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Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

summer|fall 2012

In this Issue 2012 Graduates | 8

Honor Roll of Donors | center

Global Theology | 9


Substance.

Scripture. Service.

Preparing strong, imaginative leaders for the church.


AUSTIN

AUSTIN PRESBYTERIAN

PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGI C AL

THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

SEMINARY

summer | fall 2012

Volume 127 | Number 3

President

Theodore J. Wardlaw

Board of Trustees

Cassandra C. Carr, Chair Karen C. Anderson Thomas L. Are Jr. Claudia D. Carroll Elizabeth Christian Joseph J. Clifford James G. Cooper Marvin L. Cooper James B. Crawley Consuelo Donahue (MDiv’96) Jackson Farrow Jr. Elizabeth Blanton Flowers G. Archer Frierson Richard D. Gillham Walter Harris Jr. John Hartman 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 Teresa Chávez Sauceda (MDiv’88) 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 H. Williamson III

Trustees Emeriti

Stephen A. Matthews John M. McCoy Jr. (MDiv’63) Max Sherman Louis Zbinden

Austin Seminary Association (ASA) Board

Timothy Blodgett (MDiv’07), President Valerie Bridgeman (MDiv’90), Vice President / President-Elect Karen Greif (MDiv’92, DMin’06), Secretary Richard Culp (MDiv’93, DMin’01), Past President J. Andrew Blair (MDiv’89) Alonzo Campbell (DMin’94) Katherine Cummings (MDiv’05) Dieter U. Heinzl(MDiv’98) Kathleen Hignight (MDiv’95) Ryan Kemp-Pappan (MDiv’08) Matthew C. Miles (MDiv’99) Andrew Parnell (MDiv’05) Tamara J. Strehli (MDiv’05) Nancy Taylor (MDiv’05) Leanne Thompson (MDiv’06) Michael A. Waschevski (DMin’03)

features

Global theology 10 Reaching the “Nones” By Cynthia L. Rigby

14 Managing church conflict

By Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger

16 Compassion unites caregivers

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By Hetty Zock

18 Why we disagree

By Olli-Pekka Vainio

Center: The 2011-12 Honor Roll of Donors

& departments Cover: Professors Cynthia Rigby, David Jensen, and Allan Cole take part in the 2012 Williamson Distinguished Scholars Conference to discuss “Theology in Service to the Church,” (9-19). Photography by Jody Horton.

Editor Randal Whittington

Contributors

Deborah Butler Lemuel García Laura Harris Sandy Knott Nancy Reese Alison Riemersma Kimberly Rutherford Jackie Saxon Kristy Sorensen

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seminary & church

3

twenty-seventh & speedway

22 live & learn 23 faculty news & notes

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24 alumni news & notes 25 teaching & ministry

Windows is published three times each year by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Austin Seminary Windows Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary 100 E. 27th St. Austin, TX 78705-5711 phone: 512-404-4808 e-mail: windows@austinseminary.edu fax: 512-479-0738 austinseminary.edu ISSN 2056-0556; Non-profit bulk mail permit no. 2473

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seminary church

from the president |

lsewhere in these pages, you will see noted the deaths of beloved friends and members of the Austin Seminary community—Laura Lewis, Dorothy Andrews, Dottie Sandlin, Rogers McLane, Gaylord Dodgen, Dan Hughs, Walter Funk, Rick Benjamin, Ronald Campbell, and Anne Caughran—and I wish to use this space to reflect upon one more loss that occurred just before this issue of Windows was heading to press. Charles H. Pistor Jr.—a banker, citizen and prominent leader in Dallas—died on July 19th of West Nile disease. An elder and lifetime member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Charles was for decades an iconic fixture in the business, cultural, and religious life of Dallas. At the pinnacle of his career in banking, he was chairman and C.E.O. of Republic National Bank of Dallas, and served on the boards of the United Way, Trinity University, Southern Methodist University, Dallas Summer Musicals, and American Airlines. He was a graduate of the University of Texas and Harvard University, and served for two years in the Navy. Charles was known to everyone, it seemed, and was a profoundly connectional and relational person. A long-time friend of Austin Seminary and a leader in our current comprehensive campaign, Charles was deeply interested in Presbyterian theological education. His daughter, Lori, was a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary, and Charles never failed to speak proudly of her ministry in Durham, N.C. He was so very helpful, in at least two campaigns on my watch, in connecting the Seminary to prospective donors, and he had a deep appreciation of seminaries as, quite literally, “seedbeds” in the greater ecology of God’s Kingdom. He was tirelessly kind, cheerful, and encouraging to me and others on our leadership team, and offered wise and practical advice to me many times across these ten years I have been here. A week or two before I departed in late June for the General Assembly in Pittsburgh, and then for additional time away on vacation, it was my pleasure to have a delightful lunch with Charles in Dallas. I had no idea then, of course, that that would be my last occasion to be with him. There is a story in Charles’ obituary recently in the Dallas Morning News that captures well, I think, the nobility of his character. Years ago, when Charles’ and Regina’s children were still young, and shortly after his most significant promotion at the bank, a neighbor noticed him doing yard work with his family one Saturday. “Charlie,” the man said, “you are past this now; you don’t have to be out here mowing your own yard. You can afford to do something different.” “I’m not mowing the yard,” Charles responded. “I’m raising a son.” Thanks be to God for giving us the gift of Charles Pistor. Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.

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President’s Schedule Aug. 19 — Preach, First Baptist Church, Austin Sept. 2 — Preach, First PC, San Antonio Sept. 16 — Preach/Teach, First PC, Midland, Texas Sept. 18 — Speak / Westminster Manor, Austin Sept. 30 — Preach, University PC, El Paso Oct. 11 — Partner Luncheon, Houston Oct. 14 — Preach, First PC, Oklahoma City Nov. 11 — Preach, Montreat PC, Montreat, North Carolina Jan. 13 — Preach, The Brick Church, New York City Feb. 22 ­— Teach / Preach, Tres Rios Presbytery, San Angelo, Texas

Faithfully yours,

Theodore J. Wardlaw President

webXtra: to find out where Austin Seminary faculty are preaching and teaching, go to: austinseminary.edu/facultycalendar

2 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


twenty-seventh speedway

Staff changes bring new energy to programs

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ustin Presbyterian Theological Seminary introduces new staff, Paul Hooker and Lemuel Garcéia-Arroyo, and announces the promotion of archivist Kristy Sorensen. The Reverend Dr. Paul Hooker is the new director of ministerial formation and advanced studies. He joined the Seminary on August 6, 2012, and he will oversee the Program in Ministerial Formation at the master’s level and also direct the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree program. His responsibilities include recruiting and training supervisors in the Supervised Practice of Ministry (SPM) program; securing sites for students to complete internships; supporting relationships between students and their supervisors; overseeing the Profiles in Ministry program; helping coordinate students’ Clinical Pastoral Education and related off-campus courses and programs; and providing counsel related to vocational discernment and preparation. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Tennessee, Hooker earned his Doctor of Ministry from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, and earned the PhD in Old Testament from Emory University. He has served as the executive presbyter and stated clerk for the Presbytery of St. Augustine in Jacksonville, Florida, since 1999. Previously, he served as pastor of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and as associate pastor of Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and First Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee. Hooker has served on the Advisory Committee on the Constitution of the PC(USA) since 2005 and was moderator of the Form of Government Revision Task Force. “Paul will be a blessing in our midst,” said President Theodore J. Wardlaw. “He is a natural mentor, churchman, and scholar. The Seminary is fortunate indeed.” The Reverend Lemuel García-Arroyo has been called as the new director of Alumni and Church Relations, effective June 1. García earned his Master of Divinity degree from Austin Seminary in 1995 and has since served the church in a variety of calls including work with PC(USA) institutions and middle councils including the Synod of the Sun. His most recent call was as the associate presbyter of Presbytery of Salem. As director of alumni and church relations, García will be responsible for advancing the mission and vision of Austin Seminary with the institution’s alumni and with churches

within the Synod of the Sun. “Lemuel’s love for the institution and the personal value he places on being in communion with others will truly be an asset as he connects with his fellow alums through various events, communications, and services designed to keep this constituency connected to both the institution and one another,” said Donna Scott, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Kristy Sorensen was appointed associate director of the Stitt Library, effective July 1. She adds this responsibility to her ongoing work as head of archives and records management. 
 
 Sorensen has been actively involved in the school’s quality enhancement program (“IQ”) and was a key staff member drafting compliance documents for reaffirmation of accreditation with our two accrediting bodies, the Association of Theological Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. “I am pleased that Kristy has agreed to take on this level of leadership,” said library director Timothy Lincoln. “She has shown great facility in working with board members, faculty, staff, students, and archives users. I am confident that she will oversee day-to-day operations in the library as well as provide new ideas as the library staff anticipates the information needs of users for our school’s changing academic programs.”
 
 Sorensen joined the library staff in 2006. Prior to that, she was the archivist for the Archives of American Mathematics at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. A certified archivist, Sorensen earned a BA in English and Women’s Studies at Nebraska Wesleyan University (Lincoln) and an MLIS with an emphasis in archival administration from the University of Texas at Austin. To serve the changing educational environment, the Stitt Library has created a new position of learning technologies librarian and a search is in progress. This librarian will work closely with faculty to use new technologies for delivering instruction. Summer | Fall 2012 | 3


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APTS @ GA 2012 A

ustin Seminary was well represented at the 220 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), held June 30July 7 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. More than three dozen alums served as elected commissioners to the Assembly and many more were in attendance. The Seminary hosted a reception and a luncheon for graduates and friends of the Seminary; administrators Ted Wardlaw, Donna Scott, Jackie Saxon (MDiv’00), Jack Barden (MDiv’88), Lisa Juica (MDiv’11), and Lemuel Garcia (MDiv’95) were on hand to bring greetings from Austin. Laura Mendenhall (DMin’97) received the Ernest Trice Thompson Award at the Presbyterian Outlook banquet which opened the Assembly. Shamaine Chambers King (MDiv’02) stood as a candidate for vice-moderator. As chair of the Form of Government Task Force (whose work—NFOG—was a centerpiece of the last Assembly), the Seminary’s newest employee, Paul Hooker, lent his expertise in areas of constitutional interpretations. In his role as chair of the Committee on Theological Education, Seminary President Theodore J. Wardlaw lobbied hard for a special committee to consider future

funding for theological education; the committee is being formed now. In a controversial vote, the Assembly said no to divestment as part of its position on peace in the Middle East. Instead, it accepted a minority report, put forth by Blake Brinegar (MDiv’01), that called for the church to “pursue a positive and creative course of action” in Israel-Palestine, including “a plan of active investment in projects that will support collaboration among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and help in the development of a viable infrastructure for a future Palestinian state.” The Assembly approved the report of the Special Committee on the Nature of the Church in the 21st Century, chaired by Carol Howard Merritt (MDiv’98). Among the report’s recommendations were finding new ways to start new churches and revitalize existing ones, affirming bi-vocational ministry, and encouraging seminaries to offer courses that help prepare students for emerging cultural realities. Trustees playing special roles at the Assembly included Thomas Are Jr., James Lee (MDiv’00), Teresa Chávez Sauceda (MDiv’88), Karl Travis, and Sallie Sampsell Watson (MDiv’87). We’re proud of the leadership roles taken by the Austin Seminary family!

4 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

How tall is YOUR “Centennial Tree”? On October 2, 2002, Joe Turner (MDiv’61) planted the oak seedling he picked up at Austin Seminary’s Centennial Celebration. A decade later it’s 18 feet tall! The seedlings—harvested and sprouted by the Seminary’s maintenance staff—honor the men and women who have been nurtured in this “seed bed” known as Austin Seminary. Did you plant one of them? Send us a picture of your tree!

Austin Seminary student called to lead PC(USA) World Missions program

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resbyterian World Mission has invited Austin Seminary student Gregory Allen-Pickett to lead the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s General Assembly Mission Council as General Manager. Beginning his work on August 6, Allen-Pickett will be responsible for implementing World Mission’s strategic direction and empowering Louisville-based staff and mission personnel to connect global partners with Presbyterians in the United States. Allen-Pickett will oversee the day-to-day operations of World Mission, mentor and manage staff, oversee financial operations, and work alongside other ministry areas in the General Assembly Mission Council to enhance effectiveness and ensure alignment in the overall GAMC ministry vision, mission, strategy, and desired outcomes. Early on Austin Seminary recognized Greg’s leadership gifts by awarding him a Jean Brown Fellowship; he also received a fellowship from the Fund for Theological Education in 2010. Allen-Picket plans to complete his degree from Austin Seminary over the next few years.


Hartman, Williamson, and Lord join board

staff news |

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Helen Kennedy, associate director of the Stitt Library, retired this summer after 22 years at Austin Seminary. Among her accomplishments, she catalogued more than 40,000 books and oversaw the transition from a card catalog (including the task of putting barcodes on thousands of books) to an automated online catalog. She encouraged Austin Seminary to develop its first website and served as the first webmaster in 1997. She was involved in the planning and implementation of IQ, Austin Seminary’s information literacy initiative in the MDiv program. “Libraries seem like quiet places, but they bubble with behind-the-scenes work that makes teaching and learning possible,” said Timothy Lincoln, library director. “Helen faced each technological change as an opportunity to help our patrons. It has been a privilege to work with her.” Upon her retirement Helen moved to New Mexico to enjoy her grandchildren.

ustin Seminary has recently welcomed three familiar faces to the Board of Trustees. Hugh Williamson, John Hartman, and Jennifer Lord were elected to serve on the governing body during its meeting on May 20. John Hartman is an elder at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, where he and his wife, Judye, a former Austin Seminary Trustee, lead a Bible study discipleship class and serve in other leadership capacities. Now retired, Hartman was a chemical engineer, co-founder of Lubrication Systems Company, and owner of other affiliates that engineered, manufactured, and installed systems in the oil and petrochemical industry. He earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Texas at Austin, his master of science from MIT, and an MBA from Harvard University. Hartman is vice chair of the “Weaving Promise into Practice” Campaign Steering Committee, formed to help Austin Seminary through its $44 million campaign to raise funds for student fellowships, faculty chairs, Stitt Library renovations, and the next phase of student housing. Hugh H. Williamson III, chairman and

CEO of XeDAR Corporation, has been reelected to the Seminary ‘s Board of Trustees for his third term. He also serves on Austin Seminary’s Campaign Steering Committee. Williamson is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and former captain in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a tactical fighter instructor pilot. He earned an MBA from Texas Tech University. He serves on the board of trustees for Boy Scouts of America, Denver Council, and the Falcon Foundation at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He’s an elder at Central Presbyterian Church in Denver. Professor Jennifer Lord, The Dorothy B. Vickery Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgical Studies, was elected to serve as faculty executive officer to the board of trustees. A member of the faculty since 2005, Lord is the author of Finding Language and Imagery: Words for Holy Speech (Fortress, 2009). This year she is also acting associate dean for academic programs. Hartman and Williamson will each serve three-year terms; Lord, two.

Outgoing members of Austin Seminary’s Board of Trustees include Cynthia Rigby, Catherine Lowry, and Blair Monie.

Fondly remembered … Dorothy Andrews died on April 15, 2012. She was the faculty secretary from 1970-1990. Dottie Sandlin died on May 25 in Joplin, Missouri. She was a member of the Development Office staff from 1982-1999.

Sara Jackson is the Seminary’s new receptionist and event-facilities coordinator. She graduated from Abilene Christian University and serves on the board of the Austin Women’s Kickball Association. Summer | Fall 2012 | 5


twenty-seventh speedway

Laura Brooking Lewis, professor emerita of Christian education, dies June 24 Question 1. Who are you?* I am a child of God. Question 2. What does it mean to be a child of God? That I belong to God, who loves me.

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r. Laura Brooking Lewis, professor emerita of Christian education at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, died on June 24 after an extended illness. She will be remembered for her teaching, her commitment to the art of education, and her work writing Belonging to God: A First Catechism and The Study Catechism for the church she dearly loved. An alumna of the Seminary, Lewis joined the faculty in 1982 and became a full professor in 2000. Prior to her return to the Seminary she served as associate pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, and director of Christian education at First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury, North Carolina. She was a certified Christian educator and was ordained to ministry in 1980 by the UPUSA, PCUS, and Cumberland Presbyterian Church. “I remember Laura as an outstanding student, a gifted educator, and a wonderful faculty colleague,” says former Old Testament Professor Gene March (MDiv’60). “She was a humble and welcoming individual who was always ready to listen and willing to help in any way she could.” Professor Lewis served the church broadly, especially within the realm of Christian education as teacher, writer, and minister. She chaired the PC(USA) Educator Certification Council and served as a consultant to the boards of PSCE and Union Seminary on federation of the two institutions. She was a member of the Special Committee to Write a New Presbyterian Catechism. In 1998, the General Assembly approved the catechism, “Belonging to God: A First Catechism” and the “Study Catechism,” both co-edited by Lewis. Active in the Association of Presbyterian Church

Educators (APCE) and the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education, she frequently led workshops and wrote articles in her field. Lewis contributed a chapter on educator Sara Little to the book Faith of our Foremothers (Westminster John Knox 1997). Additionally, Dr. Lewis served on the boards of Presbyterian School of Christian Education (1976-1979) and Memphis Theological Seminary (1980-1989). Professor Lewis earned a BS (1969) and PhD (1991) from the University of Texas at Austin, an MA (1971) from Presbyterian School of Christian Education (now Union Presbyterian Seminary), and an MDiv (1980) from Austin Seminary. She was a member of the honor societies Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Lambda Theta and was the recipient of the David Stitt Fellowship in 1980, given to an outstanding graduate of Austin Seminary.

Question 87. What do you affirm when you speak of “the life everlasting”? That God does not will to be God without us, but instead grants to us creatures—fallen and mortal as we are— eternal life. Communion with Jesus Christ is eternal life itself. In him we were chosen before the foundation of the world. By him the eternal covenant with Israel was taken up, embodied, and fulfilled. To him we are joined by the Holy Spirit through faith, and adopted as children, the sons and daughters of God. Through him we are raised from death to new life. For him we shall live to all eternity.

* Questions and answers from “Belonging to God: A First Catechism” and “The Study Catechism.” 6 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


Austin Seminary graduates newest class May 20

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ustin Presbyterian Theological Seminary conferred degrees on thirty-eight masters and doctoral candidates on Sunday, May 20, at University Presbyterian Church in Austin. Board of Trustee Chair Cassandra Carr presided over the ceremony, and Rev. Blair Monie, pastor at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, delivered the commencement address. Four candidates received the Master of Arts (Theological Studies) degree; twentythree, the Master of Divinity; and eleven received the Doctor of Ministry. This diverse graduating class represents fourteen states, two countries, and nine denominations. More than 90% of the masterslevel graduates have accepted or are intend to seek calls into ordained ministry. Read President Wardlaw’s Charge to the Graduates on page 20.

Photo above: doctor of ministry graduates; below: masters-degree graduates.

Graduate Awards Chidester Preaching Award: Cynthia Engstrom Charles L. King Preaching Award: Holly Clark-Porter Rachel Henderlite Award: Catriona (Tina) Broadway John B. Spragens Award: Sally Wright Carl Kilborn Book Award: Jessica Goad

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Chalice Press Award: Brittany Harvey

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The Class of 2012 Master of Divinity Anna Michelle Bowden Austin, Texas; American Baptist Church-USA; Master of Theology program, Brite Divinity School

Catriona Crichton Broadway

Austin, Texas, and Blyth, England; PC(USA); Seeking a call

Holly Kathleen ClarkPorter Winnsboro, Texas; PC(USA); Completing candidacy

Wendy Louise Brown Inman New Braunfels, Texas; UMC

Remington Lee Johnson

Guymon, Oklahoma; PC(USA); Chaplain, Heart Hospital, Austin

Elizabeth Louise Klar

Austin, Texas; UMC; Completing candidacy

Pflugerville, Texas; UMC; Resident chaplain, Harris Methodist Hospital, Fort Worth

Cynthia Grilk Engstrom

Mitchell Duane Kolls

Lori Jean Gainer

Austin, Texas; The Episcopal Church; Completing candidacy

Eric L. Gates

Austin, Texas; PC(USA); Director of Student Ministries, Dripping Springs [Texas] Presbyterian Church

Sudie Elisabeth Niesen St. Louis, Missouri; PC(USA); Seeking a call

Benjamin Edward Schultz

Austin, Texas; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Spiritual Advisor, Texas Neurorehab Center, Austin

San Antonio, Texas; PC(USA); Pastoral Resident, First Presbyterian Church, Corpus Christi, Texas

Jessica Lauren Goad

Edward Bartlett Smith

Tucson, Arizona; UMC; Associate pastor, Trinity Heights UMC, Flagstaff, Arizona

Brita Lynn Hansen Stevens Point, Wisconsin; PC(USA); Seeking a call

William Charles Heimbach III

Santa Fe, New Mexico; United Church of Christ

Chang Do Huh

Austin, Texas, and Seoul, South Korea; Seeking a call

Naomi Brown Ingrim

Belton, Texas; PC(USA); Seeking a call

Alana Dianne Arndt

UMC; Teaching at the high school or college level

Jesse Ha

Flushing, New York, and Seoul, South Korea; Nondenominational; Graduate school

Mary Ann Kaiser

Pensacola, Florida; UMC; Mission and Justice Advocate / Youth Director, University UMC, Austin

Martha Jean Davenport

Schulenburg, Texas; UMC; Associate pastor, First UMC, Bastrop, Texas, and Master of Religion, Seminary of the Southwest

Master of Arts (Theological Studies)

Atlanta, Georgia; PC(USA); Pastoral Intern, Blacksburg Presbyterian Church

Scott Andrew Spence

Austin, Texas; United Church of Christ; Acting Interim Pastor, St. John United Church of Christ, Robinson, Texas

John Russell Stanger

Brazoria, Texas; PC(USA); Community Organizer Intern, Presbyterian Welcome, New York City

Sally Suzanne Wright

College Station, Texas; PC(USA); CPE residency, Seton Hospitals, Austin; Seeking a call

8 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Brittany Grace Harvey

Fredericksburg, Virginia; PC(USA); Summer intern, Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center

Bryan Wesley Law

Tye, Texas; Southern Baptist Convention; Working for the Texas Legislature

Doctor of Ministry Harold Clayton Brantley III

Whitesboro, Texas; PC(USA); Doctoral Project: “Seeing the Other, Seeing Ourselves, Seeing God: Mission Trips That Transform How We See the World”

Tracey Kyzar Davenport Harundale, Maryland; PC(USA); Doctoral Project: “Fight the Good Fight: Christian Resistance to Evil”

Jay Robert Kanerva

Glendale, Missouri; PC(USA); Doctoral Project: “Discerning Christian Vocation: Creating a Learning Community to Engage Select Members of Glendale Presbyterian Church in Discernment Practices that Reflect the Writings of Parker J. Palmer”

Mary Louise McCullough

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; PC(USA); Doctoral Project: “Discovering God’s Promises: Preaching as Promissory Narration”

Matthew Marinus Paul Spokane Valley, Washington; PC(USA); Doctoral Project: “Reaching Out by Reaching In: A Model for Incarnational Ministry”

Carol Ross Petty

Angleton, Texas; The Episcopal Church; Doctoral Project: “Narrative Tapestries: Weaving Life’s Stories”

Judith O’Sullivan Pistole

Alva, Oklahoma; PC(USA); Doctoral Project: “We Bow Down and Worship: A Model for Empowering and Equipping People to Craft and Lead Sunday Worship”

Paul Jeffrey Puffe

Austin, Texas; Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; Doctoral Project: “‘A Christian View of Nature’: A New Undergraduate Course at Concordia University Texas”

Kathleen Sams Russell

Austin, Texas; The Episcopal Church; Doctoral Project: “Forming Reflective Practitioners Through Collaborative Narrative Reflection in Theological Field Education”

Loretta Parker Sprinkle Sacramento, California PC(USA); Doctoral Project: “In God’s Warm Embrace: Experiencing God More Fully by Utilizing Attachment Theory in Worship and Small Groups”

Christopher Walker Wilson

Arlington, Texas; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Doctoral Project: “Preaching Baptism as Journey Rather than Destination: A Theological Corrective for Believers Baptism”


Theology in service to the church

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Scholars contribute a global perspective

global religion with growing numbers of expressions, Christianity calls at once for deep relationships and collaborative visions. The latter requires providing for diverse perspectives that remain conversant with tradition, on the one hand, and with contemporary movements, on the other. Although Christians have always spoken with a range of voices, the current global religious context behooves us to speak with more intention, clarity, and unity-amidst-diversity as we engage the world-wide chorus of voices belonging to those who follow Jesus. In March, a group of invited scholars gathered at Austin Seminary with the goal of deepening relationships and sharing visions, especially regarding how theological reflection may, indeed must, serve the church. The occasion was the Scholars at the Williamson Williamson Distinguished Scholars Conference, a biennial event made possible Conference, from left: David Jensen, by Hugh and Nan Williamson, long-time friends of Austin Seminary. This year’s Austin Seminary (U.S.A.); Jon Pott, Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing conference theme, “Global and Ecumenical Perspectives on Theology in Service to Company (U.S.A.); Amy Plantinga the Church,” brought together thirteen scholars representing a range of expertise. Pauw, Louisville Presbyterian The group presented their essays related to the conference theme, received feedTheological Seminary (U.S.A.); back from participants on their work, and discussed several salient matters facing George Hunsinger, Princeton the global church. Theological Seminary (U.S.A.); Essay titles ranged from “Theology and the Public Role of Churches in South Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary Africa Today” to “Two Cheers for Denominationalism.” The conference essays will (U.S.A.); Cynthia Rigby, Austin be published next year by Cascade Books; briefer versions of four of these essays Seminary (U.S.A.); Allan Cole, Austin follow in this issue of Windows. The essays and conversations were substantive, Seminary (U.S.A.); David Tombs, thoughtful, challenging, and hopeful, and I believe this conference made a signifiIrish School of Ecumenics, Trinity cant contribution to theology in service to the church. It was a privilege to have College (Ireland); Nico Koopman, such a distinguished group of scholars from around the world, and who represent Stellenbosch University (South Africa); Marcus Plested, University a range of Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic perspectives, on the Austin Semiof Cambridge (England); Arie nary campus. We are deeply grateful to the Williamsons, whose support made Molendijk, University of Groningen these conversations possible. (The Netherlands); Hetty Zock, University of Groningen (The Netherlands); and Olli-Pekka Vainio, University of Helsinki (Finland).

—Allan Hugh Cole Jr., Academic Dean

Summer | Fall 2012 | 9


Knowing our limits

By Cynthia L. Rigby

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n December of 2011, Eric Weiner published an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled: “Americans: Undecided About God?” In it, he expresses frustration that current U.S. discourse about God “has been coopted by the True Believers, on the one hand, and Angry Atheists, on the other.” “What about the rest of us?” he asks. He, himself, makes up the twelve percent of those who say they have no religious affiliation (“None”), or at least none yet. “We Nones may not believe in God, but we hope to one day. We have a dog in this hunt.” Cynthia L. Rigby is The W.C. Brown Professor of Theology at Austin Seminary. One of her current research interests is developing a theology of play. For more on this, see her “Beautiful Playing: Moltmann, Barth, and the Work of the Christian” in Theology as Conversation, eds. Bruce McCormack and Kimlyn Bender (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), and “Preaching As An Art of Playing” in Austin Seminary’s 2010 Communitas, viewable at: http://www.austinseminary.edu/Communitas2010 10 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


Weiner notes that there is “not a lot of good religion out there,” characterizing the religions he rejects as asking him to “return to an age of raw superstition” (he says he can’t do this, because he is a “rationalist” who thinks “the Enlightenment “was a very good thing”). The only God he sees religion offering “is an angry God” who is talked about by people who (like this God) “judge,” “smite,” and “shout.”

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to what people say they “want” in religion, Weiner is exceptional in that he would appreciate Barth’s comment— directed to theological scholars—that “those who urge us to shake ourselves free from theology and to think—and more particularly to speak and write—only what is immediately intelligible to the general public seem to me to be suffering from a kind of hysteria and to be entirely without discernment” (Epistle to the Romans, 1933). That said, Weiner certainly wants theologians to work very hard at making their deepest insights accessible enough that the world can benefit. Weiner provokes me to recall Steve Jobs’ comment that “customers today don’t always know what they want, especially if it’s something they’ve never seen, heard, or touched before.” Considering this, I wonder if Weiner’s “Steve Jobs of religion” might need to spend more time testifying to how Christianity has “seen, heard, and touched” their own lives. Testimony might well prove more effective than discourse for inviting Nones into interactive faith. This, of course, would not be an altogether new approach to religion. The writer of I John, for example, bears witness to “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands”—that is, the “word of life” that invites all who have not yet seen, heard, or touched to join in fellowship; to share together in joy. What troubles me about Weiner’s piece is that he buys into the assumption that Christianity, as a religion, endorses a static, distant, non-interactive God. I want to proclaim to him the Good News that—in Jesus Christ —God is indeed heard, and seen, and touched with our hands. This is the old, old, story, of course. But it is a story we need to tell in new, new ways if it is going to reach seekers like Weiner. Walking more humbly A new approach to religion, if it is to welcome—and perhaps even share in—the “doubts and experimentations” of the Nones, need be intentionally committed to humility. Frankly, it is hard to imagine any person in the U.S. who is disillusioned with religion disagreeing that a good dose of humility is way past due, for us religious folk. What they might balk at, however, is my suggestion that a way “to” that humility which allows for interaction and

laughing with joy

Theology in service to the “church invisible”

In contrast to this, Weiner wishes for a God who is “fun” and for religious leaders who “laugh.” “God is not an exclamation point,” Weiner insists. God is, at best, “a semicolon, connecting people.” Finally, Weiner suggests that what we need is a “Steve Jobs of religion . . . someone (or ones) who can invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious … that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation, and allows one to utter the word ‘God’ without embarrassment.” I appreciate that Weiner understands that the socalled “True Believers” don’t necessarily speak for all of us “religious” folks, even if he is having trouble hearing religious voices other than those who are shouting. Weiner respectfully presumes there is something worth hearing

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Theologians and pastors who have lost sight of the fact that they might be wrong will be ineffective at engaging the Nones of this world.

from some religious people he has not heard from, yet. (This in contrast to Richard Dawkins et. al., who assume all religious persons are by definition “delusional.”) Weiner also hopes for religion, refusing to accept “spiritual but not religious” philosophies as the only alternatives to fideism or atheism. He seeks theological leadership and guidance from someone who knows better than he, when it comes to God: a “Steve Jobs of religion” who will not react to cultural demands as much as perceive human needs. In an age when theologians, pastors, and other church leaders feel incredible pressure to cater

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even doubt is the reclamation of the idea that God is sov- claim on them. Calvin would presume Weiner is a memereign. They would balk because they associate the idea ber of the invisible church and work as hard as he could to that God is sovereign—for many understandable, histor- help Weiner recognize himself as a child of God. ical reasons—with the angry God of exclamation points. Liberation theologians including Gustavo Gutiérrez The idea that God governs us has been used, consistently, have developed the idea of the distinction between the to justify the domination of some over others. Why not visible and the invisible church in a different and imporlay it to the side in favor of an understanding of a less- tant way. To Gutiérrez (fighting the corruption of the Pethan-sovereign God that would immediately disassociate ruvian church of the 20th century), as for Calvin (fightour new approach to religion with religion of the past? ing the corruption of the Roman church of the 16th), The bottom-line answer to this, for those of us who the true church is not always located in the ekklesia—the believe, is because God is sovereign. Worth exploring for church that identifies itself as such. Gutiérrez recognizes the purposes of engaging journeyers such as Weiner is a the true church (the koinonia) wherever the Spirit is presbenefit of this conviction, namely: that sincerely to be- ent and at work: wherever the hungry are being fed, the lieve God is sovereign creates a space for developing ap- naked clothed, and the sick and imprisoned visited (see proaches to religion that are less Matt. 25). The ekklesia judgmental and more interactive. often has a lot to learn Knowing that God is sovereign, Let me offer two beginning from the koinonia, acwe are free to approach our explorations of what new apcording to Gutiérrez. proaches to religion, playing off Both Gutiérrez’ theological deliberations and this conviction, might look like: idea that the visible our religious practices playfully. First, they might include expandchurch should never ed dialogue between the so-called be so sure of itself and We can be more like children as “visible” and “invisible” church its own actions that it we engage the stuff of faith. and second, they might be much fails to look beyond more open to the fact that we who itself to learn about talk about God might be wrong even when we think we’re God, and Calvin’s idea that God’s claim extends beyond right, precisely because we are not God. those who are currently cognizant of it would help shape There is some evidence that a theological distinction an approach to religion that is more interactive and that had been made, by the time of the 4th-century Donatist promotes more laughter. God, in these examples, is controversy, between the church visible and the church not the exclamation point judge who shouts instead of invisible. There is no question that, by the time of the laughs and expects religious people to do likewise. God is Reformation, Protestant theologians were holding these not scrapping for power by means of “rightness” and piterms in tension both as a way of accounting for the cor- ety. Rather, God is the sovereign, ubiquitous, living, and ruption in the institutional, Roman, church and as a cor- dynamic semicolon who joins together those who know ollary to their uncompromising teaching that God—and something of God’s love with those who are still seekonly God—is sovereign. Calvin taught, along these lines, ing. that it is God who elects God’s own sons and daughters One of my favorite “Peanuts” comic strips features “before the foundation of the world.” Those who profess Snoopy, sitting on his doghouse, typing. faith in Christ and are members of a church in which “the “I hear you’re writing a book on theology,” Charlie Word is proclaimed and the sacraments rightly admin- Brown comments, looking up at him. “I hope you have a istered” are generally on the path to recognizing their good title.” identity in Christ and as the children of God. They are, in I have the perfect title, Snoopy thinks: Has It Ever Calvin’s terminology, members of the visible church. Occurred to You that You Might be Wrong? Calvin held that those who are not part of the visible Theologians and pastors who have lost sight of the church might very well be members of the church invis- fact that they might be wrong will be ineffective at enible. He preached and taught and engaged in the work gaging the Nones of this world. To work at being “right” of pastoral care in obedience to the sovereign God who, rather than on being faithful disciples is, in any case, to he believed, had planted “seeds of faith” in the hearts of commit the sin of idolatry: if pastors and theologians put the elect who might not (yet) have fully recognized God’s Continued following centerpiece

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forward their theological understandings with the aim of comprehensively summarizing who God is, what they are speaking about is no longer the infinite, mysterious God. Barth reminds us that it is not tight theological systems or definitive answers that stand at the heart of all we believe and want to share. It is, instead, “Jesus Christ who, by the potency of the Holy Spirit, is risen, powerful, and speaking. It is the continuously novel binding and liberating goodness of the living God who comes down to humanity and draws human beings up to Godself in a history that is always freshly in motion.” Talk about highly interactive! Related to this, Barth advises all of us who speak words about God and understand our efforts in this world to contribute to the coming of the Kingdom to earth to keep our sights on the socalled “eschatological reservation”—that is, the idea that all of our words and efforts, though essential to God’s work, are at the same time provisional ones. We are the bride awaiting our bridegroom to return; it is only at that time that we will know fully, even as we are fully known. The sovereignty of God and the “play” of theology Scholars such as Rebecca Chopp counter popular stereotypes of know-it-all theologians by arguing that the discipline of systematic theology is committed to “the creative, productive, imaging of Christian faith.” Wentzel van Huyssteen similarly understands that a theologian’s task is to “creatively design concepts, models, and finally theological theories” that “progress through a … maximally meaningful appeal to both our insight and our experience.” With Weiner’s plea in mind, it behooves us to ask how we might more creatively and productively image the Christian faith, designing theological concepts that “meaningfully appeal” to our day-to-day lives. My suggestion is that all of us who want to engage in a more dynamic, interactive form of theological reflection re-commit ourselves to moving out from the center of what we believe—developing ways of thinking that insist on embracing the fullness of both the “humanity” and the “divinity,” the contextuality and the transcendence, the contingency and the consistency, of the theological enterprise. On this I agree with Paul Lehmann, who way back in 1941 wrote that “The realization of theological vitality requires a fundamental rediscovery … a compelling direction to which all human life may be committed … [a return to] the meaning of Christ’s coming in the flesh.” I believe we need be renewed in our deepest convictions about who God is, and who we are, in Jesus Christ. We need to engage Jesus in our work. And when we do,

our work will play freely in the creative tensions between divinity and humanity, between transcendence of contexts and contexuality, between the sovereignty of God and the essential involvement of the human creature in the coming of God’s Kingdom. Knowing that God is sovereign, we are free to approach our theological deliberations and our religious practices playfully. This, as Barth explains, will mean that we engage them more, rather than less seriously. But our seriousness, again, will not manifest as the presumption of rightness, punctuated by bouts of shouting. On the contrary, it will be given to the kind of laughter that characterizes children’s interactions. When kids get really engrossed in what they are doing, they laugh out loud at the sheer joy of it. They play hide-and-seek, they concentrate on finding the right place to hide, they anticipate being found and then cry out with glee. They take all the cushions off the living room furniture, they make forts, they assign roles and create rules with great seriousness, adjusting all the way along. They know they are not sovereign: they do not have responsibility for making dinner, they do not have to keep an eye on the clock. We should be more like them, as we engage the stuff of faith. Immersed in imagining, interacting, laughing, and ever re-conceiving those things that matter most. I listen and watch my kids playing, and I hear them processing everything they care about in their lives: the way their parents, teachers, and friends relate to them, the rules they have to follow if they are going to stay safe, the threat of injury, friendlessness, and death, the promise (of all promises): that it will all, somehow, wind up OK. They fight (usually when they can’t agree on the rules they are making up). They are not easily distracted because—again—they are very serious about all this. And they laugh. They laugh a lot. What if we shaped an approach to religion that drew from the spirit of children playing? What if this is what the Christian religion has always thought it was doing? What if worship (for example), is all about us “playing” the Kingdom of God come to earth, as it is in heaven? What if, when we gather around that Table, we are really doing (at least in part) what kids do when they have a tea party (sometimes with real tea, in those little kid cups), imagine themselves getting married, or play school? Are we not, just like the children, both practicing for what is to come and actually, even, bringing what is to come into the present by virtue of our play-acting? And if we are, what could possibly be more intuitive, interactive, v straightforward, or unencumbered than this? Summer | Fall 2012 | 13


H

ow is a church to heal when it learns of the sexual misconduct of its pastor or of the treasurer’s misappropriation of funds? Where does it turn for help when conflicts suddenly rage out of control? Such crises not only cause emotional turmoil but can also provoke a crisis of faith. If the gulf between the Gospel and the relational practice of the congregation grows too wide, people are in danger of disillusionment, cynicism, or even a loss of faith. Restorative Practices can be a helpful approach to such

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Churches that embrace a restorative paradigm do not repress or deny conflict. Instead they teach their members how to initiate constructive conflict.

complex crises in the church. Restorative Practices is a transdisciplinary field of study that has grown during the past 30-40 years in various contexts across the globe, particularly in schools, social service agencies, and criminal justice in response to complex problems in community. Sadly, it is little known in the church. What unites the various disciplines is a commitment to working with people in order to deepen community ties instead of doing things to them or for them. People need to be included in decisions that mat-

Members of one another How to build a restorative church By Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger

Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger is the Charlotte W. Newcombe Professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is co-author, with Theresa F. Latini, of the book, Transforming Church Conflict: Compassionate Leadership in Action, to be published in Spring 2013 by Westminster John Knox Press. 14 || Austin AustinPresbyterian PresbyterianTheological TheologicalSeminary Seminary


ter to them. They need to have their core values considered. A profound sense of mutuality is thus embedded in the single word, with. At the heart of this field lies a commitment not to use one’s power over others, but to engage in relationships of mutuality for the sake of building interdependent community. Members of one another Because we are all members of Christ’s body, we are also members of one another. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ … There are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (I Cor. 12 excerpts). Paul affirms each member’s essential indispensability. And because we internalize the context in which we live, what is outside of us is also inside each of us. We literally cannot cut ourselves off from the body to which we belong. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (I Cor. 12:26). Churches that embrace a restorative paradigm understand that when openly acknowledged, honest conflict can bring a community new vitality. Churches that embrace a restorative practice framework do not suppress or deny conflict. Instead, they teach their members how to initiate constructive conflict with some degree of confidence and hope. Restorative circles are quite different—both in intent and in process—from a typical church meeting in which a possible decision is debated and a vote is taken. They are not designed to be forums for winning proponents, persuading others, or making an opposing party look bad. A restorative approach wants to hear those in the minority, not so that they can be defeated, but so that their needs can be fully heard and taken to heart. A restorative church knows that if it operates within a win/ lose paradigm, the whole church will lose. A restorative paradigm When some kind of harm or strife has come to the community, the fundamental questions to consider are: • Who has been hurt? • What are their needs? • Whose obligations are these? • Who has a stake in this situation? • What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders to put things right?

Guiding principles of a restorative paradigm • The conflict or difficulty, whatever its dimensions, belongs to the community in which it takes place. It needs to be owned by the community as a whole. • Its purpose is to restore and heal relationships through face-to-face participation of those affected. • It is a voluntary process for everyone involved. People are invited to participate, not mandated to do so. • Trained facilitators from within the community coordinate the restorative processes. • Each person participating will have equal access to the processes developed as well as informed consent upon which to make a decision whether to participate or not. • Restorative circles end on an Action Plan to which everyone agrees. Those directly affected together determine the outcome. • No observers are included in the process, only participants who have a vital stake in the outcome. • Everyone present is given a chance to speak and be heard. • The greater the alignment with these principles, the more restorative the outcome.

Learn More

For more information about restorative practices, see the work of internationally recognized teacher, Dominic Barter: http://www.restorativecircles.org/. This article has contextualized many of his teachings for the church. See also the website of the International Institute for Restorative Practices: www. iirp.edu and Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice, who crafted the core questions to be considered in a restorative paradigm.

Continued on page 19 Summer /| Fall 2012 | 15 Summer


C Compassion as a crossover term Connecting spiritual caregivers and other healthcare professionals By Hetty Zock

ompassion—charity, caring for those who suffer—is considered to be a crucial value in all great religious and spiritual traditions. As the Dalai Lama, an often-quoted religious authority in the interreligious dialogue, points out: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” This statement is endorsed by Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, humanists, and New Spirituality practitioners alike. Being compassionate­­­­—loving in an unselfish way (Oman 2011: 945)—is supposed to be good both for those who are on the giving and on the receiving end. (Note the slight correction of the predominantly altruistic Christian view on compassion.) All “people from good faith,” with diverse philosophies of life, may find each other in the Charter for Compassion, initiated by Karen Armstrong (see http://charterforcompassion.org/). The language of compassion, however, not only transcends the boundaries of established religious denominations and traditions, it is also taken up beyond the spiritual realm, in politics, social services, and healthcare (see for instance http://www.compassionforcare.com/). This is

Hetty Zock is KSGV Professor of Religion and Mental Health at the University of Groningen, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (The Netherlands). She is the author, most recently, of At the Crossroads of Art and Religion: Imagination, Commitment, Transcendence (Peeters, 2008). Her website is http://www.rug.nl/staff/ t.h.zock/index 16 | | Austin AustinPresbyterian PresbyterianTheological TheologicalSeminary Seminary


quite a challenge for pastors and spiritual caregivers, who may think, Hey, this is supposed to be our domain! You are trespassing! How is it that “compassion” is so popular at the moment? It may be helpful to understand this against the postmodern cultural context, which is characterized by fluidity, fragmentation, and the crossing of boundaries. As a result of the increasing plurality of worldviews, cultural diversity, and the dynamics due to globalization processes, the search for meaning has become fragmented and diversified. The individual is put before the task of establishing his/her own identity and worldview, with the help of many cultural perspectives offered. Likewise, Christian theologies and the churches have become as diverse and fragmented as the many other

philosophy: passion for and compassion with people. Clients are to be approached as fellow human beings who deserve to be respected and valued as unique and vulnerable humans, co-travellers on the path of life. Thus, compassion has become the key value in spiritual care. However, compassion is seen nowadays as a crucial value in all other forms of care, too. In their moral underpinnings of what “good care” consists of, the Roman-Catholic theologian Annelies van Heijst and the Protestant theologian Frits de Lange both argue that professional care consists of two aspects: on the one hand “craftsmanship” (competence, skills) and on the other hand what may be called “professional love”: compassion, originating from human solidarity (which also extends to the caregivers themselves). According to Van Heijst and De Lange, being compassionate—a caring, respectful involvement with paIn the highly secularized Netherlands … tients—is fundamental for all competent professional care interventions. So career spiritual caregivers cannot do otherwise (profession) and caritas go together. than transcend denominational and religious This view is supported by psychological research on the concept of “compasboundaries in their daily work. sionate love” (The Science of Compassionate Love: Theory, Research, and Applications, available philosophies of life. This does not mean that Wiley-Blackwell, 2008). It turns out that compassion is religion is just disappearing, as older secularization the- an important dimension of care, affecting the quality of ories argued. Rather, it is changing. Because of the so- care and the work satisfaction of care professionals. On called “return of religion” and new manifestations of re- the whole, the research suggests that compassionate love ligion outside traditional religious domains, the present has positive effects—it makes you happy, in the Dalai Laage is characterized as “postsecular.” The postsecular is ma’s phrasing. It reduces the risk of burn-out in caregivabout the re-emergence of the religious in other forms, in ers, and leads to lesser stress, better mental health, and secular domains (Exploring the Postsecular: The Religious, physical and psychosocial well-being. And all this leads to the Political, and the Urban, Brill 2010). better care giving. On the side of patients, practices like Let us take a closer look at the language of compas- compassion-oriented meditation may have a positive efsion prevalent in healthcare. I believe we see emerging fect on pain and coping. here a “philosophy of compassion” shared by spiritual My conclusion is that the philosophy of compassion caregivers and other care professionals, that may be what serves as a postsecular narrative indeed, as it connects Jürgen Habermas calls a “postsecular crossover narra- care professionals of different backgrounds. It helps to tive” (An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in establish two things: a common moral foundation of care a Post-secular Age, Polity 2010). that takes seriously the human quest for meaning and a In the highly secularized Netherlands (only 1/3 of compassionate attitude as an essential aspect of caregivthe Dutch population has an affiliation with a religious ing, which is under pressure in the currently effectivityinstitution), spiritual caregivers have to counsel clients and efficiency-crazed market-oriented care sector. Inholding widely different beliefs. Diverse spiritual resourc- stead of claiming “compassion” as belonging exclusively es are available, but individuals may have lost access to to them, spiritual caregivers should grasp this opportunithem through lack of use. So spiritual caregivers cannot ty of a shared language of compassion, to work together do otherwise than transcend denominational and reli- with other healthcare professionals in the service of good v gious boundaries in their daily work. Having themselves care. very different philosophies of life, they find a common

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D

isagreement is a natural, but not always welcomed, part of our human existence. But what it is about our humanity that makes us disagree? The causes are legion. We understand our external limitations: gaining knowledge requires time, accurate information, helpful colleagues, and some ways of communication that ensure we really understand the dilemmas we are facing. These do not come to us automatically. In addition to external limitations, we are bound by our personal limitations: we may want to improve our thinking in order to become more conscientious but this

is very hard. Our cognitive processes are rigged in a way that makes consensus almost impossible. To use a simple metaphor, our brains are like a computer which needs an operating system to function. The operating system consists of simple applications, “biases” that perform different tasks making it easy and economical for us to lead our daily lives. It is, however, important to note that biases are essential tools which we need to survive. But herein lies the problem: biases are not interested in truth, but survival. Let us consider some very typical human biases. For example, we aim to maintain equilibrium in our belief system so that phenomena that seem to create internal conflicts are somehow balanced with our previous beliefs. This can mean turning a blind eye to conflicting evidence, or interpreting it in a way that eventually supports our cause. We By Olli-Pekka Vainio also favour the solutions that We aim to maintain equilibrium appear to be simple. in our belief system so that I ro n i c a l l y, phenomena that seem to create approximately 70% of human internal conflicts are somehow balanced with our previous beliefs. beings think that they are smarter than the average, and from a strict evolutionary perspective, overconfidence helps. The chances of Admiral Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar would have probably been slimmer if their ships’ names had been Equal Outcome, Ordinary, Run of the Mill, Ephialtes, and Peaceful Negotiator instead of Victory, Leviathan, Conqueror, Minotaur, and Defiance. To make matters even worse, people seem to be overconfident when they are not sure what to think. Likewise, experts are often prone to be too confident about their views. Typically, we think that “they” are simpler than “us,” and tend to picture them as somehow more unified in their opinion. We think that whenever one of “them” makes a choice, he or she is always acting based on his or her “nature.” We, on the other hand, never make choices due to our characteristic features; we merely make inDr. Olli-Pekka Vainio is Researcher of Philosophical Psychology, formed judgments based on the careful assessment of Morality, and Politics, Research Unit at the University of Helsinki, available evidence. One result of this is that we think that Finland, and visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Religion the others are always more biased than we are (not surin Public Life, Kellogg College, Oxford University, UK .

Why we disagree

… and is there anything we can do about it?

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prisingly, the others think similarly about us). Should we then be less confident and doubt our convictions? Accordingly, should we not be too sure about our beliefs because they might be wrong in the end, and surely we cannot think that our well-educated and intelligent colleagues and friends are all wrong while we are right? The problem about doubt, however, is that if we hold our beliefs only tentatively, we feel less satisfied and more stressed as our working memory keeps continuously checking for other alternatives. This has serious consequences for religious identity. If we choose, as we sometimes do, to keep our options open, we are not getting the thing we usually want from the worldviews we embrace. Choosing an identity that is too unstable makes us dissatisfied and regretful. In effect, this can lead us to change the identity to something that seems more stable. Recently, philosopher Robert Audi argued in his Rationality and Religious Commitment (Oxford University Press, 2011) that religious life is a balancing act, which is necessarily rather elusive and multidimensional. It requires integration of relevant dimensions of one’s life which aims at “theoethical equilibrium,” where a person’s religious, scientific, ethical, and aesthetic convictions are constantly changing as they react to new challenges, but ideally moving towards greater coherence. This includes taking into account competing convictions. In effect, this means sharing resources with those with whom we disagree, gaining more understanding, and engaging in co-operative practices, where both parties can contribute to the common good without the fear of becoming overrun by the other. But how does this avoid the problem of keeping one’s options open? Audi’s answer is theological: “[I]f we are all created by God who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, and if reason is viewed as given to us for guidance of life, then there is no reason to resist the growth of knowledge and at least some reason to pursue it.” This way Audi is able to secure good religious grounds for growth in virtues and knowledge without resorting immediately to, for example, demands of neutral reason. The crucial thing here is that this move is possible only from very conscious and strong religious identity. If we begin by strengthening the foundations of our identity, we are in a better place to effectively deal with disagreements by seeking knowledge regarding the v more elusive beliefs.

Members

Continued from page 15

The focus of the work is thus to identify the needs of every person impacted by the incident, including the needs of those who have brought harm, if they are willing to acknowledge their responsibility and wish to be reintegrated into the community. Restorative circles The circle’s first task is to develop process guidelines. These include showing respect for each person by agreeing to keep confidentiality, and by having only one person speak at a time (a practice often facilitated by the use of a “talking piece” or symbolic object). Setting chairs in a circle communicates a commitment to valuing every person’s voice. The three basic aims for a restorative circle are mutual understanding, self-responsibility, and an action plan. Mutual understanding is supported when each person has an opportunity to be heard about the significance of a particular event and the meaning that it holds for him or her now. Self-responsibility takes place when each person in the community owns the choices he or she has made in reference to the act in question. Because the process is slow and reflective, giving people the time and space to process their emotions and taking the time for deep listening, a sturdy bridge among the participants is built. Only then do the facilitators move the process to the third step: toward the creation of an action plan. “What would you like to see happen next?” or “What would you like to offer?” Any offering or request needs to be concrete, specific, and doable within a particular time frame. This plan is agreed upon by all members of the circle. It is not the responsibility of the facilitators to resolve the conflict, but is the result of the entire circle working together. Conclusion Because reconciliation lies at the core of the gospel, the church needs to be tireless in aligning its relational practices with its beliefs. Conceptual models, such as the one presented here, become tools for knowing only when we indwell both the model and the situation at hand. Does the model open avenues for further investigation? It is my hope that readers will be sufficiently intrigued to learn more about restorative practices for addressing situations of conflict, harm, or crisis. v Summer | Fall 2012 | 19


Charge to the Class of 2012

Love your mother By President Theodore J. Wardlaw

S Austin Seminary professors are not only expert academicians, but are personally committed to their faith and to the church, making them valuable mentors to students preparing for a life in ministry.

See for yourself.

Discovery Weekend October 26-28

To confirm your place, call our Office of Admissions at 800241-1085, email Jack Barden, admissions@ austinseminary.edu, or register online at austinseminary.edu/ falldiscoveryweekend

ometime around the middle of January, a 22-year-old man named Jefferson Bethke produced a spoken-word video called “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.” I saw it on You-Tube, and couldn’t help but be captivated by the earnestness of it. Bethke stands in a courtyard somewhere and lays out edgy rhymes that draw a distinction between the purity of the teachings of Jesus and the hypocrisy of the church. In his video, the argument is that Jesus preaches healing, surrender, and love, but religion is rigid, phony, rule-based, and stale. “Jesus came to abolish religion,” he says. “Religion puts you in bondage, but Jesus sets you free.” Well, the video went viral, and so you probably saw it. My immediate reaction was that Jefferson Bethke’s message hit a nerve with a host of people, and with me. Its seemed to speak for many believers— certainly young ones but also older ones— who so desperately want to feel close to God but who are so often turned off by the church. This video captured, seemingly overnight, the attention of millions of people; and even one of my favorite columnists—David Brooks of The New York Times. Brooks said that Jefferson Bethke’s video “represents the passionate voice of those who think their institutions lack integrity—not just religious ones, but political and corporate ones, too.” After that video was out there for a few days, people who were initially captivated by it began to do a double-take and push back a little bit. One such respondent blogged that it is biblically inaccurate to say that Jesus hated religion, and pointed out that in fact Jesus preached a religious doctrine, prescribed rituals, and worshipped in a temple. And Bethke responded to him with humility and a gracious kind of self-criticism. “I wanted to say I really appreciated your article man … It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100 percent.” Later, he watched a panel discussion in which a group of theologians, in a spirited

20 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

conversation about the video, lamented young peoples’ disdain of organized religion. And he responded to that, too: “Right when I heard that, it just convicted me, and God used it as one of those spirit moments where it’s just, ‘Man, he’s right.’ I realized a lot of my views and treatments of the church were not scripture-based; they were very experience-based.” So, in such instances as these, almost immediately after Jefferson Bethke’s sensational indictment of the church went viral, he basically folded. He was gracious and humble, and that speaks well of his character, but finally he retreated from his passionate polemic. Over time, I have found myself wanting to locate this young man and to offer him a full-ride fellowship to Austin Seminary. If any of you happen to run into Jefferson Bethke, would you please tell him I’m looking for him? He’s not in trouble; it’s not a trip to the Principal’s Office. I want to talk him into coming to seminary! Because we need, after all, more of his kind of earnestness and passion—the kind of earnestness and passion that you brought to this place. And we need something else, too, which is what I want to put in front of you this afternoon in the form of a charge. We need you to love the church. We need you to love the church, and not to despise it. We need you to love the church like you would love a good-enough mother. You don’t love that mother because she’s perfect; you don’t love her because she doesn’t have issues; you don’t love her because you appreciate equally every single thing she taught you. You love her because she brought you into this world. She told you stories. She taught you songs. She bathed you, she fed you. She nurtured you. She handed you over


from her generation into your own. She gave you roots, and she prayed that you would have wings. And because, across the centuries, this image of a good-enough mother has generally held up for most of us, Christians have often taken to calling this institution which has conveyed the tradition from one generation to another: “Mother Church.” She’s not perfect, either. She’s got issues. She’s gotten it wrong a bunch of times. The committee meetings can run long, the big decisions take so much time, all of that. But she told us the stories, she taught us the songs, she bathed us at font and she fed us at table, she nurtured us, she gave us the roots, and she prayed for the wings. She’s not the gospel that Jesus brought us, for Heaven’s sake, but she is the earthen vessel that has kept and preserved that treasure, and at her best she has transmitted that gospel, that precious treasure, from one generation to another. In these days when the air is filled with cries of protest and disgust about virtually all of our current institutions— the government, the banks, the corporations, and certainly the church—it strikes me that the protests themselves seem, in the moment at least, more satisfying than the solutions they propose. All of this intense desire for change has so far produced relatively few good and coherent recipes for change. As David Brooks puts it, “If you go out there armed only with your own observations and sentiments, you will surely find yourself on very weak ground. You’ll lack the arguments, convictions, and the coherent view of reality that you’ll need when challenged. That’s what happened to Jefferson Bethke. “The paradox of reform movements,” says Brooks, “is that, if you want to defy authority, you probably shouldn’t think entirely for yourself. You should attach yourself to a countertradition and school of thought that has been developed over the centuries and that seems true.’” You’ve already made that attachment—to the church. That’s why you’re here today.

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Tom Currie—an alumnus of this Seminary and the dean of the Charlotte campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary— puts it well in his article in the recent issue of our faculty journal Insights. He examines this moment of unrest that we’re going through in our Presbyterian Church, this moment of schism, and in his last paragraph he says this: “The issue before us today is whether we can love the church. It gets so little love, and perhaps deserves less than it receives. It is so easily despised, especially for its manifold shortcomings, its weak and timid witness, its halting and vacillating call to discipleship, its own failure to live out what it professes … [But] the great mystery of the church is that Jesus Christ loves the church. Which is why the new heaven and new earth comes to focus in a new Jerusalem, ‘prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’ And it is the voice from the throne that declares that this life [between Jesus and his church] is always a life together” (Rev. 21:3-4). Back near the beginning of this year, Kay and I were in New York for the annual gathering of Presbyterian presidents and board chairs. Several days of meetings, and each day began with Morning Prayer. One day, we were led in prayer by Rabbi Angela Bachdahl, an amazing young woman on the rabbinical staff of the largest synagogue in New York—maybe in the country. A good bit of that service was singing, and she played her guitar and taught us the most beautiful melodies, and we sang them. And then she taught us something about song itself. She said that every note in a song has a special relationship with the note before it and the note after it. They are not single notes unrelated to other notes, and somehow capable of being the song by themselves! No, each note needs all the other notes to make the song. Each note is in a special and sacred relationship with the note that came before it and the note that is to follow it. And while being sung, that note pauses to say to the note before it, “Thank you for being my teacher.” And then that note says to the note that will follow it, “I permit you to be even more beautiful than I am.” That, in my judgment, is a beautiful image of who we are in this generation of that ongoing song we sing as the church. And you: this is your moment to sound your note in that ongoing song. If it’s just you and your one note, it’s not a song. But if your note has the humility to see itself as the connector—linking the song that has come from before, with the song that is to come—then the melody is unbroken. And the church, that good-enough mother, continues. So it is that I charge you to do your best to love the church, and to pass on the Gospel, which is its treasure. v

The church is that earthen vessel that has kept and preserved the gospel and transmitted it from one generation to another.

Summer | Fall 2012 | 21


live learn

2013 February 4-6 Currie Lecturer

Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty Associate Professor of Theology, Bellarmine University “Grace-filled Economy: The Way Around the Ethic of Scarcity Toward the Ethic of Enough”

Jones Lecturer

Margaret Aymer Associate Professor of New Testament, Interdenominational Seminary Westervelt Lecturer

Joseph Small

Former Director of the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship “The Last Shall be First: Ecclesiology as Initial Theological Problem”

Preacher

Karl Travis Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Fort Worth, Texas Reunions for the Classes of 1953, 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 & 2003-2012 austinseminary. edu/midwin13

upcoming from education beyond the walls | Caregiving: Pastoral Conversation | Sept. 15 | If you care for individuals who are experiencing grief or suffering, this workshop will help you learn simple tools to identify central spiritual needs and to use conversation as a pastoral presence. These skills—which set you apart from friend, counselor, or advice-giver—will improve the practice of one-on-one ministry to hurting people. In partnership with Seton Family Healthcare. For Stephen Ministers, lay caregivers, care teams, and pastors. | 8:30 a.m. to noon | Cost: $25/person The Heyer Lecture | Sept. 27 | Dr. Néstor Rodríguez | Néstor Rodríguez’s present

research focuses on Guatemalan migration, U.S. deportations to Mexico and Central America, the unauthorized migration of unaccompanied minors, evolving relations between Latinos and African Americans/Asian Americans, and ethical and human rights issues of border enforcement. | 7:00 p.m. followed by dessert Q&A | FREE

Texas Festival of Young Preachers | Sept. 28-29 | Sponsored by Academy of Preachers | Education Beyond the Walls will co-host the regional Festival of Young Preachers to identify, support, and inspire young people in their call to Gospel preaching. Register at www.academyofpreachers.net

The Beautiful House: Rethinking the Role of Beauty in Worship and Preaching | Oct. 10 |Rev. Elizabeth Myer Boulton and Rev. Matthew Myer

Boulton|Beauty and creativity are fundamental to the life of faith, yet, in many Christian communities today, they are too often overlooked or crowded out by other priorities. In our time together, we will discover new ways to incorporate more beauty and creativity in our worship and preaching. We will explore how the world “declares the glory of God” (Psalm 19) and how an Incarnational aesthetic can help us discern splendor in our congregations. For pastors, musicians, worship leaders, and all who care about God’s saving work in congregations.| 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.| Cost: $65 (inc. lunch)

Faith Formation for the 21st Century| Oct. 15-17 | John Roberto |Three major

dynamics significantly challenge leaders in forming people of faith: increasingly diverse spiritual and religious needs, more and more religious content and experience in the larger culture, and ever-expanding technology that offers new avenues for formation. Come unpack these dynamics and learn more about how to create a future where all ages and generations embrace a life-transforming faith. In partnership with SCRAPCE. For Christian educators, ministers of education, and congregational leaders of formation.| Cost: $75 APCE / $125 others

Many Vocations, One Calling | Nov. 2-4| Jason Byassee |The religious landscape in America vibrates with change, and God calls those who would serve as leaders in the life of faith to new forms of service in ministry. This event offers a space to reflect on ministry that spans multiple venues—work outside the congregation and pastoral work for the congregation. Come and join us to listen for God’s call, imagine a different kind of pastoral life, and meet others who are living it. In partnership with Association of Presbyterian Tentmakers. For bi-vocational pastors, those in alternative ministries, and people interested in new forms of pastoral leadership.| Cost: varies (see: austinseminary.edu/manyvocations) Crossing the Border: Freedom from Oppression | Nov. 10 | Rev. Dr. Jay Alanis, Rev. Dr. Gregory Cuéllar, Dr. Nora Lozano |Pastors and church leaders will explore one of the core messages of the Christian faith: liberation—with a focus on what liberation means in particular for people living in the borderlands. In partnership with Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest and Seminary of the Southwest. For pastors and lay people; Hispanic or Anglo or other. 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.| Cost: $15 (inc. lunch & dinner)

austinseminary.edu/ebw

22 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary


faculty news notes

good reads |

I

have to admit that I haven’t really thought about the afterlife or the resurrection much lately. My lack of focus on this particular subject matter has to do mainly with my own field of study: the Hebrew Bible. Unlike the New Testament in which the resurrection of Jesus looms large and central, the Old Testament lacks much mention of resurrection—or so I thought. My assumption was pleasantly upended by Jon Levenson’s book, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel (Yale University Press, 2008). Levenson, the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard Divinity School, attempts to counter the notion that the idea of the bodily resurrection was an intrusive, late Christian innovation into Judaism or something peripheral to the Jewish faith. Rather, by tracing the root and development of resurrection in both the Old Testament and classical rabbinic texts, he shows that the idea of resurrection “reflects certain key features of the deep structure of theology of Israel.” Indeed, Levenson goes so far as to say that “the resurrection of the dead was a weight-bearing beam in the edifice of Judaism.” Levenson posits that the idea of resurrection in the Old Testament should be viewed much more broadly. Contrary to modern notions of death, the ancients did not view death as only occurring when someone stopped breathing. Rather, death was envisioned through a series

of metaphors: sickness, bereavement of children, exile, etc … It was, in essence, anything that caused the person to move away from life or the lifegiving God. So also was resurrection understood more broadly and metaphorically. Healing from illnesses (which in the days before modern medicine frequently and most certainly lead to death), return or bearing of children to barren or bereaved parent, rescue by God from trouble, return and restoration from exile, or the renewal the relationship between God and the worshipper were all seen as forms of resurrection. The most theologically poignant idea in the book is that the movement away from God, the source of life, was akin to death, and that a return to God was seen as a rebirth or resurrection. If so, then the experience of God’s forgiveness either through prayer, petition, or praise— indeed any act that spiritually renews ones relationship with God—should be seen as a miniature act of resurrection. In other words, what Levenson’s work sheds light on is the daily and constant possibility of resurrection. —Written by Suzie Park, assistant professor of Old Testament

board actions | Austin Seminary Board of Trustees took the following actions with respect to faculty at its spring meeting: • Elected Dr. David H. Jensen as the first holder of the Clarence N. and Betty B. Frierson Distinguished Chair of Reformed Theology, effective July 1, 2012. • Accepted the sabbatical reports of Lewis R. Donelson, Ruth A. Campbell Professor of New Testament and Monya A. Stubbs, Associate Professor of New Testament. • Authorized a search for a faculty position in Christian ethics.

Professor Jennifer Lord guided DMin students Rita Sims and Lindsay Churchman in a percussion lesson to help them think about a variety of music in worship.

faculty notes | Kristin Saldine, associate professor of homiletics, contributed two articles to the forthcoming Feasting on the Gospels commentary series and was the conference preacher at VOICE, Montreat’s signature conference, May 25-27. In September, Professor Saldine begins a twomonth appointment as a visiting scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary. Jennifer Lord, The Dorothy B. Vickery Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgical Studies, co-authored six lectionary preaching entries with Professor Cynthia L. Rigby for the recently published Theological Companion to the Lectionary, Preaching Year C (Abingdon). Professor Lord was a featured speaker at the Louisiana Gulf-Coast Synod Assembly (ELCA) in May and was selected to participate in a Lilly Endowment Inc.funded writer’s seminar at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, in August. Summer| Fall 2012 | 23


alumni news notes

Because of seminary …

class notes |

Presbyterian Church, Watford City, North Dakota.

1970s

Kendra R. Thompson (MATS’06) ordained on May 20, 2012, to serve as associate pastor of faith formation at Edwards United Church of Christ in Davenport, Iowa.

Velma and Richard A. Spinner (MDiv’75) celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary on August 16, 2012.

1980s Mark D. Hinds (MDiv’87) married Peggy Owens on November 11, 2011. They reside in Louisville, Kentucky. Mark serves as general editor for curriculum development for the PC(USA) and Peggy is the associate general presbyter for education and mission for MidKentucky Presbytery.

1990s

You lead others in their journeys of faith. Alumni Phonathon: September 24 & 25 and October 1,2,& 4 austinseminary.edu/ alumchallenge

Laura Mendenhall (DMin’97) received the Ernest Trice Thompson Award at the Presbyterian Outlook Luncheon, given during General Assembly. Carol Howard Merritt (MDiv’98) chaired the PC(USA) Special Committee on the Nature of the Church for the 21st Century that reported to the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

2000s Shamaine Chambers King (MDiv’02) was a candidate for vice-moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012). Cameron T. (MDiv’07) and Sarah E. (MDiv’07) Allen welcome Wyatt Lee Allen, born May 21, 2012. It’s been a busy time for Paul Burns (MDiv’07)! He and his wife, Jennifer, adopted Nelson Anderson on June 11; the same month his first book Prayer Encounters was published. Check out a review (of the book!) by Ryan Kemp-Pappan (MDiv’08) here: http://beingrkp. com/2012/07/17/prayerencounters-review/ Trey Hegar (MDiv’07) and Sarah Hegar (MDiv’09) welcomed Hudson McKinney

24 | Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Zanna Allen shows off baby brother, Wyatt. Hegar, born April 9, 2012. To read more of Hudson’s story visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/ hudsonhegar Sarah and David L. Hulsey Jr. (MATS’08) welcomed Lily Hulsey, born June 4, 2012. Caressa L. (MDiv’08) and Jonathan A. (MDiv’08) Murray welcomed Madelyn Jayn Murray, born March 6, 2012. Mitchell S. Holley (MDiv’08) has attained the distinction of board certified chaplain and was honored on June 23, 2012, at the Association of Professional Chaplains’ Grand Banquet in Schaumburg, Illinois. Holley has served for the past two years as staff chaplain for Akron Children’s Hospital. Vanessa and John Dearman (MDiv’09) welcomed Gracielle Kathleen Dearman, born June 21, 2012. Alyssa and Chris Kirwan (MDiv’09) welcomed Raelynn Rose Kirwan, born October 14, 2011. Chris is pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana. James Janecek (DMin’10) moved July 10, 2012, to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, assigned to the position of Deputy Wing Chaplain.

ordinations | Diane M. Oswald (MDiv’01) ordained and installed on July 1, 2012, as pastor of First

Sarah Hegar (MDiv’09, ordained on November 6, 2011. She is serving Uriel Presbyterian Church, Chester, South Carolina as a supply pastor. Stella Z. Burkhalter (MDiv’10), ordained on June 10, 2012, to serve Oak Hill United Methodist Church, Austin. L. Nicole Stahl (MDiv’10) ordained on June 24, 2012, at United Christian Church, Austin, Texas. Douglas R. Fritzsche (MDiv’11) ordained on April 15, 2012 at Cedar Creek United Methodist Church, Cedar Creek, Texas, to serve Bastrop Presbyterian Fellowship, Cedar Creek.

in memoriam | C. Rogers McLane (MDiv’48), Fort Worth, Texas, June 7, 2012 Gaylord H. Dodgen (MDiv’60, ThM’73), Lafayette, Louisiana Dan T. Hughs (MDiv’65), Greenville, South Carolina, May 3, 2012 Walter B. Funk (MDiv’66, DMin’83), Delran, New Jersey, February 26, 2012 Frederick “Rick” Benjamin (MDiv’73), Houston, Texas, July 20, 2012 Laura B. Lewis (MDiv’80), Austin, June 24, 2012 Ronald H. Campbell (MDiv’81, DMin’81), Austin, April 11, 2012 Anne Caughran (MDiv’92, Los Almos, New Mexico, July 18

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teaching ministry

Ministry & history By David W. Johnson, assistant professor of church history and Christian spirituality

T

heological education is a mystery. It is a mystery because theology itself is a mystery. Theology is a mystery because God is a mystery. They are not the same mystery. God is a mystery because the being of God transcends all that can be known about God. Theology labors with the task of articulating what can be known about God, while respecting that which remains hidden. Theological education shares in the mystery of theology, but grapples with the additional mystery the way that theological education not only imparts knowledge and skills, but engenders wisdom and maturity. To study theology is to be changed by that study. This is one of the aspects of the mystery of theological education—it is not identical with the hidden work of God in the soul, but it can be a part of that work. The mysteries that stem from God cannot be solved—they are not like riddles—but they can be inhabited. This is the point where the study of history touches the practice of ministry. The church is a people in time. It is called into being by a series of events, and carries the memory of those events with it as both its foundation and its future. Because it is a people in time, it has a history—the memory of its experiences that help to shape what it is today. In a sense, the entire history of the church is a series of experiments or explorations in what it means to be Christian. As times, conditions, civilizations, and cultures change, what it meant to be the church also

changes. “New occasions teach new duties,” James Russell Lowell wrote, in one of the more gruesome hymns of the church, and it is these new occasions and duties that give the church its history. But throughout these new occasions and duties the church, at least in part, had struggled to remain true to itself and its Lord. It has not always done this completely or successfully, and at times it has seemed incapable of judging or even recognizing its own failures. But its failures are the occasion of our learning, and its successes are our models. Thus, the history of the church provides a laboratory of what it might mean to be Christian. The point of studying the church’s past in preparing for ministry is not to replicate it, justify it, or sanitize it, but simply to learn from it. How do we learn from church history? History might well repeat itself, but history does not repeat itself in any obvious or predictable way. Consequently, learning from history is not simply a matter of repeating successes or avoiding mistakes. For example, many have observed that the contemporary church is similar to that of the pre-Constantinian church, in that the church cannot expect support— either physical or moral—from the government. We can learn from this. Christians cannot simply recreate the early church. But Christians can study the early church with sympathy and attention, in order to discover how the

church of today can live its life and carry out its mission. In another (not entirely unrelated) area, our culture seems to be threatened by various factions of Islam. At the same time, our society carries on an enormous trade with Islamic nations. Is Islam our friend? Our enemy? How do we respond to its presence and its power? This seems to be new. But Western society, and the church that is a part of that society, has been existing with Islam for fifteen hundred years, and has been shaped by Islam in ways it seldom understands or even knows. The same is true of Islam. Knowing this history will not, in and of itself, resolve the current series of crises. It can, however, help us understand who we and they are, and how we might be able to talk with each other more successfully than we seem to be doing now. The wisdom that is engendered by theological study is the result of the intertwining of intelligence and experience. Students must experience ministry in order to become good ministers. They must marry learning and experience if they are to become wise. This experience does not have to be restricted to their own individual lives. It can be the experience of the entire church. If the church is to be wise, its knowledge of its own experience must be joined to the truth it has been given. We cannot say in advance how any particular bit of history might help us, but we can surely say that historical amnesia will damage us. We live in mystery. To live in it wisely is part of our task, and part of the duty we owe to God. v

For further reading: Knowles, David. The Historian and Character: And Other Essays (Cambridge University Press, 1963) McIntire, C. T., ed. God, History, and Historians: Modern Christian Views of History (Oxford University Press, 1977) Smith, Page. The Historian and History (Alfred A. Knopf, 1964) Williams, Rowan. Why Study the Past? The Quest for the Historical Church (Eerdmans, 2005) Summer | Fall 2012 | 25


The organ in Shelton Chapel underwent a makeover this summer. Workmen removed more than 1000 pipes in order to replace 53 which were at risk of falling.

windows

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Commencement 2012

Graduates and administration, clockwise from left: Board Chair Cassandra Carr, Dean Allan Cole, and Seminary President Ted Wardlaw; Eric Gates; Professors John Alsup and Lewis Donelson; Bryan Law; Mary Ann Kaiser, Remington Johnson, Wendy Inman, and Naomi Ingrim; Liz Klar; Kathleen Russell; Holly Clark-Porter and John Stanger; Sudie Niesen, Professor Suzie Park, and Anna Bowden.

webXtra: for more Commencement photos, go to: austinseminary.edu/mediagallery

Windows Summer | Fall 2012  

Global Theology in service to the church

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