On November 22nd, retired professor Marv Wilson addressed Gordon College on Friday’s convocation just before Thanksgiving.
After joining Gordon College in 1971, Wilson endeavored to impress his students with the significance of Jewish and Christian relations. Leading over 500 educational field trips across the North Shore to Jewish synagogues, Wilson “built bridges” between Christians and their estranged Jewish neighbors. He asserted Christians today are too “comfortable and content” with people who are “just like themselves.”
Wilson exhorted Gordon students to consider the issue, saying that the ignorance of Jewish communities is tearing apart the community of God. As evangelicals, Wilson said, it is vital to be peacemakers and “do good to all people.” All people have “dignity” and are “worthy of respect.”
These convictions have pushed Wilson throughout his entire career to step outside evangelical bubbles to love those who have been estranged from their brothers and sisters of the same God. Wilson exhorts Gordon students to learn “faith to faith, face to face” from their Jewish brothers and sisters about the similarities and differences of the God served.
Wilson exposed the dissonance in Christian communities, explaining how Christians can love the Torah, but hate the ones who wrote and preserved it. These powerful words were echoed when Wilson critiqued traditionally glorified men in evangelical circles, such as Martin Luther, who oppressed German Jews, which, as Wilson put, foreshadowed the genocide Hitler would carry out in the 20th century.
Wilson explained the tragedy Jews face each day, such as being unwelcome in their homelands, and even being denied entrance into America. On the bright side, he explained that Gordon students do not have to live in the shadows of the church’s silence of the past.
Wilson advocated for Gordon students in “building bridges” with Jews in a few practical ways. The first is to correct antisemitic behaviors of their evangelical ancestors. The second was that Jews remind Christians of their history. Jews exegete the text because it truly can never be exhausted and he marvels at their dedication to the truth. With the third, he emphasized the significance of discussion with Jews as being vital in eliminating stereotypes and single stories about both the Jewish and Christian communities. The fourth example Wilson gave numerous anecdotes about the “radical hospitality” that the Jewish communities have shown Gordon and its students. Showing up with caravans of students on certain Sundays, Wilson pointed out how Rabbis would set aside time specifically for Gordon students to ask questions about the ceremonies and traditions. This hospitality is welcoming and educational for students–it is vital in the mission of “building bridges.”
In closing the convocation, Wilson expressed his gratitude to the presidents of Gordon in their support of his pursuit of “building bridges” to Gordon’s greater community. Wilson said “to know is to experience,” encouraging all students to learn about others by experiencing and interacting with them. He left the stage exhorting students about the end goal: to create “a more caring and compassionate world.” Wilson walked off of the stage to a resounding standing ovation.