Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
You can follow Chip on twitter (@chiphardwick) or find him on Facebook (Chip Hardwick).
The most thought-provoking part of the charge given to Columbia Seminary's new president Leanne Van Dyk was from a student who said that the seminary and theological education have to take into account the past (things like the historical faith and creeds), the present (the needs of the church and world today) and the future (how is God leading us to join the divine mission in the years to come?). I couldn't stop thinking about it as I listened to a student lament during the panel on institutional racism later that day.
At a recent meeting of the Committee on Theological Education, one of the seminary presidents mentioned that he wanted help from the committee on what it means to be a Presbyterian seminary. It’s an important question, especially given the fact that none of the seminaries’ student bodies are more than half Presbyterian. Faculty members come from a variety of different denominations, and are typically chosen for scholarship and pedagogy rather than their affiliation with the PC(USA). Some seminaries have even changed their board’s by-laws, so that only a portion of trustees are Presbyterian.
The calling God has given us is immense: to join the Spirit’s work to transform the world through Christ’s redeeming love. It is daunting, especially when we consider how often churches churches and worshiping communities struggle to introduce new approaches or perspectives. Resources seem scarce compared to the enormity of the challenges facing us.
Saturday was my first meeting as a member of the board of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico (ESPR) in San Juan. I am grateful for the chance to participate in this ministry since it combines two of my loves: theological education and Spanish. The seminary is supported by six different denominations (the Presbyterian Church (USA), where I serve, is one of them) and has a newly elected president Dr. Doris Garcia Rivera. This was her first meeting as well.
Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago in order to attend the installation service for the new dean (Dr. Ted Hiebert) at McCormick Theological Seminary. Because the support of PC(USA) seminaries is part of my area of ministry, I was eager to learn more about McCormick by meeting with some administrators, professors, and students. President Frank Yamada was very gracious in helping to flesh out my schedule.
Seminarians all over the world learn a new language when they go away to study theology: the words used by the academic community to wrestle with the matters of faith, such as hermeneutics, soteriology, pericope, and ontology.* This new language must then be shed in order to communicate effectively with the people in the pews, only a few of which might be interested in mastering this esoteric vocabulary. (The concepts behind the technical words, of course, are often valuable for ministry.)
The students at the Protestant Institute of the Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS), the seminary which Presbyterian Rwandans attend, takes this challenge a step further.
On Thursday evening I met with a fourth year student at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS) to talk about his senior thesis. Joseph is planning to write about the impact of music on worship attendance in the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda. Along the way, he told me of tragedies in his life story that made his research come alive even more vividly.
I arrived here to the university city of Butare in Rwanda on Wednesday and it has been an incredible privilege to get to know the campus of the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS). The school has recently expanded to 1100 students studying development and education from its core of forty students studying theology in order to become ministers. After chapel yesterday I had the chance to spend time with these students, who give much hope for the future of church leadership.
Last week I spent one of the most fascinating days I’ve experienced in quite some time. San Francisco Theological Seminary included me in a conversation of dreams and hopes for the Center for Innovation in Ministry that they are developing. The most famous participants might have been the grande dame and sound-bite-queen Phyllis Tickle, whose books include The Great Emergence and The Age of the Spirit, and Brandan Robertson, an almost-graduate of Moody Bible Institute whose Revangelical blog has led to speaking and writing opportunities all over the country. Joining them were pastors, seminary trustees, Christian leaders, and denominational officials like me.
This week I have been in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a meeting of the Committee on Theological Education (which coordinates joint ministries between the PC(USA) seminaries). We met at the Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico, the seminary which trains the vast majority of the denomination’s Spanish-speaking pastors. The president, Sergio Ojeda, was part of a panel of administrators, professors, and students which helped the committee to learn more about the institution.
This past weekend I was in Southern California for two events. The first was to spend a day getting to know Fuller Theological Seminary and its ministries to Presbyterian Students. (Although Fuller itself is not Presbyterian, many, many candidates for ordination in the PC(USA) graduate from its programs.) In my next post, I will talk about the second reason for my visit, the Southern California gathering of the Fellowship of Presbyterians.
Yesterday I was in Atlanta for a meeting of the Special Committee on Funding Theological Institutions, a team which has worked since the last General Assembly (at its request) on the question of the best way for the denomination to raise money for the Presbyterian Church (USA) seminaries. There are seminary presidents, development professionals, members of the Committee on Theological Education, lawyers, a recent college graduate, pastors, and staff of the Presbyterian Mission Agency on the committee. We met at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA (just outside Atlanta).
This past week I have been in Princeton, NJ, for alumni reunion events and the inauguration of the seminary’s new president, M. Craig Barnes. It was a week full of interesting lectures by Robert Wuthnow, Elsie McKee, and Bob Dykstra, of connecting with folks from the seminary and the denomination, and of worshiping Christ in powerful ways at both the seminary and university chapels. I was struck by two of the charges given during my time in Princeton.
As I write I am flying home from an extremely thought-provoking conference at Montreat called “The Church in Purple.” It brought together speakers from the so-called progressive and conservative wings of the church, and asked them to think together about how we can be one church which lives in unity despite our blue/red differences.
I was very glad to co-author with Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter an article that appeared recently in the Presbyterian Outlook. The article is about leadership development and the ways that seminaries are working to expand the ways in which they go about this task. In particular we discuss the merits of a partnership between Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Last week I traveled to Charlotte to visit Union Presbyterian Seminary. I was very impressed to learn about a preparation for seminary program called “Communities of Learning” offered to incoming students. It is “designed to increase readiness fort theological education among admitted students by shaping them into learning communities.” Through on-line communities and a mid-point retreat, the ministry covers basic biblical literacy, theological vocabulary, the nature of theological education, spiritual formation, foundational concepts, critical thinking, and communication skills.
On Monday and Tuesday I was in Nashville spending time with members of the Company of New Pastors, which is a program coordinated by Theology and Worship (one of the ministries of the PC(USA) with whom I work closely). This program helps seminaries transition into ministry by encouraging spiritual disciplines (like reading the Bible and praying) and small groups. These disciplines and groups begin in students’ last year of seminary, and then after graduation continue on for about four more years, with the same disciplines and newly configured groups.
Pleasant Ridge is a strong supporter of the Theological Education Fund, which distributes money among ten Presbyterian seminaries to support their preparation of men and women for various types of ministry. In my sermon, I thanked the congregation and then asked them what they are actually building when they donate money for this cause.
In a recent blog post I wish that I had made more explicit my friend and colleague Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter’s contributions to a conversation with faculty and staff from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and to the topic of expanding leadership training beyond seminaries through the non-profit management departments of business schools.
Earlier this month I was in Chicago and met with a representative from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, an institution of the United Methodist Church, two coordinators for executive non-profit education from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, at the invitation of my long-time friend and colleague, Rev. Sarah Sarchet Butter.
A couple of weeks ago when I was in Atlanta, I preached and presented at North Avenue Presbyterian Church, where I had formerly served as an associate pastor. I was pleased to meet someone who has become a part of the church since I left in 2003. He told me, “Now when you get back to Louisville, you tell everyone how important it is that we keep educating our pastors.”
I was in Dumaguete City, the Philippines a couple of weeks ago for a consultation on theological education in Asia. There were about twenty representatives from South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the United States. Most who were there were professors, but some denominational staff members, a bishop, and some mission co-workers were also present. The event was very well-coordinated by the World Mission Office for Asia.
During my first year in this call, I have sought to visit as many seminaries as I can, and last week I had the opportunity to visit the Seminario Evangélico de Puerto Rico. Its president, Dr. Sergio Ojeda Cárcamo, spent the morning helping me to understand its ministry.