Theology is an important area of study that is slowly being pushed to the margins. This may have some validity, except that allied studies and disciplines, such as music, literature, and graphic art is simultaneously being squeezed out of curricula. Institutions, Religion departments and Theology departments are losing funding and are shrinking. In Seminaries, if they are remaining healthy, it is due to shifting professional training from the pastoral to the clinical, creating professionals who treat people in much the same way as psychologists, rather than as spiritual directors or chaplains.
In order to create thriving institutions that will remain healthy, we must have leadership that will guide them through the evolving times. The Forum for Theological Education (FTE) was founded in 1954. From its beginning, it has "provided resources, events, networks, grants and fellowships to cultivate tomorrow's leaders, pastors and theological educators." It has provided a wonderful space where intelligent, gifted and bright students can explore their calling and vocation.
FTE President Stephen Lewis shares that "the church and the field of theological education are living in a time of unprecedented demand and change. We believe that an ecology of institutions, leaders and the next generation need spaces and resources to explore together what the church needs now."
There is a clear need for diverse institutional and church minds to come together for the future leadership of the church and the academy. This week I will participate in FTE's Christian Leadership Forum with more than 200 young adults, students, scholars and church leaders who will address leadership challenges and discuss solutions, which I hope will give us tools and resources to shape the church's future. It will be a time to celebrate the rich legacy of FTE and to explore how the next generation of Christian leaders can make a difference in the world through the church and academy.
I am enthusiastic to be a part of the conversations taking place during the Christian Leadership Forum because these discussions will shape the vision and future of theological education and Christian leadership. This is our opportunity for leaders across the nation to reimagine the church and the academy.
There are several benefits for holding such forums and it is important to do so within the community of theological educators. There is power when diverse minds and people come together to discuss solutions for a common purpose or concern. Theological education is becoming more diverse as increasing number of ethnic minority students are enrolling. With diversity comes enriched opportunities and legacies. As Martin Luther has suggested, the Reformation did not stop when the Protestant and Catholic states agreed on a truce, and each principality could select either Rome or Wittenberg. Reforming is a constant enterprise, given the dynamic relation between the church, society, and science. Meetings such as these provide the means to discuss movements which have not yet reached the textbooks.
It is encouraging to see spaces created to have these unlikely conversations occur among diverse people who are passionate about the church and their calling. As an FTE Alumna and an FTE Advisory Board Member, I continue to watch FTE flourish, lead, and pave the way for future leaders to guide the church into its unknown future.
I am deeply grateful for this work and hope to pay back, as I can, to make it possible for the next generation to have the opportunity to explore ministry and become involved in the work of God.
To follow FTE's Christian Leadership Forum on June 4-7, visit fteleaders.org/forum and join the conversation online.