Saturday, June 21, 2008

Taking the Seminary to Church by George

George Wieland, New Testament lecturer from Carey Baptist College, New Zealand, shared in an earlier article on his experience as a Theologian Without Borders.

In this posting he shares an idea on bringing together academy and church, blending teaching, resourcing and partnership in ministry. George says:

It started as a pragmatic response rather than a theoretically driven initiative, but it sits well with my theoretical convictions!

I have researched, written and taught on mission in the New Testament letter to Titus and have sometimes taught on the topic in local churches e.g. in one-day seminars or church camps.

One church asked me to help them think about mission in their local context by presenting some of my Mission in Titus material in the form of a series of four sermons on consecutive Sundays. I was unable to block out a month of Sundays for this but I also felt that a visiting speaker trying to apply what was learned from the New Testament to their own context was a second best. Surely it would be more fruitful for the church itself to make the application?

So I proposed an alternative - I could go along for one Sunday service but a few weeks before their "mission" month I would spend an evening with a group of people from the church, resourcing them to think through and prepare a series of Sunday services in which mission insights from Titus would be presented and applied to their local context.

That is what we did. I met with about a dozen people (the church's pastors, worship leaders, others involved in aspects of the church's leadership and teaching ministry) for 2-3 hours one evening. We gathered after work for pizza and then launched into a teaching session in which I presented background information, some exegesis, theological ideas and some practical suggestions for application in four main areas.

One of the pastors took responsibility for dividing the participants into work groups, one for each of four Sunday services, and allocating to each a particular aspect to develop.

I returned to preach at the first of the four "Mission Insights from Titus" Sundays. The team for that week had prepared appropriate worship, there was a drama to reinforce the main application and one member of the group had written a song taking up some of the ideas from Titus.

The dozen participants were themselves greatly enthused by the project and the excitement was rippling out through the church. After that first service Home Group leaders asked if their groups could be involved in thinking through the mission issues, so with a little more input from me the pastor overseeing the series produced study notes so that the groups could participate. The senior pastor commented that the process of involving members of the church in working on the Biblical text and relating it to their own situation had galvanized the church as a whole and there was a sense of ownership that would have been difficult to generate from a series of sermons from someone from elsewhere.

I felt that the experiment had been fruitful for the church, building Biblical and theological capacity, and from the participation of the church members I in turn was able to learn what the ideas I was drawing from the Biblical text looked like translated into a specific local context.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: George Wieland

Check out the Careyplus approach to serving the local churches.

Creative Technology in Theological Education

Projectors, Software
Keith Dyer, Whitley College says:
“We now have data projectors in the ceiling of each main classroom at Whitley (and accompanying sound systems), so we are working on using PowerPoint (or the superior Apple Keynote software) for more than just lecture summaries with pictures (helpful though they can be). I'm taking my laptop to every class and hooking up with Accordance Bible software running (in the background), indeed, most of the Biblical Studies lecturers in the Melbourne College of Divinity [Melbourne consortium] have now bought Apple computers just so that they can use Accordance software which enables simple or complicated Bible searches, vocabulary comparisons, translational comparisons between Hebrew, Greek, Latin and all English versions to be done on the spot in response to students' questions and portrayed textually, or graphically or with reference to the entire picture library of the Biblical Archaeology Society, the entire corpus of Josephus or the entire Jewish Mishna, just for a few examples. It is an extraordinarily powerful tool and one that could be abused or misused easily but already it has helped sharpen up and brighten up some of the discussions in my classes. I realise that not all seminaries can afford such resources but many can right now, and their availability (like the copies of the Gospels in the early church) will increase greatly in the next few years. We need to use these resources creatively (in life-giving ways) rather than just as a chance to get across more pre-digested content! We need to equip our students to use such resources wisely.”

Seminaries on YouTube and Online
There are many seminaries that are putting lectures on YouTube (or their web site) and making these available for the public to learn e.g. Yale University-Introduction to the Old Testament course.

Videos are also being used to promote the College e.g. Check out the YouTube range from Carey College in Auckland or click on this Introduction to the Carey Faculty. Other videos are at Carey Baptist College Online. The North America Baptist Seminary (NABS) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has a series on YouTube at this link: NABS. Check out the video entitled, ‘Seminary for More than Preparing Pastors’.

Seminary Web Sites
It is amazing to reflect on the way that less than two decades ago, 1992 to be precise, the World Wide Web was launched. Since then so many seminaries have established their seminary web site which has become the chief means of informing prospective students of your style, your teachers, your courses—just about everything is posted there. Often the website is the base for the seminary’s distance education programme.

Frequent newsletters and postings are the name of the game to keep your site fresh and worthy of attracting return visits. Even blogs from the Seminary President and teachers are becoming routine and are informational and promotional tools for communicating with students, staff and supporters.

Geoff Pound says, “As part of my role in interviewing new students, I asked one young man from Singapore how he decided to come and study in Melbourne, Australia. He simply said, ‘The website. I checked out your College’s web site and what I read convinced me that this was the one!” He wasn’t the only student who decided on the basis of what was found on the website. Now websites and email are indispensable for those that have them. Yet, hundreds of Bible Schools around the world do not yet have a website and they operate in places where the Internet link is so hit and miss that email contact is haphazard.

When David Coffey, President of the Baptist World Alliance, was asked about creative happenings that he saw in theological education, he immediately said, “The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut. He added, “I am most impressed by the leadership of Elie Haddad who is the Provost of the Arab Baptist Seminary. He is a walking example of creativity. Read his page on their web site on Preparing Christian leaders for the World. Their annual Middle East Conference is a gem and the material they produce is cutting edge. Many Baptists keep their heads down when there is political conflict—look at the number of MPs in Lebanon who have lost their lives through car bombs—the ABTS seems to get stuck in and makes a valuable contribution to the wider region. Their web site gives many clues about their life.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Broadcast Yourself

Seminaries Offering Web Resources, TWB

Creating New Student Clientele: NESB Leaders

Jim Wallis spoke of the seminary that started in a prison.

Miyon Chung has written of Torch Trinity Graduate School, beginning a new program for CEOs and professionals in their middle age wanting to have a crack at a theology degree and get equipped for a new ministry vocation.

Here is an article about a new student clientele.

Missiologist Ross Langmead says:
Whitley College in Melbourne has tackled the training of Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) pastors and leaders by introducing the TransFormation Programme, a three-year, rolling, once-a-month Saturday-based theology and leadership course for new migrant leaders and pastors, with the option to get diploma credit and/or lead to ordination.”

Ross adds, “It takes great creativity to teach in very plain English while not dumbing-down the content. It has drawn good numbers (more than 50 each year), brought together the ethnically-based churches and been deeply appreciated by these people who are so keen to learn but many of whom work full-time in factories as well as pastoring their congregations.”

By providing a course to overcome the barriers of time, language and money, Whitley College has developed a new group of people that it is serving.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Two students in Whitley’s Transformation Programme.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Creating New Student Clientele: CEOs

A recent post involving Jim Wallis reported the establishment of a seminary in a prison.

Here is an article on the way a seminary has created an entirely new clientele.

Miyon Chung, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Torch Trinity Graduate School in Seoul, Korea, describes the way her seminary has changed gears to provide training for new groups of people:

A special programme has been created by Torch Seminary for CEOs.

* On Tuesday, March 8th 2008, the Christian CEO Program debuted at Torch Trinity with a dinner and an address from the President of the Seminary. Approximately 130 professionals registered and many had to be turned away because of a lack of space.

* The Christian CEO Program challenges executives to think theologically and biblically about management, business and personal development.

* The Christian CEO Program will last throughout the semester with weekly meetings on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Several open-classroom trips are also scheduled during the term. The participants will get an opportunity to reassess their successful careers and their professional passions from a Christian perspective.

Miyon Chung says of Torch:

* We offer Master of Divinity studies to professionals who are mostly between their mid 40s to 65 years of age. We have just graduated a man who is over 70!

* These are men and woman who often are highly successful in their career and are looking for "meaningful" work after retirement.

* Our president challenges them and many want to take an early retirement, go abroad (missions) or work with Christian NGOs.

* Because they are already well educated they like the challenge of learning Greek, Hebrew and other subjects in a Master of Divinity.

* Classes for this group of people are offered on two evenings and all day Saturday.

* To make it even more attractive we get some of the most respected professors to teach special electives.

* People in this course are not only excellent students but they are proving to be able ministers and a good source of scholarship for students!

Any new student groups you have helped create?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Torch Trinity Graduate school with the CEO welcome banner in front.

Creative Staffing in Theological Education

With staffing costs often consuming 50-85% of the seminary budget one would think that this area calls for lots of creativity.

Part of the vision of Theologians Without Borders is to provide volunteer teachers who will work, usually for a short term, at no charge, with the local hosts taking care of accommodation and food. This is a tremendous help to seminaries, but as has been noted often, there are rich blessings that the visiting teacher receives.

Thomas Chin says: “MBTS is blessed to be able to recruit more people power in our seminary by securing different kinds of capable people and not having to pay their salaries. They can be faith workers, retired people and people supported by a sending body.”

Got any creative staffing ideas to give away?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: MBTS, perched on a hill in Penang.

Going the Distance in South Africa

Further to the examples posted about seminaries offering distance education I have received word about a seminary in South Africa that has a major distance education initiative.

The Registrar of Postgraduate Studies, Leschenne Rebuli, writes:

“We have been receiving your Theologians Without Borders newsletters recently...”

“The South African Theological Seminary (SATS) is a private higher education distance learning seminary accredited and registered with the South African Council on Higher Education. We have recently (February) launched our eCampus and online study programme. The 2008 Prospectus is at this link for your perusal.”

Leschenne says: “SATS endeavours to promote quality higher distance education that is accessible and enjoyable to students around the world. We currently have over 3500 students in the undergraduate programme, over 300 in our Masters programme and 14 in our Doctoral programme. If you have any queries I would love to be of further assistance.”

This is a big operation that, while based in South Africa, is committed to offering theological education beyond its national and continental borders.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Scenes from the SATS web site.

Coaxing Creativity to Flow

Jhumpa Lahire hinted at the growth that can come from being planted in ‘unaccustomed earth’

Eric Clapton attributed creativity to the crucible of suffering

Robert Dessaix highlighted the value of whiling away the time

Mahatma Gandhi said his most creative experience was getting thrown off a train

Mozart devotees see discipline at the heart of the composer’s creativity

Paulo Coelho testified to the role of travel and pilgrimage

John Cleese and the Monty Python troupe credit frustration as the catalyst

If creativity and innovation are about fostering the right conditions in which the juices flow, what does this mean for you?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Collage of creativity

In Formation through Internships

Further to an earlier internship model, here is another with ‘formation’ at its heart.

David Enticott at Whitley College (Australia) writes:

“A new internship program called ‘IN*FORMATION Internships’ is providing an option both for younger teachers and students. Studies are pitched at a diploma level with a focus on training in Baptist churches. Students are also asked to complete an internship with a local Baptist church. This could be in a range of areas such as working with youth, offering pastoral care to the elderly, preaching and leading Bible studies. Interns are provided with a ministry supervisor who they meet with on a regular basis.”

“In terms of theological training, units have been established to link with the ministry that is being undertaken by the interns. Units offered include Evangelism, the Big Questions (issues that Christians have wrestled with for centuries), Spirituality, Introduction to the Bible, Growing as Leaders, Leading Bible Studies and 21st Century Jesus (a theology unit looking at how we see Jesus today.)”

“The aim of these studies has been to build a bridge between Whitley College, the Baptist Union and Baptist churches throughout Victoria. Teachers are mainly women and men in their 30's who are ministers throughout Victoria. Units are offered online for regional students.”

“Each year we draw the interns together for 2 weeks, where 2 subjects are taught and we build relationships. Interns stay in contact with one another throughout the year by means of web-based discussions. At the time of writing we have 17 interns for our first year who are each completing four units.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “Offering pastoral care to the elderly.”

Creating Models of Trust

Continuing the creative and literary themes is this story from the UK:

In a recent letter (April 2008) from BWA General Secretary, Neville Callam, entitled, ‘Words to live by in a Christian Movement: Valid Models of Working’, he writes:

“Most of the 'vision casting' processes created by the corporate world and adopted by our churches are designed to discover that which comes from us.”1

“In the April/June issue of Baptist World magazine, my editorial made reference to On the Way to Trust2, a 38-page resource to which four distinguished British Baptist theological educators collaborated - Paul Fiddes, Brian Haymes, Richard Kidd and Michael Quicke. The booklet is a very accessible resource produced in the last decade of the twentieth century partly to aid those who develop structures of oversight within Baptist churches and their wider ecclesial bodies not only in that century but in the current one as well. Today, we offer our readers excerpts of this very valuable resource.”

“[W]e need a theology of trust in our relationships together… Baptists have always been at their best when they have had the trust of another” (p. 34).

“… uncompromising rejection of worldly notions of leadership and authority lies at the heart of the covenant community of trust.” (p. 32) “Instead of organizing hierarchies of control, God gives creative freedom for people to belong together in mutual trust which is open and vulnerable.” (p. 30)

“ … models of leadership emerge in the world of management which seem to commend themselves as ways of ensuring success and which cut straight tracks across what people may see as inefficient and untidy bonds of trust.” (p. 31)

“Many contemporary models for effective leadership are totally task-oriented as they outline techniques to influence people and achieve goals and objectives… [T]hese leadership aids can easily subvert the very texture of the gift of life in covenant relationship which is in the unique offering of Christ. By focusing on the directing to be done and the tasks to be achieved they can discount the vulnerabilities and possibilities of mature trust in community.” (pp. 32-33)

“Strategic alliances in the world of business today take three basic forms, which we may call Networking, Sharing Resources and Joint Ventures.” (p. 23)

“The fashionable reaction against denominations may be in accord with the prayer of Christ that '… all may be one,' but it might also just be a desire to keep our association with each other under our own control. God always challenges us to pay the cost of living in trust.” (pp. 26-27)

Callam concludes: “We are grateful for the guidance the excerpted portions we have offered provide for all those who make decisions about relevant structures for churches and wider ecclesial bodies for the twenty-first century.”

“When bonds of trust are replaced by systems and structures of control, churches and ecclesial bodies lose their pneumatic centre, their spiritual core, and are reduced to convenient bodies of affinity!”

1 Robert Tinsley, Finding God's Vision: Mission and the New Realities. Veritas Publishing, 2005. p. 13.
2 Richard Kidd, ed., On the Way to Trust. Whitley Publications, 1997.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: This is a high church in a French town that my wife and I visited in 2007. It has a ‘stations of the cross’ along the path to the summit (you need lots of stations to break the trip) and the climb does sort out both the faithful and the fit. But, as in worship, the view from the top makes the approach worth it. (Click to enlarge)

Creativity Books and Theological Education

In this series on creative happenings in theological education the issue of books has already come up in relation to:

Distance Education (access to books and how students get training in research even with new technologies)

Poverty (when unresourced Bible Schools and seminaries don’t have much money the books item in the budget is often the first thing to be reduced)

Copyright (providing access)

Language and culture (many of the books are written by authors in different contexts and there is a need for books targeted for doing theology and ministry in the context of the readers). It is interesting to see the recent and vigorous discussion about whether the time is ripe for a new series of Biblical commentaries and theology books written by Asian theologians and for the Asian context.

Here are two more creative ideas that are happening in connection with books:

Roving pastor and chairman of the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), Isaac Yim, says in his travels, “I am experimenting with some simple approaches at the grass root level in remote places. [These include]:

* Providing 10 basic books for pastors in the language they can read and at the level of their understanding.

* Setting up theological libraries in remote areas, like the Baptist Bible College in Kathmandu, Nepal or some places in China. I have a project to raise funds to buy books for them in these two places—English books and Chinese books. I have friends who donate good used books to theological schools. English books are more readily available than any other languages.

Rod Benson is a pastor, teacher and Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics at Morling College, Sydney, Australia.

* Rod runs a book ministry called ‘Living Libraries’.

* He has many good books suited to undergraduate/graduate seminary studies and some funds to pay freight costs in sending them overseas. Most books donated to ‘Living Libraries’ come from retiring pastors or pastors moving from house to a retirement village.

* ‘Living Libraries’ is a vital ministry. Many students in Bible and Theological Colleges around the world have little or no access to even basic textbooks.

* The idea of ‘Living Libraries’ is simple: collect suitable books (new and used) from people, churches and other agencies and send them to people who need them.

* Where possible, they also seek to provide other assistance to colleges, such as subscriptions to periodicals.

* So far ‘Living Libraries’ has sent over 8,000 books to 14 locations in nine countries! More information is available from this link.

Thank you for these ideas. Are there any other creative schemes you are willing to share about ‘the parchments and the scrolls’?

Dr Geoff Pound

Searching the Site

A reminder to use the ‘Search Blog’ at the top left of the site (or top right if you are working in Arabic or Hebrew).

If you are looking for a resource you can put in your key word into the box—‘Funding’, ‘Lilian Lim’, ‘Vietnam’ or whatever.

It is generally effective and the fastest way to track down what you are looking for.

Give it a go now if you have not tried the 'Search Blog' function.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Search and you may find.

Creative Teaching Methodology

Further responses to my question, ‘What creative things do you see happening in theological education’:

+ John Reid draws our attention to the research of Charles Foster whose extensive work of researching seminaries across the USA for three years has been funded by the Carnegie Foundation. A Media Summary, entitled ‘Educating Clergy: Teaching Practices and Pastoral Imagination’ can be found at this link and a Study Guide at this link. The survey forms and list of participating institutions can be found at this link.

+ Several USA seminaries have been hosting projects under the general title of Sustaining Pastoral Excellence which are sponsored by Lilly Endowment grants. (George Bullard) This is focusing the learning needs and identifying the best ways that the subjects and skills are to be taught.

+ The Columbia Partnership at, is teaching eight different masters level courses in Christian leadership coaching for Western Seminary in Portland or at their Portland, Sacramento, and San Jose campuses. (George Bullard)

Thanks for these offerings.

Do any of these ideas trigger your thoughts about creative initiatives?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: The many faces of teaching and learning.

Chilean Creatividad Fantástico

The Seminario Teológico Bautista (STB) offers these creative initiatives, according to the Dean, Josué Fonseca.

+ New projects: offering Christian literature for Sunday school, e-learning, continuing education, itinerant faculty, modules taught at churches, in other cities, programs for regularization of studies, programs for youth, women, or lay leaders, not just for ministry, etc.

+ Classes, using all sorts of methodologies, 'develop a project' way of learning, small groups, etc.
Use of the Web and a web site, photolog, blogs, YouTube advertising, live videoconference with professors abroad, etc.

+ Openness; as we are opening the Seminary for all people, from all denominations, including the chance for people outside the seminary community to join all of our activities: retreats, worship services, evangelistic programs, concerts, rallies and choirs. This also includes professors from other traditions to teach. Openness for accreditation as well.

+ Inclusiveness, equality for men or women in joining the same programs, including pastoral ministry, as a revolutionary concept in churches here; we have developed a 'Cross-form Commitment', a kind of ethical code for all personnel, faculty and students that exemplifies what we want in theological education, values, moral standards, roles, identity and goals.

+ We have sought to be creative in administration especially by renting our buildings partially, using facilities for a Retreat Centre and using dorms as Christian Hostel.

+ We have engaged in cooperation by preparing agreements for mutual enrichment with other theological schools, with Catholic Faculty and with Christian world organisations.

+ We have encouraged participation in the world of the culture with Universities and with the Government in areas of mutual interest. This has involved serving the Congress of the Republic in areas of consultancy on ethical issues and laws (perspectives on divorce law), the abolition of the death penalty, peace and reconciliation, non-discrimination regulations and the day-after pill.

+ Worship, creativity in worship services, always intending to create a sound environment for new ideas, new guest speakers, such as a Rabbi, an Orthodox or Roman priest and what we called 'silence-in worship service’. We arrange worship services according to different traditions such as an Anabaptist service from the 17th century, a John Wesley styled service, a John Bunyan service (we called it 'The Pilgrim Service'), a nonconformist service, 'the Franciscan service', the 'women service', the 'hip-hop service' etc.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “The hip-hop service.” The image above is from a ‘holy hip-hop’ service in the USA but can you imagine hip-hop with Latino flair plus un poco del Flamenco?


Chile: Learning Theology Together in the Field, TWB

Update from BTS in Northern Chile, TWB

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jim Wallis: Commencement Speaker in Seminary Prison

Jim Wallis writes today (19 June 2008) on his blog, God’s Politics, about a very special privilege that was his recently:

“Last Wednesday evening, June 11, I was blessed and honored to give the commencement address at Sing Sing Prison. The New York Theological Seminary offers a program of theological study leading to the degree of Masters of Professional Studies, with all courses taking place inside the walls of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. In twenty-six years this extraordinary and courageous seminary training program has graduated hundreds who then go on to ministry, both inside the prison system of New York and back in the community when their sentences are finished.”

“I have often told the story of the first time I visited this unusual and inspiring program at Sing Sing. My book, The Soul of Politics, was being read by the students as part of their seminary curriculum, and…

Here is the link to read the rest of this inspiring article.

Ever thought you might explore the possibility of starting a branch of your seminary in the local prison? There’s been a lot of good theology written behind bars over the years and centuries!

Think of the scores of students who might enrol in your courses on ‘Freedom and Hope’, ‘Liberation Theology’, ‘Free Worship’ and ‘The Prison Epistles’.

Dr Geoff Pound

Credit: Thanks to Jim Wallis for the posting of this snippet from his article.

Image: Jim Wallis, feeling very much at home (and with a prison haircut) in Sing Sing. No, this is a photo of Jim speaking at a Harvard forum. GP.

Baptizing Your Students in Different Cultures?

In reflecting on his journey as a theological teacher Paul Dekar writes about cross-cultural teaching and immersion experiences:

“We gained confidence that finding our truest self does not lead us away from the world, but to purposeful ways to love and serve God in the world. We struggled to relate to the global context.”

“I encouraged students to explore the wisdom that those who have lived in many places are not likely to be deceived by the local errors of one’s native village. Quoting an East African proverb, ‘One who has never traveled thinks mother is the only cook,’ I instituted cross-cultural learning experiences.”

“In late 1986 I facilitated an immersion course that became a staple of my teaching. At McMaster, I led groups to India, Bolivia, aboriginal communities in Ontario and Nunavut, and in Toronto with refugees. At Memphis Theological Seminary, I have continued to offer such courses, leading students in Cameroon, Trinidad, urban Memphis, and aboriginal communities in Oklahoma and Nunavut.” (68-69)

To read the entire article, follow this link:
Paul Dekar, ‘Teaching Evangelism in a Community of Learning’, Journal of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, Volume Twenty-Two, 2006-2007, 64-84.

From the Same Stream:
Paul Dekar, How Thomas Merton Shaped my Teaching, TWB

Variations on the Theme:
Paul Dekar said that, “finding our truest self does not lead us away from the world, but to purposeful ways to love and serve God in the world.”

Here are some stories on this theme:

Tim Russert on Vocation, Stories for Speakers and Writers (SFSAW)
Tim Russert on Lifting Others Up, SFSAW
Amnesty International’s Influence on J K Rowling, SFSAW
Muhammad Yunus on Changing the World, SFSAW
Muhammad Yunus on Poverty, SFSAW
Desmond Tutu: Peace by Ending Poverty, SFSAW
Martin Luther King Jnr on Work and Vocation, SFSAW
Benazir Bhutto on Why I Do What I Have to Do, SFSAW
Elie Wiesel on Indifference, SFSAW
Eugene Peterson on James Joyce and the Magic of the Ordinary, SFSAW
Kent Nerburn on the Value of Travel, SFSAW
Greg Mortensen: What Motivates me to do this? SFSAW
Edmund Hillary on His Most Worthwhile Things in Life, SFSAW
The Lesson of Three Cups of Tea: Greg Mortensen, SFSAW
Holy Earthiness: Henri Nouwen Meets Thomas Merton, SFSAW

Are you baptizing your students in different cultures and if so by a sprinkling or a total immersion?

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “that finding our truest self does not lead us away from the world, but to purposeful ways to love and serve God in the world.”

Crossing Borders of Language and Copyright

It was lovely to receive this note in one of the Comments received today:

Dear Dr. Pound,
I just wanted to thank you for the "theologians without borders" blog, and let you know that I've been sharing it widely with colleagues over here in the [United] states. Your series of posts on creative theological education is finding much resonance across a wide variety of institutions! THANK YOU.

The Note Continues…
Your recent post noting what the project is about in many languages made me hope that you might find this site useful.

It's a site many of us have been working on as a place for local churches and other pastoral leaders to publish religious resources that they've created that they're willing to share for free using Creative Commons licenses.

It's a wide open and free site, although it's also possible for groups to become a "group" on the site, and thus moderate the content that goes up under their name.

Currently you can navigate the site in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Korean, with French soon to be added. But we are more than happy to share the translation tables with other groups who might like to use the site in their own languages, if they're willing to do the translation of the localization table.

Anyway -- I hope you might find this a useful site to share!


The About Us page of the site gives this expanded explanation:

“We are a group of people who have come together to support the sharing of religious resources using Creative Commons licenses. For more information, please contact”

“Some of us first met at a World Council of Churches consultation on intellectual property, and others through two planning meetings that a foundation helped fund (one in St. Paul, Minnesota in January of 2006, and one in Sao Paulo, Brazil in April of 2006).”

“We are organized into working groups that anyone is free to join, including an administrative oversight group which is coordinated by Mary Hess. Most of us who started this project are members of Christian communities of faith, but we welcome participation from people of other faiths. If you speak a language that is not part of the navigation of this site, and would like to contribute a translation to make it possible to navigate in your language, please let us know.”

“More information about the site can also be found on our blog, and an older wiki site we used at the beginning.”

What creativity! Having made visits to Vietnam and China this year I became increasingly aware of the great need for theology books, biblical commentaries and ministry resources to be available in these languages.

Generous initiatives like this, which have the capacity to cut through borders and barriers of copyright, are to be applauded.

Delighted to be made aware of this resource! Thank you Mary!

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Feautor home page.

Implementing Problem Based Learning in Seminaries

I am greatly appreciative of some feedback that I don’t want to get buried in the Comments section of a recent posting.

Readers of this web site may recall an article by medico Alex Tang who has seen the value of problem based learning with medical students and he asked, “I wonder whether any seminary is using Problem Based Learning (PBL) as a pedagogy. I know medical education has been changed in a big way by PBL.”

ME has responded today with this comment:

“One of the best implementations of problem-based learning I've seen in theological education is "Into the New Testament" a problem-based tool for teaching exegetical skills.”

I note that this resource has been developed by Mary Hinkle Shore, associate professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary. Mary developed this online workbook for use in her classes. It is hosted and supported by her school at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.

This looks fantastic. Check it out. I’d love to hear from students and others who give this resource a go.

Thanks for the comment and thank you Mary for your creativity. So grateful!

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Into the New Testament.”

Relating Theology to Life

Missiologist Ross Langmead of Whitley College in Melbourne writes:

“We seek to set assignments that require students to relate theology to life.”

“For example, in the course Faith and the Environment, students have to research a specific environmental issue and ask what difference, if any, it makes to think or act Christianly on it.”

“In the course, ‘Interfaith Dialogue’, students not only go out to temples and mosques; they have to interview a believer in another faith. For many students this is the first time they’ve spoken in depth to a Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist.”

“In the course, ‘Reconciliation’, students are required to design a project that builds peace or reconciliation and prepare a proposal for their church or agency to that effect.”

“In the course, New Missional Communities, students have to dream up and develop a proposal for an ‘emerging church’ for a specific sub-cultural group.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “That builds…reconciliation.”

Creative Mission Exposure and Assessment

Louise Kretzschmar, Systematic Theology and Ethics Professor at UNISA, the largest university in South Africa and one of the largest distance education institutions in the world, offers these ideas on assessment and other aspects of theological education:

* Instead of using only essays (within Distance education or residential education) as a means of assessment, using projects and portfolios. The latter is a type of journal that the student keeps with answers to questions posed in the study material, encounters with others encouraged by the material etc. A colleague, Madge Karecki, in teaching an inter-faith course, got her students to meet with a person from another faith, go to the mosque with them, have a meal with their family and then write up their experiences and discussions after each encounter.

* I also share part of my life story with the students (e.g. in an "Ethics and spirituality" course) and encourage them to write their own stories and link it with the teaching material.

* At UNISA I include pictures and other graphic material as well as many stories and "activities" that encourage interaction with the material (This is important especially for distance education).

* I think that actual encounters with people from other faiths or cultures or classes, etc. are essential.

* Also it is valuable for students to visit another college of a different religious tradition where they can attend each other's classes, play some sport together and then have a meal and conversation.

* Visiting churches and projects may also be better than just inviting speakers; students need to be exposed to different contexts and ministries.

* Spiritual formation is an essential part of theological education. Jill Manton in Melbourne has been doing this in the establishment of the WellSpring Centre, a church-based centre that offers students (and others) a space and place to explore their faith in addition to undertaking college courses on spirituality.

* At the Soweto College we also had an annual week long Winter School of Theology attended by students, lecturers, denominational leaders, pastors, church members, and international visitors (including students)—this was a dynamic mix.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “…go to the mosque with them.”

Louise Kretzschmar, Creative Learning in the Field

Theologians Without Borders: Overview in Many Languages

Theologians Without Borders (English)

Teólogos Sin Fronteras (Spanish)

Théologiens Sans Frontières (French)

Theologen Ohne Grenzen (German)

Teologi Senza Frontiere (Italian)

Teólogos Sem Fronteiras (Portuguese)

Ang mga Dalubhasa sa Salita ng Diyos na Walang Hangganan (Tagalog-Filipino)

Ahli Teologi Tanpa Sempadan (Malay Bahasa)

More Translations Needed
There are more translations coming.

If your language is not represented here do let me know and I can send you the English statement for you to translate, unless someone else has already started this task.

Crossing borders of language.

Dr Geoff Pound

Images: Some flags of the world.

Theologians Without Borders: Overview in English

Theologians Without Borders (TWB) is a ministry of the Baptist World Alliance that brings together seminaries that need short-term teachers and conventions that need preachers with people who are equipped and available to serve.

While it has commenced among Baptists it is not exclusively a Baptist venture. Already expressions of interest and requests for help have come from people and seminaries representing different branches of the church.

Vision Emerging
The vision emerged out of my experience when I commenced in early 2006 as a volunteer seminary teacher and conference speaker. When my availability became known I not only received more requests than I could handle but many opportunities were in areas that were not my primary expertise. As we talked, we envisaged a flexible coordination group that could act as a clearing house for requests, various ways we could sound the Macedonian call, ‘Come over and Help Us!’, a matchmaking service that could bring together people with the right skill and theological shade and a resource centre that prepares both teachers and the institutions that will receive them.

Who is Needed?
The word ‘theologians’ is used broadly to refer not only to those who teach theology in a seminary but to capable pastors and lay people who have training and expertise in teaching about God, the Bible and a broad range of Christian ministries. Many of the requests are coming from places where they are desperate for the training so a basic degree is often fine not necessarily second or third theology degrees.

Mutual Encouragement
Theologians Without Borders is based on the biblical concept of partnership by which we experience mutual encouragement. Teachers who teach at a seminary for a week or a month or preachers who speak at a Pastor’s Conference generally come at their own expense or are supported by their seminary, convention or local church. The onus is on the receiving partner to meet the costs of food and accommodation.

Small Beginnings
Theologians Without Borders has commenced in a small way so as not to raise expectations unnecessarily. Requests for assistance have come from many countries including Nepal, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Bolivia and Sierra Leone. Many of the requests come from regions that are not sympathetic to the Christian faith so the publishing of full details on the web site is unwise.

Range of Requests & Gifts Needed
The requests are often broad e.g. ‘We could do with a teacher’ or ‘We want someone with financial skills to help us sort out our accounts’ or ‘Can someone sit with us and help us to come up with an appropriate strategy for training church leaders in our state or country?’ It is often easier to respond to needs that are specific e.g. ‘We would like a preacher or teacher to give some Old Testament studies at our annual Pastor’s Conference’ or ‘Please give a series of Regional Church Seminars (at these dates) on the subject of Conflict Resolution in the Church.’

Express an Interest
Gradually the news about TWB is getting out but so far expressions of interest to help have come from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and England. These ‘theologians without borders’ have included seminary teachers, retired teachers and pastors, capable graduate students, pastors of churches, lay people and husband and wife combinations. Use the ‘expression of interest’ template (without making a definite commitment) to let us know of your thoughts, gifts and expertise.

It is heartening to see some seminaries actively encouraging their teachers to build a regular international teaching and preaching stint into their job description over a two to five year period. There is great scope for teachers to visit with students (and pastors with their church members) thus making it a valuable team teaching experience. This offers rich opportunities (hopefully with seminary credit) for theological reflection and intercultural mission exposure.

Creative Giving
Some teachers and preachers have the skill and the time to serve but not the money, so other people and churches can sponsor others by paying an airfare or gifting some Air Miles.

Some Baptist members are asking, before they go touring in a certain country, “Is there any way we might volunteer our time and services?” Why not combine Christian ministry with tourism?

Subscribe to the Postings
A Theologians Without Borders web site has been established listing testimonies of people who have served, some current requests and a form through which people can make an ‘expression of interest.’ Use the ‘subscribe in a reader’ button to get free, regular postings from this site sent to your computer.

Spread the Word
Please help us spread the word about TWB by promoting the ministry in seminaries, conventions and churches, or linking to the TWB website.

Dr Geoff Pound
Chair, Coordinating Committee
Theologians Without Borders

Image: TWB web site

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Integrating Theology with Mission

Further on the theme of integration, Ross Langmead of Whitley College writes about learning that seeks to integrate the theological disciplines with mission practice:

“We have a unit designed for the concluding year of a theology degree, called Integrating Theological Study. It invites students to search for an integrating metaphor or image and explore what study has meant for them and where it might lead them. It allows for assignments in the form of art and music, combined with theological reflection.”

Follow the above link to check out details of this unit from the Whitley College web site.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Images: An udderly down to earth integrating metaphor for rural mission in Australia with opportunity for local field work and possessing an international dimension.

Here is a related integrating metaphor that needs to be kept in mind with many activities which lack a theology but yet happen in the name of ‘mission’.

Holistic Theological Education the Goal in Malaysia

Thomas Chin at MBTS says:
“Theological education must be more than the academic in a seminary context. We have for many years tried to approach theological education holistically. That means there is formation not just of the head, but of the heart and hands. We try to bring spiritual disciplines into the curriculum, including the mentoring of students and practical elements.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “Formation not just of the head, but of the heart and hands.”

Integrative Theological Education at Carey Baptist College

Carey Baptist College in Auckland, New Zealand has introduced a 'thematic integrative seminar' which is a compulsory capstone course in their BAppTheol. (Laurie Guy).

Myk Habets elaborates:
“The most creative thing we do is the Thematic Integrative Seminar. The brainchild of Paul Windsor, it is now in its 5th year. Final year students of the Bachelor of Applied Theology have to do this.”

“It starts with a two day seminar and ends with a two day seminar. In the first seminar, four of us on staff teach the method then model it. We take a theme (song lyric, advertising, contemporary slavery, etc – a feature of our contemporary society) and we go From – through – To. From a contextual engagement with the ‘text’ (sociology or anthropology or psychology or philosophy or...) then Through a biblical and theological engagement with it (Biblical: creation-fall-redemption-renewal or a dramatic five act play approach, Theological: taking one of the –ologies and interrogating the text for meaning), then To: looking for missional implications.”

“In the second two day seminar at the end of the course students present for ten minutes a creative approach to their missional outcomes. The closest thing we can find to what we are doing is Vanhoozer’s book, Everyday Theology. But we find this book (our new text for the course) is weak on the missional ‘To’ but strong on the contextual ‘From’.”

“This Integrative Seminar is taught and marked by four faculty (biblical, theological and applied) and models the qualities of research and discipleship we try to inculcate in our students. I think it is quite unique, innovative, and works really well!”

“Students are required to read Vanhoozer’s book, read two essays from students of previous years, submit a 6000 word research essay (From – through – To), give a ten minute presentation to class and finally interact with the work of others in an appreciatively critical way. All essays are double marked by two of the four faculty involved.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “The closest thing we can find to what we are doing is Vanhoozer’s book.”

Further Creative Assessment Ideas

Contagious Creativity
Ask most people to share a joke and they’ll find it hard to dredge one from their mind. But once one person tells a humorous story it is amazing how it triggers the mind so that the jokes and funny yarns flow.

Creativity is like humor and telling jokes—so contagious! I mentioned earlier at the start of this creativity series the effect upon me when I emailed scores of theological educators asking, “What creative things are happening in your world of theological education?” The barrage of responses was encouraging, even exhilarating and they got my creative juices flowing.

Share Your Creative Ideas
If any of these articles have helped you to identify something creative going on in your world of theological education, do jot it down and fire it to me for posting. It just might be helpful to others.

Fresh Assessment Ideas
Anthony Petterson shared earlier about an experiment: Learning and Assessment by Journal Writing.

Tim Bulkeley wrote comprehensively about the creative idea to get his students Performing the [OT] Text.

Rowland Croucher offers these ideas on the assessment theme:
* The DMin students I taught at Fuller Seminary were excited by the idea of writing a chapter for publication in a devotional book (in the Still Waters Deep Waters series) as part of their class-work. Their efforts were not simply to collect dust somewhere but provide spiritual nurture to many others.

* My own DMin dissertation was published as a book, together with a kit comprising DVDs, discussion questions etc.

* A Presbyterian theological student in Melbourne uses his acquired learning to edit Wikipedia articles on the topics he's studying. He's worked on about 20+ articles already.

* Others engage with people on Usenet newsgroups (see, blogs, etc.

Spark any thoughts in your mind?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Write or edit an article for Wikipedia—now there’s a good idea.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Creative Partnerships

Mention was made earlier about the Denmark experience that led to some creative bridge-building in theological education.

Here are two further examples of seminaries forging strategic partnerships:

Thomas Chin at MBTS says:
“Partnering with different schools and organizations has given us a huge advantage. Our partnership with Compassion International has made us a leading school in child education.”

“Our partnership with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (USA) enables us to offer credible PhD programs in different disciplines.”

“Our partnership with various mission agencies enables us to have a very strong mission program.”

Michael Hagan, President and Professor of Hebrew Bible at Sioux Falls Seminary says:

“First, we have found a way through shared agreements to find a way to economize our ministry with the help of an ABC college and an ELCA college a few blocks from us. We now share some degrees with one of them, and have found a sharing of services to be helpful to the other. Our comptroller left and we moved the business responsibilities to the business office of Augustana College for one-third of the cost. When our IT person left, we opened an agreement for IT service for the cost of the salary (with 11 people helping us instead of one). When Augustana’s staff psychologists retired, we took over their campus’s counseling needs for a cost savings to them. In fact, we are moving to a new facility near their campus and will merge our theological collection into their library which is across the street and will use their chapel space for our chapels, saving costs in our building project. We are building classrooms that they can use and planning to use classrooms they are not using because they are too small (just right for us).”

“Regarding motivation, economic necessity has led us to some extremely creative thinking. I believe that small to medium size seminaries now and in the future will need to find creative ways to continue to meet the needs of the church by their ministries. Now we are stronger and getting stronger with finding ways to economize.”

“Second, we are moving to an educational approach that we call “contextual learning.” Instead of the classroom providing the hub of learning, ministry contexts become the focus. Some courses are in residence, some independent, some mentored, some through internet connection, etc. We are in the process of curricular changes so that the ministry context (whatever and wherever) provides the locus of learning. We have had to educate mentors, churches and ministry sites, students, and faculty to embrace a paradigm shift in how we achieve the competencies and outcomes we desire in our graduates. In addition, this model shifts to a lifelong learning emphasis that is most helpful for long term health in ministry. We are still in process, but it has opened new doors for meeting the needs of today’s church.”

“This second creative change came about by the realities of church needs. If less and less students are willing to leave their regions or local church ministries, coupled with reticence on the part of churches to support seminaries that only seem to wish the support to support their own agenda(s), then we need to find creative ways to equip future ministers given the current and not the past needs. We still exist only to serve the church. But we need to listen to them.”

Mike Hagen adds this comment: “One of the shortcomings with seminary education remains how little ministry practice students receive. Supervision and/or internships are either too little or not integrated into the whole learning experience. We are attempting to integrate. A by-product is that many underserved churches by partnering with us have a chance to have a pastor and pay for their education with faculty and mentors walking with them.”

This is a work in progress. Watch this space of check the President’s blog where occasionally write about it.

About the future Mike says: “Even faculty portfolios will look different. We believe we cannot add a ‘program on to what we are doing; instead, we need to rethink the whole enterprise and we are several years into the redesign. Bits are in place. In other words, lest I be misunderstood, we are changing so that the whole learning enterprise will look different.”

What has been your experience of developing partnerships with other seminaries or agencies?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: President Michael Hagen

Learning and Degree Credit from Conferences

If you have lived in cities like Melbourne you will know how there are Christian conferences scheduled every weekend and the promotional pressure is high. One can easily get conferencitis and feel seminared out.

Theological students often want to attend the good conferences and seminars but there is always the pressure of fulfilling their theological course work versus attending a conference.

A solution, at least where the conferences are good quality?

Ross Langmead from Whitley College Melbourne has the answer:
“We accredit all sorts of ‘outside teaching events’ by asking students to attend and then ‘top up’ with further reading, perhaps a tutorial or two, and some assignments.”

To see how Ross and others at Whitley do this, he has given these examples: the units Conference Study in Theology (built around a conference), Exposure to Cross-cultural Mission (built around a short-term mission trip), Context Training (built around a GiA intensive week), and three intensives built around intensives run by the Forge Missional Training Network (emerging church movement).

Click on the links to see more detail on the ‘top up’ requirements.

Students probably would not be able to do an entire degree of conferences and ‘top ups’ but this is a good way of combining different training approaches.

Any other place doing this or something similar?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Conference speaker making her point with a long, sharp stick. Theme: Reaching the Whole Man with the Gospel.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Problem Based Learning in Seminaries

Alex Tang, (see his photo at this link) doctor and theologian from Johor Bahru in Malaysia, has sent these thoughts and question:

I was reading and thinking through some of your postings in creativity in theological education on your blog, Theologians Without Borders. I wonder whether any seminary is using Problem based learning (PBL) as a pedagogy. I know medical education has been changed in a big way by PBL.

When I asked Alex to elaborate on this approach, he directed me to an article (21 January 2007) on his Random Musings from a Doctor’s Chair site, which I have reposted (with thanks) on this site. Alex writes:

Attended a two days problem based learning (PBL) workshop organised by Monash University School of Medicine in Malaysia.

Problem based learning is a new way of teaching medicine which involved a paradigm shift in thinking about medical education. The traditional way of teaching medicine involves the first two years of classroom based lectures on basic medical sciences (preclinical) and then three years of rotations in the wards of the various medical disciplines (clinical). Problem based learning curriculum integrates all learning so that instead of dividing the curriculum into preclinical and clinical, it integrates the preclinical and clinical together.

What is innovative is that instead of approaching medical education from the basic sciences, PBL approaches from a set of clinical problems. This is more akin to the real world when the new doctors face patients who come to see them with a set of problems rather than medical science issues. That the ultraconservative medical education did reinvent itself is very impressive and worth noting.

The basis of this change is because of new development in adult learning theories. In essence it was found that adult learning was found to be:

(1) independent and self directing
(2) accumulated experience- a rich resource for learning
(3) learning by integrating with demands of everyday life
(4) interested in immediate, problem centered approaches more than subject centered ones
(5) motivated to learn by internal drives, rather than external ones

I wonder whether problem based learning can be implemented in the Christian education and the pulpit ministry of our churches. In a sense problem based learning is not something new to the Bible and church traditions. Most of the New Testament and church doctrines were written because of problems created by the Judiazers, agnostics, syncretism in churches, Marcion and others. Problems were what stimulated discussions and the formulation of the gospels, epistles and church creeds.

In one sense, Christian education is still preclinical and clinical (systematic theology/propositions). Yet, all Christians struggle with how to live a Christian life in un-Christian/post Christian, multicultural, pluralistic society. Would it not make sense to approach church teaching through problems (how to do business in a culture where bribery is considered normal, how to be good parents, how not to be a consumer driven church) rather than through propositions (what is the Trinity, what is the importance of the cross, what is a church)?

I am not saying that propositions are not important but that it is the way we teach them so that the teaching be relevant to the learners. One of my observations is that many Christians are discouraged because they find what is preached and taught in churches are not relevant to their lives. Seminary graduates enter church ministries with "the right answers, but to the wrong questions."

I believe that theological institutions and churches need to consider a paradigm shift in their education strategies and one of the possibilities is to adopt a problem based approach.

It is good to catch a glimpse of changing educational practice from another sphere. From what Alex writes, it seems that learning by the case study method and Supervised Field Education (SFE) or what is now called Supervised Theological Field Education (STFE), is probably closest to the PBL method.

STFE begins with a pastoral encounter (or problem) and proceeds in the way of theological reflection and practice. It is being used extensively around the world and students often say that it is the most integrating subject that they do in their seminary education.

STFE is described in this Resource Manual, written by my friend and former colleague, Colin Hunter, who is one of the leaders in this discipline.

In a Comment on Alex’s blog Alwyn catches the possibilities of a new way of education in the church and seminaries when he writes enthusiastically:

“Excellent! I REALLY think our 'normal' ways of conducting bible-study, cell-groups, (sermons?), could do with a huge dose of PBL-ism...the church is waaaaaay too 'passive' in our education methods, don'tcha think? It's all absorb absorb absorb, whilst all around us the world is innovating in so many learning areas.”

Thanks to Alex for sharing these insights. Do keep on posting your Comments.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Medical students and teacher engaging in Problem Based Learning. (Courtesy of Alex Tang).

Learning and Assessment by Journal Writing

While talking about the creativity that can come by experimentation, here is another approach to learning that is being trialled.

Anthony Petterson, who teaches Old Testament at Morling College, Sydney shares an idea about teaching Old Testament which could be applied to any discipline:

One minor thing I am trialling with a colleague this year is having students keep a journal of their OT reading. I have found in my brief experience that students studying the Old Testament read what scholars have to say about the OT, but never get to reading it for themselves. Here is a sample extract from our course outline:

b) A reading journal of Genesis – 2 Kings 14 (15%)
The primary purpose of this exercise is for you to read carefully the text of the Old Testament so that you might develop an understanding of the structure and main themes of the individual books.

This assessment will be submitted in two parts. The first part will cover the books of the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy). The second part will cover the books of Joshua to 2 Kings 14. The reason for submitting in two parts is so that you can receive back your journal notes on the Pentateuch to prepare for the final exam (in which there will be a question based on your work here – see above).

As you read, you will need to determine the main themes of each book (Genesis – 1 Kings). This is best done chapter by chapter or section by section with a sentence or two that summarises the content and/or theme(s) of each section. After finishing the book, try to outline the main structure of the book (in broad terms) and summarise its main themes in a couple of paragraphs. You are only expected to engage with the text of the Old Testament itself, and will be marked on this. However, you may choose to supplement your journal with notes from the set texts, commentaries and the class notes.

You can present this assignment in either two exercise books (one for each part of the assignment), or hand-written A4 pages bound in two parts, or in typed form bound in two parts. The marker will be looking mainly for a demonstration that the text of the Old Testament has been carefully read.

You would do well to draw up a reading plan for yourself to ensure that you allow adequate time to read the text before the assignment is due. Note the due dates:

Part A (Genesis to Deuteronomy) 10th April, 2008 (week 8)
Part B (Joshua to 2 Kings 14) 5th June, 2008 (week 13)

Got an experiment that you are working on? Even one that you tried and it failed?

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: “…having students keep a journal of their OT reading.”