Baylor University Department of Religion Statement on Diversity
The concern for diversity of several sorts—intellectual, gender, racial, ethnic, economic, (dis)ability—surely lies at the core of Baylor’s mission as a Christian university, which has at its disposal rich resources in the Scriptures, Church History, and Christian Theology and Ethics. At the heart of the biblical witness is a profound concern for the “other.” In the Old Testament, that means the marginalized widow and orphan; in the New Testament, it means Gentiles of varying sorts. We understand that achieving real diversity is not simple or straightforward. The earliest Christian communities appear to have experienced their most serious challenges around the inclusion of women, of Gentile “minorities,” of people with varying interpretations of the Law of Moses. We remember with some trepidation that Peter himself initially resisted God’s demand that the gospel be preached to the Gentiles (Acts 10:27-28). And we find encouragement in St. Paul’s imperative, “Welcome one another, as Christ welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). The biblical witness resonates with Baylor’s Baptist heritage. Based on his understanding of the Gospel, Baptist founder, Thomas Helwys, came to the defense of the “other” as construed in his early modern England: “Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident . . . by the Scriptures.” Putting the question this way, however, runs the risk of analogizing current Baylor faculty and administration to the leaders of the early church who were tasked with welcoming the outsider. It’s crucial to remember that all of us are “others” who are welcomed into God’s household.
It is a well-documented fact that people of color and female students look for mentors with whom they can identify in terms of race and gender; this search is often in vain at Baylor. Furthermore, in the humanities especially, we understand that knowledge is embodied knowledge and epistemology is perspectival. This does not mean that knowledge is relativized to the point of solipsism. It does mean that social constructions such as race and gender are hardly accidental traits, but rather crucial aspects of how we know what we know and how we contribute to the web of knowledge. Thus, we reject the notion that hiring people of color and female faculty somehow inevitably or inadvertently weakens the academic quality or diminishes the intellectual rigor of our university community. Rather, our experience has been exactly the opposite, and we contend that true intellectual diversity cannot be achieved without including persons of color and women, whose embodied experiences and perspectives shed new light on old problems. We also affirm that addressing these issues of diversity requires that the university consciously, deliberately, and with sustained energy, attend to our faculty recruiting and hiring practices and implement more inclusive approaches in our curriculum that tend to other voices, including the perspectives of women and persons of color.
Finally, we affirm the value and practice of diversity as continuous with the moral vision of the Christian gospel, which promises and demands reconciliation between hitherto divided persons and communities (Galatians 3:28). We affirm such reconciliation as the material expression of God’s redemption of historical, social, personal, and racial injustice and so diversity as a necessary but not sufficient condition for such reconciliation and redemption. As a Christian university, Baylor is well-positioned for the work of racial and gender reconciliation where the faithfulness of our diversity efforts has the effect of witnessing to a world that too often suffers under the burdens of racism and sexism. While diversity efforts within universities have often proven challenging, any institution under the banner of Christian faith should proceed with the confidence that comes with the call to faithfulness.
See also statements from Baylor’s administration that affirm the importance of diversity: