Dear TFA Family,
“We” – such a small word, a word that denotes, without judgement, inclusivity within a group. This word stirs within our countries collective hearts and minds a boldness and strength; “We the people.” This week, our Head of School has allowed me this platform to speak to an important concern. We need to have a discussion; we need to have a purposeful nationwide forum about race. My paradigm is that of a Pastor, a father of three boys all of which have attended (or are attending TFA), a husband, a TFA board member and a citizen of our great country. It is unfortunate that no-matter our banner, we all must be shadowed through this peculiar prism of skin color.
What does the Bible say about this issue?
We are a Christ-Centered school; we strive to build a school culture that mirrors the life of Jesus. We pray that our students will live and walk and love as Jesus did. It was Jesus that consistently, without shame, taught against racial and ethnic biases. Jesus taught in a time and place where institutional, religious and ethnic division was the absolute law of the land, but Jesus regularly crossed religious and cultural barriers to educate all people that everyone is valued and loved by the God who created all of us. I take pause when I contemplate this lesson and pray for those whose hate or whose ignorance will not allow them to follow the word of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul, reflecting on Jesus’ life said, “He made us [Jews and non-Jews] both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2). So what is Jesus’ message as it relates to race? Should we separate from our fellow man? Should we unite under the blood of Jesus without regard to race, culture, class or ethnicity? I see diversity as a heaven sent gift, that if appreciated, the beauty of our multi-colored mankind collective will cover us and build us closer to heaven giving us a more perfect divine understanding while building an even stronger kingdom.
When I first arrived at TFA it was apparent to me that the vision for this school was to be a place that loved all people, without regard to skin color. I saw a school that made a conscious effort to welcome my family and was committed to insuring no impediments would prevent me or my children from achieving. Both my wife and I have volunteered our time to support TFA and its cause, in fact I have accepted the opportunity to serve on TFA’s board. It is a more beautiful TFA campus when we notice how God has brought together so many wonderful people, from all over the world, coming from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. TFA’s diversity respects our Lord and Saviors’ commandments and makes our campus a better and richer place.
The Bible sets a very high standard for relations between various ethnicities. We are called to live in harmony and to show honor among and between ourselves, without concern towards culture or ethnic differences. The Bible calls us to love each other as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, we must recognize that division between ourselves is not Godly. We are all children of God, and as children of God, brothers and sisters with Jesus AND one another — literally WE are family, therefore; this is the standard of behavior that is expected among all of us, including our students. I have witnessed TFA’s commitment, efforts and investment toward racial reconciliation, and perhaps, in this regard there is still more to do. As parents, we have a divine mandate to do our part as well.
What is the role of the parent and the school?
As you’ve often heard, our school and our families must be in partnership if we are to see our students develop into mature Christian leaders. We are commanded to talk with our children, teach them about the gospel and explain that we are equal at the foot of Jesus. We should educate ourselves and our children about our history, including the roots of racial divide and the lingering presence of injustice, prejudice and bigotry. Let them understand that without Jesus, we would all be lost, but with Jesus we are united in Christ as one family. Moreover, I suggest you take some time to review, with your children, how the Bible teaches that we come from one common ancestor, the first human Adam, and so we are quite literally connected as family.
It has come to my attention that our school was notified of an incident, which occurred earlier this summer, involving a few of our students, while under the care of their parents. The school has taken appropriate disciplinary action and they continue to hold my complete trust as an institution. This incident provides a teachable moment for each of us as parents. It is my understanding, that when confronted the students were humble, remorseful and apologetic. Their parents were clearly concerned and were cooperative. We, all of us, have been given another opportunity to embrace the lessons of our Savior and the history of racial divide. As a school we will not allow racism and we will embrace one another in love.
As parents, we should monitor the music our children expose themselves to and we must be ever aware about the pitfalls associated with social media interactions. Racial injustice is ultimately sin, it is a problem that can be made worse by secular entertainment, but lives with us because of heritage. This problem exacerbated by media, passed on through cultural legacy and cheered by evil will never be defeated without our collective Christian diligence.
WE will seek to be what Christ has called us to be, WE will be family, WE all have sinned and fallen short, but WE, together, will make The First Academy a more perfect place where all of God’s people can be equal and reflect his unique design to shine with glory throughout the world.
Bishop Allen Wiggins
The Hope Church of Orlando
Board Member – The First Academy