Dear Students,

In order to register for January and/or Spring 2022 classes, Memphis Theological Seminary is requiring all students to be vaccinated against COVID19 and provide proof of their vaccination. Students who have not yet done so must provide proof of their vaccination by October 31, 2021 in order to register for January and/or Spring 2022 classes. Proof of vaccination in the form of photo or copy of a vaccination card must be sent to Dr. Barry Anderson, Executive Director of Students Services, banderson@memphisseminary.edu  If you have already submitted proof of vaccination you do not need to do so again.

This vaccination requirement will make it possible for us to resume in person classes on campus (even as we continue to offer various forms of online and hybrid classes). It will also make possible the resumption of other features of our life together, including on campus Chapel, community meals, and meetings with faculty, staff, and other students, including student organizations. Further, it will enable students to participate in practicums and internships with churches, hospitals, and other institutions, an integral (and required) part of the seminary’s curriculum.

The decision by the President’s Cabinet in consultation with faculty, staff, and students is based upon the mission of Memphis Theological Seminary, “to educate and sustain men and women for ordained and lay Christian ministry in the church and the world through shaping and inspiring lives devoted to scholarship, piety, and justice.” Our leadership in the church and beyond draws upon the integration of scholarship, piety, and justice. In considering each of these, the case for vaccination is evident.

Scholarship draws upon the best of human wisdom and science as part of our decision making. The COVID19 vaccines have proven to be safe and effective in protecting people from the severe illness and death associated with the coronavirus. The vaccines have been approved by the FDA after both rigorous scientific trials, and months of “emergency authorization” in which millions of people around the globe have received the vaccine with minimal adverse reactions. Vaccination has been shown to be effective in preventing illness, and in minimizing the affects when COVID19 is contracted. There is no valid scientific reason to reject vaccination.

Piety calls us to live into the reality of God’s gracious presence in our lives and the lives of others. An essential feature of piety is to respect and seek the well-being of others as made in the image of God, especially those who are the most vulnerable members of our community. Piety is practiced by love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus echoes and affirms the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures when he urges that whatever we do unto the least of these we do unto him (Matthew 25:31-46). Vaccination is a specific way in which we can practice love of neighbor. Vaccination helps to both stop the spread of the coronavirus, and reduces the number of those who fall ill to the virus thus making medical care more readily available for the most vulnerable. 

Justice is grounded in the biblical revelation of God as just. Biblical justice is shown in God’s active intervention in history to end oppression (Exodus), and create a covenant community devoted to the well-being of all (see especially Leviticus, the Prophetic and Wisdom Books). In Jesus, God fully enters into human life to decisively defeat the powers of sin and death (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in the Gospels and the entirety of the New Testament). We participate in the work of God’s justice as we create and abide by ways of living together that protect the most vulnerable and provide for the flourishing of all. In requiring vaccination against a disease that ravages human life, we structure our community in a way that reflects God’s justice. 

Consistent with scholarship, piety, and justice, we affirm that vaccination against COVID19 provides a safe and effective step toward the creation of a community of well-being, both at the seminary and beyond. This vaccination is thus a requirement for living in community with each other consistent with God’s call upon our lives. 

In Christ’s peace with justice,

Dr. Peter R. Gathje

Vice President of Academic Affairs/Dean