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CREATIVITY IS… Learning in the theological academy needs to be liberated. It has been held hostage by standards of appropriateness authored by voices and ideologies long gone yet holding on. They can be quite static and unmoving. The solution? Creativity. But I’m not sure if theological institutions are truly ...
Date Reviewed: April 15, 2020
Demographic and societal shifts in religion—to say nothing of higher education challenges—gnaw at North American theological education. The turbulence around the religious and educational environment is constant, and the essays in this volume acknowledge these challenges while exploring methods to move forward. The essays were written by seminary presidents and university leaders of various traditions to honor Daniel Aleshire, longtime executive director of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). The first four essays address the challenges faced by theological schools while the final two essays examine the rise of non-Christian traditions in North America. Outside of the six essays, a helpful introduction provides coherence to the book, while the honoree of the volume supplies an afterword.
The first two essays by David Tiede and Martha Horne soberly name the disruptions around theological education. Tiede raises four pressing challenges and how Lutherans (ELCA) are addressing them: the digitization and marketing of everything; the cost/debt spiral; the need for leadership change; and the focus on educational results. Horne provides a call for change through the story of Desmond Tutu’s awakening to how theology is shaped by different historical, sociological, and cultural contexts. This should drive an ability for Anglican comprehensiveness, anchored in communion, worship, and mission, that allows for theological inquiry and debate.
Donald Senior focuses on the type of Roman Catholic seminary candidate needed for the emerging needs of this world. Priestly formation from the work of Pope John Paul II roots this vision and is then joined with values from Pope Francis’s vision of the joy of the gospel, care for creation, and mercy. While other essays focus on curriculum or mission, Senior calls for a counter-cultural vision for theological education embodied through its people.
Evangelical pragmatism and its aversion to seminary training is the focus of Richard Mouw’s essay. Mouw encourages theological schools to listen to concerns and questions of those in ministry. Theological educators must make the case for theological education, but must do so with an empathetic spirit throughout the conversation.
The final two essays by Douglas McConnell and Judith Berling examine multifaith engagement and its implications for pedagogical concerns. McConnell grapples with how to engage a multifaith context from an evangelical framework. He calls for convicted civility rooted in hospitality and illustrates this through an institutional case study. Berling traces the history of multifaith theological education in mainline seminaries and explores ongoing opportunities and challenges. She raises the many ways that tradition can be both understood and shaped; this flexibility in tradition should aid in classroom pedagogy and interreligious learning.
The volume as a whole encourages faculty, administators, stakeholders, and institutions to discern their core identity and mission. This, in turn, should drive what doctrines/affirmations and practices of life are central to a school’s tradition. While not prescriptive in methodology, the essays provide a quick read for busy stakeholders that can foster reflective dialogue on mission, tradition, and vision.
Date Reviewed: June 17, 2021
Date Reviewed: June 21, 2021
Drawing on the work of Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Adam Neder offers a clear and creative theological and spiritual reflection on the art of teaching the Christian faith. This concise and engaging book offers a wealth of fresh insights and practical suggestions. While addressed to teachers in academic contexts, the approach is broad enough to include anyone involved in teaching and learning Christianity. (From the Publisher)
Qualitative Research in Theological Education: Pedagogy in Practice
Date Reviewed: April 16, 2019
If you are looking for a current collection of essays about the state of qualitative research in theological education, then this volume edited by Moschella and Willhauck will be extraordinarily useful. The contributors offer a broad-based, international approach to their topic, complete with case studies and a select bibliography. Together, they argue that qualitative research is essential to the formation of ministers and theological scholars.
Moschella’s introduction provides a concise overview of how this collaborative project began, key themes in the field of ethnographic studies, and how each of the essays addresses these issues. There is real value here for the reader who is just plunging into the study of qualitative research and needs an overview of how the discipline is developing.
This is a handbook in four parts, with fifteen chapters. As such, it is designed for both reading and reference. In addition to the introduction, most readers will benefit from the first two entries that comprise
Part One, “Exemplary Research Essays.” Whitmore’s essay, “Theology as Playbook and Gamefilm: Explaining an Ethnographic Approach to Theology to a Sports-Centred Culture,” uses sports analogies to underscore the vital connection between theology and practice. This is one of several essays that emphasize the theological nature of ethnographic research. For theological educators, this is an important contention which broadens the discussion beyond contrasting qualitative versus quantitative methods and goals. Just how inclusive that discussion can become is indicated by Sorajjakool and Prachyapruit in “Qualitative Methodology and Pedagogy: A Study of the Lived Experiences of Thai Peasants within the Context of Western Development Ideology.”
Part Two, “Issues in Education and the Practice of Research,” includes ten chapters that emphasize the embodied and contextual nature of qualitative research. They are also a reminder that the interdisciplinary nature of this work is a necessary and fitting response to the complexity and messiness of real life. While there are several strong essays in this group, particular note should be taken of “Promoting the Good: Ethical and Methodological Considerations in Practical Theological Research” by Graham and Llewellyn, along with “Just Don’t Call It ‘Ethnography’: A Critical Ethnographic Pedagogy for Transformative Theological Education” by Wigg-Stevenson.
Part Three, “Integrating Qualitative Research into Theological Education”, includes Mellott’s “Qualitative Research in Theological Curricula” and Clarke’s “Wonder and the Diving Dance: The Lived Reality of Qualitative Research within a Master of Divinity Curriculum.” Both essays are valuable for theological educators and will repay rereading. The concluding section, Part Four, “Valediction,” is a single essay by Willhauck, “The Gift and Challenge of Qualitative Methods for Pastoral Formation.” Four major themes for teaching qualitative research are identified and briefly discussed including: contextualization, communication, reflection/reflexivity, and vocation (264). Willhauck’s elaboration on these themes makes a fitting conclusion to this extraordinarily rich and suggestive resource.