Guest Opinion: Open Letter to Fuller Seminary Board and Administration

Published : Thursday, October 25, 2018 | 4:43 AM

Dear Fuller Seminary Board of Trustees and Senior Administration,

As Fuller Theological Seminary prepares to leave Pasadena and build a new campus in Pomona to prepare Christian ministers and leaders for the next century, there has been discussion, both within Fuller and the local community, about what legacy you will leave here, that you will “finish well.” What better legacy than a project that would minister to the most vulnerable among us and would remain in the city that has been Fuller’s home for the past 70 years?

For this reason, the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) recommends that at least one of Fuller’s sites be sold to an affordable housing developer at a price point making it feasible to develop affordable housing. We also ask that you extend the bidding deadline beyond Oct. 26th so that affordable housing developers have time to prepare and submit bids.

GPAHG is a faith-based community group deeply invested in advocating for the poor. Our vision is that all Pasadena residents have safe, quality, accessible, and affordable housing; people are not displaced from the community; and our community is racially, ethnically and socially diverse. Our group includes business owners, city planners, seminary students, pastors, teachers, and the homeless — all coming together to address one of the greatest crises in Southern California — homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

Over the past few years, GPAHG and students of Fuller Seminary have advocated tirelessly for Fuller Seminary to seek to replace the 197 housing units affordable for students, sold to Carmel Properties. This resulted in zero affordable housing for the community and a displacement of Fuller’s students who were no longer able to live there. We write this letter out of deep concern that Fuller Seminary be true to its commitment to affordable housing, as stated in the Fuller Master Plan. Deeply theological and spiritual principles are also at play here.

On a personal note, as the Chair of GPAHG and Director of Making Housing and Community Happen, and as an Evangelical Christian with a Doctor of Ministry, who has studied at Fuller and has been invited to guest lecture in many classes, I feel a deep love and sense of connection with Fuller Seminary. I therefore feel led to share with you a biblical perspective that is briefly summarized here.

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible makes clear God’s priority is to bring the most vulnerable and marginalized into the center of his care. They are the focus of every message and parable from Moses, Esther, and Jesus directed to the Pharaoh, the kings and priests. The poor are brought front and center and we should do the same. Land and its use and fair distribution is a central theme in Scripture. When God gave us all we need to sustain us in Genesis 1, he never gave us the land. God made it clear that “the land was mine, thus says the Lord.” We are to steward the land according to God’s principles. Stubborn Israel refused to honor many of God’s laws resulting in the loss of their land. At the time of Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees, in collusion with Roman rule, had gobbled up most of the land, leaving the peasants landless. Jubilee land distribution was again proclaimed by Jesus Luke 4 and the Early Church lived this message (Acts 4). Many churches across the US are providing affordable housing as a way to emulate the example of the early church fathers.

God sent prophets to hold kings accountable seeking to assure that sure such laws and principles were upheld. Today advocates are playing a prophetic role with the city, fighting long and hard for just land use policies, like the inclusionary ordinance –similar to a biblical tithe—requiring all developers to set aside a percent of housing as affordable.

The 179 affordable inclusionary units at Chang Commons are required to be kept affordable in perpetuity. Pasadena’s policies make this clear. Yet we understand that Fuller is seeking to get out of this commitment, ignoring the city’s policies. Since Fuller has embraced addressing homelessness in its course offerings and praxis, partnering with Urban Initiatives to assure that each homeless person is counted, we recommend that these units be sold to an organization like Door of Hope, a Christ-centered ministry seeking to help formerly homeless families stay in Pasadena. This way these families will continue to be nurtured by this excellent ministry located just a few blocks from Fuller. Many highly respected affordable housing developers could also partner with Door of Hope as a way to keep the full 179 units permanently affordable. If these units were sold as permanent supportive housing for homeless, this good news would be shouted from the rooftops in Pasadena and beyond.

Leaving behind a legacy of affordable housing would indicate Fuller’s love for the city of Pasadena, as Jesus loved Jerusalem and other cities. It would demonstrate great trust in God, our Provider. By showing concern for those the poor in this way, Fuller will have indeed finished well in the city of Pasadena.

With over half of the seminary students embarking upon ministry outside of church walls, Fuller Seminary is being watched and held accountable by a host of community members to see if it will conduct business in a manner consistent with Christian values.

 

Signed:

Jill Shook

Anthony Manousos

Cynthia Kirby

Rev. Connie Milsap

Lorynne Young

Treasure Sheppard

George Patton

Tom Petersmeyer

Mercedes Young

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