By Greg Forster
During this year’s Acton University, I saw one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed. Over 100 theological educators divided into groups and brainstormed on how to reconnect the seminary curriculum to work and the economy. They came from the broadest spectrum of evangelical traditions, from Presbyterians to Pentecostals. Their groups covered every topic, from biblical scholarship, systematic theology, and Christian history, to spiritual formation, ethics, and church leadership. There wasn’t a table in the room where the conversation wasn’t engaged and energetic.
What other community in the world does anything like this? It’s a testimony to what God is doing in our midst. The global economy has transformed the structures of everyday life, and will only transform them more rapidly in the years ahead. Since theological education has not kept up with these changes, people increasingly feel like local churches’ ministry has nothing to do with the majority of their lives. Christianity is at risk of becoming irrelevant to the modern world. In the Oikonomia Network, we have heard the call, and we are answering it.
We hosted our curricular workshop as part of the Oikonomia Network’s annual partnership with the Acton University conference. This special edition of the ON newsletter brings you the takeaways from the workshop and other AU highlights. Don’t miss the large collection of seminary syllabi, showing how educators across the spectrum are finding ways to integrate work and economics into a broad variety of classes.
A lot of new things took place at AU this summer. The Kern Fellows program, which brings people to the AU conference with all expenses paid, expanded to include almost 160 people this year. Among them were 16 pastors engaged with the Kern Pastors Network. KPN is a new initiative of the Kern Family Foundation that reaches out to pastors who received their seminary degrees with support from Kern Scholarships. The network offers them the opportunity to be part of the same mission the Oikonomia Network is all about – shining the light of the Gospel into the economy, where people live most of their lives. You can read a typical testimonial letter from a KPN pastor in this newsletter, as well as testimonials from ON members who were Kern Fellows.
For me, a highlight of AU was playing our ON introductory video for the assembled Kern Fellows. It was the first time we’d shown the video to a large audience, and we received nothing but rave reviews. I can’t tell you how proud I am of our faculty leaders, who really did an excellent job – and with presentations that were mostly delivered off the cuff.
I also shared an update on our Economic Wisdom Project at the Kern Fellows luncheon. We’ve continued to receive very positive feedback on the new vision paper, and we think it could serve a much wider audience. We’re putting together a new version, which we plan to roll out when classes begin this fall. (Watch the newsletter!) We’re also continuing to make revisions as our faculty leaders suggest improvements, and we hope to produce new materials that will carry these ideas forward in the coming year.
Like every year, there was too much happening at AU to take it all in during the conference. You can listen to lectures you missed here for a dollar apiece, or subscribe at AU Online and hear every lecture for free. I’m looking forward to catching up on lectures I missed on Abraham Kuyper, P.J. Hill’s “Theologians Versus Capitalism,” and the economic thought of the church fathers. (I’m also looking forward to the lecture on John Locke — the subject of my dissertation — so I can nitpick it to death.) Videos of the plenary talks and numerous conference photos are free here.
Just for fun, we’re also including some of the more interesting pictures that caught Kern Fellows in the act of enjoying their time at AU. Enjoy! We look forward to seeing you at Acton in 2014 – and to a full calendar of activities on our 14 Oikonomia Network campuses in the meantime.