During the State of The Seattle School event, President Keith Anderson announced a few new and exciting things. We’ll highlight each here on stories, starting with the creation of the Intercultural Credibility Task Force.
I didn’t start out with a belief in the kingdom of God that was bold. My “kingdom” was tribal – white, narrowly defined evangelical, middle class, and pretty safe. But I met people and read more scripture until my understanding of the kingdom grew into something larger than the tribal ghetto in which I was birthed in faith. I stood with Tom Skinner one morning in a college chapel and he said, “Keith, you know, the Kingdom of God doesn’t look like this.” He didn’t mean the white, suburban and rural middle class students who sat on the seats in the gym weren’t part of the kingdom, just that the kingdom needed more seats for others who weren’t in the room.
This past week, I announced the formation of a Presidential Task Force on Intercultural Credibility. Our current strategic plan calls us to develop movement toward intercultural credibility. The choice of these words was intentional. Combined with our mission statement, “intercultural credibility” is the continual movement as an institution to inspire belief in people from various cultural perspectives that we “train people to be competent in the study of text, soul, and culture in order to serve God and neighbor through transforming relationships.”
This work is foundational to our mission, it is not simply an add-on to our work. It is foundational to our mission because it is foundational to the work of the kingdom of God. It is theological; it is biblical. Text and soul and culture. We don’t come to this task today only through the lens of soul or story or experience. It doesn’t stop with my experience or yours alone. We don’t come to this work today only through the lens of a cultural value, a politically or socially correct cultural more that somehow reflects the ethos of sophisticated Seattle alone. We don’t separate text-soul-culture as we do this work. We are committed to it because we are called to be agents of reconciliation, people of justice, followers of Jesus, obedient to the call and kingdom to which his redemptive sacrifice calls us.
There are at least four essential elements in the work ahead of us:
- To create critical self-awareness within our community.
- To lead us into an increasingly nuanced conversation in curricular and co-curricular content and institutional policy and culture.
- To help us develop shared vocabulary around terms like culture, difference, racism, reconciliation.
- To help us to continue to develop a shared strategy of steps needed to be taken to move us toward intercultural credibility.
Some of us have been on this journey for a long time. We have seen communities take one step forward and multiple steps backward. We have seen our country do the same. We have seen our school do the same. It is not a task that will be “completed” when we create policies, curriculum, and change our culture. Why then do we persist? Because we have been won over by the teachings of Jesus who has won us over to something that is here and now and out of this world.