Dear Erskine Community,
My heart is broken, so much so that I cannot sleep at night without awakening to the heart-wrenching images of the killing of George Floyd, a father, a man made in God’s image and due full respect and love. His torturous death recurs in my mind, and I grieve deeply. How could such an act of brutality and injustice take place? When Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life, why was there no response from the inhumane people who had arrested him, either from the perpetrator of the brutality or from those watching? The tragic death of George Floyd hurts all those in our nation who long for true righteousness. The Biblical prophet Amos expresses this universal human longing through these famous words: “Let justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
The Erskine academic community stands for unity and truth. We value our diversity and stand in unity with all our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, regardless of race. We speak the truth about injustice and the need for change so that all people receive equal protection and justice under the law. George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis causes us to weep with our friends and to reflect on how we can individually and corporately find ways to promote dialogue that leads to understanding. I resonate with Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, in which he states, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” At Erskine College and Theological Seminary, we are interrelated; we form one Christian academic community where each person is valued and respected because he or she has been created in the image of God.
I do not have immediate answers, nor have I earned any exclusive right to speak. I do so because of the tremendous hurt all around me, the confusion, anger, and frustration experienced by many. As a Christian, I know the way forward is the way of love, mercy, forgiveness, and peace. We must first experience these from Jesus himself, and then live as forgiven people with humility and grace, “counting others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
To all in the Erskine family, you are in our thoughts and prayers as we navigate these troubled waters in our nation. We love you all with the unconditional love of Christ.
Dr. Robert E. Gustafson
President, Erskine College and Theological Seminary