March 23, 2018 A Philadelphia student sends the Student Executive Committee a narrative of racism at ULS/LTSP from the fall of 2016 through the spring of 2018. Here is a portion of that letter (with students names removed).
I’ve included three of our Black peers in on this email so they can correct me if I’ve gotten any of the details wrong and share their own insights with you as they deem best. I hold all three of them in the highest regard as peers and siblings in Christ. The Urban Theological Institute (UTI) program and its students have been repetitively and intentionally excluded from leadership in chapel on the Philadelphia campus. The effects of these denials of worship leadership are still hindering our community. A poignant and explicit example of this happened before I arrived on the last day of August 2016. Sometime before the fall 2016 semester, UTI students approached Dr. Krentz about leading chapel every Tuesday evening. The Tuesday evening class that semester was 21st Century African American Worship… The UTI students request would have worked out perfectly, since we were divided into groups to create and lead worship services. Dr. Krentz said no. The reason given to my Black peers was that giving the UTI students (who are predominantly of African-descent) a weekly spot might offend white students. I cannot think of any current white student who would have taken offense if our Black peers had led one of eight weekly services (four weekly services if you don’t count Compline). Later in the semester he justified his decision to me by citing the “worship wars” of years past, stating that since then chapel has not been promoted for any specific leader or style. Not surprisingly the “worship wars” also had a racial component to where the divisions fell. Making this decision based on fear of offending someone is the worst possible defense. In my opinion, this excuse actually discredits me as a white Lutheran by assuming I would not be able to see Christ in the leadership of my Black siblings in Christ. It is further insulting when you get to know our UTI peers who are deeply gifted in music, prayer, and preaching leadership, and from whom I continue to learn so much.
What I started to figure out is that my Black peers rarely attended chapel. They felt unwelcome. Sometime in the fall of 2016 [a classmate] was the first one to clue me in to the division. It’s a wound that to this day has never healed. By the time the spring 2017 semester started, other signs of racial divisions were becoming more evident. When our Black peers were in chapel (rarely for regular chapel services, but often for special events) I would be invited into conversations about the “alternative facts” of our white, Germanic, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus in the painted glass windows or the “white Jesus” chapel crucifix which features a light-toned, olive wood Jesus with European features. That I had been enculturated into a white Jesus world-view is unfortunately predictable… The fact that this white-Jesus worldview is foisted upon us in a seminary chapel in 2018 in the most racially integrated neighborhood in the country is appalling. We can do better. We need to do better…
The letter then continued to spell out in detail the words and actions of Dr. Krentz that have been referenced at other points in the timeline. 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