Dr. Colwill is one of the newer additions to the TEDS faculty. We caught up with her in her office; this interview has been edited for clarity and space.
Tell me a little bit about yourself – where were you before coming to TEDS, and what are your responsibilities here now?
Before coming here I was at Asbury Theological Seminary, in Kentucky. I was a professor in the practical theology school and taught in the department of leadership. I was also the director of institutional research and evaluation for the entire seminary, which included the online, Kentucky, and Florida campuses.
At Asbury I taught master’s courses, and here [at TEDS] I teach PhD courses in the areas of organizational development, organizational leadership, and teams. Many people in the PhD-Educational Studies come from around the world; they are often in teaching faculty roles as well as wearing one or two other hats, such as administration. So there’s a need to understand how adults learn and how to create effective and significant learning environments as well as culturally appropriate ways of learning. With their multiple hats, they need both an understanding of how how to create significant learning environments but also how to help an organization learn and develop.
Are you from Kentucky?
My mother is, but I’m originally from Colorado.
I understand that you have two PhDs – what are they in?
Education and organizational development.
The PhD EDS and the MA EM were recently redesigned. What’s the significance of this?
Yes; we’re trying to retain the historic values & ethos of the program, both honoring the past and also giving them a fresh look, incorporating new theory and practice. We’re now into the first iteration of the actual curricula. It’s been a lot of fun.
What have been some of your primary areas of research?
My areas of interest are leadership development, teams, and organizational leadership. I’ve done research in the area of the scholar-practitioner—the equivalent you might hear about is science-practitioner, or pastor-scholar. A scholar-practitioner is a person who’s up to date in the theory base but also is active in the practitioner realm. I’ve studied how people bridge those worlds. Many of the people who are attracted to an education degree, or a leadership / organizational development program, are scholar-practitioners. You have to stay current in the theory, but you aren’t a full-time scholar because you have a lot of responsibility in your organizational leadership role. So I’m interested in how to help those types of people thrive.
Another area of interest is the world of metaphor. I wrote a chapter in an organizational development consulting text on tracing the evolution of organizational theory; it looked at organizations through the lens of metaphor, from the time of the Industrial Revolution into postmodernity, using four metaphors that capture philosophically the evolution of that space. As you trace the history, you can almost lean forward and see what might be next. If you can do that ,you can build towards the competencies that might be needed for tomorrow. You look back to look forward.
The average local church pastor probably is not very well trained in the area of organizational leadership or organizations theory, but I imagine they could benefit from some of these insights. If you had to give one or two pieces of concrete advice to a local pastor, what would you give?
I think the two areas most helpful right now are, as a leader, self-awareness and building competencies in emotional & social intelligence. Emotional intelligence is how you manage your internal world and how you dial down anxiety, how you have self-control as a leader. Social intelligence is how you interact with and persuade others toward the common good: doing it in an authentic manner, not in a way to manipulate people. A second major area is systems thinking with regard to organizational change and development.
What have been some things that have very powerfully shaped your faith?
Throughout my journey as a Christian I’ve had really good mentors. Because of that, I’ve also actively sought out really good mentors. God has been very good to me to bring a lot of amazing people into my life.
Earlier I asked you about a couple key takeaways for pastors, and you mentioned emotional intelligence and the pastor’s networks. What are some books you’d recommend for pastors interested in those areas?
Regarding emotional and social intelligence, Daniel Goleman and Richard Bogatzis wrote Resident Leadership. The Leader’s Journey, by Herrington, is also very helpful. In terms of leadership and systems thinking, I really like Heifetz; he talks about the difference between adaptive challenges and technical challenges in leading organizations. If you haven’t read anything by him, he’s really helpful. In terms of actual systems theory in organizations, Peter Senge is the one who moved systems thinking into the organizational theory literature. His seminal book is called The Fifth Discipline, and that was written I think in the nineties. He’s moved on a bit, but people still find that very helpful in terms of applying a systems view to organizations. There’s so many, so it’s really hard to narrow it down!
When you’re not doing research, what else do you like to do? What do you enjoy?
When I get the chance I like being outside and playing sports. I also enjoy reading and traveling ot new places. One of the reasons I moved back to Illinois is that I have three daughters who live here; two are married, and [points to pictures on her desk] this is grandson 1 and grandson 2, and they’re ten months and three months. So pretty much any discretionary time I have I’m hanging out with my family.
Following on the heels of D.A. Carson’s four lectures on Hebrews, the next set of TEDS Lectures features Associate Professor of New Testament Dr. Dana Harris giving an introduction to Luke-Acts.
These seven videos–filmed during one three-hour lecture in spring 2013–provide a glimpse into Dr. Harris’ NT 5000 course. NT 5000 is a general introduction and overview of the whole New Testament. These videos also feature compelling one-on-one interview footage in which Dr. Harris elaborates further on several key points from her lecture as well as explains aspects of her teaching style.
These lectures provide invaluable insights into Luke-Acts as well as a compelling picture of what it’s like to be a part of the TEDS community. A new video in the series will be posted every Tuesday, so be sure to stay tuned to the TEDS Facebook and Twitter feeds to be notified of when new lectures from Dr. Harris have been made available.
Three new faculty members were added to the Divinity School roster in 2013.
Deborah Colwill, PhD, (who began in the spring semester) comes from Asbury Theological Seminary and joins the faculty as Associate Professor of Educational Ministries. She earned both her MDiv and PhD from Trinity (as well as a second PhD in Organizational Development from Benedictine University) and has served in a variety of leadership and consulting positions. Her research interests include the development of emerging leaders, senior leadership team collaboration, bridging the generation gap between existing and emerging leaders, development of healthy churches and Christian organizations, and adult learning theory. She has written Educating the Scholar-Practitioner in Organization Development.
David Luy, PhD, arrived last year as a Dean’s appointment but has now transitioned into the role of Assistant Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology. He is an alumnus of Trinity’s MDiv program and recently completed his doctoral work at Marquette on the historical interpretation and contemporary reception of Martin Luther’s Christology. He has published material on Luther and Hans Urs Von Balthasar.
Constantine Campbell, PhD (pictured above) joins the faculty as Associate Professor of New Testament. He and his family are from from Australia, and he previously taught at Moore Theological College in Sydney. He holds degrees in both biblical studies and jazz and is an avid jazz saxophonist who gigged regularly in Australia, both in ministry and non-ministry-based settings. He has written on biblical Greek, including Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People and Basics of Verbal Aspect, as well as a major recent contribution to Pauline studies titled Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study. He is passionate about preaching and about using the arts in evangelism, and has a recent book on the subject titled Outreach and the Artist: Sharing the Gospel with the Arts.
We recently sat down with Dr. Doug Sweeney, Chair of the Church History department and Professor of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, in his office for an informal chat about Carl Henry’s life, legacy, and relationship to TEDS for a forthcoming article in the Trinity Magazine. Dr. Sweeney has written extensively on evangelical identity and history, and we found his off-the-cuff reflections be very helpful, so he graciously agreed to have them published.
What are some of the more significant changes that you feel have happened in evangelicalism since Dr. Henry’s death? And did he anticipate these in his work?
The most significant changes in the evangelical movement since Dr. Henry’s death are changes that he saw at the end of his life, and worried about. When Dr. Henry came of age and became an important leader in the evangelical movement, there was still a widespread sense—it wasn’t quite accurate, but I think a lot of people felt it was true—that he and the other leaders of what we call the “neo-evangelical resurgence” really were representing thoughtful evangelicals everywhere. By the end of his life, however, Dr. Henry recognized that the evangelical movement had diversified to such an extent that there’s no way any one person could represent it publicly. And that made Dr. Henry a little uneasy, not because he was afraid of diversity but because some of the diversity he saw was pretty heterodox, and he wanted evangelicalism to mean something significant theologically. He didn’t want it up for grabs.
So there was a struggle at the end of his life that he and other leaders from his generation felt; they felt a certain sense of responsibility, even before God, to steer this ship well. But he recognized at a certain point that there was just no way that he could get most evangelicals to follow what he did, and that concerned him.
Does it seem to you that the things that make Protestant Evangelicalism what it is actually might, in the long term, be working to undermine the ability of leadership to coalesce and direct a movement like that?
Unpack that one more level so that I know what you’re thinking.
Think about, for instance, how in recent decades several high-profile Protestant evangelicals have converted to Roman Catholicism. Correct or incorrect, there is a thing that Roman Catholicism seems to supply that they saw as lacking. It makes me wonder, in the long term, if what we saw in the “golden age” when Henry and others were perceived as leaders is almost an accident of history that’s not repeatable; or at least if it’s repeatable it won’t be something that we can engineer or foresee.
I think there are some real tensions here that have given shape to our movement for a long time. Church historians like to say that modern evangelicalism—the kind that’s intentionally interdenominational and cooperative—emerged out of the revivals of the 18th century. And that was a funny period of time for a movement like ours to emerge, because its most significant thought leaders were state church ministers, who were used to, and really didn’t oppose very strenuously, a top-down way of thinking about how to lead a movement. John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards disagreed some of the time on matters of doctrine and polity, but two of them [Wesley and Whitefield] were ordained in the Church of England, and one of them [Edwards] was ordained in the state church of Massachusetts that descended from the Puritans. They were tax-supported ministers whose jobs came with a built-in cultural authority that they didn’t mind having. But at the same time, their message at the revivals was, “You’ve got to be born again; you can’t just inherit your Christian faith; there are problems in these state churches because we have too many people who get baptized and raised up in these churches and just assume they’re right with God, and they’re not.” And that message—and I think this is part of what you’re talking about—undermined their status as authorities, because it encouraged people to take responsibility for their own faith: their conversion, their walk with God, their devotional life, and to a certain extent their doctrine.
Now I don’t think classical Protestantism from the Reformation period, or even good evangelical theology from the period of the revivals, intended to champion a “right of private judgment” (the notion that every individual in this movement has the right to make up his own theology and do what he wants). But you can see how their message, and then the agreement to disagree on so many secondary matters, led eventually to a great amount of diversification (especially after the old state churches were disestablished and churches had to market themselves to fill the pews on Sundays, as a result of which leaders began to soft-pedal tradition and emphasize creativity, cultural relevance, and so on). You can see how the evangelical message of revival undermined the ability of evangelical leaders to control their own movement.
I was just reading a book out this year by Gregory Alan Thornbury (Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry). One of the things he highlights is the centrality of epistemology to Henry’s theological work, and at one point he laments two trends that he sees: on the one hand there’s a disparaging of a particular epistemological commitment (foundationalism); on the other hand, the work’s simply not being done by many theologians. From your perspective as a church historian, could you see a revival or renewal of a robust evangelical coalition apart from a renewed focus on epistemology? Do you agree that those things are closely knit?
When we talk about epistemology in this way, we’re abstracted at least one level up from where most evangelicals are most of the time. But if what you mean is: can evangelicals everywhere really unite effectively without agreeing on the nature of Scripture and the primacy of Scripture for norming our doctrine and practice—that’s also a Henry-esque way of speaking—I would say no. It would be difficult for evangelicals to work well together without that kind of epistemological agreement. Because if you don’t have that, you’ll have a lot of evangelicals who will wander from traditional Christianity, often without even knowing it, with little to no concern about, or even understanding of, some basic matters of Christian orthodoxy. Dr. Henry found it important to emphasize that God has revealed himself in Scripture in some pretty clear ways, in propositions that we should live by. As Dr. Vanhoozer points out, God has revealed himself in the Bible in several other ways as well—not just propositionally—and that’s true, very true. But for Henry, it was important to emphasize that there are propositions in the Bible, and that they’re the basis of our faith, the foundation of our faith. Using older Christian language, they’re the cardinal doctrines of our faith. Biblical orthodoxy has always been important to evangelicals. So if, or as, the evangelical movement loses its traditional epistemological moorings, it will be more and more difficult for the movement to cohere. There are a lot of traditional or doctrinally conservative evangelicals who won’t cooperate with folks who aren’t. And insofar as a lot of the more popular, trend-setting kinds of evangelical leaders aren’t interested anymore in rooting themselves in orthodox traditions, and don’t want to commit to such a “foundationalist” platform, our movement will continue to disintegrate (as an intellectual movement, anyway).
When defining “evangelical,” a lot of people appeal to Bebbington’s fourfold classification. How would Dr. Henry have agreed or disagreed with that?
He would have added more. Dr. Bebbington does not affirm biblical inerrancy, and for Dr. Henry that was huge. I may be putting words in Henry’s mouth here, but I think it’s probably fair to say that he wanted evangelicals to agree on more matters of Bible doctrine than are part of Bebbington’s fourfold classification.
The quadrilateral that you get from Bebbington is a helpful one because it doesn’t exclude many people. It allows one to define evangelicalism simply and then move on to social history without overdefining the subject or making people feel uneasy about the way it’s been defined. The four elements of Bebbington’s definition are biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism. Two of those [biblicism and crucicentrism] are explicitly theological, which made Henry happy. Dr. Henry was all about conversionism and activism too, of course; in fact, the Henry that everybody likes is the Henry of The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, which is what inspired his generation of evangelicals to activism. But I think Henry’s “unease” about the quadrilateral would’ve had to do with its biblicism and crucicentrism. For Henry, it’s not just a commitment to the importance of the Bible that should be emphasized, but a certain kind of commitment to the importance of the Bible, one that was articulated in greater detail than you get from Bebbington by classical Protestant leaders and their heirs. And it’s more than just being a cross-centered person that was important to Dr. Henry; he would’ve wanted to defend the centrality of a penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement.
So he was more doctrinal, and more combative, than Bebbington in defining evangelicalism.
Talk to me broadly about Henry’s relationship with TEDS.
He was a major figure at TEDS for a long time, and here John Woodbridge and Don Carson would be a lot better on the details since they lived through many of them. After Henry was done teaching at Fuller and serving as the founding editor of Christianity Today, he traveled the world as an itinerant teacher and preacher (with the help of World Vision). He taught at many schools, but I think TEDS was his favorite. He taught here a lot, spoke in chapel a lot, and left TEDS a lot of money when he died (which surprised nearly everyone). He identified with TEDS in a post-Fuller kind of way, for after Fuller gave up its commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture Henry became upset. He worried that Fuller, and perhaps much of the evangelical movement, was losing its moorings in traditional Christian orthodoxy, and he appreciated TEDS for adding ballast to the ship.
D. G. Hart has argued (in Deconstructing Evangelicalism) that “evangelicalism” doesn’t exist. Imagine Henry and Hart in conversation on this point.
Darryl Hart is a friend of mine, from way back. I think he’s onto something; but I think Henry would have liked to give him a smack down. [laughter] Let’s say this conversation is taking place in 1990, by which time Henry’s in his upper seventies. He’d say to Darryl, “Look, I’ve spent my whole life participating in these collaborative, interdenominational, oftentimes parachurch organizations in which people really have been working together as part of a movement that most would have recognized and appreciated. They disagreed on the finer points of theology, but they had pretty basic agreement on what it was that they had in common and what it was they were trying to do together.” So to assert that evangelicalism doesn’t exist, or that the word “evangelical” is not worth using, is ridiculous. For all the people in Henry’s world—and there were millions of them—it was the most important moniker for self-identification and, more importantly, for identifying the kind of kingdom work that they were about.
Darryl’s onto two things that have come up in this conversation so far. He’s onto the aspirations of the Henry-Graham generation of evangelicals. Darryl thinks those are the guys who invented evangelicalism; there was no such thing as the evangelical movement before them, but these guys were famous enough and big enough, and America was powerful and important enough on the world stage, that they could pretend like they were leading a global movement. In Darryl’s view, however, they were really just pretending. They couldn’t run the movement by themselves. The people they were leading disagreed about too much.
The other thing he’s been touching on—as a very Westminsterian, confessional Protestant who doesn’t care about being “evangelical” but does care about being Reformed and Presbyterian—is that a lot of people like himself, who grew up Baptist (I think) and gravitated toward old-school Presbyterianism, did so because they wanted to be more confessional. They got worried that the people in their world didn’t have moorings that were deep enough. The parachurch way of life fed their hearts, but it didn’t help their heads to identify with traditional Christianity. Again, I think that Hart is onto something important here.
But Dr. Henry, I think, would say: “Well, alright Darryl, how many Orthodox Presbyterians are there?” (I don’t know the latest numbers, but it’s a small denomination.) “And you’re willing to cooperate with which other groups? Maybe a few in the PCA and Missouri Synod? Well those of us who like the label ‘evangelical’ are engaged in important gospel work with tens of millions of people around the world, and are hoping to mobilize hundreds of millions. And not just people who, in a Eurocentric way, identify with confessions from the early modern West, but people who can get on board without having to feel like white people have to be in charge of everything.”
Does it seem to you that there is a tension between the very idea of galvanizing a movement, on the one hand, and the commitment to doctrinal correctness on the other?
Let me give you the short version of the sermon I preach on this all the time. And this isn’t taking the focus off of Henry—I think Henry preached basically the same sermon, maybe with a different tone, but the same message.
I think evangelicalism at its best has always been historic Christianity—biblical, apostolic, “small-c” catholic, orthodox Protestant Christianity—with an eighteenth-century twist that emerged from the Great Awakening. The twist was this. As top-down, state-church Christianity, and “Christendom” modes of thought about the expansion of Christian “territory,” began to wane in the West, a renewal message emerged: being personally converted, having intimate knowledge of God, having faith in both head and heart, a personal faith that changes your life, is essential to genuine Christianity. This message was informed by earlier developments in the church—Pietism, Puritanism, the “further reformation” in the Dutch Reformed church. But it really began to make a big, international difference during the eighteenth-century revivals.
Ever since then, evangelicalism (again, at its best) has been intentionally collaborative, intentionally international, inter-ethnic, and interdenominational. It has been a cooperative movement of people who enjoy working together in Christian ministry despite their differences, but whose entire faith needn’t be—and shouldn’t be—identified with only what they agree upon across their various boundaries. That kind of least-common-denominator approach to Christian identity can be pretty thin gruel for sustaining people spiritually. I’m a Lutheran. Let’s say you’re a Calvinist or a Wesleyan, or maybe a Pentecostal. My entire Christian identity is not wrapped up in what we agree upon in our parachurch activities. I don’t want your identity grounded only on what we can agree upon. But I do want us to work together. So there’s this balancing act that has always characterized the evangelical movement, and that should continue to characterize our sense of Christian identity. We need to be fed by the deep waters of our own denominational, churchly, and confessional traditions, even as we agree to disagree on secondary matters for the sake of working together for the gospel. We’re a movement that’s got people from all over the place. They’re not shallow or superficial theologically, but they’re not jerks either. [laughter] They really want to work together and collaborate. And I think that’s what the Whitefields, the Edwardses, and the Wesleys at their best were trying to promote. I think that’s what Henry was trying to promote.
That’s why, when I was hired at TEDS, people like Ken Kantzer and Carl Henry and Greg Waybright thought it was wonderful that they had a Lutheran that they could bring on the faculty. Not because they agreed with Luther on every point of doctrine, but because they wanted TEDS to be a place that was always fed by these older denominational traditions but that was characterized most visibly by gospel cooperation. I think that’s what Henry was really about; it’s just that, at the end of his life, he was worried that too many of the front-line evangelical leaders forgot all about the older streams that had been feeding them. They too easily seemed to pull their roots out of traditional Christianity so that they could be flexible in doing whatever the new thing was in the movement. Thus they muffled their movement’s genius. The genius of the movement has always been this both-and thing, this ability to combine tradition and ingenuity, orthodoxy and piety, the local church and the parachurch. And in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, there are very few people who are combining those things winsomely and effectively. These brothers and sisters are so interested in confessional purity, and the other boundaries around their sets, that they just can’t bring themselves to cooperate with Free Church, Baptist, Wesleyan, and other folks for the sake of doing kingdom work as the worldwide people of God. Too often today we see a tug-of-war between hyper-confessionalists on one side and hyper-pietistic, Bible-only, “we’re sick of fighting about doctrine so we don’t even care about that stuff anymore” folks on the other side. I think that on both ends of the spectrum we often lose what has made evangelicalism special, and what made Henry special.
Reading blogs and participating in various conversations, you typically find a few specific issues come up when discussing evangelical identity. I think inerrancy in particular is perceived to be a sticking point by some people. I do think a lot of people who disparage it don’t know it very well and haven’t read inerrancy’s best defenders (or don’t understand Henry’s position on it well). I think a lot of people, however, would say that they perceive that many who uphold inerrancy aren’t willing to cooperate with those who don’t. In your mind, how significant of a rift is that in the movement?
I think it’s significant. One of the reasons why Dr. Henry’s commitment to inerrancy and propositional truth was so often misunderstood, and so easily misconstrued, is that he was defending—sometimes in a confrontational way—this historic Christian doctrine in a foundationalist package during a period of time when the intellectual currents in the academy were moving people away from foundationalism and, in evangelical biblical studies, towards an appreciation of multiple genres in the Bible, a recognition of divinely-revealed elements in Scripture that aren’t best understood as propositions. So people who didn’t like Henry found it easy to caricature him as a rearguard, old-fashioned guy who didn’t quite get it. I think that was unfair. There was a certain element of fairness to it. I think there were certain things that Dr. Henry didn’t quite get. But in the main, it was unfair. I think we can have it both ways, and I think that Henry would agree. We can appreciate the poetic imagination of the psalmists; we can appreciate the mysterious nature of prophecy; we can appreciate some of the differences between the genre of biblical gospels and late-modern biographical methodological standards. We can do all of that and still believe that everything that God does say in Scripture is true and is reliable.
TEDS is participating in a conference at SBTS in September 2013 celebrating Henry’s life and legacy.
The University Records Office has extended the deadline for fall 2013 applications for graduation. Applications for students planning to complete their degree requirements in fall 2013 will be due to Records no later than August 9, 2013.
Please use the following links listed below to do so:
Juan Carlos Tellez (MDiv, Grace Theological Seminary) is originally from Colombia, South America. He and his wife were at one time missionaries in Honduras; after relocating to enroll at Grace College in Winona Lake, IN, he began working there, and currently serves as Dean of the Chapel and Global Initiatives. We caught up with him while he was in Deerfield for a two-week modular course.
How did you hear about TEDS’ PhD program?
I have an MA in Intercultural Studies and MDiv, both from Grace. And you know—you read the books, you hear of people like Dr. Priest [Professor of Mission and Anthropology], Dr. Hesselgrave [Professor Emeritus of Mission], Dr. Hiebert [formerly Distinguished Professor of Mission and Anthropology]. I always read the back and I see, oh, they’re teaching at TEDS. So TEDS was a place I’d always been familiar with because of the books that had been written by the people who teach here.
I got to the end of my seminary time and my wife and I were thinking, what’s next? We thought we were going to go into missions, but the door didn’t open for that. God didn’t seem to lead in any other direction and when I started pursuing TEDS things just really lined up.
You’re in Deerfield for a two-week modular on ethnicity, taught by Dr. Tiénou [who is also Dean of TEDS]. I bet that’s awesome.
It’s changed my life.
What is it about that class that’s changed you?
Well, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of culture in the past, but I think this class has really opened my eyes to more profound, more foundational pieces of where culture originates. It has taken something that I’ve loved, which is culture and investigating it, and taken it to a deeper level.
What I love about Dr. Tienou—I’m realizing that there are no easy answers to things. That sounds weird, but I think I was hoping that the more I studied the more I would realize that things are not easy, because I think in my life I’ve come to easy answers and they’ve frustrated me. They may be satisfying, but after a while you start realizing that you kind of come to the edges of those answers, and you start realizing, there’s got to be more, because this does not fit reality. Dr. Tienou’s just expanding the question so that you search, maybe not for answers, but for better explanations that guide people in a more concrete direction even if you don’t have a destination.
What is it about the program, beyond this particular class, that’s made you feel like it’s been worth it?
I think of another class I took, Christian Encounter with World Religions with Dr. Netland. He’s written books on this topic; he’s talking from experience as a missionary in Japan; he’s quoting author after author left and right, this model and that model, so you’re just trying to soak it all in. That combination of experience and theoretical grounding is unbelievable, and that’s been the case in all of my classes.
The first class I took was with Dr. Priest, and that was, you know, baptism by fire. I love reading, but I went to a Barnes & Noble after the last day and I just sat there thinking, I can’t even pick up a book. I’m done.
You’re about halfway through your coursework. Think about the intersection between the courses you’ve taken and your responsibilities as Dean of the Chapel. How have these classes influenced what you’ve done at Grace?
I have double responsibilities – I’m Dean of the Chapel and I also oversee all our study abroad, short term trips, all of those things fall under the auspices [of my position]. We have a Director of Global Initiatives but that person reports to me. So obviously, as we’re dealing with issues of short term trips, of study abroad—anything that has to do with the intersection of culture, I mean, this is directly related.
One thing that it has done also is, I think it has opened my eyes a lot more to issues of diversity here in the States. Being from Colombia, I would not have classified myself as a Latino, because Latino I think of more in terms of people who have grown up here in the States. But I think understanding the plight of minority students here in the United States and being at Grace, that has a small population of minority students, I think this has made me a lot more knowledgeable and compassionate about the realities of being African-American at a predominantly white campus, or the reality of being Latino at a predominantly Anglo campus.
But on the chapel side, I think I’ve also become more–being around people like Dr. Priest, Dr. Plueddemann, Dr. Tienou, you start to see things not for the quick answers anymore. As I think of the chapel program and all of those things, I think it has expanded my horizon so as not to look for easy answers and people who are going to bring [easy] answers but people who are going to challenge predetermined notions of things, people who are going to say, we need to do our homework and move beyond this.
What has the demographic makeup of the courses in your program been like?
I don’t think there has been a single course that I’ve taken where there have been more than three or four people from the same location. It’s a total plurality of backgrounds. The course I’m in right now, we have two people from Nigeria, one person of Hmong descent, we have Korean-Americans, we have people who have been missionaries in Africa, we have Native Americans – it’s such a variety.
What are some of your long-term vocational goals?
Here’s something interesting that I’ve found about how God has been leading. I know that it has been traditionally said, in [some] circles, that you need to start with the end in mind. I’m not sure that God works that way all of the time. I am positive, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He has brought me to this point; I’m not really sure why, but I trust that His hand is upon what He’s leading me to do, and going forward—I mean, I see all kinds of possibilities. I could see myself being the Dean of the Chapel for a long time with these skills, I could see myself teaching intercultural studies. There are a number of possibilities. I think I see more possibilities than actual trajectories.
You have a bit of an outside perspective on North American evangelicalism because of your background. From your perspective, what are things happening now that you think North American evangelicalism, especially the majority white parts, ought to be aware of?
Well, demographic shifts. I was just reading that “Latinos” are going to make up 25% of this country’s population by 2050. The shift in demographics alone in this country is massive. I think, for a long time, evangelical institutions have been able to preserve pretty homogenous groups; I don’t know how long that’s really going to be possible anymore. And I think everyone has been saying this: demographics are going to shift in this country, Soong-Chan Rah talks about how the church is becoming different in this country. So evangelicals are going to change and shift in colors too—more Latino evangelicals, more African-American evangelicals. And what is that going to do to the institutions that have been held up by evangelicals? They’re going to shift. So I think something that I would say would need to be paid attention to is: How do we, as institutions, make sure that we, first, make sense of these changes and [second] make way for these changes?
Finally, if you could concisely sum up why you’d recommend TEDS, what would you say?
Definitely the experience and scholarship of the professors; definitely the breadth and width of experience of my classmates. I’ve probably learned equally in conversations with my classmates outside of the actual classes. They’re people who are coming with issues to look at and when you talk about these issues it’s like, I have never, ever thought of this before in my life, you know?
I would say the way in which the administration of the PhD, and Dr. Netland—how accommodating they are, within reason, to try and make it happen for you to take courses.
I would say: scholarship, community, experience—it’s a phenomenal program.
TEDS offers several programs ideal for engaging some form of intercultural ministry at both master’s and doctoral level, including our Master of Arts / Intercultural Studies, our Master of Divinity (with various foci available), our Master of Arts in Urban Ministry, and our PhD (Intercultural Studies).
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School was recently privileged to host a groundbreaking series of conversations between Hispanic and Asian North American pastors and theologians. Officially dubbed the HANA Consultation, the three-day gathering brought together sixty men and women on our Deerfield campus for dialogue centered on the themes of identity and calling. Under these broad headings, participants discussed issues such as racialization, immigration, intergenerational relationships, lament, and other cultural-theological topics that tend to uniquely characterize Hispanic and Asian North American church contexts.
This consultation represents an unprecedented level of collaboration and constructive pastoral-theological engagement between two of the most rapidly growing groups of evangelicals in North America. It was sponsored by the Henry Center and organized by Dr. Peter Cha (Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, TEDS), Juan Martínez (Fuller Theological Seminary), Dr. Linda Cannell (former Dean of North Park Seminary), and Armida Belmonte Stephens (PhD Candidate, Systematic Theology).
In a subsequent interview, Dr. Cha explained the title “consultation” by contrasting it with a conference: “At a conference, we come to listen to experts read their papers, and then we ask questions. But Hispanic- and Asian-Americans are extremely diverse…a few speakers could not capture all of it.” Their solution was to invite one Hispanic- and one Asian-American participant to present ten-minute summaries of pre-distributed papers at each large group session. The other attendees were seated in discussion table groups, and afterwards there followed an hour of constructive dialogue at each table focused on the two presentations. These larger sessions were complimented by more specific tracks such as “Nurturing the Next Generation,” “Public and Local Witness,” and “Migration and Global Mission.” (For summaries of all HANA Consultation sessions, see Jennifer Aycock’s detailed blog coverage.)
One important takeaway from this consultation, according to Dr. Cha, is the way in which HANA church communities find it easier to seamlessly interweave the preaching and living-out of the gospel with social justice concerns. Majority-white North American evangelicals have often bifurcated the two, as Carl Henry famously criticized in The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in 1947; while much has changed since that book’s first edition, much work remains to be done within Henry’s target demographic. Dr. Cha noted that churches that focus on only “spiritual” concerns can be viable in a sense for predominantly white communities, “for whom public institutions, such as the police, public education, and the justice system typically function quite well. But this is not the case for blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities. For minority pastors, just doing your job means needing to become involved with these realities.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2043 there will be no single majority racial group in the United States. Furthermore, “Hispanic and Asian North American churches are overwhelmingly evangelical,” noted Dr. Cha, and the currents of thought running through HANA churches give us a picture of what that 2040 reality will look like for North American evangelicals.
The HANA Consultation is slated to happen again at Fuller Seminary in two years, providing an ongoing opportunity for key leaders in these communities to dialogue with and support one another. This consultation also provides an opportunity for majority-white North American evangelical communities—which remain very racially segregated—to listen, in humility and openness, to the concerns of evangelicals whose presences in the United States continue to increase and become more influential.
Look for a book to be published in 2014, edited by Peter Cha and Juan Martínez, containing essays from the 2013 HANA Consultation sessions.
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School offers two degree programs that provide intentional engagement with issues such as social justice, urbanization, and racial segregation in the church: the Master of Divinity focus on Compassion & Justice and the MA in Urban Ministry.