Nov  2016 22
Singing the Lord's Song in a Foreign Land

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a portion of an extended, post-election reflection on the climate in which Phillips Theological Seminary does its work. That extended reflection is being sent to students, employees, trustees, and alumni/ae. President Gary Peluso-Verdend is taking this opportunity to restate what he considers to be Phillips’s core educational values.

What is the role of a Christian graduate seminary preparing person for positions of leadership and influence, in and outside of religious communities, at such a time as this?

Phillips Theological Seminary is, if one looks at the faculty, a progressive Protestant graduate seminary, with a student body representing several different theological perspectives, residing and working largely within the nation’s heartland, a section of the country that is dominated by conservative forms of Christianity and white, patriarchal cultural values. In the coming years, I would anticipate increased conflict and tension between the values of Phillip’s kind of theological education and the culture in which we live.

The seminary does not exist for itself. We are not a self-contained world. We exist for the sake of God’s mission, for educating leaders and influencers working for the shalom of God inside and outside of Christian religious institutions.

Nearly every one of the following values is not widely embraced by Christians, nor are they evident in U.S. culture right now. This means Phillips has no dearth of challenges or decisions to make about strategically using the resources entrusted to us.

Speaking as the seminary’s president, I wholeheartedly reaffirm the following values that ground the educational endeavor that is Phillips Theological Seminary. The seminary values:

  • Welcoming into the learning community persons who seek to follow the way of Jesus, who desire to contribute to more just and compassionate churches and communities, who are willing to practice loving their neighbors within diverse and sometimes discomforting classrooms, who are called to lead or influence, with the time and capacity to study at a graduate level, without a bar based on gender, gender identity, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, or race.
  • Critical, serious, creative, and in-depth inquiry into all matters of faith, how to practice one’s faith and everyday life, and lead others to do the same;
  • Using all the modern tools humankind has developed to understand the universe, our planet, life on the planet, persons and communities, and faith. This means science, history, literary studies, social sciences, and contemporary cultural and intercultural studies are the companions of theological education. The seminary shall do everything in our power to resist a “post-truth” world in which appeals to emotion and personal belief are sufficient for determining what is good and true;
  • Resisting forces and practices that lead to death and instigating and cultivating forces and practices that lead to life;
  • Fostering and hosting and promoting conversations with a community of interpreters who take sacred texts very seriously but not literally;
  • Learning to love the full diversity with which God created the human race;
  • Learning to be community;
  • Defining justice by dealing equitably with the most vulnerable persons in a society;
  • Listening broadly, with as little defensiveness as possible;
  • Provide a relatively safe space for exploring questions that are often dangerous in society and even in other religious communities, in order to find ways to deal with those questions in less safe places;
  • Affirming the value of other religious paths and joining adherents of other faiths for cultivating a more just and compassionate society.
Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips President
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