Apology is good step toward better race relations, says ACU lecturer


By LORETTA FULTON
Senior Staff Writer,
Abilene Reporter-News
Feb. 26, 2000

An apology for past discriminatory admissions policies at Abilene Christian University came none too soon for one woman who has a long interest in improving race relations.

"It has been a long time coming," said Jane-Anne Thomas of Johnson City, Tenn. Thomas is a school teacher there and is the wife of Milligan College professor Dr. Ted Thomas.

The apology, by ACU President Royce Money, was on behalf of the university only, not its sponsoring Church of Christ, but the implication extended beyond the campus of ACU to the pews. It was offered Sunday night during the opening address of the 82nd annual Bible Lectureship at ACU.

Both Jane-Anne and Ted Thomas conducted classes during the lectureship, which annually attracts up to 15,000 people worldwide to Abilene. Jane-Anne Thomas taught a class on "God's Bridges to People of Faith and Color."

Thomas said Money's apology was printed in the Church of Christ newsletter in Silver Spring, Md., where she used to attend. E-mails, all praising Money, have been pouring in, she said.

"He's the man of the hour," Thomas said.

Although not everyone will agree that an apology was necessary, Thomas said she hopes the good will expressed through it will reach into the individual churches.

"I see it as only good," Thomas said. "I think the churches will too."

In her class on Tuesday, Thomas told the story of two women, one black and one white, who worked together to bring racial conciliation in the 1970s.

Lucille Todd was the white dean of women at Church of Christ-affiliated Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., and Ruby Holland was a black member of Figueroa Church of Christ in Los Angeles.

When racial unrest hit California, Holland contacted Todd and said, "We've got to do something about all this hostility," Thomas said.

The women sponsored a retreat for 20 black women and 20 white women at a house owned by Todd.

"They spent time getting to know each other for the very first time," Thomas said.

After a weekend of praying, talking, and singing, the women prepared to leave. Outside, white neighbors in the area congregated on the sidewalks and applauded and shouted, "Come back!"

The group, with new members, continues to meet and held a 28th anniversary last summer.

Members began traveling to such places as Phoenix and Detroit as well as up and down the coast of California and into Washington and Oregon, holding seminars on race relations.

"The struggles were all there, but so were the blessings," Thomas said.

Those blessings can only come by putting forth an effort. Thomas told the all-white class on Tuesday that if they didn't have a friend with dark skin or of another faith, they should try to develop a friendship. The 21st century will be one of inclusion and reaching out.

"You won't have the luxury of isolation," she said.

Thomas recommended starting with one person, adding commitment and love to the mix, and allowing God to take control. The results can be remarkable.

"We probably will not change the world," Thomas said. "God will do that."

Copyright ©2000, Abilene Reporter-News / Texnews / E.W. Scripps Publications

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