October 23 2018

by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, Southern Methodist University
Editor, Spotlight on Theological Education

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“The teaching of theology has not changed to catch up with the new global situation,” writes Kwok Pui-lan in the opening essay in this issue of Spotlight on Theological Education! Interest in this topic was evident at the American Academy of Religion workshop in Baltimore in 2013: “Teaching Theology in the Globalized and Transnational World.” The workshop drew over a hundred attendees, including a significant number of international participants. In her essay, Pui-lan raises challenges and concerns in teaching theology across national, cultural, racial, denominational, linguistic, and religious differences. These concerns include matters of content and process. In addition to examining theological curriculum, Pui-lan asserts that we must pay attention to the “glocal”—“the dialectical relationship between the global and the local.”

by Kwok Pui-lan, Episcopal Divinity School

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Last summer, eighteen faculty, staff, and students of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, participated in a travel study seminar to visit churches, seminaries, and Christian organizations in China. We visited the seminaries at Shanghai, Nanjing, and Beijing and discussed the vision and challenges of theological education with the faculty and students. We were delighted to find out that some of the seminaries used books written by our faculty members. Visiting professors from Europe and North America have taught at seminaries in China, while several Chinese faculty members are pursuing advanced degrees abroad.

by Randi Jones Walker, Pacific School of Religion

photo of a river confluence

This adventure started at a table in a small cubby hole of a traditional Korean restaurant in the maze of streets around Insadong Market in Seoul. A former student introduced me to a friend of his, a history professor at Hanshin Graduate Theological Seminary. The three of us were eating delicious food and talking in two languages, and my friend and former student Pastor Lee was translating a lot of it. Professor Yeon and I did not speak much of each other’s languages, but it soon became clear that we shared many thoughts about the problem of how to frame the history of Christianity narrative so that students from the Pacific world would recognize themselves in it. How do we make the long story of Christianity in this region more than a short section of a final chapter on global Christianity or simply a venue for mission history? Could we teach a course together sometime? Professor Yeon had a sabbatical coming up in a couple of years. He could come to Berkeley. Then two years later, I would come to Seoul. We would teach the same course in both places, bilingually, and see what came out of the experience.

by Najeeba Syeed-Miller, Claremont School of Theology

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In a world in which institutions, individuals, and states function beyond (and in some cases even circumvent) national boundaries, the importance of examining transnational functions of education becomes an increasingly vital line of scholarly inquiry. With limited space in this essay, a full explanation of the term “interreligious theological education” is not possible. Building on the scholarship of David Roozen, Heidi Hadsell, María Isasi-Díaz, Eboo Patel, Catherine Cornille, Judith Berling, John Thatanamil, and others, I consider five common components that undergird the scaffolding of interreligious education in seminaries; the engagement may range from one encounter to a fully developed course of study in this area:

by Namsoon Kang, Texas Christian University

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In an era of globalization, one finds it hard to draw a sharp line between the local and the global due to the interconnectivity of our life in the world. In the 1980s, a word emerged to illustrate this connectivity of local and global: glocalized. What people used to perceive as local is now inevitably intertwined with what people traditionally considered global. Everything interrelates with everything else. In this rapidly changing contemporary world, where globalization and neo-imperialism impact the concrete reality of people both within and outside Christianity, at home and abroad, determining how to understand/construct Christianity in terms of its theological education, discourse, and institutional practice in various parts of the world, and how to form a worldly coalition and solidarity, have become more pressing issues than before.

photo of a river confluence

As I was editing Namsoon Kang’s essay on “Radical Border-Crossing,” my American-born daughter told me of her friendship with an international student at the University of Iowa. She and her new friend from China exchange meals in their student apartments in Iowa City. They alternate Chinese and American foods, taking turns cooking for each other. They discuss holidays like Valentine’s Day or the Chinese New Year, phrases like “I love you,” and customs like dating. The rhythm of their “culture or context comparison” is this: “We do this, you do that. What do we have in common?” Of course, I probed about the matter of differences. Risk-takers that they are, the counsel was this: “You have to be willing to say, ‘Ooh, let’s try this!’” Perhaps in the rhythm and risk of these mundane yet microcosmic moments on a university campus, there is a hint of the promising future of transnational encounter in education.

 

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Barrett, Betty J. "Is ‘Safety’ Dangerous? A Critical Examination of the Classroom as Safe Space." The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 1, no. 1 (2010): article 9. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2010.1.9.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Conde-Frazier, Elizabeth, S. Steve Kang, and Gary A. Parrett. A Many Colored Kingdom: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

Esterline, David, Namsoon Kang, Joshva Raja, and Dietrich Werner, eds. Handbook of Theological Education in World Christianity. Eugene, OR: Regnum Books, 2010.

Fernandez, Eleazar S. Burning Center, Porous Borders: The Church in a Globalized World. Eugebe, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2011.

by Kate Ott, Drew University

Every year as the AAR Annual Meeting approaches and closes, I am struck by the instances of sexual harassment that are relayed. Maybe I hear about more of these because of my past role in training and research related to clergy sexuality education, my interest in sexual health as a professional ethics issue, or because I’m a woman (more about that in a later section).  

by W. Anne Joh, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Albrecht Dürer's "The Teacher, the Clergyman, and Providence"

At most institutions, mentoring happens capriciously, accidentally, selectively, informally, and sporadically. It is usually characterized as a one-on-one, discreet relationship that is decentralized and unmoored from the very life of the institution. However, good mentoring is about guiding and assisting the birth of a unique scholar—a scholar who can find her own sense of professional identity. This understanding of mentoring places it at the heart of institutional life. Thus a contribution to the emerging theological landscape would be finding ways to deepen and broaden our practices of mentoring within and across institutions. This effort would include thinking more precisely about the distinctions between mentoring and advising, as well as the formal and informal dimensions of mentoring.

by Erik Owens, Boston College

The distinguished University of Chicago professor Jean Bethke Elshtain died in August at the age of 72, leaving behind a massive body of published work: hundreds of scholarly articles and chapters, many authored and edited books, countless opinion pieces, reflections, op-eds and interviews. She won dozens of awards and received prestigious honors from institutions and governments around the world. She broke barriers as an accomplished female professor and as a Christian political philosopher. She was a remarkable woman, as a wide array of obituary encomiums have affirmed in recent weeks.* I had the privilege of knowing her personally and professionally over some intense and exhilarating years as her graduate student in the religious ethics program at the Divinity School, and we remained in frequent contact in the years after.

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