After years of unprecendented challenges, formidable change, and financial fragility in the world of theological education, I think we can all agree that disruption is nothing new to us. However, the pandemic may be pushing disruptive change to a new level, and it may last a long time.
What if we were to view this time in a different way? What if we understood our current situation not as a disruptive, uncomfortable moment, but as a renaissance — a time to explore, create, innovate, and grow?
Ted Smith of Candler School of Theology suggests that because theological education is “between the times,” there is an urgent need to think on another level about what theological education is actually for. Smith and 12 of his colleagues have been doing just this. Each of these authors has written a short book on the paradigm shifts that are now occurring. In this issue, we highlight three of these authors’ reflections.
As Tod Bolsinger suggests in his article, “Resilience in a Disruptive Season,” the current time calls for resilient and revitalized leadership and the need for leaders to attend to our internal resistance to change, to invite fresh ideas, and to experiment with new ways forward. Where do we begin? By learning, listening, and building relationships.
In “Black Lives and Minds Matter: The Gift of Black Theological Education,” the leaders of historically Black theological schools pull back the curtain on the persistence of inequity and injustice in our world, a situation only magnified by the pandemic. Their powerful statement is both a critique and a corrective, advocating that the current moment requires “a clarification of vocation [and] a reckoning with the nature and purpose of our collective work in light of the existential condition of our churches and communities.”
Finally, Gary Ferngren examines the long history of pandemics and the periods of immense creativity, signs of faith, and community engagement that have often followed in their wake.
It is hard to predict what theological education will look like in 10 years, but many believe that old patterns, practices, and comfortable spaces will not lead to mission fulfillment.
We must reimagine what theological education is for and the leadership we need. We must learn to be more equitable, just, and responsive. We must ask: What time is it for theological education?
We have responded to your feedback in our 2019 evaluation with fresh content and a new design. You asked for more depth, balanced with practical information, and more diverse voices representing all of the unique schools in our learning community. In Trust magazine is experiencing a renaissance. How timely!
Amy L. Kardash, President, In Trust Center