Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
In this Issue Fellowship winners | 3
Money & Faith | 8
Alumni awards | 22
Giving through your will is an expression of faith. A will can ensure that your faithful stewardship of God’s gifts continues after your lifetime. A charitable bequest is one of the easiest gifts to make. With the help of an advisor, you can include language in your will specifying a gift to be made to family, friends, your church, or Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary as part of your estate plan.
For more information, contact Lisa Holleran at 512-404-4803 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGI C AL
spring 2014 President
Theodore J. Wardlaw
Money & Faith 8 God’s extravagant economy
Board of Trustees
Thomas L. Are Jr., Chair Karen C. Anderson Claudia Carroll Elizabeth Christian Joseph J. Clifford James G. Cooper Marvin L. Cooper James B. Crawley Katherine Cummings (MDiv’05) Consuelo Donahue (MDiv’96) Jackson Farrow Jr. G. Archer Frierson II Richard D. Gillham Walter Harris Jr. John Hartman Rhashell Hunter Roy M. Kim James H. Lee (MDiv’00) Michael L. Lindvall Jennifer L. Lord Lyndon L. Olson Jr. B. W. Payne David Peeples Jeffrey Kyle Richard Lana Russell James C. Shaw Lita Simpson Anne Vickery Stevenson Karl Brian Travis John L. Van Osdall Sallie Sampsell Watson (MDiv’87) Carlton Wilde Jr. Elizabeth Currie Williams Hugh Williamson III
Volume 129 | Number 2
Money, Christian materialism, and gifts By David Hadley Jensen
Blest be the ties that bind
Tackling the last taboo
By Melissa Wiginton
An open letter to our grandchildren
By Karl Travis
By Bill Cotman
By Mary Lois and Sloan Leonard & departments
seminary & church
twenty-seventh & speedway
live & learn
Trustees Emeriti Stephen A. Matthews John McCoy (MDiv’63) Max Sherman Louis Zbinden
faculty news & notes
alumni news & notes
teaching & ministry
Leanne Thompson (MDiv’06), President Dieter Heinzl (MDiv’98), Vice President Karen Greif (MDiv’92, DMin’06), Secretary Valerie Bridgeman (MDiv’90), Past President Barrett Abernethy (MDiv’13) Andy Blair (MDiv’89) Timothy Blodgett (MDiv’07) Jeff Cranton (MDiv’99) Ann Herlin (MDiv’01) Sandra Kern (MDiv’93) Andrew Parnell (MDiv’05) Matt Miles (MDiv’99) Tamara Strehli (MDiv’05) Kristy Vits (MDiv’98) Michael Waschevski (DMin’03)
Windows is published three times each year by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Editor Randal Whittington
Jeannine Caracciollo Lemuel García-Arroyo Gary Mathews Kristy Sorensen Adam Sweeney Melissa Wiginton
Austin Seminary Windows Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary 100 E. 27th St. Austin, TX 78705-5711 phone: 512-404-4808 e-mail: email@example.com fax: 512-479-0738 austinseminary.edu ISSN 2056-0556; Non-profit bulk mail permit no. 2473
from the president |
President’s Schedule April 3 - Evening with the President, Houston May 11 - Preach, First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York June 14-21 - Participant, the 221 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Detroit June 16 - Host, Austin Seminary reception at GA June 18 - Host, Austin Seminary luncheon at GA August 17 - Preach, St. James Presbyterian Church, Jenks, Oklahoma September 21 - Preach, Idlewild Presbyterian Church, Memphis
mong the hardest words in Scripture, at least for me, are these words of Jesus: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21, NRSV). These are troubling words for us, especially given that we are (a) Americans, (b) members of the wealthiest generation in American history, (c) likely to be—at least some of us—in the top 1%, and (d) likelier to be Presbyterian—now the wealthiest Christian communion, in terms of per capita income, in the country. How does our heart line up with our treasure, and how does our treasure line up with our heart? Sometimes such questions keep us up at night. There is, after all, a profound relationship between money and faith, and there should be. This issue of Windows explores this relationship in an intriguing and even delightful way. Professor David Jensen, newly installed into the Frierson Chair of Reformed Theology (read about that, by the way, on page 20), encourages a sacramental model for understanding our financial giftedness. “The God who meets us in Jesus Christ,” he reminds us, “meets us at a table where gifts keep on giving.” The Reverend Karl Travis, a trustee here and the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, helps us with a generational analysis that reveals markedly different attitudes toward money, depending on what age we are. The Reverend Bill Cotman, an alumnus, reflects on both the blessings and challenges confronting a congregation uncommonly gifted with financial resources. Melissa Wiginton, vice-president for Education Beyond the Walls, reminds us of the taboo of talking about money in church and points us beyond that taboo and toward transformational intentionality. Two generous donors, Sloan and Mary Lois Leonard of Dallas, share an inspiring letter to their grandchildren that testifies to their reasons for supporting the Seminary. Read what follows, for in each of these articles, the thing under faithful investigation is that challenging relationship between your treasure and your heart. Do not overlook the news of graduate fellowship winners, distinguished alumni awardees, Professor Whit Bodman’s suggestion for a good read, the recap of the 2014 MidWinters, and Professor Gregory Cuellar’s reflection upon the meditative discipline of walking from his bus stop to his office—a journey that is obviously longer and more profound that it might appear to be at first blush. Something about his account sent me to words uttered by Professor Kimberly Patton at last year’s commencement at Harvard Divinity School. She urged her audience “not to fear the unruly flood of life as it is lived, often so different from life as it is planned … For [to do so] is to try to exempt oneself from being acted upon by the forces that so urgently carry us all, not toward safety but most surely toward salvation.”
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Faithfully yours, Theodore J. Wardlaw President
Fellowships given to outstanding senior students
much-anticipated event each year during the ASA Banquet is the announcement of senior fellowships. These awards recognize prospective graduates for their outstanding academic achievement, Christian character, and promise for ministry. Recipients for 2014 were Jill Boyd and David Boyd, members of St. Mark Presbyterian Church in Ballwin, Missouri, Charlie Shin, a member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Austin, and Layton WIlliams, a member of Central Presbyterian Church, Austin.
Jill Boyd David L. Stitt Fellowship $16,000
Jill Boyd graduated from Alma College and earned a master of social work degree from Washington University. She says she feels called to work with older adults and has served in nursing homes and volunteer ministries with the elderly. Jill is a Jean Brown Fellow, serves on the LIQRE Committee (Library, Information Quality, and Research Enhancement), was a middler senator and coordinator of the Care Commission. She has served as an instructional aide in biblical Hebrew and is pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“Jill’s work is careful, honest, thorough, creative, and even profound. She seems to be good at everything, from Greek, to history, to theology, to ethics, to life in the church, to life in the kingdom. She is a wonderful academic and an even better person.”
“David is rock-solid in so many ways. He would sit in meetings and ask great, pointed questions about what was going on in the discussion, but also offer specific suggestions. He was so competent and had a leadership voice ... He brought the business acumen that he had to ministry.” The Rev. Rick Carroll (MDiv’04) Supervising Pastor, Genesis Presbyterian Church, Austin
David Boyd W. P. Newell Memorial Fellowship $3,000
David Boyd graduated from Grinnell College and earned an MBA from Washington University, St. Louis. Before coming to seminary, he worked for many years in executive leadership for a specialty food wholesaler. He is a Jean Jill and David Boyd Brown Scholar, was a junior senator, he served on the Admissions Commission and the LIQRE committee, and he served as an instructional aide for Professor Gregory Cuéllar. He is pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Professor Lewis Donelson Spring 2014 | 3
“Charlie is a scholar, theologian, wife, and mother who graciously asks the ‘wicked questions’ embedded in Scripture and our lives, without jeopardizing the pastoral trust afforded her by the congregation.”
James Lee (MDiv’00) Supervising pastor, New Covenant Fellowship, Austin
Charlie Shin Janie Maxwell Morris Fellowship $4,000 Academic Dean Allan Cole with Layton Williams
Charlie holds a bachelor of science from The University of Texas at Austin and worked as an engineer in the semiconductor industry before coming to seminary. During the economic downturn, a mission trip to Nicaragua prompted Charlie to ask questions that would lead her to leave the security of her career and pursue a life of service to God. She has gifts for communication and conflict resolution and wants to work in the Korean-American cultural context and the corporate environment to improve relationships and productivity. While in seminary Charlie served on the President’s Commission on Diversity. She is pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Layton Williams Pile-Morgan Fellowship $8,000
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Layton Williams served on an Americorps team in Austin, teaching disadvantaged high school students. Subsequently, she engaged in teaching and development work for two nonprofit organizations. Layton is particularly passionate about work with youth because of her own positive experiences growing up in a nurturing church environment. She is a Crawley Family Fellow, was a junior senator, served two years as editor of Kairos, the Seminary’s student publication, and served on the Worship Committee. She has also been an instructional aide. Layton is pursuing ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“Layton presents as an old soul in a young body. She not only arrived in Philly with a wealth of experience but also a gut instinct for clear theological thinking— especially around youth, social justice, and ecclesiology. Yes, a rare mix of gifts and passions. She is focused when that is needed, a dreamer when vision is lacking, and a prophet always. It was an honor to work with her and her light sparkles long after she’s left.” Charlie Shin and daughter Yejae 4 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Erica Funk Intern supervisor at Broad Street Ministry, Philadelphia
African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie preached for the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service on February 18. As has become a tradition, the Huston-Tillotson University Choir of Austin provided music for worship.
Sixteen Certificate in Ministry students participated in the first on-campus weekend of the blended course, Worship and Preaching, taught by Professor Kristin Saldine.
The inaugural Frierson Distinguished Scholars Conference, March 20-22, brought theologians from New Zealand, the Netherlands, Zambia, South Korea, Germany, and the U.S. The topic for discussion was “Always Being Reformed: Challenges, Issues, and Prospects for Reformed Theologies Today.” Photo by Brenda Osbon
Seminary life isn’t all about exegeting scripture and writing sermons. Students bring the glam to a red-carpet Oscar party.
From left: Junior students Brianna Benzinger, Jarell Wilson, Amanda Mackey, John-Paul Marshall, and Randi Havlak.
Spring 2014 | 5
New Testament writer and Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright packed the house for a discussion with Professor Lewis Donelson on March 18. Wright was on a book tour for his new volume, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. His book Surprised by Hope was the featured Austin Seminary Book Club book in March. Read about our book club here: AustinSeminary.edu/bookclub
The African-American and Hispanic Student Groups combined forces to present a new lectures series titled, “Hesed.” The first event brought Michael Davis and Eddie Bocanegra, featured in “The Interruptors,” a documentary film about stopping inner-city violence. Other presenters for the evening included the Austin Police Department chaplain, students, and Professors Gregory Cuéllar and Asante Todd.
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upcoming from education beyond the walls Writing in the Margins | May 11-14, 2014| led by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author
of The Worshipping Life: Meditations on the Order of Worship and Writing in the Margins: Connecting to God on the Pages of Your Bible. | This retreat will offer an opportunity to connect with God on the pages of your Bible to see where God’s word meets your world. We will engage in the practices of scriptural discipline, explore the lives of other margin writers, and consider how our leadership might just be shaped in the margins of the Bible. | For women pastors who have been in the practice of ministry for five years or longer.| Cost: $375 (housing and meals included)
The College of Pastoral Leaders at Austin Seminary
The Power and Practice of Personal Storytelling| October 6-8, 2014 led by Mark Yaconelli | Discover how the story of your life connects with God’s story and learn ways to lead other people toward the same discovery. | For pastors, educators, people in leadership roles| Cost: $375 (housing and meals included); $200 commuters (meals included) Preparing for Advent| October 10, 2014 | led by Dr. Suzie Park and Rev. Jack Barden Spend an afternoon digging into the lectionary texts for the season with seminary faculty and fellow preachers and worship leaders.| For preachers and church leaders | Cost: $35
Finishing with Vitality| October 13-14, 2014| led by Rev. David Rich| Think through
the process of ending full-time ministry and plan for retirement in a constructive, forwardthinking way.| For congregational pastors who anticipate retiring within the next five years| $150 (includes housing); $125 (commuters)
Links, Likes, and Follows: Spirituality in the Smartphone Age| October 21-22| led by the Reverend MaryAnn McKibben Dana| The author of Sabbath in the Suburbs will help participants in their work to assist congregations to engage with technology in faithful, life-giving ways. register for all events at AustinSeminary.edu/EBW
Photo by John Leedy (MDiv’11), Stone Rings Cohort, Ghost Ranch
More than of College of Pastoral Leaders cohort members said their peer groups made them better listeners, were , gave them new for ministry, and stretched them in many ways.
May 15, 2014 austinseminary. edu/CPL Sixty participants at the EBW event “Being Methodist” in November ended the day—in good Wesleyan tradition—with “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” led by the Reverend Barbara Day Miller.
Spring 2014 | 7
â€œBread Linesâ€? by Julie Lonneman, courtesy of Trinity Stores, www.trinitystores.com
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Economy M Money, Christian materialism, and gifts By David H. Jensen
oney matters. Our checkbooks reveal much about our values and what we value. Yet the messages we hear about money in the Christian church are sometimes conflicted. We can feel ashamed about money at the same time that we give; we can desire money and at the same time be suspicious of that desire. As a result, we often avoid talking about money in church, except during stewardship season! The messages about money in American consumer society are even more confusing. Money is good. More money is better. Whatever you have is never enough. Church and culture offer different messages about money, messages that often boil down to a simple contrast: consumer culture is materialistic because it values money too much; the Christian church is spiritual because it values things other than money. We should thus give to the church, seminaries, and other wor-
Dr. David Hadley Jensen is professor in the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Chair in Reformed Theology. He is the author of a number of books including, Flourishing Desire: A Theology of Human Sexuality (Westminster John Knox, 2012), and Parenting (Fortress Press, 2011). He also editor a book series, “Compass,” (Fortress Press) that encourages theological reflection on everyday practices such as eating, shopping, playing, and working. Spring 2014 | 9
thy causes to show that we are not attached to our money and more enchanted by spiritual things. We ought to give away some of what we have (and invariably have less), in order that someone else has more. Giving, in this regard, becomes a zero-sum game. These assumptions about money and giving, however, are problematic, especially in light of a central Christian practice of giving and receiving: the Lord’s Supper. At this Table, we might begin to understand money, materialism, and giving a bit differently. American consumer society is materialistic, since it encourages the rapid acquisition and consumption of material goods: the more we have, the better. The Lord’s Supper is also materialistic, but in a different sense: this meal reminds us that God embraces, blesses, and assumes the material as a means of encounter with God’s very self, in bread and wine that are the body and blood of Christ given for the world. At this table, we see that spiritual things are material things: the risen Christ meets us in a basic food that provides nourishment and a drink that connotes festivity and passion. At this table, food and drink allow us to live, enable us to enjoy life, and offer a foretaste of life eternal. Christian faith routinely blesses the physical: a bath that represents the promise of a new birth at baptism, an imperfect band of people who gather together each week around Word and Sacrament, a Savior who comes in the flesh. Whereas consumerism encourages us to accumulate and use as much as possible, Christian materialism teaches us to preserve and value the material as claimed and blessed by God. Christian faith’s embrace of the material offers one clue for how we should value money: for the matter and labor it represents. We risk misusing money when we abstract it from the material, when we consider only an investment’s yield, when accumulating money becomes the sole aim. Money has value because we choose to give it value. Money began, after all, as a symbol for other material things and work, when people found it easier to exchange shells, pieces of metal, and stone than cows, bushels of wheat, and goats. Behind every coin and dollar bill are countless hours of toil and sweat, lands that
yield harvest, the joy and skill of human creativity. (Consider, for example the years of labor and harvest involved in bringing bread to our tables and wine to our glasses.) Whenever we earn, save, spend, and give, we ought to remember that money connects us to others, to their labors, to the material that God takes and blesses as God’s own. At the Lord’s Table, we see that the material—and even money—is never divorced from the spiritual. They always go hand in hand. How might this attitude toward money affect our practices of giving? Consider, first, your own experience of receiving gifts. Perhaps you are like me. When an unexpected gift appears (Let’s face it, isn’t the very definition of a gift that it is “unexpected?”), I am sometimes uncomfortable. Often, my immediate—or delayed—reaction is that I need to repay the gift that I have received: “In exchange for your kind invitation to a meal at your house, I’ll bake you some cookies for dessert.” The economy of the Lord’s Table, however, encourages us to view gifts differently: they expect nothing in return, but in the strange dynamic of grace, they equip the receiver to give as well. The Eucharistic economy is not a zero-sum game, where only a limited number of gifts may be given away, lest the goods become exhausted. Rather, the more we receive at table, the more we are able to give ourselves. At this Table we become better givers and better receivers of gifts, recognizing that we are always both givers and receivers at the same time. The Roman Catholic tradition often refers to the elements of Holy Communion (bread and wine) as gifts. For the Protestant Reformers, this language could be problematic, because it conveyed implications that the priest was offering sacrifices to God on the altar. In the eyes of the Reformers, it was important to identify God, not human beings, as the inaugurator of sacrifice. We should remember this Reformation insight: God is the primary giver; we are not. The Reformers remind us that we receive the gift of the Incarnate Son at table, whose body is broken and blood is shed for the world. But it is also important for Protestants to re-claim this language of gift at Table. Although communion begins and ends in God, it also inspires our giving. At one level, we who have received God’s gift can do nothing. Graced with our lives, there is nothing we can give God in return that God does not already have. Yet we rise from the table, depart in peace, and return to the
At the Lord’s Table, we see
that the material—and even money—is never divorced
from the spiritual. They always go hand in hand.
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world with the lives we have been given. The gift of life enables us to respond with joy: we leave a sanctuary and return to life in the midst of the world, freed to give to others, recognizing that in giving we do not somehow have “less.” The giving at the Lord’s Table assumes abundance rather than scarcity. Contrary to consumer assumptions, giving does not result in depletion, so that some have more and others have less. Rather, the divine giving operates out of a reality of fullness. The more God gives Godself in Jesus Christ, at Table, the more fulfilled creation becomes in relation to God, the more the fullness of God is revealed to creation. God’s giving, in other words, enables us to give to each other. In the divine economy, fullness and self-giving go hand-in-hand. The former without the latter can result in hoarding goods and money (a persistent temptation in a consumer economy); the latter without the former can result in giving that ignores one’s capacity to receive gifts (a perennial “spiritual” temptation). The gifting economy of God points to a third way, in which communion increases with gifts that keep on giving, goods that are shared, and relationships that flourish in the midst of these gifts. We give because we have been given new life at Table and thus respond by giving our lives. If our daily decisions about money and giving draw sustenance from God’s gifts at Table, they also enable us to appreciate others’ gifts. Though God dispenses the gift of life to all indiscriminately, the contours of our responses to that gift are unique. Paul describes these contours as gifts (charisma) granted by the Spirit: some are given the gift of teaching, others healing, still others prophecy and discernment (1 Cor. 12). The money we give (and receive) also represents the charisma of each unique child of God. When we give, we also receive the blessing of others’ gifts. The God who meets us in Jesus Christ meets us at a Table where gifts keep on giving. No matter how many are gathered around the bread and wine, there is always room for many more. At this table, we receive and give; we rise from table to share our gifts with others and receive from others. If our checkbooks offer one measure of what we value with our lives, the rhythms of the Lord’s Table offer a way that we might re-orient our practices around material things and money, so that we might become more adept at giving and receiving. Money matters because God claims and blesses the material, giving God’s very self to the world. When we give and receive, we rev spond to nothing less than this generous gift.
Austin Seminary’s monthly giving programs are a convenient way to make a significant contribution to the theological education and spiritual formation of tomorrow’s church leaders. For more information, search “Giving Programs” at AustinSeminary.edu/giving
“Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone …” —Reinhold Niebuhr Spring 2014 | 11
Generational Generosity How age and life experiences influence giving By Karl Travis
icture this; you host the senior high dance at church, and you begin the evening with Glenn Miller, the Bee Gees, and Motown classics. The youth group stares at you, baffled, as if you had stepped out of an unwelcome time capsule. Every autumn, scores of congregations do essentially this, only the gathering isn’t a dance and the subject isn’t music. The gathering is Stewardship Sunday. Money is the subject. We have taught the same theology of stewardship for decades, and it’s time for an update. The gap between generational experiences and instincts is growing exponentially. Lifespans are lengthening. More and more Americans are living full and active lives into our 80s and 90s, and our congregations are aging, so the age gulf between the oldest and youngest is even wider. Add to this timeline the quickening pace of cultural change, technological development, and globalization, and we have a formula for disconnection. Not surprisingly, this disconnect applies also to our attitudes about money. Scholars have opened a new field of study known as generational theory, the attempt to identify what shapes age cohorts and makes them distinct from others. The theory has enormous implications for the church, and in particular for how we understand and speak about
the theology of generosity. Since generations are formed across different decades, our teaching about Christian stewardship can be insightful and focused upon each generation’s experiences of money. The GI Generation, born between 1901 and 1924, matured amidst the Great Depression and two World Wars, soup lines and ration stamps. Times were hard. Money was scarce. The Silent Generation, born between 1925 and 1941, came of age during the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the postwar boom. The economy became robust. Church and nation grew. Baby Boomers, born between 1942 and 1960, came of age amidst thenunparalleled prosperity. Jobs and money were abundant. The American Dream was notably to provide each generation with more than its parents had, even while consensus about our national purpose and direction evaporated. Generation Xers, born between 1961 and 1981, were children as the dollar began its long slide and reality required two salaries for most families. America was losing its economic hegemony. Millennials, born 1982 to 2004, have been shaped by 9/11, when the world changed abruptly, and then by the Great Recession of 2008. Most agree that the last
MIND THE GAP
The Reverend Karl Travis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and a member of the Austin Seminary Board of Trustees. He is a frequent conference speaker, preacher, and writer, particularly in the areas of Christian generosity and generations theory. 12 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Nothing is more obvious than the generational shift away from generosity as a means to preserve six years have been an uninvited, if fruitful, values-clarification exercise. What remarkably different experiences of money! No single stewardship message can any longer inspire people across these radically different economic realities. Our language about Christian generosity must now be informed, nuanced, and generationally focused. GI and Silent generations are instinctively community oriented. Members of these generations are natural joiners. In their earlier years they streamed to churches, fraternal and social organizations, and to the corporate world. Institutionally minded, they are inspired to share by old-fashioned ideas and virtues, with words like duty, commitment, and sacrifice. They give because they were taught to give. They sign pledge cards. They give off the top of their incomes. And, because they experienced scarcity and want in their younger years, GIs and Silents save, they hate debt, and they carefully guard their rainy-day funds. Boomer and Xer generations came of age in a different era. Money was plentiful. If money is for GIs and Silents a source of security, money is for Boomers and Xers a means of exchange, a tool with which to purchase possessions and experiences. And if money is fundamentally different for these younger generations, so also is their motive for sharing. Gone is a sense of social or institutional obligation. After Watergate, Vietnam, and every series of later governmental and corporate scandal and let down, younger generations are profoundly suspicious of institutions, including the church. Organizations must earn trust if Boomers and Xers are going to give money to them. Further, Boomers and Xers are far less inclined to give off the top. Rather, their instinct is to give from their discretionary income, a term I daresay my grandpar-
ents (who were GIs) didnâ€™t even know. Inspiring Boomers and Xers to give, then, is to remind them of the personal spiritual benefits of generosity. Sharing is an ancient spiritual discipline alongside Bible study, worship, and prayer. When we share, we grow in faith. These are huge generalizations, of course, and individuals, and individual families, might well be atypical. Nonetheless, we might say that GIs and Silents are most interested in how their pooled resources can shape the world. Boomers and Xers are most interested in how sharing can shape them. And whatâ€™s next, with the Millennials? Millennials show altogether different instincts as they appear to be only the second generation in American history who will fare less well economically than their parents did. While their giving patterns are only now forming, what seems clear is their passion for hands-on ministry, their global imaginations, and their deep concern for the environment. I have spent the better part of my twenty-three-year ministry learning to speak Gospel to people of all ages, no matter their generation. Nothing is more obvious to me than the generational shift away from generosity as a means to preserve and promote an institution within which I experience God, and toward generosity as an act of personal spiritual devotion which secondarily benefits the church and its mission. Savvy congregations will learn to speak about stewardship and generosity in diverse ways which invite and inspire all ages. When they do, there will be much to v dance about.
and promote an institution and toward generosity as an act of personal spiritual devotion.
Spring 2014 | 13
Blest Be the Ties that Bind By Bill Cotman
eWitt County, Texas, is experiencing the effects of the Eagle Ford Shale oil boom. The county seat, Cuero, home to about 7,000 people, has had increasing numbers of large trucks rumbling down the highways and small county roads for the last three or four years. While many in this community are pleased, others say they wish it had never occurred. Oilfield coveralls are now a more common sight than cowboy hats around here. The petroleum industry employs people from all over the state (and even other states). The number of RV parks has boomed, and many landowners who do not have active drilling on their property have found this a new way of turning a profit from their land. Suddenly some residents have more money than they ever imagined, but not everyone who has had ranch land in their families for generations is making a pile of money. Some people are experiencing great wealth, and a limited number have been quite generous. One individual in particular has been very charitable to our church, giving large cash gifts with “no strings attached”—that is to say, handwritten personal checks with blank “memo” lines. Prior to this occurrence, I would have considered this a great blessing; I now understand it a little differently. It is wonderful! But we were unprepared to handle such a large influx of cash. A number of church members offered (some quite strong) suggestions for the money, and we find ourselves pondering the relative value of labyrinths, the local food pantry, church vans, a taller steeple, new signs, scholarships, the local animal shelter, and rainyday funds. I realize many people believe this is a good problem to have, but there have been a surprising number of conflicts The Reverend Bill Cotman (MDiv’06) is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Cuero, Texas. He was ordained and served churches in New York before coming “home” to South Texas. 14 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
that come with it—up to and including one couple leaving the church. The truth is, there are strings attached! Christians know that all good things come from God, and each of us—and everything we have—belongs to God. Our money belongs to God, too. Everything we do, including spending money, has to be filtered through that truth. It doesn’t matter if it’s fifty dollars or a million dollars, we should prayerfully give the way our Lord would have us give. Word spread all over town the day after that first check hit the collection plate, and within a week some church members were saying we should get rid of all the money as soon as possible. Others said it should be invested to cover the congregation’s day-to-day operating expenses (forever). As pastor, I realized my job was to remain calm and help the session prayerfully determine how to best use this unexpected gift to serve the ministry of Christ. After seeking the advice of many pastors, I told the session that I felt the first thing we should do was to tithe 10% of the money so that the congregation could see that our intent was to spend God’s money on God’s ministry. I provided session a list of about fifteen different organizations with various gift amounts totaling one hundred thousand dollars. Session agreed with the concept and spent a month compiling a finalized list all could agree on. It also decided not to use any of the unexpected gifts for general operating expenses because the congregation has operated at or under budget for several years. Instead it thought these large—and completely unforeseen—funds could be best used to do even more ministry. Though this has been an experience I never anticipated, I would advise congregations to prepare in advance for such a windfall. A shared theology of ministry may mean the difference between celebrating an opportunity v and over-worrying the responsibility tied to it.
Tackling the Last Taboo By Melissa Wiginton
People in my church will talk about everything else.
They’ll talk about the economy,
he anonymous pastor quoted above articulates the prevailing sensibility in American churches: money is the last taboo. At Austin Seminary, we believe pastors deserve education for tackling the taboo. In both of two new programs, the studentoriented Ministers Facing Money initiative and Revaluing Money offered through Education Beyond the Walls, we dig beneath surface tips and tricks and draw from multiple sources in search of strong guidance. Lynne Twist, philanthropist extraordinaire, general wise person and author of the imminently readable The Soul of Money, helps us with her naming of the three toxic myths of scarcity: 1. There is not enough; 2. More is better; and 3. This is just the way it is. She calls these “myths” because they are deeply rooted in our culture and they hold the life-shaping power of truth. As human beings in 21st-century America, we are formed by these myths in spite of ourselves. As Christians, we know these three myths to be lies. We also see
that pastors’ work of leading people toward truth becomes nearly impossible in a church culture where talk about money is taboo. We start with transforming our students’ own relationships with money, whether they are in a degree program or are returning for ongoing learning. Twist’s three toxic myths are common, but they uniquely manifest in each person’s life and require particular attention. Pastors have to do the work of examining their own assumptions, letting go of their fears or distortions, and practicing a healthy life with money. Seminary students face particular financial challenges: how to pay for a post-graduate education that will situate them for only a modest income. Forty-five percent of Austin Seminary students incur educational debt during their master’s
their sex life, but they
won’t talk about money.
It’s the last taboo of the church.
Melissa Wiginton has been vice president for Education Beyond the Walls, the lifelong learning extension of Austin Seminary, since 2011. She honed her extensive knowledge of theological education through her work with the Fund for Theological Education Inc (FTE), Duke University’s Pulpit and Pew Project, and the Pathways to Seminary Project at Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education. Spring 2014 | 15
degree work. In 2012, the total amount ranged from $7,800 to $77,059. The Federal Student Loan program allows students to borrow as much as $20,500 each year of master’s degree work; it is easy money to get and hard money to pay back. We are committed to equipping students to make informed decisions about borrowing, to reduce consumer debt even while in school, and to form practices of living within their means. We are also committed to cultural and structural changes to enable students to enter ministry in the best possible financial situation—beginning with talking about money as part of seminary life. We further address pastors’ needs for robust and relevant theologies of money. Dr. David Jensen’s theology of gift is central. At this hinge point in history, the whys and hows and how much of money is in serious transition. The generation who gave regularly and in significant amounts is passing away. Younger generations want to see a return on generosity; they do not take the value of buildings and programs as a given. Many of them are stretched too thin in the shrunken job market to make gifts of substantive amounts. Equally if not more importantly, we push pastors’ theologies to speak to more than the individual’s earn-
ing, spending, giving and saving. They must also take the perspective of the whole economy and its inextricable link to the environment. Pastors face a truth hard for affluent Americans to hear: Yes, God’s economy is abundant beyond imagining, but here on this earth, when the realm of God is not yet fully come, we have limits. Pastors have to grapple with the limitations of what our planet can sustain and lead people into practices of care for the earth and for relearning how much is enough, asking how much we need rather than how much we want. Talking about money is just talk if it does not include deliberate attention to using fewer of the earth’s resources. Lynne Twist herself offers a counter-image to the three toxic myths of scarcity. She says “Money is like water. It can be a conduit for commitment, a currency of love.” Twist argues that money carries our intention and the places our money goes are changed by its presence. If our students, preparing for ministry or already practicing, can learn to tackle the taboo of talking about money in church, they will be opening a resource which, like the waters of baptism, can v transform the world.
[M]oney carries our
intention and the places our money goes are
changed by its presence.
gives pastors a safe place for honest self-examination and candid conversations about money in their own lives and families, in relationships with members of the congregations they serve, and in God’s work of transforming the world.
A new cohort starts in September. Information and applications are at AustinSeminary.edu/ revaluingmoney
The application deadline is July 1, 2014. 16 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
of students enroll with prior educational debt (2012)
average starting salary (and housing allowance) for a full-time associate pastor serving a congregation with 101 -200 members (PCUSA Board of Pensions)
in subsidies (over comparable local housing) provided to students living on-campus
Ministers Facing Money Ministers Facing Money, directed by the Reverend Carrie Graham, seeks to increase the number of students graduating with no new debt, to reduce the amount of new debt, and to help students find ways to reduce their consumer debt. Reflecting on her experience in the program, firstyear student Adrienne Zermeno said, in part:
“I came to seminary with a theology of money that included a notion that we are stewards of all that God gives; we live and minister out of a sense of abundance of grace and provision—a notion that was stuck in my head, when the situations seemed appropriate. In seminary my understandings were opened up in ways that I could not even imagine. I have been brought to my knees confessing the ways that I let money take a hold over my life, my emotions, and my sense of hope. I have come to understand that a theology of money is a practical theology. One that gets lived out daily in the choices we make, the conversations we have, and all that we do.”
of employees and
of the budget goes toward instruction & student and academic support
1% the amount of the budget funded by tuition payments
Here are more resources about money and ministry. www.luthersem.edu/stewardship Stewardship conversation and extensive database of stewardship resources. www.stewardshipoflife.org A robust site that gathers ideas, articles, commentary, and resources on dozens of stewardship-related matters, organized for easy access. http://stewardshipresources.org The Ecumenical Stewardship Center connects, inspires, and equips Christian steward leaders to transform church communities. faithandmoneynetwork. drupalgardens.com This organization explores the biblical, personal, and cultural dimensions of our relationship to money.
$1,185,000 given by Austin Seminary annually in need-based financial aid
of trustees contribute to Austin Seminary
Spring 2014 | 17
An open letter to our grandchildren â€Ś By Sloan and Mary Lois Leonard
18 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
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faculty notes | Professor David Jensen was installed into the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Chair of Reformed Theology on March 31. On hand to celebrate the event were the Jensen family and members of the Frierson family who donated the funds for the chair in memory of their parents; Archer Frierson is vice chair of Austin Seminary’s Board of Trustees.
Whit Bodman, associate professor of comparative religion, gave a lecture, “Satan, Judas, and the Bum Deal: Can the Devil be Saved?” and participated in two classes at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. The students there have been reading his book on Iblis, the focus of the classes. Beginning in April he will teach a six-session course on the Quran and the Bible for the NOVA lifelong-learning program at UT Austin. Academic Dean Allan H. Cole Jr. hosted the Council of Southwestern Theological Schools annual meeting. He gave a talk on “Parenthood and A Spiritual Life” at University Presbyterian Church, Austin. Professor of Philosophical Theology Bill Greenway was a participant in the Frierson Conference at Austin Seminary. Paul Hooker, associate dean for ministerial
formation and advanced studies, gave a presentation (via Skype) on Presbyterian polity for Susquehanna Valley Presbytery. David Jensen, professor in the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Chair of Reformed Theology, hosted the first Frierson Conference, “Reformed Theology and the Future,” in March. He also taught a Sunday school class on "The Future and Christian Faith" at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Austin. In April, he will host, with Cynthia Rigby, the Constructive Theology Workgroup. Jennifer Lord, the Dorothy B. Vickery Professor of Homiletics and Liturgical Studies, gave a presentation in March for the Moderator's Ecclesiology Colloquium at Fuller Seminary and a speech at the Academy of Homiletics annual meeting in Louisville honoring her former professor. In April she will deliver the keynote for the Spring Lecture Series at Kirk in the Pines in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. With
Dr. Lewis Donelson, the Ruth A. Campbell Professor of New Testament Studies, received Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s 2014 Distinguished Alum Award. Recipients of Louisville Seminary Distinguished Alum and First Decade Awards were formally recognized at a reception and dinner on April 8 in Louisville. 20 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Cynthia Rigby, she serves on the awards panel for the Louisville Institute. During March Cynthia Rigby, The W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, led a women’s retreat at MoRanch; spoke at a Palo Duro Presbytery retreat; preached and taught at Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio; presented a paper on Skepticism & the Reformed tradition to the Frierson Conference; and taught two workshops for the Seminary’s “On the Road” event in Albuquerque. During Passion Week the Presbyterian Outlook will publish her essay, “Prodigal Cross.” Associate Professor of Homiletics Kristin Saldine taught at First Presbyterian Church, Austin, on March 23. David White will speak on May 21 at Huston-Tillotson University about his book, Dreamcare: A Theology of Youth, Spirit and Vocation; he will teach a three-week class on marriage at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church, Austin. v Jane Williams, wife of former dean, acting president, and Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Prescott Williams (19592009), died on March 29.
webXtra: to see where the faculty will be next, go to:
good reads | A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America by Leila Ahmed New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011. 352 pp. Index. Paper, $22. ISBN 978-0-300-17095-5.
his book hits two sweet spots in the exploration of modern Islam. On one hand, it discusses the veil, the preeminent symbol and ground of contestation for Islam for most westerners (and many Muslims as well). On the other hand, it traces the history of modern Egypt, and the Muslim Brotherhood specifically, in part through the eyes of women. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been much in the news of late, and this background is a welcome review of its history and nature. Ahmed explores the complex interrelationships between women’s adoption or rejection of the veil, and the social and political contexts in which these choices are made. The story begins with the influence of British colonialism, which introduced European ideas of modernity into Egyptian society. Some found European ways enticing, while others found them threatening. The Muslim Brotherhood began primarily as a spiritual revival movement. World War II and the rise of the State of Israel led to the development of a militant wing. Following the fall of the Pasha and the consequent rule by the Egyptian military, the Muslim Brotherhood found new adversaries—socialism, capitalism, consumerism, and repression. The veil (hijab), even then, was a potent symbol of Muslimness, though never a simple one. Ahmed uses interviews of women leaders
in and outside the Muslim Brotherhood to expose the complex thinking that goes into decisions about veiling. In particular, she discusses Zainab Al-Ghazzali, a woman whose leadership in the early Muslim Brotherhood was always complicated by her gender. The story winds and twists, following the pressures and changes in Egyptian society from decade to decade. The book was published before the Arab Spring, but many of the seeds of what happened there are accounted for. Part 2 follows the Muslim Brotherhood to America, perhaps using that affiliation a bit too broadly, to the Muslim Students Association and later the Islamic Society of North America. Ahmed describes the evolution of the Muslim community before and after 9/11, using interviews with Muslim women in positions of leadership. For some women, the decision to wear the hijab is a mark of proud Muslim identity. They are quite aware that to many non-Muslims, it is a mark of everything that is wrong with Islam—the repression and isolation of women, violence, archaic law, and rejection of all that is modern. The story is enriched by the presence in the text of Leila Ahmed herself, who is not only a careful observer, but also, as a Muslim woman, a participant. A liberal feminist, she is also the author of both her autobiography and the foremost history of women in Islam. Here we have a very readable, personal, and certainly timely unveiling (to employ an overused metaphor) of a piece of Egypt, and of America as well. v —Written by Whitney Bodman, associate professor of comparative religion at Austin Seminary
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Alumni Jim Dollar, Miles White, and Melinda Veatch honored The Reverend Dr. Miles Harrison White (MDiv’84) served twenty years in the Medical Service Corps as a hospital administrator with postings to Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States, including San Antonio, which became the family’s home base in retirement. Upon retirement from the Army, Miles entered Austin Seminary where he was president of the student body. He served congregations in Louisiana and Missouri for twenty-five years. Miles has been a commissioner to two General Assemblies, the Synod of the Sun, and served on Committees on Ministry in three presbyteries, serving as chair on two occasions. Miles served on the Austin Seminary Association Board and as its president in 1990-91. Since retirement, Miles served as interim pastor of a Hispanic congregation in New Braunfels, Texas. He recently completed a five-year term as Stated Clerk of Mission Presbytery and continues to work with churches and pastors in the presbytery. He and Caroline have two adult children, three grandchildren, and one great grandson.
Honoree Miles White (MDiv’84), fifth from left, and friends Phineas Washer (MDiv’56, DMin’93), Gilley Richardson (MDiv’86), Suzie White, son Keith White, wife Caroline White, Thomas Munley, and Maripat Munley.
The Reverend Melinda Veatch
Melinda Veatch (MDiv’96), center, surrounded by her cohort of colleagues: Michelle Vetters (MDiv’97), Tricia Tedrow (MDiv’98), Rebecca Fox Nuelle (MDiv’97), and Cindy Kohlmann (MDiv’99). Another member, Beth Walden Fischer (MDiv’98), was unable to attend the luncheon.
22 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
(MDiv’96) is executive director of Tarrant Area Community of Churches, facilitating community partnerships that bring congregations and organizations together to address unmet needs— poverty and hunger, high-school completion, and ministry to the homeless—in the Tarrant County area. She previously served as associate pastor of St. Philip Presbyterian Church in Hurst, Texas. She has been moderator of Grace Presbytery and currently serves as moderator of the Grace Presbytery Council and a member of the Grace Presbytery Board of Trustees. Community involvement includes the Tarrant County Youth Collaboration, United Way Northeast Steering Committee, Tarrant Area Food Bank, Courage and Renewal North Texas, the Fort Worth Advisory Commission to End Homelessness, the United Way Community Development Advisory Committee, and the Med-Star Community Advisory Board. Melinda lives in Fort Worth with her husband, Glen, a historian, consultant, and author.
Be sure to “like” our Austin Seminary Alumni page on Facebook
then & now
for their creative ministries
Jim Dollar, center, flanked by spouse Judy Dollar, Judy Record Fletcher (MDiv’69), David Fletcher (MDiv’69), and Fred Morgan (MDiv’71).
The Reverend James William Dollar (MDiv’70) served churches in Louisiana, Mississippi, and North Carolina before retiring from the ministry in 2011. He now claims to enjoy the solitude of walking slowing through the natural world with a tripod and a camera (check out the beautiful photos on his Flickr photostream). Jim writes and blogs, remaining engaged in “the work of exploring the Mystery at the bottom of it all by being open to the experience of living, reconciling contraries, integrating opposites, honoring polarities, and laughing at the wonder of everything that comes his way.” He has written two books, Loose Change and The Evolution of the Idea of God and other essays. He also has published five e-books and a DVD of photography and spiritual reflection. Jim and his wife, Judy, have three daughters and five granddaughters; they are enjoying retirement within twenty minutes of all of them.
webXtra: to nominate someone for the 2015 ASA Award,
go to: AustinSeminary.edu/nominate or you can contact Lemuel García, director of alumni and church relations, (firstname.lastname@example.org; 512-404-4809) for more information.
Zilker Park and Austin’s “crown jewel,” Barton Springs Pool, have been special to Austin Seminary students for generations. From spinning under the moon-tower Christmas tree to watching thousands of
kites vie for attention in the sky to lounging on the banks of the pool, there’s no place like Zilker to relax. Many of you have photos in drawers and albums like the one above, taken circa 1950 by former student Wade Shuford: “We are rough and easy guys, and oh how we could harmonize! We went to Zilker Park to swim, talk, etc.”
Professor Jennifer Lord has begun a tradition in her worship class, “Sun and Sacrament at Barton Springs.” In this photo, Krystal Leedy (MDiv’12) and Sally Wright (MDiv’12) practice baptism standing knee-deep in the 68° water. If you have photos you’d like to share, please contact the archivist, Kristy Sorensen, at ksorensen@ austinseminary.edu Spring 2014 | 23
Talking about books
class notes | 1980s
and Shelley W. Moore welcomed a daughter, Henrietta Elizabeth Moore, on December 11, 2013.
Samuel Wayne Steele (MDiv’85) was installed as pastor of Forest Hills Presbyterian Church, Helotes, Texas, November 17, 2013.
Robert F. Lohmeyer (DMin’13) was installed as pastor-head of staff of First Presbyterian Church Kerrville, Texas, January 5, 2014.
Andy Blair (MDiv’89) was installed as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Canyon, Texas, February 23, 2014.
1990s “Weakness and vulnerability are not the same. Sometimes it is through showing that you are vulnerable that strength is seen.”
“This story gets inside me, like Gilead. Once Tyler becomes ‘real’ he can be treated as a person and the congregation responds that way. As long as he is a ‘saint’ the people do not need to look to his needs.” “As someone who used to pastor two small rural churches Abide with Me is intriguing for how it tries to capture life ‘in the goldfish bowl.’”
Join the discussion with the Goodreads.com Austin Seminary Book Club. Share your ideas with a community of readers. For information on how to join and a link, go to: AustinSeminary.edu/bookclub
Author Carol Howard Merritt (MDiv’98) has a new book, Fighting for Peace: Your Role in a Culture Too Comfortable with Violence (HarperCollins, 2014). Jeanie R. Stanley (MDiv’99, DMin’13) retired from San Gabriel Presbyterian Church, Georgetown, Texas, on January 1, 2014.
2000s On September 23, 2013, PCUSA World Mission formalized a Partnership Agreement with the Church of Christ in Thailand. Sharon L. Bryant (MDiv’03), a mission co-worker currently assigned to the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT) as the coordinator of Christian volunteers in Thailand, will be working with church leaders in the CCT to define these new opportunities and develop placement sites for volunteers who will come to Thailand in the future. Matthew Miller (MDiv’03) was installed as pastor-head of staff at First Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque, March 23, 2014. Mikaela Joy Martinez, daughter of Jamie Martinez and David N. Martinez-Solis (MDiv’06), arrived on October 28, 2013. Kati and Timothy Blodgett (MDiv’07) welcomed Evan Riley Blodgett on January 8, 2014. Stacey Byrd and Juan Herrera (MDiv’07) had a daughter on July 14, 2013, Maribelle Paige Herrera. Joseph H. Moore (MDiv’09)
24 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Pepa J. Paniagua Cislo (MDiv’08) was ordained and installed as associate pastor on January 26, 2014, at Faithbridge Presbyterian Church, Frisco, Texas. Kelly Updegraff Staples (MDiv’11) was ordained and installed as designated associate pastor on March 16, 2014, at NorthPark Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas. Naomi Ingrim (MDiv’12) was ordained and installed as a teaching elder, stated supply
of First Presbyterian Church, Copperas Cove, Texas, April 6.
in memoriam | William R. Knox (MDiv’51), Corvallis, Montana, December 17, 2013 Mary-Margaret H. Cleveland (Cert’53), Concord, North Carolina, January 30, 2014 Barbara P. Eudey (MCE’60), Stafford, Texas, March 15, 2014 W. Martin Hager (DMin’85), Dunedin, Florida, January 29, 2013 Tomas Chavez Jr. (DMin’85), San Antonio, Texas, November 29, 2013 David E. Fray (MDiv’86), Moberly, Missouri, February 28, 2014 Mark S. Vernon (MDiv’90), The Woodlands, Texas, July 21, 2013 David R. Freeman (DMin’91), Oxford, Mississippi, January 14, 2014
Trailblazing pastor Marvin Griffin dies Graduate (DMin’90) and trustee (1993-2001) Marvin Griffin died January 1 at age 90. He served forty-two years as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Austin, Austin American Statesman photo leading the church to create the East Austin Economic Development Corporation to provide affordable housing, care for senior adults, a child-development center and other services in its neighborhood. Described by the Austin American Statesman as “a beacon in Austin … known for his inner calm while pushing for equality in education and beyond,” he was the first African-American graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as first vice president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and was the first African-American president of the Austin school board. Governor John Connally appointed Griffin to the Texas Southern University Board of Regents. He also served as a delegate to the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention. v
New ASA Board During the ASA Banquet and Annual Meeting on February 5, 2014, the following alumni were elected to serve on the ASA Board: Leanne Thompson (MDiv’06), president; Dieter Heinzl (MDiv’06), vice-president; Karen Greif (MDiv’98), secretary; Valerie Bridgeman (MDiv’90), past president; Class of 2016: Barrett Abernethy (MDiv’13), Timothy Blodgett (MDiv’07), Jeff Cranton (MDiv’99), Ann Herlin (MDiv’01), and Andrew Parnell (MDiv’05) v
Points along a journey of discovery By Gregory Cuéllar, associate professor of Old Testament
y walk to Austin Seminary each morning follows a particular path through the University of Texas campus. It begins from my bus stop at the corner of 23rd Street and San Jacinto. This walk is especially significant on the days I teach. The sidewalks are usually bustling with students going to class. The air emits a palpable energy centered on the production of learning. I walk toward the stairs leading up to UT’s East Mall. At the top, I am immediately received by a cathedral of cascading branches from a line of oak trees. On the left I look up at the new College of Liberal Arts Building. Many of the disciplines that inform my teaching are held in this building, like African diaspora studies, American studies, history, religious studies, sociology, Middle Eastern studies, and philosophy. In just a few steps, my thoughts are transported in and out of multiple discourses. Here the complex, multilayered, and polysemic human experience is examined, interrogated, and reconfigured. This lays bare the insufficiency of the notion that one method or sole thinker can exhaust meaning. Yet, this moment of transdisciplinary fancies are fleeting at the sight of the nine-foot-tall sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. Dressed in his clergy vestments, his right hand reaches forth in an imploring posture. My gaze is transfixed to his bronze face. Here, I reflect on his relentless struggle for civil rights and racial-ethnic equality. Indeed, Rev. King’s legacy remains central to my teaching ministry. I ask myself about
the status of his dream’s fulfillment in the United States. In his words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Looking up at him I am also reminded of the cost for dreaming as King dreamt. Approaching Speedway, I look up at the 307-foot clock tower. On the east side of the tower, the clock’s gold outer rings and gold hour and minute hands glisten in the morning sun. Already in an intellectual trance, my view of the clock easily becomes a vision of my lifespan. Although I am in the prime of my teaching career, I also know that life is seasonal. As swift as my walk to campus each day is, so is my life. As stated in the Epistle of Saint James, “Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you
are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14, NRSV). Crossing the street over to the east entrance, I climb the hill to the McMillian building. In this final stretch of my walk my disposition is one of humility and gratitude. I am humbled by the notion that my contributions as a teacher and a scholar only add to knowledge rather than exhaust it. More importantly, I am grateful that this institution has afforded me a public space to live out my teaching ministry. Entering into the classroom as a teacher of the Bible is both exhilarating and frightful. Underlying my teaching is a concern for the sufferer. Although the Old Testament is rife with examples of suffering, they are not always made relevant to our current context. The heightened acts of violence in the present era require an adequate and urgent response from the church. Wall building has never proven to be a viable approach to addressing issues of environmental and human suffering. For this reason, I linger on the crisis and conflict in the biblical text as a way to move students closer to the text’s relevance. This is a strategic step that aims to decenter modes of thinking that attenuate the world’s conflicts. The implications for not addressing the sufferer in the biblical text and in our current context may be cataclysmic. At the end of the day, I return back to my bus stop. Crossing Speedway, I slip into the flow of student traffic. For all of us, tomorrow begins a new day of learning. v
Spring 2014 | 25
Non Profit Org U.S. Postage PAID Austin, TX Permit No. 2473
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary 100 East 27th Street, Austin, Texas 78705-5711
2014 MidWinters | February 3-5
A record number of attendees enjoyed a delightful mix of lectures, conversation, and fellowship. Download or stream the lectures and sermons from our Web site: AustinSeminary.edu (look under “featured media”)
“The Spirit of God transcends human ability and transforms human inability.”
“Scot McKnight’s lecture: social justice starts in our local congregations.”
Shannon Johnson Kershner: “Christ is the one who showed us that messiness just might have something to do with Godliness.”
“Enjoying the contrast of speakers this year at #midwin14. Good for the brain and soul.”
“I love the exchange of information and meeting with colleagues.”
“I didn’t know Rachel Held Evans before today. Hers is a voice of clarity amidst biblical babel.”