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Why We Launched the George Floyd Scholarship

By The Office of Marketing and Communications

August 06, 2020 | 8:30 a.m.

In May, I initiated the creation of a scholarship in response to the tragic death of George Floyd—a Black Minneapolis resident—at the hands of a white police officer. The final minutes of Floyd’s life and the response that followed brought to greater light the breadth and depth of racism in our country. This scholarship serves to acknowledge the many similar injustices that have taken place throughout history, and to affirm Bethel’s theological and practical commitment to stand unequivocally against racism and every form of sin that destroys the image of God in humanity.

For years, Bethel has worked to cultivate a community that reflects the body of Christ. Our Act Six scholarship program, BUILD program, Cultural Connection Center, and now the George Floyd Scholarship all serve to make a Bethel education more accessible to students who face unique barriers to higher education. Many of you have joined in this work by supporting the scholarship, beginning conversations in your department, and serving in your community. Still, we recognize that there is more work to be done. To our alumni, students, and employees of color: We will continue to do better.

Our work to create a more equitable, just, and hopeful future requires the condemnation of systemic racism—a form of racism that is embedded in the structure, policies, or practices of a society or organization. Christians are not exempt from this issue—in fact, we are uniquely called to seek Jesus by seeking justice for those who have been oppressed by sinful systems. While we recognize that there are different ways of interpreting terms like “social justice” and “biblical justice,” we approach them as one in the same. As Christ-followers, our justification and motivation for dismantling racist systems and pursuing justice is fully rooted in Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Some of you share our commitment to pursuing antiracism but have asked why we chose to name a scholarship after George Floyd. One of our core values—reconcilers—reflects our call to honor the dignity and worth of all people as image-bearers of God. During his earthly life, Jesus made himself a friend of sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and those who were otherwise marginalized by society, teaching us that—regardless of individual choices—no one is outside the reach of God’s love. By naming the scholarship after George Floyd, we acknowledge that his life was inherently valuable in the eyes of God, and the pain and destruction caused by racism should have no place in our university or our society. George Floyd is not being immortalized; he is simply being remembered and interpreted. Scholarships keep the interpretation and learning process alive. George Floyd is a new generational symbol for long overdue social and spiritual change in America. Simply put, his story is educationally and systemically critical.

We recognize that not everyone agrees with the use of George Floyd’s name in our scholarship. When disagreements arise among Christ-followers, we are above all committed to representing Jesus well—and part of that commitment includes engaging with people who hold different viewpoints. As reconcilers, we welcome the opportunity to have direct and honest conversations about the George Floyd Scholarship, because we believe that wrestling with complex issues ultimately elevates the gospel and deepens our personal relationships with Jesus. If you’d like to talk with me personally about this decision, please reach out to me at president@bethel.edu.

The creation of this scholarship and a plan for racial healing has made me more hopeful than ever that Bethel will be Beth-El—the house of God—for each student, employee, and guest who steps foot on our campus. Imperfectly yet insistently, we will continue to do the hard, lifelong work of justice and reconciliation—for God’s glory and our neighbors’ good. 

Serving together,

-Ross

Ross Allen
President

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