Lee Hinson-Hasty is coordinator for theological education and seminary relations in the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC (U.S.A.). Through his work Lee hopes to capture and share a more expansive view of theological education, of church leadership and of vocational discernment as he sees through the eyes of some exciting Presbyterians in and related to seminaries.
I welcome and thank Jeff Japinga, director of doctor of ministry programs at McCormick Theological Seminary as a guest blogger in an Advent series answering the question, What is coming and becoming in theological education?Read this post for more about this series.
We've all heard the tales of woe about the declining place and role of the church in the West. The statistics are real, the reality at times staggering. Gather with clergy, and at some point, the talk inevitably turns to survival.
Except when it doesn't. Last spring, gathered with a couple dozen McCormick doctor of ministry students on the eve of their graduation, I invited each of them to say just a few summary words about their DMin studies and its impact on their ministries. One-by-one, they stood, and by the time all of them had spoken, I had heard the collective voice of a modern-day Jeremiah, expressing their dream for the church with the same verve and confidence of the prophet: "I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope." (Jer 29:11, CEB)
It is because of the work of people like Rachel, Antonio, Ranjith, Llewellyn, Annika, that I believe doctor of ministry education stands squarely at the crossroads of the church's future. In dynamic, interactive, ministry-oriented classrooms across North America, experienced leaders like these five are bringing their hopes and dreams, their successes and failures, their love for the church and their respect for each other, and putting it all into honest and open dialogue with Scripture, theology, tradition, and contemporary thought.
The result is a new generation of leaders ready and able to ask the right questions, in specific places and contexts and circumstances, that is making the gospel alive and relevant in their own places of ministry. In the dynamic interaction of instructor and student, peers and congregations, research and development, study grounded squarely in ministry joins an individual student's work to God's work in the world, in the words of my colleague David Hester at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
At San Francisco Seminary, “We ask several questions of our students as they begin DMin studies," says Virstan Choy. "'At this point in your ministry, what are the real-life challenges your ministry needs to address? What conditions in the life of the people you serve need the response of ministry? What resources and tools for that ministry are missing and need to be developed? How might something you work on be something your colleagues will see to be a real contribution to their practice of ministry?’ If students come back and report that they could not find already researched material or already developed approaches to a particular problem, we suggest that they will be the ones to do that research, they will be the ones to do that development.” Incubators for innovation was how Jack Haberer described DMin programs in a September 2013 edition of Presbyterian Outlook.
Every day, at the grocery store, or the gas pump, or the workplace, we encounter first-hand what it means to live in an increasingly flat, globalized, third-millennium world. But what is the gospel for a third-millennium world? That's what DMin students are working on, in areas of preaching, evangelism, cross-cultural studies, discipleship--new and sustainable practices that are helping our churches today build relevant ministry in their own congregations and communities, and in ministries as diverse as hospital and prison and college chaplaincies, interfaith settings, and non-profit service agencies.
I know there was a time when DMin programs carried some not-so-flattering descriptors: the cash-cow (for the seminaries); a ticket to a bigger church (for its holders); a cheap and easy title. Whether accurate or exaggerated then, what DMin programs are now is nothing of the sort. Today, a DMin points to a future we ignore at our own peril.
That's what I think is right with the doctor of ministry degree. Here's what's wrong with it: the numbers. For all the potential for DMin grads to inspire and mobilize the church of the future, the church boiler, a child's college fund, the local food pantry--all things good and right--too often restrict the church and pastor's capacity to invest in its future. In the end, the tuition needed and the tuition available simply do not match, and thus too few people have the opportunity to dream and to create.
There are no simple answers for the challenges faced by the church in North America. No one-day seminar or trendy music style will refill our pews. No quick fix will balance our budgets. And yet, having see their work firsthand, I stand with my DMin students, and those of my colleagues, in believing that the future of the church is "filled with hope." And I stand behind them as the leaders who will guide us there.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey S. Japinga has served as associate dean for doctor of ministry programs at McCormick since 2008. Jeff received a B.S. in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, an M.Div. from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. from McCormick Theological Seminary. Prior to joining the McCormick faculty, Jeff served for twenty-one years on the denominational staff of the Reformed Church in America and taught at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
An ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, Jeff leads workshops in the areas of leadership, decision-making, and Christian formation.
I welcome and thank Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012-2014) as a guest blogger in an Advent series answering the question, What is coming and becoming in theological education?Read this post for more about this series.
Leonard Sweet in Viral describes two tribes: Gutenbergers and Googlers. Gutenbergers are accustomed to the one-dimensionality of what paper expresses and are more comfortable with paper books and paper essays, not as adept with the Information Age and its multiple platforms as with the Googlers. Googlers were born into the Internet Age.
I welcome and thank Ellie Roscher, editor of Keeping the Faith in Seminary writer at ellieroscher.com as a guest blogger in an Advent series answering the question, What is coming and becoming in theological education?Read this post for more about this series.
A former student of mine works for an e-commerce start up company whose office is in an old church in Minneapolis. He shares the church office space with his co-workers, a priest who got into real estate to make ends meet and a man who started a grain-based veggie burger business. The church started renting its space out during the week to small businesses for the financial benefit of everyone. This worship space/business office collaboration makes sense. Being some of the biggest community spaces in the neighborhood, churches can engage in a ministry of shared space. Sharing becomes not only a creative, mutually symbiotic idea, but in some cases a financial necessity. Boundaries that used to separate church and life are blurring.
Today I welcome and thank Dan Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS), as a guest blogger in an Advent series answering the question, What is coming and becoming in theological education?
Theological schools are two-faced, on purpose, as it should be. One face is toward the church with its mission to nurture lives of faith and bring healing to the world’s brokenness. Another face is toward higher education, with its responsibility to teach what is known and discover new knowledge.
Advent is a paradox between what has come before and what, by God, is becoming now. An opening to the Christmas cycle of the Christian Year, Advent calls the Church to look back and look forward; to remember, reflect, and live in expectation and hope. A decade ago an Advent banner of the expecting mothers that hangs at Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky drew me in as soon as I entered the sanctuary. ...
What is being foreshadowed this Advent? What will be born? Specifically, what is coming and becoming, being born and foreshadowed in theological education today?
Thanksgiving Day falls this year on the threshold between the last Sunday in the liturgical year, the Reign of Christ, and the first Sunday in a new church year, the first Sunday of Advent. That works for me, as it is a time to give thanks for the full circle of time and especially the year before, and to take Sabbath time to prepare for ways to show our thanks by living into God’s imagined future. The last month has been a whirlwind for me.
“The pathway to seminary is the long, slow nurture of faith in community.” The soon to be released “Pathways to Seminary” study by Auburn’s Center for the Study of Theological Education in collaboration with the Association of Theological Schools calls this it’s “major finding.” That long slow nurture of the best students happens most often in stable families, intentional religious nurturing, embedded participation in organizations and cultures, particular patterns of education, ministry role models, healthy peer groups, and often some sort of positive or negative dramatic experience along the way.
Last week the Committee on Theological Education (COTE) met at the new Charlotte campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary to exegete, in a way, the current theological education landscape. Two major research projects were presented and the Committee took time to dig in, magnify, and investigate what Barbara Brown Taylor might call the “splinters and the smooth places.”
My teenage son, Garrison, called my attention to it, because I only glanced at the painting. He looked longer and more deeply. “Did you see that, Dad?” “What?” Pointing to one of dozens of paintings in The Civil War and American Art collection on tour from the Smithsonian at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’d seen hundreds of paintings already that day and this one did not catch my eye. “Look!” I still didn’t see what he was talking about.
Brian Blount, president and professor of New Testament at Union Presbyterian Seminary, was seven years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what has come to be known as his “I Have a Dream” speech fifty years ago this week. Blount described it as “almost biblical in its proportions.” I tend to agree. As the parent of a seven year old myself, I continue to meditate on the speech and the dream. When I hear MLK’ Jr.’s speech my mind pictures Earnest Covington.