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Cultivating vital communities,
vital conversations, and the public good.

Rationale for Four Hours for Portal Courses

  1. We have collapsed six essential hours of introductory coursework to serve as the prerequisites for the rest of the curriculum;

  2. Two faculty members will work together collaboratively;

  3. We are placing these four "matters" of importance at the front and center of our MDiv curriculum, thereby suggesting that they are essential and ongoing for all pastoral formation, education, and ongoing leadership. We signal their significance with the amount of time put into them;

  4. All faculty are encouraged to know what is happening in each of these courses and build upon them in the Phase II and III courses that they offer in order to avoid the amount of time pout into them.

  5. We are highlighting the significance of integrative work among all the theological disciplines and practices, (and thereby breaching somewhat "silo" walls between disciplines) by putting these courses at the beginning and spending more time in them;

  6. These courses serve as "shared" touchstones throughout the curriculum. For example, even though "Interpretation Matters" focuses on Bible, professions could continue to remind students of interpretation skills in all their interpretive/exegetical work in other areas. Thus, these portal courses become hallmarks of our curriculum.

Overreaching Goal for the Portal Courses  

To introduce students to four key matters (capacities/tasks) in which ministers continually must engage to lead vital communities in the way of Jesus.  These four invitational courses serve as the only prerequisites to the rest of the curriculum.  Therefore, these courses introduce to students:  

  1. Methods for engaging in each task; i.e., shared interpretive strategies and values,

  2. Theological/historical/biblical/ethical content that is pertinent to the task; i.e., shared language/vocabulary/stories, and

  3. Ongoing practices of leadership that are relevant to the task; i.e., shared practices of communities and leaders

Description of Portal Courses  

A.  Interpretation Matters. 4.0 hrs credit replaces Introduction to Hebrew Bible, Introduction to New Testatment.  The goals of this course are to : 

  1. Acquaint students with the content of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament (relates to point 2 above);

  2. Understand how these texts came to be valued, and continue to be so, by Jewish and Christian communities (relates to point 2 above);

  3. Enable students to employ various strategies and frameworks for interpreting the biblical texts, and other texts, which are foundational for Jewish and Christian communities (relates to point 1 above);

  4. Explore ways in which biblical interpretive strategies are effective in leadership practices (e.g., preaching, care, formation, education, worship, etc.) (relates to point 3 above).

B.  Context Matters. 4.0 hrs credit replaces Half of Introduction to History, adds Introduction to Practical Theology.  The goals of this course are to:

  1. Introduce students to ethnographic and historical tools and skills, largely drawn from the fields of sociology, psychology, anthropology and historical studies, for understanding communities, especially the particular faith community in which a student lives and works (relates to point 1 above);

  2. Give students opportunity to reflect on historical/theological/ethical dimensions of the use of social scientific tools for analysis of communities in other areas of the curriculum (relates to point 2 above);

  3. Provide students opportunities for reflection on intersecting cultural diversities (i.e., race, gender, sexuality, nationality, class, ethnicity, age, ability, etc.) in history and current human living (relates to point 3 above);

  4. Give students opportunity to learn/acquire basic frameworks for understanding cultural contexts in relation to broader Christian movements in history (relates to point 2 above);

  5. Demonstrate ways of employing ethnographic and historical skills in the leadership practices of preaching, formation/education, care, worship, administration (relates to point 3 above).

C.  Vocation Matters. 4.0 hrs credit replaces Art and Practices, adds Introduction to Ethics/Moral Discernment.  The goals of this course are to:

  1. Introduce students to the tools and resources for developing vocational identity and moral discernment (relates to point 1 above);

  2. Introduce students to various historical and contemporary models for ministry and leadership in Christian communities (relates to point 2 above); 

  3. Help students integrate spiritual practices and formation in their own sense of and nurturing of vocation (relates to point 3 above);

  4. Help students adopt responsible leadership practices in light of their own deepening understanding of vocational identity and moral discernment (relates to point 3 above).  

D.  Conversation Matters.  Replaces Introduction to Theology, half of Introduction to History.

The goals of this course are to:

  1. Introduce students to the contextual character of theology as a discipline across time and to the worldviews that have informed it (relates to point 1 above);

  2. Introduce students to basic theological vocabulary and issues of theological method so that they might begin to develop their own theological voice and to listen and understand other voices in Christian communities (relates to point 2 above);

  3. Introduce students to issues of global Christianities in a multi-faith world, including practices and skills that attend to listening and understanding (relates to point 3 above); 

  4. Enable students to begin to articulate their own understanding of Christian faith informed by historical understanding and embodied in contemporary contexts (relates to point 2 above);

  5. Help students lead communities with the logic and poetics of theological discourse (relates to point 3 above).

    

Phillips offers Christian graduate theological education in service of intelligent, just, and
compassionate religious and civic communities. We welcome students to a safe space for truth-seeking conversations about the Bible, Jesus, and faithful living. Courses are available on campus and online for certificate, diploma, MDiv, MAMC, and MTS programs, and on campus for the DMin program.

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