M o v i n g T owa r d O u r T h i r d C e n t u ry : A Vision Frame
M o v i n g T owa r d O u r T h i r d C e n t u ry : A Vision Frame In 1998 the Board of Columbia Theological Seminary adopted Vision 2020: Long-range Plan 1998-2020. This plan has guided the Seminary over the past fourteen years of its life. The original writers of Vision 2020 foresaw that their work would need to be evaluated and updated given the ever-changing context of God’s world and the seminary’s work in that world. In 2009 the Board assigned a Vision 2020 review team to re-examine the vision and rework it in light of changes in the world and the evolution of Columbia under the auspices of the previous vision work. The work of the new review team is heavily dependent on the original, because that plan still powerfully expresses many of Columbia’s aspirations. But whereas the original plan laid out a rather specific timeline of goals, this “update” focuses on a vision “frame” rather than a plan. This “frame” is designed to provide a context for planning—both shorter- and longer-term—which the Board anticipates will shape the future of the seminary throughout the next decade and beyond.
Our Mission1 Columbia Theological Seminary exists to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the Church and the world.
Our Mission is Framed C o mm i tm e n t s 2
We understand Christian faith to include a growing love for God expressed in daily faithfulness to Jesus Christ, vibrant worship as an essential feature of life together, cultivation of the mind, and the disciplines of the Christian life; a growing love for the Church expressed in authentic community, participation in the life of local churches, and responding to God’s call to and gifting for leadership; a growing love for Christ’s work in the world expressed in ministries of proclamation, nurture, compassion, justice, creativity, and the care of all creation.
1 T he Statement of Mission adopted in 1992 and utilized in the Vision 2020 Plan included a first paragraph which articulated the identity of CTS: “Columbia Theological Seminary is an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the church of Jesus Christ.” In our current “Vision 2020 Frame” this language has been dropped, though it remains as our official institutional description in our Bylaws and other official documents.
2 T his is a revision and reordering of Columbia’s full “Statement of Mission.” The original statement was approved in 1992, and was reaffirmed in 1997 as a part of the seminary’s Bylaws and Plan of Government. The Statement of Mission was the focus of the extensive long-range planning which resulted in the Vision 2020 Long Range Plan. Vision 2020 was adopted October 6, 1998, and the Mission was included on p. 27 of that plan. The revision included here was approved by the Faculty on August 29, 2012 and by the Board of Trustees on October 2, 2012.
Because we are a confessional community of the Church, we believe in Christ’s reign over the whole world; articulate a missional understanding of life rooted in the rule of God’s love and justice; celebrate the goodness of God in all creation; live under the authority of Jesus Christ as witnessed in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, in the Church throughout the ages, and in the Reformed tradition and its confessions; nurture a personal and corporate faith which takes responsibility for our choices amid the political realities, the social institutions, and the global contexts in which we live; commit ourselves to diversity and inclusivity, to ecumenicity, and to discerning the ongoing manifestations of God’s presence in human affairs; listen with openness to voices of hopelessness and hope around and within us; and acknowledge our own brokenness and need for redemption. At Columbia, we seek to witness to God’s creative power—seen in the wonder and beauty of creation; God’s reconciling love—demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and God’s redemptive action and transforming justice—visible through the Church and in the broad work of the Holy Spirit in a pluralistic and interdependent world. Our special mission in the service of the Church, and especially the Presbyterian Church (USA), is to educate women and men for leadership in ordained and lay ministries by offering graduate degrees, certification programs, and lifelong learning opportunities; to attend diligently to both text and context; to keep learning as a community of scholars and practitioners together; and to provide theological resources through an exceptional faculty, library, and campus facilities. 3
Because we are an educational institution, our calling is to prepare persons to be leaders in worship, witness, teaching, mission, and service; to pursue learning that joins mind and heartâ€”that enlarges intellect and imagination and nurtures passion, compassion and empathy; to develop personal and professional skills for leadership in the Church; to learn from the world-wide church, from other faith traditions, from education, the arts, politics, economics, and science, and from those outside the centers of power and influence; and to consider critically from the perspective of the Christian faith, ideological, technical, and scientific assumptionsâ€” including our ownâ€”about the human situation. In carrying out our mission, we seek to be faithful to the gospel, and to become a living expression of the Body of Christ in the world.
D i s t i n ct i v e s o f C o l u m b i a T h e o l o g i c a l S e m i n a ry As we live into our mission, we pay attention to our context and its particularities. We acknowledge that leaders are shaped by many factors, including their native ability, spiritual giftedness, family and church experiences, education, and personal mentors. At Columbia the nurture of leaders is our central concern. At least seven factors play an especially important role here. Taken together, they create the distinctive experience of theological education at Columbia Seminary: 1. Centered in the Reformed tradition. At Columbia, we are committed to the Reformed faith as the foundation of our academic program, community life, and corporate worship. This tradition, which is “reformed and always being reformed,” is anchored in an attentiveness to God (revealed clearly in Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit) and the authority of the Bible. While Columbia Seminary increasingly serves students from other denominations, we maintain a special relationship with and commitment to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 2. “Large Table.” Columbia strives to be a diverse community. Theological, cultural, ethnic, geographic, and denominational diversity offer a rich environment in which to be prepared for leadership within the Church and world. We are a community where the Table is large. We are committed to providing a place at the Table where people can explore, be challenged and grow while at the same time experiencing the hospitality and love which is at the heart of God’s character. 3. Excellent scholarship and teaching focused around the needs of the Church. Faculty members are individually and collectively committed to the highest standards of academic excellence in both scholarship and teaching. Faculty, staff and students all take “text and context” seriously, and all participate in the learning process which is both informed by experience in the Church and designed to advance the work which God has called the Church to do.
4. Anchored in a residential community. Columbia consists of a sizeable residential community of students, faculty, and staff. Its flexible boundaries expand and contract with the regular coming and going of participants in Columbiaâ€™s Lifelong Learning program, DMin and DEdMin students and others. Community life at Columbia is greater than the sum of its parts and functions as a stable anchor and potent incubator for theological education, ministry skills, and personal formation. 5. Theological education as personal and vocational formation. Columbia develops leaders in a holistic manner. In addition to classroom and field experience, students are nurtured, challenged, and ultimately formed by mentoring relationships, engagement in community life, participation in community worship and other spiritual disciplines, and experience in cross-cultural contexts. As a result, Columbia produces skilled leaders who are also mature disciples and lifelong learners. 6. Carefully managed campus and endowment. As a result of Godâ€™s gracious provision and generations of wise stewardship, Columbiaâ€™s resources for theological education include a 57-acre campus, well-maintained buildings (including the new LEED gold certified residence hall Vernon S. Broyles Jr Leadership Center), and a generous endowment. These resources enable Columbia to deliver theological education for the 21st century in a hospitable environment. Distinctive features include state of the art classrooms with connectivity to the world and generous financial aid for every student. 7. Embedded in the communities of Atlanta, GA. Columbia is located in Atlanta, GA, which contributes a variety of resources to the seminary. These resources include, but are not limited to, a large community of churches and church related institutions, other seminaries and educational institutions, religious communities of other faiths, ethnic and cultural diversity, and communities of leadership both religious and secular. Embedded in these communities, Columbia avails itself of the opportunities provided by intentionally fostering a web of connections with the Atlanta region. 6
V i s i o n 2020 – f o r t h e F u t u r e o f C o lu m b i a
Our Mission and the distinctives of Columbia led the board to adopt a Vision 2020 plan in 1998 that has guided our journey for more than a decade. For the most part, the aspirations of that document continue to guide the Seminary as it seeks to live into its calling. In that light, we continue to affirm: God has blessed Columbia Theological Seminary, and we humbly claim God’s continued blessings for its future, knowing that the future is within God’s providence. We envision a vigorous Columbia as we approach our third century that will be: An educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia commits itself to preparing and nurturing creative and energetic pastors and leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the larger Church, who will:
✠ engage the particular communities to which they are called scripturally, theologically, prophetically, and pastorally;
✠ embody a model of shared leadership that empowers lay ministry both within and beyond the congregation; and
✠ embrace the global context of Church and world.
Columbia, through God’s grace, will seek to accomplish this commitment in the following spheres by giving greater emphasis to: The Seminary Community 1. Identifying and recruiting students of diverse backgrounds, interests, and perspectives who have the greatest potential for leadership of the church of Jesus Christ. 2. Recruiting a diverse faculty who maintain the highest standards of academic excellence and who are capable of outstanding teaching, generative research, and faithful mentoring. 3. Nurturing the spiritual, physical, and emotional health of students, faculty, staff, and their families, and increasing their sense of community through superior communication, facilities, recreation, and fellowship. 4. Increasing formal efforts to be hospitable to persons of other cultures and other Christian ecclesial traditions who not only can benefit from participation in the seminary’s program at all levels, but who also can bring the gifts of their traditions to the life of the seminary. 5. Offering a curriculum which teaches the classical disciplines— especially the Scriptures—and pastoral skills, in critical and creative ways. This is a curriculum which embraces emerging areas of study, taking into account changes and crises in church, family, ecology, and culture, and which employs experimental models of theological education. 6. Teaching and modeling the Reformed tradition as a gift to the whole church of Jesus Christ and as a guide to thought and action in the world. 7. Enabling both clergy and laity to serve as effective Christian educators. 8. Giving attention to the increasingly urban quality of contemporary life in the context of theological education, without diminishing the seminary’s concern for the preparation of pastors for service in small and rural churches.
9. Broadening, enhancing, and making more accessible opportunities for life-long learning for clergy and laity, including distance learning.
Leadership Development 10. Fostering the spiritual development of church leaders whose public ministries are consistent with their personal lives and whose witness reflects Christian character and discipleship to the world. 11. Approaching issues of ministerial leadership with imagination and resilienceâ€”learning from congregations and from fields such as management, technology, and the arts and sciences. 12. Modeling forms of worship which have theological integrity and reflect creativity and passion. 13. Forming leaders who will become prophetic witnesses of the Gospel in the public arena. 14. Preparing leaders for interfaith engagement, with special attention to Islamic-Christian and Jewish-Christian relationships. Research, Technology, & Communication 15. Encouraging creative theological research for the mending of a broken world and acting as a biblical and theological resource to the church and culture in the United States and abroad. 16. Maximizing the appropriate use of technology for teaching, learning, scholarship, and service. 17. Enhancing the quality of the seminaryâ€™s communication of its work and ministry to and strengthening its ties with congregations and religious and community organizations. Globalization 18. Extending its efforts in global theological education to take into account changes in the world, emphasizing mutuality of power and knowledge. 19. Equipping clergy and laity to respond as Christians to an increasingly globally connected world which is under the sovereignty of God, by expanding their ability to address issues of poverty, economics, human rights, media and technology, cultural, gender, and racial differences, and principles of justice and human dignity.
O u r E v o lv i n g M i n i s t ry C o n t e x t Since the 1998 publication of Vision 2020, there have been significant changes to our context. Among these changes, some are particularly important as we live into our mission and values for the next decade. 1. Cultural Climate. There is an increased awareness of and attention to religious pluralism, multiculturalism and expanding secularism in the US and the world. This includes not only the possibilities for and practices of robust interfaith dialogue and expanded awareness of other cultural contexts, but also navigating the conflicts born of polarizations and fundamentalisms. 2. Shifts in the Christian Church a. The center of global Christianity has moved south and east b. The dismantling of Christendom includes the decline of denominational influence and loyalty. c. The social/theological fabrics of denominations are being replaced by networks that connect people around common interests, often across great distances. d. We are in what some call the â€œthird waveâ€? of Christian experience: from Catholic Orthodoxy to Protestantism to post-Protestantism. That is, the fastest growing segment of the Christian Church today does not frame its experience in terms of the 16th century reformations (e.g., Pentecostals). e. The Christian Church in the US has become increasingly confronted by a rapidly growing secularized culture, which often marginalizes our values and institutions. f. The PC(USA) is experiencing another great wave of change, confusion and anxiety.
3. Shifts in Higher Education. Traditional models of higher education are being challenged on several fronts, including: a. the growth of on-line education and for-profit educational institutions, b. a n unsustainable rise in the cost of education, c. a decline in the perceived relevance of and demand for traditional degree programs, and d. the tightening of requirements by the federal government., e. At the same time, the ATS (Association for Theological Schools) is demonstrating greater flexibility with regard to accreditation standards. 4. Growth of Technology. Rapid changes in technology are transforming our context. For example, social networking is changing the way people communicate, relate, and order their lives. On-line video capabilities are redefining the possibilities for human engagement. Boundaries between what we can do locally versus globally are breaking down. 5. Ecological Awareness. The relatively new creation care and sustainability movements have successfully raised our awareness of the human impact on our environment and the critical need for a new attentiveness to Godâ€™s creation, especially in light of continuing global environmental degradation. 6. Global Financial Instability. The financial world is in disarray. All who depend on an asset base (e.g., 401k, endowment) are less secure than they were before the 2008 and 2011 deficit crises. Financial anxiety is pervasive and ongoing. 7. And Many Significant Institutional Changes at Columbia over the past decade: a. Demographic shifts: our students are, on the whole, younger and more balanced in terms of gender representation. We have seen increasing diversity in terms of ethnicity, ecumenical and geographical representation (US and international). Students also enroll, on average, with significantly more financial debt than in 1998.
b. 18 new faculty members have continued the tradition of excellence in teaching, scholarship, ministry praxis and mentoring, and put their own personality mark on the institution. c. 2 new degree programs (MAPT, DEdMin) and a certification program in Christian camping (in cooperation with the Presbyterian Christian Camps & Conference Association) have been added, along with numerous Lifelong Learning tracks and events. d. Senior administrative changes have brought increasing diversity and a broadening of perspective to institutional management. e. Over an eight year period, we successfully completed a comprehensive campaign, yielding over $77M earmarked for endowment, faculty positions, student scholarships, two buildings, annual operating funds, and more. f. In 2009, we completed a new, green residence hall providing comfortable, convenient, attractive housing for students, and using only a fraction of the energy of a conventional structure of its size. g. In 2012, we completed the technologically advanced, green Broyles Leadership Center providing the opportunity to focus more effectively and fruitfully on the development of leaders for the Church. h. There has been a broad increase in our donor base, including the reconnection of alumni/ae, particularly within the PC(USA) constituenciesâ€”over 4500 donors, including a doubling of alumni/ae participation.
A s W e J o u r n e y T owa r d 2 0 2 0 God has called the Church to participate in God’s global work of creation, reconciliation, compassion and justice. In the years ahead, God’s Church needs faithful disciples who live consistently with focus and integrity, anchored influencers who can serve stable and growing faith communities, imaginative energizers who can ignite congregations that need to be revitalized to engage opportunities and build sustainable ministries, resilient shepherds who can pastor the long-time faithful and those who are new to the church, and spiritual pioneers who can plant new faith communities with entrepreneurial skill. These are descriptions of leaders, people who are faithful, imaginative and effective in their influence of others for the sake of the Church and the world. God’s Church needs leaders of character, wisdom, imagination and courage—who think theologically and critically, engage culturally and globally, act pastorally and compassionately, speak prophetically and insightfully, and guide wisely and skillfully. It is our mission to nurture and educate leaders like this. The world is different now. Our evolving context has prompted us to reevaluate our work together as a seminary community. We are reassessing our strengths and contemplating how we can lean into our distinctives in order to be more effective in pursuing our mission. We believe that our distinctives have generative power within our current context of world and church. While our distinctives are our “sweet spot,” we also believe that our context may push us beyond the boundaries of what we currently do well. We may need to develop new institutional competencies, new organizational skills, and new strategies for pursuing our mission.
As we have reflected on Columbia Theological Seminary’s history, commitments, distinctive characteristics, and the changing context in which we serve today, we imagine a Columbia Theological Seminary at the beginning of our third century that will be: • Grounded in the Reformed tradition and honoring its historic relationship with and service to the Presbyterian Church (USA); • In the best tradition of “Big Table” faith and community life, also serving students and leaders from other denominations and Christian traditions who seek theological education in the Reformed tradition in the service of God’s church; • Engaging, modeling, and resourcing ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and partnerships; • Embodying racial/ethnic and cultural diversity in all aspects of institutional life; • Led by a faculty that includes scholars of prominence and promise; known as excellent teachers and mentors; and genuinely connected in a collegial and collaborative community of teaching and learning3; • Anchored in a residential community that includes faculty, administration, and students; • “Educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God’s changing world”4 with a particular emphasis on pastoral formation5; • Attentive to the need for continual curricular review based on the following objectives: ° to prepare persons to be led by God as they lead God’s people in worship, witness, mission, and service; ° to cultivate lifelong spiritual practices to sustain and support ministry.
3 See Addenda 1 for a fuller description of the “Character of the Faculty” for Columbia. 4 In February 2012, CTS adopted this statement as the theme for our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as a part of our SACS/ATS reaffirmation of accreditation. The plan, when finally completed, will include a campus-wide emphasis which will run from 2013-2018. 5 See Addendum 2 for the “Character of Students” for Columbia.
t o pursue learning that joins body, mind and heart that enlarges imagination, engages intellect, nurtures passion and deepens empathy; ° to learn from the world, both local and global, from other faith traditions, and from those outside the centers of power and influence; and ° to interpret the Christian faith as a continuing conversation between the human situation and the Gospel. • Serving as a model of curricular innovation, including but not limited to ° an expanded role for parish-based theological education; ° a mentoring approach to advising and classroom pedagogy; • Partnering with church and other learning communities (regionally, nationally, and globally) through technologically connected modalities to ° enhance the Seminary’s residential educational experience; ° extend the Seminary’s campus based resources to individuals and communities elsewhere; and, ° contribute to the on-going evolution of theological education in the 21st Century; • Strategically focused on learning as a life-long process in an ever changing world; • Institutionally related to other centers of graduate education in the metro Atlanta community allowing for multidisciplinary studies and dual degrees; • Modeling the responsible deployment and use of technology; and • Undergirded by a business model that reflects financial and environmental sustainability.
Using the reference points outlined above as a frame which includes our ✔ Mission; ✔ Commitments; ✔ Distinctives; ✔ Evolving ministry context; and, ✔ Longer range vision, the Seminary is encouraged to grapple with questions that include but may not be limited to the following: 15
• Given the challenges facing the PC(USA) including the evolving ministry context noted above and the fragmentation of its connectional fabric, in what ways can the Seminary strengthen its service to the denomination and, in particular, its local churches, pastors, students, and candidates for ministry? Put differently, how can Columbia provide and cultivate leadership for a denomination under duress, particularly local churches in the Southeast that have been the institution’s primary stakeholders and supporters? • At the time of writing, the Synodical administrative arrangement of the PC(USA) is likely to be altered. Given that Columbia’s structural ties with the PC(USA) are based on Synodical relationships, the Board should examine its Bylaws and consider its options and preferences where this evolution is concerned. • Even as Columbia continues to honor its historical relationship with and service to the PC(USA), how can it also plan for a future in which it is possible that the denomination may continue to decline, thereby eroding the critical mass needed to sustain the Seminary (e.g. financial support, enrollment management, placements for graduates)? • As the Seminary’s student body becomes increasingly ecumenical, should the Board’s composition reflect this diversity and, therefore, include non-PC(USA) trustees? • If the way were clear for the election of non-PC(USA) trustees, should the ratio of PC(USA) — non-PC(USA) trustees be fixed and, if so, in what manner? • Currently, 2/3 of the faculty are required to be ordained officers of the PC(USA). Again, anticipating an increasingly ecumenical student body, is this ratio appropriate? • Anticipating Columbia’s increased engagement in interfaith dialogue, should non-Christian candidates be considered for faculty appointment? 16
• What are the various drivers that contribute to (and/or detract from) the Seminary’s financial sustainability? How should these drivers be arranged as a reflection of the Seminary’s values and objectives in order to ensure a financially sustainable business model? In the context of that business model, what specific benchmarks and measureable outcomes will be used to evaluate the Seminary’s performance? • To the extent that Columbia continues to emphasize its residential community, should the Seminary improve and expand available faculty housing? • Should faculty positions or teaching roles be established that go beyond the disciplines that have been historically defined and represented? • Does the Seminary need to enhance any existing disciplines such as Reformed theology? • Given our emphasis on leadership, how does this impact the design of the curriculum? Life-Long Learning? the DMin and DEdMin programs? continuing education? • Given the fact that the Seminary will continue to operate in a rapidly changing context for the foreseeable future, how should the Board conceive and execute its planning function? For example, is it meaningful to emphasize “strategic positioning” rather than “long-range planning”? Should the Board have an on-going planning team focused on a shorter time horizon?
Addendum 1 T h e C h a r a ct e r
O u r F a c u lt y 6
We think that the greatest challenge for the years ahead is to maintain and develop a faculty that perpetuates the best aspects of the faculty we have assembled at Columbia Theological Seminary over the last thirty years. Columbia’s faculty functions well because of the individual and collective character of its faculty members. Indeed, we believe discussion of the character issue is so important that it is morally prior to any discussion of particular faculty position needs. If we have enough of the appropriate quality of people teaching at Columbia, we can fulfill our teaching mission; but if people vocationally or personally ill-suited to our collegium or institutional mission fill our teaching posts, it is irrelevant how many faculty we have, or in which disciplines they teach. Since there is a Columbia faculty character we want to see continued, it is helpful to specify what constitutes that character. In our view, the qualities that we should want to see in any new faculty member and in the faculty as a whole are these: Faculty members ought to see their personal vocations as consonant with teaching in a free-standing (i.e., not related to a university) seminary that specializes in educating leaders for the church. This does not mean that all Columbia professors need to come out of similar seminaries, but it does mean that the people employed ought not to want to be teaching somewhere else. For example, it would be destructive for a faculty member, wishing Columbia were more like a divinity school, to conduct his or her classes utilizing that model. Again, where someone has done his or her training is not an adequate proxy for appropriate teaching “fit,” but the seminary should assure that teaching at Columbia will fulfill a prospective faculty member’s sense of call as a teacher and scholar. This vocational sense ought to extend beyond teaching MDiv students. Columbia has made an identity for itself on the basis of its being a center of theological studies of the Presbyterian Church (USA) for the whole Church of Jesus Christ. That means we have taken the church as the object of our collective labor, not merely persons preparing for entry into their first ministry. Granted, faculty
6 Modified from the statement in Vision 2020.
spend much time on the MDiv program, and Columbia would not be much of a school if it did not educate students well at that level. Still, we think the faculty does a good job because it embodies a missiological spirit. The Columbia Theological Seminary faculty does what it does because it serves the church and the Churchâ€™s work. For this reason the faculty continues to do theological education with lay persons and with clergy at advanced levels. In sum, what the seminary should be looking for in future faculty is a vocational direction related to furthering the work of the Church. The faculty needs serious scholars, but ought to continue to avoid populating itself with hyper-specialists. Our positions need to be filled by people who will be engaged by a wide variety of interesting questions in the life of faith. We would argue this point along two discrete lines. First is the fact that the teaching we need to do does not lend itself to limited-skill scholars. Our second reason is more subtle. Some micro-scholarship, far from being the most serious kind, has become a kind of evasive move on the part of scholars to avoid the big questions that genuinely matter. The work of Shirley Guthrie and Walter Brueggemann (and many others) has been both serious and worked out on a large canvas accessible to scholars, clergy, and laity. Some of our faculty, now and in the future, will not make such general contributions to the world of theology, but will do their best writing for other scholars. Nevertheless, every faculty member at Columbia should understand his or her work as generating fresh contributions to the understanding of critical questions in the life of the faithful in the contemporary world, and be able to communicate to general church populations concerning these questions. Whatever their applied specializations may be, faculty members ought to be well grounded in biblical and theological disciplines. We are well served by evangelism, ministry, and preaching professors who are grounded in historical theology, systematic theology, and ethics, because the concerns in those areas of practice are theological and ethical, not merely technical in nature. Columbia Theological Seminaryâ€™s contribution to the world of Doctor of Ministry (DMin) programs has, among other things, been to resist the trend to turn ministry into a narrowly technical discipline. Our faculty members must, to be sure, relate to real ministry issues and real churches, but they will do so best when they model how to correlate these concerns with the equally real world that theology takes as its objectâ€”the world in which God, 19
scripture, principles, and traditions speak as loudly as concerns about membership loss and stewardship gains. The institution should resist the temptation to answer every felt need of the church with a new faculty chair or program in that area. Stated more positively, the best thing about our faculty members is that they are relatively free to approach issues creatively and teach in areas related to their specializations. A faculty that is overly specialized and prone to program sprawl becomes a faculty where turf wars get in the way of real education. One concern about the way that the faculty is developing is that the growth in administrative faculty needs to be balanced by more growth in the numbers of persons who are dedicated primarily to teaching. Too many centers and not enough teaching talent make for a burned-out and abused faculty. The faculty as a whole needs to represent the Reformed tradition in a congenial and credible way, and particular members need to have a respectful relationship to that tradition, even though it may not be their own. Individual faculty members need to have a positive relationship with the denomination that created and sustains Columbia Theological Seminary. At the same time, it is no longer possible to act as though we do not live in an ecumenical environment. Both the seminary and its faculty need to project confidence that all of what is done at the seminary is not in the service of some narrow denominationalism, but rather in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ. It is more important to have faculty members who the church considers “one of their own” than to require technical membership in the PC(USA). Denominational percentage requirements aside, we run the risk of losing our identity unless we attend to the far more discriminating issue of whether persons are a good fit with the institution’s theological identity. The Reformed tradition’s continuing emphasis on the importance of scripture, the sovereignty of God, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, human sinfulness, the conditional acceptance of human authorities, and human responsibility for seeking justice for the earth and amongst its inhabitants deserves to be upheld by this theological institution. However, we need to build awareness that not only our Presbyterian faculty is able to convey the Reformed tradition. For example, persons from Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Pentecostal traditions ought to be able to teach at Columbia so long as they agree to respect Reformed premises to which they may not personally subscribe. Such faculty members, and indeed students 20
also, will bring needed perspective and value to the Columbia community. Part of the church’s self-awareness is that of a community being constantly transformed by the Holy Spirit and by its diverse members. The Presbyterian Church is a leader in extending the privilege of church leadership in its various forms to persons without regard to gender, race, age, or ethnicity. It is, therefore, vital that a Presbyterian seminary model that diversity with respect to its faculty and institutional life. Faculty members need to demonstrate an appreciation for the worship of God. Today’s Columbia faculty members are, without exception, active members of worshiping communities. Faculty members of the future also need to possess their own vital relationships with congregations. It will continue to be important that the faculty contain members with direct pastoral experience. Pastoral experience itself, well reflected upon, is one of the key assets upon which sympathetic and constructive teaching for ministers is based. A balanced faculty will include members that have demonstrated excellence in the setting of the congregation. Additionally, it is of paramount importance that all faculty members relate to living communities of faith, to learn from them, and to testify to their importance through their presence. Columbia students tell us that the faculty’s faith shows through their teaching. This ought to remain the case. Because the character of our faculty as a collegial body of faithful and engaged scholars and teachers is important to perpetuating what is good about Columbia, it would be deleterious to seek out “star” faculty without regard to how their own scholarly and personal virtues might complement the faculty that already exists. At the same time, the pursuit of excellence in three forms by existing and future faculty ought to be encouraged. The first priority should be excellence in teaching and mentoring students. The Columbia faculty has excelled in its relationship to particular students in the past and must not sacrifice teaching to other academic goods or virtues. The second priority should be engagement with the scholar’s own discipline. Columbia faculty ought to command the attention of their peers in the world of letters. Finally, faculty members should continue to engage the general public in matters of theological significance. Cultivation of all of these forms of excellence, with these priorities, will produce a faculty of public note, which is known for the right reasons, that is, because our theological faculty has something to say 21
which students, the academy and world each need to hear. Such a faculty will have a balance of members who might be individually described as “creators,” “interpreters,” and “explainers” of knowledge and wisdom. A seminary as blessed as Columbia must make a renewed commitment to make a theological contribution to the public sphere. This commitment will require a faculty capable of speaking the truth of the gospel to power. It will also require institutional resolve to support individual faculty when they venture into the public arena. Columbia must therefore ask how, while being true to its mission, it can attract and support generative faculty of public note. Part of the answer will lie in maintaining support for faculty leaves, the library, and salaries. Part lies in adequate recognition by administration, board, and constituency of our scholars when they act in a public leadership capacity, for the surest way to diminish a “school of the prophets” is to dishonor the prophets for doing their work. Finally, however, much will rest on whether Columbia is prepared occasionally to make risky appointments. We are working within a contemporary context that encourages seminaries to make safe appointments to reassure the church that its seminaries still care. It is incumbent upon the seminary to seek the Christian voice its churches and region most need to hear, whether or not that voice comes from within. The challenge is to make seeking after excellent advocates in the theological world part of the ongoing pattern of faculty hiring. In the years ahead, there will be intense pressure in higher education generally to abolish tenure and rely on adjunct and parttime faculty to provide “teaching services.” It is also predicted that the best schools will retain tenure and continue to view faculty primarily as an asset to be nourished and utilized rather than as a set of expenses to be minimized. It is important that Columbia choose to be among the better institutions on this issue. The use of adjunct and visiting faculty at the seminary ought to be premised on bringing valuable things to the teaching and programs of the seminary rather than substituting for a strong collegium. Part-time and short-term faculty can bring special qualities to the teaching programs of a seminary, be it practical continuing experiences in urban ministry or international. Adjuncts ought to be intentionally used for these kinds of gifts. It is our sense that the current scale of employment of adjunct faculty is about right, but that greater clarity about the purposes of those periodic appointments would be advisable. We also believe that one 22
way of leavening the faculty and developing future theological school teachers is to offer post-doctoral fellowships to allow one recent doctoral recipient (or near-completion doctoral candidate) to come to our free-standing seminary each year and experience teaching theology in a non-PhD program setting. Such a program would bring us a diversity of voices—perhaps particularly of women and people otherwise hard to appoint permanently given limitations on hiring based on denominational affiliation.
Addendum 2 T h e C h a r a ct e r
The root meaning of the word seminary is “seed bed,” but much has changed in the centuries since the church first used the word seminary. Seminaries were created in the Middle Ages to nurture young men into the priesthood, much as tender seedlings were grown in a nursery until they were ready for transplantation. The Reformation renewed an emphasis on the priesthood of all believers and developments in the 20th century brought women into seminaries in large numbers for the first time in Christian history. Still, the basic idea of the seminary being a “seed bed” is a good one, for what a school such as Columbia does at its best is to serve as a kind of greenhouse for the faith of the Church and its leaders. Persons come to seminary to grow in wisdom and thoughtfulness in order that they may go out stronger to serve God and Christ’s Church. The form of nurture that all of our students—basic, advanced, continuing, and lay—experience is learning for the faith that combines heart and mind. The purpose of this learning is never that it be an end unto itself. Rather, learning should always lead to the practice of Christian discipleship so that knowledge, wisdom, and the love of God and neighbor might be increased. Our expectation of students is that through Christian learning they might grow as leaders in the church and in the world. While seminary is a good word to retain, the word “student” can too easily narrow institutional vision. A more encompassing term for the people Columbia serves is “learners.” Be they here for a one-day
7 Modified from the statement in Vision 2020.
seminar or a three-year course of study, our “students” are learners; participants in a community of faithful scholarship. What is more is that they are learners always in process of becoming leaders in the Missio Dei—in God’s mission in the world. Seminaries are places of learning and spiritual formation; they are laboratories for leadership development; they are communities of hope, love, and faith, as well as institutional complexity, individual brokenness, and an immaturity which makes life together always messy. Seminaries exist in service to the Church, and by extension in service to the world. Seminaries, like the churches that we serve, work in a social, cultural, and ecclesial context. In the case of Columbia, we are theologically Reformed (“reformed and always being reformed”). Being Reformed, we believe that while people (and the institutions they create) are always subject to sin, we can nevertheless walk with confidence, as long as we do so with humility and a deep trust in God’s grace, love, truth and sovereignty which mitigate our fears. Another distinctive of Columbia is that we are a residential campus. The majority of both our students and faculty live here. This means that Columbia is far more than a place to take classes and earn a degree. Like any intimate community, it becomes a place where we learn to love, where we are confronted with our failures and prejudices, and where we are pressed to live into messiness of human interaction, much as disciples from the time of Jesus have always had to do. Wisdom and maturity grow in environments of tension— where grace and truth wrestle side by side, and where people with very different views are afforded the freedom to speak. We aspire here to “educate imaginative and resilient leaders for God’s changing world.” That doesn’t happen where there is no conflict, where there is no freedom to fail, and where there is no grace to support our growth. Our community, which is supported by our residential proximity, is also challenged by our diversity. We believe in being a “big table” community. We think that a laboratory for the development of leaders for the real world and real churches ought to include people with different experiences, beliefs, character traits, ethnic backgrounds, levels of maturity, and theological understandings. We are told in Proverbs that “iron sharpens iron,” but we observe that it only does so when we are intentional about the process. Iron, when turned into swords for battle, mostly ends up doing damage. So our aspiration is to be a hospitable table, even though it is not always 24
comfortable to be at table with those whom we do not understand and with whom we frequently disagree. Most of us have chosen to be at a place like Columbia precisely because we know that we will be stretched and challenged more than if we were at a place where everyone thought and behaved exactly as we have always done. “Big table” communities frequently cause distress, and sometimes significant pain to those around the table. Most often it is unintentional. Sometimes it is far less innocent. We often don’t know how to handle conflicting convictions, unsettling conversations, and confusing differences. The fact is that our own convictions, communication and differences are just as challenging to others, as theirs are to us. But over time, like stones in a rock polisher, appropriate, intentional, loving relationships can be used by God to make more Christ-like gems of us all.
A task force to review and update the Vision 2020 report of 1998, was constituted by Board action in the fall of 2009, and convened for the first time on January 20, 2010. The task force consisted of Lane Alderman, Tom Walker, Steve Montgomery, Margaret Reiser, Thomas Daniel, David Weitnauer, Bill Scheu, Christine Yoder, Martha Moore-Keish, Lib McGregor Simmons, Jeri Perris Perkins, Joe Ella Darby, Steve Hayner, and Deb Mullen. Over the months, the task force utilized surveys, forums, and interviews to provide input from as many Columbia Theological Seminary constituents as possible, as well as spending a great deal of time reviewing both Columbia’s history and its current context. As the work progressed, faculty and trustees were consulted extensively. Rather than updating the original Vision 2020 plan, the task force ultimately decided to write a different style of report, while still incorporating some updated elements from the original. “Toward Our Third Contury: A Vision Frame” was approved by the Board of Trustees, October 2, 2012.
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