2022 Theme: "He is Our Peace: Educating Across the Divide.”
Dates: August 18-10, 2022
Registration: Open until Friday August 12, 2022.
Dear Andrews University Community:The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, highlighted the healing ministry of Christ. Far too often, we tend to limit Christ’s healing ministry to physical healing or healing of the individual – their bodies, their minds, their emotions. But in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul described the healing that people groups and communities experience. He said, For He [Christ] Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility……. And in Him [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2: 14 & 22, NIV).
Fittingly, the theme for this year’s Faculty Institute is He is Our Peace: Educating Across the Divide. Whether it’s the traditional news outlets, social media, national politics, or church discussions, we seem to be inundated with images of division. Conservatives versus progressives. The left versus the right. Pro-life versus pro-choice. Catholics versus protestants. Religious versus secular. Every issue is presented through a binary lens. I am right therefore you must be wrong. Its either this or that! As teachers (and we all teach) we know that issues and theories and life are more nuanced than that. Usually its not either or, but both and. None of us is absolutely right. And the other is not absolutely wrong. There are kernels of truth in every argument, theory, or issue. Therefore, we should acknowledge truth wherever it is found and use that kernel as a common place to start conversations. Remember, Christ is our peace, and He has broken down the dividing walls that our human traditions are eager to erect.
With this idea in mind, our Thursday plenary – Disagreement in My Community is a Source of Blessing will be presented by Betsy Barre, executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Wake Forest University. She will argue that although viewpoint diversity is a feature of universities, increasing polarization has made it difficult to educate across these divides. Despite these difficulties, she opines, we should not abandon the promise of productive disagreement in our classrooms. Barre will help us understand when such disagreements are valuable, when they are not, and what we might do to navigate between the two. She will contend that disagreement is only productive if we have created a climate of inclusion and respect, and that pursuit of the latter (inclusion and respect) need not undermine the benefits of the former (disagreements).
The Friday plenary by Ganoune Diop will continue the discourse of educating across the divide – On Being Human: The Most Pressing Principle for Peaceful Coexistence. As director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department (PARL) at the GC, he regularly trains leaders in capacity building in reference to peace, justice, and human rights. His plenary will be framed through the lenses of what makes us human and humane. Differences in life’s choices, Diop will argue, need not cause us to lose our deep human solidarity and a commitment to promote health and healing – including relational healing. To work through irreconcilable differences of beliefs and opinions we must adopt the principle of the dignity of difference. According to Diop, reckoning with our collective past of dominations, empire building, internalized dominance, and beliefs of superior individuals, make human relations toxic and harmful. Seventh-day Adventist voices are needed today for the healing of human relations, based on one humanity, all related through being created in the image of God. Humanity is the sacred temples of the Holy Spirit. Thus, every violation of the other, in terms of their intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social integrity, is an assault against God.
Andrews University, a flagship university of the Adventist church, ought to model the way, to educate across the divide. In our attempt to be relentlessly relevant, our classrooms must continue to provide opportunities for discipline-appropriate difficult conversations that provide students with the tools to address their questions, and nurture an environment, where questions the students did not know they have, could be brought to the surface.
As we grapple with questions around LGBTQ+, race, justice, creationism, scientism, etc., an Andrews education shall equip our students to thrive and flourish in the midst of uncertainties, unanswered questions, unresolved issues, unknowns and chaos. The basis for our flourishing is not our accomplishments or the rightness of our positions, but rather our confidence in what Christ has done and is doing. Christ is our peace. In Him we hang together. He has destroyed the barriers to our harmony. And in Him we are being interwoven together, to become His dwelling. We are his dwelling both individually and communally. Thus, we should represent Him individually and communally. And a key indicator of how well we represent him communally is our ability to model difficult conversations with grace, as we educate across the divide.