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Whosoever: A Divine Invitation

When Alton B. Pollard III was a student at Fisk University, a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, he received instruction from an individual whose ministry would have a profound impact on Pollard’s personal and professional life.

At the time, Edwin C. Sanders II was a professor of humanities, religion, and philosophy at Fisk. He also served as Fisk’s dean of the chapel.

“I was struck by Rev. Sanders’ brilliance and depth of spirit,” said Pollard, whose friendship with Sanders has lasted more than 45 years. “He is an individual who never stops growing in life.”

In 1981, Sanders established the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church (MIC) in Nashville. His congregation attracts a broad cross-section of people with the mission of being “inclusive of all and alienating to none.” Because the church has too often allowed particular aspects of a person's being to define them out of the circle of fellowship, MIC has chosen to emphasize the "whosoever" in John 3:16 as a mandate for inclusion.

“This is a ministry that exemplifies how we all belong to one another,” said Pollard.

Adorning the walls of the congregation is a painting by David Cassidy. The painting features the word “Whosoever” and an image of a faceless Christ with outstretched hands. A copy of this painting hangs behind Pollard’s desk at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

As with MIC’s ministry, the “Whosoever” art holds a deep connection to Pollard. The kaleidoscope of colors represents the rainbow of humanity, and the faceless Christ invites all people of every creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, and circumstance to see themselves in Christ’s divine invitation.

“Social, religious, and cultural qualifications do not matter to the Nazarene,” said Pollard. “No one is outside the pale or prerogative of God. Everyone belongs.”

In that spirit lies the theme for the events for the 2019 inauguration of Rev. Dr. Alton B. Pollard, III as Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s 10th president.

“Whosoever; A Divine Invitation” is a call to action for the Louisville Seminary community to look deep within itself and find God’s Grace. The deeper one looks, the more profound one’s relationship with God becomes.

“That is why such programs as Black Church Studies, Doors to Dialogue, More Light, Women at the Well, the Women’s Center, Grassroots, and others are so important to the ethos of Louisville Seminary,” said Pollard. “These programs – all in their own ways – lead our community toward a better integration of ourselves.

But, as Pollard adds, our call to action does not end with the “soul work.” To be fully integrated with God and with one another, we must act on our beliefs.

“It is one thing, for example, to say that we believe in ecumenical and interfaith relations,” said Pollard. “But what does that look like beyond the classroom? How do we as a seminary community open our “doors to dialogue” to the great needs of our often broken society? How do we leverage such programs to address, first-hand, social injustices that may lead some to believe that they are not recipients of this Divine Invitation?”

And so, as Louisville Seminary celebrates its new leadership, it also accepts the invitation, the challenges, and the rewards to not only build bridges, but to engage the world.
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