To better reflect God’s Kingdom here on earth, Christians should be at the forefront of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of society, from the church to the classroom, says Greg Dowell, Liberty University’s Vice President for Equity and Inclusion.
“Celebrating our commonality as believers while simultaneously celebrating our diversity as people is an easier effort than maybe some would believe,” he said. “I think that because we are Christians and because the Lord has given us the self- same spirit, we are able to be united and have a unique viewpoint; we see things the way God sees things. The Bible tells us that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”
“The ability to love one another and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit is something that allows us to recognize that differences are good,” he continued. “We’re made in God’s image. That means we are given a piece of Him, we are a piece of Him, and we have the ability to appreciate those things on an entirely different level than people who don’t know Christ.”
A pastor with extensive experience working with a variety of groups, from college students to military members, Dowell is passionate about creating a climate of inclusion at Liberty University. And Christian values, he said, promote diversity and tolerance to a degree that today's social activists are unable to achieve.
“I’m sometimes asked, ‘How do you think that it’s going to be possible to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion to an evangelical university?’” he says. “That, to me, is like asking someone who works at Cold Stone creamery, ‘how are you going to make an ice cream sundae?’ All of the ingredients are there already — the will to do it is there, the individuals who would like to see it take place are all present in the room and on campus, and everybody is pulling for it. Everybody wants to see it done.”
As the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, Dowell is responsible for the oversight and planning of all facets of the equity, inclusion, and compliance strategy at Liberty, including initiatives through the Office of Equity and Inclusion and assisting with underrepresented student recruitment and retention.
Before equity and inclusion on a Christian campus can happen, he contended, it must be understood that everyone — regardless of their race, language, or ethnic heritage — is valued and loved by God. This first happens in the church and home.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion matters in education because it should matter everywhere,” he said. “You can’t have a complete, well-rounded education without diversity, equity, and inclusion. I don’t believe you can be a complete individual if you aren’t able to appreciate the diverse nature of humanity and the feeling that everyone should be treated fairly and equitably.”
He added, “I think if it's not happening in the church or home then it won’t happen in an educational institution.”
Dowell, who earned his Master of Divinity from Liberty, said that Liberty University strives to bring about positive change and promote inclusion from a “scripturally correct standpoint.”
“I think Liberty is unique because of the way that our students are discipled and spoken into — so much Bible, so much public service, so much outreach,” he said. “All of that takes place, and so our students see diversity and appreciate it.”
At Liberty, equity and inclusion isn’t just fostered among residential students; it’s promoted among online students, as well.
“One way that we’re ensuring that we bring diversity and equity and inclusion to our online population is the area of our treatment and accommodation of disabled students,” Dowell said. “Our Office of Disability Accommodations Support handles approximately 1,500 or so online students regularly that actually sign up and register their disability with that office. We have a dedicated team of people that are dialed into them.
Liberty University is committed to supporting racial reconciliation and cultural diversity on campus, said Dowell, and taking initiatives that will ensure minority groups are well represented.
“Inclusion is making people feel welcome, including them, giving them a seat at the table,” he said. “I think it’s important, not just in education, but we should always strive for that in society, too.”
“It’s all about breaking down stereotypes,” he continued. “It’s about finding out for yourself what Liberty University is all about and what a diverse place it actually is, and forming your own opinion."