About the Conversation

The Process

on October 5, 2011 , Print

Throughout this project, we asked three fundamental questions that addressed the heart of theological education:

  1. What is God doing in the world?
  2. What do churches, and Christ's church worldwide, need to become to join God's mission in the world?
  3. What do seminaries need to become to equip the church to join God's mission in the world?

In one sense, the answers to these questions, especially the first, are timeless. God is at work in the world, which was created through Christ, reconciling it to himself. In another sense, each of these questions, including the first, needs to be asked anew in every generation and in every cultural setting where Christ is building his church.

We convened a series of focused group conversations that address these issues and more, asking each group to reflect in an open-ended way upon our three fundamental questions and to envision productive futures for theological education. Among the groups we convened are experts in Black Christianity, leaders from communities shaped by the immigrant experience, artists and professionals from the media and entertainment world, leaders of churches that are distancing themselves from traditional seminaries, and practitioners and observers of emerging theological and ecclesiological innovation.

Fuller Theological Seminary believes this is an important moment for Fuller, and for other institutions of theological education, to be asking these questions afresh:

  • Global Christianity is undergoing an epochal shift, with tens of millions of new believers joining the faith in countries that had no Christian witness a century ago.
  • Christianity in North America is increasingly ethnically diverse, flourishing among immigrant communities and among minority cultures.
  • Christians from the dominant culture anticipate moving from majority to plurality status and are reconsidering the shape of ministry in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
  • Many flourishing churches, from the tiny to the immense, are questioning whether traditional, seminary-based theological education develops the leaders they need.
  • At the same time, increasing numbers of Christians of every age are seeking out theological education even though they do not sense a call to ordained ministry.
  • A renewed sense of Christian cultural vocation has sparked desire for theological formation even among those who have been trained in professional schools and disciplines like the arts, even as paradigms of leadership from other professions and disciplines compete with traditional understandings of pastoral ministry.

We hope that the result of this year-long project will be deepened relationships, new thinking, kindled imaginations, and hope for the futures of theological education, grounded in our ultimate hope, the mission of God in the world he created, loves, and seeks to save.