Means or ends?

Portrait by Dan Williams

My iPhone camera is amazing. And although I take a lot of pictures (18,324 in my Library, and counting!) I am not a good photographer. Clearly there is more to taking beautiful pictures than good equipment.

The equipment is merely a means to an end, and not an end itself: the photographer’s gift is to artfully capture a moment, to reveal something previously unseen and create an emotional response that compels the viewer to stop and look further. A photographer brings more than a good eye, an understanding of light, depth, composition, and facility with a camera. A photographer brings the whole of his knowledge and skill to stir the viewer to new appreciation, if not new understanding, of the world. Too often, we get caught up in the means and neglect the ends.

I deeply appreciate how Richard Topping of the Vancouver School of Theology illustrates this so beautifully through his words and photos in his newfound passion for photography (Theology Through the Lens). He offers that the glory of photography, like theology, is not the lens but the subject matter. I think you’ll agree his photos are stunning and his reflection inspiring.

Maybe the best way for the ends to come into focus is for us to acknowledge that we have long invested in our current means – means that have served well for a long time. Today, theological education has embarked on a journey where structures and models may need to be reshaped, deconstructed, or reimagined. Wesley Theological Seminary and Perkins School of Theology, in their Pathways for Tomorrow Phase III collaboration (Rites of Passage), are implementing their disruptive plans to create accessible, affordable certificate programs for non-traditional students with a passion for ministry. The schools don’t have all of the answers, but they are testing long-held assumptions about their means and ends.

And, as part of the “Theological Education Between the Times” series, Dr. Ted Smith provides a critique on the end of theological education in an age of individualization (P.S., he offers a thought-provoking opportunity to rethink our means, to relax our focus, and to consider what might be visible beyond professional education). If we are indeed in an age of individualization and diminished associations, then new means will lead to the true end: sharing in the great work of God and love.

The In Trust Center team and I wish you peace and grace in 2024. May God bless you in fulfilling your mission.

Amy L. Kardash, President


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