Tuesday, June 8, 2010

High Standards and Diversity

Leaders within Evangelical institutions often say to me things like "we want to be more racially diverse, but we just find that our high standards won't allow us to do so. . .". Denominations looking for pastors and schools looking for students are among the most common.

I have been thinking about institutional power, oppression and issues around social justice that beg the question about what we as believers in Jesus Christ should recognize, and if/how we should respond to them, and how we can call others into the Micah mandate.

I visited Jubilee Youth Ranch this week and had a great time spending time with the staff there. One of their staff members is a young man who grew up at a ministry like ours in Pasadena called Harambee. As we spoke and talked about getting inner-city kids into college we told me his story. He had been the "poster child" for Harambee. He had good grades, didn't get into too much trouble, but still, for him college seemed an impossible and scary thing.

Until he visited Nyack college. He found that this evangelical school had aprox 60% non-anglo student body. They set up a summer program for HS youth, who, even if they hadn't completed their HS diploma, could be admitted to college! Having graduated HS, he thought to himself, "If they'll do that, then they must be really ready to work with me too!" Clearly they were (and are!) serious about providing sound biblically based liberal arts education for the growing non-white world.

If you came up with a line up of Christian Colleges and universities who use the "wish we could be more diverse but must be committed to excellence" mantra you'd find that maybe one or two are schools can compete academically with the top non-Christian schools. Wheaton maybe? All the others are neither competing academically at the highest levels, NOR addressing the fact that the future of the evangelical church is primarily non-anglo by enrolling, educating, equipping our non-white brothers and sisters. Nyack is a rare exception.

Nyack has high standards and will likely effect and equip the future of the US evangelical church far more than the its counterparts that lack this form of commitment to diversity. That is a high standard of excellence in my mind, that comports with the Micah Mandate.

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