still retained his seat on the board without acknowledging why many in the ULS community found his presence problematic to reconciliation and moving forward.
This timeline went through an extensive vetting from April of 2018 through the present to ensure that it is true, and it was shared with ULS leadership routinely from April through September. It is only after this timeline was made public (Oct. 10, 2018) that Bishop Dunlop resigned from the ULS Board of Trustees. Rightly contextualized, both Dr. Krentz and Bishop Dunlop’s actions may be seen as both an individual’s acts which are also part of the ongoing systemic issue of racism specific to ULS. Many of the proposed policies in the ULS Policy Survey seek to address these ongoing systemic issues in the ULS community. This announcement is part of the timeline of racism at United Lutheran Seminary