Members of the Perkins community are actively joining the nationwide conversation about racial justice, following the news of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis on Monday and the resulting protests.

Several alumni participated in an afternoon prayer vigil May 31 in front of the Dallas Police Station, including the Rev. Paul Rasmussen (M.Div. ’04), who offered the prayer and invited all present to kneel. Rasmussen is Senior Minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas.

The Rev. George Mason, Senior Pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas and lead advisor of the Perkins Baptist House of Studies, offered the prayer at the close of Saturday’s online “Conversation with Community Leaders and Local Law Enforcement” sponsored by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

“Today I stopped distracting myself,” said current student Julian Hobdy in a statement via Facebook. “Today I cried.” Hobdy is Justice in Action chairperson for the Perkins Student Association.

Perkins alumnus R. DeAndre Johnson (M.S.M. ’08), pastor of music and worship life at Christ United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas, offered his own protest hymn, “It Is Enough!” His performance of his text and minor key melody quickly attracted 19,000 Facebook views and hundreds of Facebook shares. Other churches did their own versions on Pentecost Sunday. Read the UMNS article here.

SMU’s President, R. Gerald Turner, also issued a statement on the unfolding events.

“Our SMU community grieves with the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor,” he said. For many in our University, these deaths are intensely personal and salt to ancient wounds.” Read the full statement here.

Dean Craig C. Hill offered these words via email to Perkins faculty and staff, reminding them of Perkins’ historic commitment to racial justice as well as the work that still needs to be done.

Dear Perkins community,

I have been filled with so many emotions–disgust, indignation, discouragement, and shame–following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Of course, this is on top of the recent and equally senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and consistent with the deplorable history of discrimination and violence toward people of color in America.

If the Covid-19 pandemic should have taught us anything, it is how fully interconnected we all are. I already had in mind Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 12:26: “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it.” How much more true that seems now. None of us is walled off from and unblemished by this country’s many and profound failures to live up to its ideal of equality and justice for all.

In this moment, we who are members of Perkins School of Theology are torchbearers of the legacy of those who were pioneers for social justice, including racial equality.  Almost 68 years ago, in 1952, it was Perkins that led the way for transformation and desegregation of Southern Methodist University with the admission of the first five African Americans into the University.  The voices for justice for George Floyd in Dallas this weekend included a number of Perkins alumni/ae, both in prayer vigils in front of the Dallas Police Station and via Zoom gatherings with city leaders Saturday night.  Across the country, we know that this is echoed in the voices and actions of many Perkins alums.

It should go without saying that the Gospel and racism are antithetical. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)  There is no better test of genuine spirituality than one’s capacity to reach out to, to serve, to love, those different from oneself.  Surely, everyone associated with Perkins knows this, but it cannot hurt to remind ourselves at such a time of our core commitments.

Let us continue to stand up for what is true and, especially, to stand with the members of our community who are most hurt, most threatened, and most grieved at this time. We need to support them in any way we can.

Grace and peace,
Dean Craig C. Hill