One of the things about which I am most excited regarding attending the Wake Forest University School of Divinity is the diversity of the student body. About 46% identify as an ethnic minority; more than 50% female; LGBTQ students are welcomed; students come from over 70 different universities, 25 states, and 6 countries; and over 25 religious affiliations are represented.
The Divinity School is ecumenical. There are classes about the traditions of various denominations, and one can easily detect the Baptist tradition of Wake Forest at Wake Div, but the school does not focus on the teachings of any particular denomination.
I am excited about all of this diversity because it is something new for me, it will challenge and stimulate my thinking, and I expect to learn a lot from my classmates. I probably have a bit more to teach myself, but at 47 I’ve covered most all of the curriculum I have to offer!
The major institutions and profession with which I have been affiliated over the years included some diversity, but nowhere close to that of Wake Div. I attended a Southern Baptist church growing up and Churches of Christ from late college through now (except for a three-year period in which we attended a great Baptist church that affiliated with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship). I have worked in the large law-firm environment for over 20 years. Our kids attended a private school through middle school, with our son attending through 9th grade. (Our church has increased in diversity over the past several years, which we are thrilled about.)
The diversity of other area divinity schools and seminaries does not appear to approach that of Wake Div. The magnitude of the difference seems to be quite large (except for Duke).
Some are trying. The website of the largest seminary in the area explains that it “strives to raise historically underrepresented voices on campus by working to be comprised of 20% culturally diverse faculty, staff, and students, and 35% female by 2022.” (cf. 46% and above 50% today at Wake Div.)
Others bar the doors to people Wake Div welcomes. A leader of a seminary in Virginia was quoted in Christian News as criticizing another seminary: “[T]hey’ll allow a professing homosexual to take seminary courses? It’s just insane. It doesn’t even make any sense.” What if a student embraced homosexuality while enrolled at his seminary? “We would be very sorrowful … and we would seek to counsel that individual …. But he would no longer be allowed to participate in his studies.”
While I have not seen any statistics on it, my sense is that Wake Div is economically diverse. Graduate students typically just scrape by (plus taking on debt!), so it is hard to tell. 98% of Wake Div students receive scholarships, and the average scholarship amount is 70% of tuition. This does not include room, board, books, insurance, transportation, etc. It is admirable that the divinity students invest their time and money in this endeavor.
I’ll close with a quote from the Apostle Paul on diversity:
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. …
If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? … God has put each part just where he wants it.
How strange a body would be if it had only one part! …
The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. …
So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.”
(First Corinthians 12:12-26 (New Living Translation)).
(Picture: the top picture is one taken by me of the back cover of the agenda from Wake Div’s orientation for the entering class, August 2016)
“About 46% …”: http://divinity.wfu.edu/about/at-a-glance/ (last visited August 22, 2016)
” … LGBTQ students are welcomed …”: http://divinity.wfu.edu/2016/04/meet-a-2016-graduate-lindsey-altvater-clifton/ (last visited August 22, 2016)
“The Divinity School is ecumenical …”: http://divinity.wfu.edu/about/mission-and-principles/ (last visited on August 22, 2016)
“strives to raise historically underrepresented…”: http://www.sebts.edu/kd/our_goal.aspx (last visited August 22, 2016)
“Others bar … “: http://christiannews.net/2013/06/11/liberty-baptist-seminarys-enrollment-of-homosexual-activist-called-into-question/ (last visited August 24, 2016)
“98% of Wake Div students …”: http://divinity.wfu.edu/admissions/financial-aid/ (last visited August 25, 2016)
Hi Sir. I came across your blog while google searching for a church to visit in Winston-Salem. My family (wife, son and I) will be relocating to Winston Salem on a job transfer. We are used to attending a progressive church in our area. How has your church become more diverse and inclusive? E-mail is fine if you like. Mike