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Biblical Principles for Color and Culture in Christian Schools: A Call to Action

Biblical Principles for Color and Culture in Christian Schools: A Call to Action 

“After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9 

Valley Christian Schools is committed to building God’s vision of His future Kingdom by honoring the diversity of people according to God’s design and treating individuals as equal image-bearers of God so all people might experience the good news of Jesus (Matthew 28:19, Acts 15:1-21; Revelation 7:9).  In July 2021, the VCS Board of Directors adopted the Biblical Unity Principles [] and hired Dr. Steven McGriff as the inaugural K-12 director of Biblical Unity. The seven principles culminate with this summary statement from Galatians 3:28: “Celebrate and honor people’s distinct identities (i.e., ethnic, cultural, tribal, gender, language) in unity with God.”

We have explored various ways to celebrate and honor our people made in God’s image for three years. Continuing the work, a team of eight campus leaders attended a symposium at Wheaton College in June to learn how Christian Schools across the country and in the United Kingdom approach Christian diversity. The symposium was designed by the Christian Educators Diversity Alliance (CEDA) and titled, “Biblical Principles for Color and Culture in Christian Schools: A Call to Action.”

Our goal was to learn from school leaders in various settings and different regions of the country and share our unique Valley Christian experience. CEDA intentionally designed the experience to guide participants through a transformative process of discovery and reflection on God’s design for multi-ethnic communities in Christian schools. We engaged with theological insights in three captivating keynote sessions by well-known Wheaton faculty. After each keynote, we heard wisdom from experienced practitioners who have developed strategies and approaches in their school settings. Participants then engaged in hands-on workshop sessions to generate meaningful dialogue and actively plan for change on our respective school sites. This dynamic sequence ensured a comprehensive learning experience tailored to each person’s unique role and school context.

The symposium goals were derived from three essential questions from Wheaton’s Historical Review Task Force Report [download report].

1. How might our institutions move past indifference and complacency, which have led to missed opportunities to enact bold, courageous changes in institutional policies, programs, and practices related to community members of color?

2. What conditions are needed for every member of our school community—without exception—to know true belonging and experience Christ's love in life-giving ways?

3. How might our institutions incorporate the biblical principles below to better understand the impact of past events on present realities, specifically the experience of ethnic minorities?

  • God cares about justice among people (Isaiah 58:1-14; Amos 5:18-27; Micah 6:1-8).
  • Sin is not only an individual act but also can be corporate in its presence and outworking (Leviticus 4:13-21).
  • God rejects and despises favoritism (James 2:1-13; Acts 10:34; Galatians 2:6; 1 Timothy 5:21).
  • The Bible is transparent about the failures of God’s people and calls us to corporate repentance and lamentation with a cry for justice when sin or injustice is present (Psalms 32:5, 38:18, 51, 102, 142; Jeremiah 14:20; Micah 6:1-8; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9).
  • We are called to bear one another’s burdens by critically examining and testing for the presence of sin in our lives and to love our neighbors well in response. This is part of reflecting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-6:10).

The symposium's goals align with Valley Christian Schools' journey and process in developing a theological framework for color and culture in our context and building on the Biblical Unity Principles. Our team represented all three campuses and various positions, including executive and senior leadership, Bible teachers, counseling, and AMSE. We left the symposium committed to leveraging the content we learned and acting within our spheres of influence. A few highlights and reflections from the symposium keynote presentations ignited our imaginations for action. 

Dr. Theon Hill presented the first keynote topic, Educating with Empathy: Race, Polarization, and the Future of Christian Education, which explored the relationship between rhetoric and social change related to race, culture, and American politics. Our team later discussed ways that Valley Christian teachers can use thoughtful and sensitive instructional strategies on topics regarding America’s anguished racial history. Following Dr. Hill’s advice, we can handle any issues of disunity about race in Christian education with grace-filled learning experiences that provide non-combative, easy-level entry approaches to discussion.

Biblical Unity at Valley Christian uses the biblical viewpoint to approach the history of race and implement a variety of strategies to educate our community. Last year, we added the AP African American Studies Course, developed lesson plans on teaching about slavery and race, trained faculty and staff for winsome conversations and cultural competency, supported high school students in organizing cultural celebrations, and brought culturally relevant music and artistry to campus. During the conference, our team carefully considered if the only experience our people have with diversity is what they read and watch; this is merely voyeuristic and only culturally informed, which creates a false and misleading impression of reality under God’s sovereignty. We hope our people can experience the hospitality of a Christian community and explore their culture through a relationship with God.

Dr. Karen Johnson opened the second day with a keynote address titled Wisdom from History. She illuminated the knotty problems of religion and race in American history to shed light on current conditions and help foster the flourishing of all people. Some Christians throughout American history have used their faith to build up walls of segregation and racial hierarchies, and others have leaned on their faith to tear them down. In one example, the intense persecution by a group of Christian Southerners worked against Kingdom diversity and racial unity that was strongly evident in a demonstration farm in the 1940s called Koinonia. Started by Clarence and Florence Jordan as a ”demonstration of God’s kingdom,” Koinonia was a hopeful paradigm of those who saw the gospel as central to their work in bringing about reconciliation and community.

Valley Christian Schools is on a mission to bring the gospel message of hope into our social context and cultural community. We want to nurture cultural diversity as described by Revelation 7:9 through cultural community events, student leadership groups, topics for curriculum integration, and training opportunities for faculty and staff to raise cultural awareness.

In the closing keynote, Dr. Vanessa Quainoo shared her expertise, teaching, and personal convictions about the exciting ways Wheaton pursues a biblical vision of diversity across campus, providing leadership for defining and meeting campus-wide diversity and inclusion goals and playing a central role in fostering and sustaining a vision for biblical diversity.

Our team was inspired to hear that Dr. Quainoo’s work at the college level matches Valley Christian Schools’ biblical unity initiative. VCS is collaborating with faculty, staff, and students to foster and sustain a compelling vision for biblical diversity and embrace the challenge of deepening ethnic diversity, promoting racial unity, and advancing intercultural understanding. We promote and develop inclusive pedagogy and curriculum that support culturally responsive classrooms with Christian faith integration. Our work is grounded in a practical, biblical understanding of race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic class in the kingdom of God.

Dr. Quainoo challenged us to think more deeply before acting on any new ideas we learned: “What are some things we must improve on with the intercultural piece? We have got to increase the number of educators coming from communities of color, both domestic and international. There is no other way…you can’t substitute diversity with variety. You either have it or you don’t. And I think that is one thing we really need to press into.”

The CEDA symposium keynote and workshop speakers all increased our team’s awareness of the diversity work happening in Christian schools nationwide. We added our voices and experiences so that others could learn from our work. We returned with the conviction to support, promote, and apply biblical principles for color and culture in our spheres of influence at Valley Christian Schools modeled on Wheaton College and other Christian schools. To learn more about the groundbreaking work on diversity at Wheaton College, read these resources:

Diversity Commitment

Newsletter of the Office of Intercultural Engagement (Dr. Quianoo’s Office)

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Wheaton College

For more information about how color and culture are celebrated at Valley Christian Schools, please visit or contact Dr. Steven J. McGriff, Director of Biblical Unity, Valley Christian Schools.