Trinity International University
Taylor Worley, managing director, Center for Transformational Churches
Constantine Campbell, associate professor of New Testament
Greg Forster, director, Oikonomia Network
The academic year at Trinity began with the exciting launch of the Center for Transformational Churches (CTC). The center exists to develop Christian leaders, congregations, and communities that empower gospel change through whole-life discipleship. We pursue this mission in five ways: Pastoral Formation & Leadership Development, Church Planting & Congregational Growth, Cultural Engagement & Human Flourishing, Collaborative Partnerships, and the Oikonomia Network.
While Trinity’s incorporation of faith, work, and economics programming is long-standing, the launch of the Center for Transformational Churches offers a new structure for expanding and extending these efforts through the university’s mission. The work of leading these efforts is still headed up by a diverse team of 15 faculty and staff collaborators, who now form the Transformational Churches Steering Committee. The formal leadership of the center includes Tom Cornman as interim executive director, Taylor Worley as managing director serving Trinity faculty and students, and Greg Forster in the outward-facing role of director of the Oikonomia Network. The multi-faceted work of the center, however, would not happen without the diligent and intentional efforts of faculty collaborators from across our campus.
One facet of this work involves existing structures and programming within the university that provide more intentional encounters with faith and work integration. These efforts include faculty and staff reading groups for 2015-16; professional development opportunities for faculty, staff and students to attend conferences on faith, work and economics; and campus programs aimed at financial training. The annual fall student leadership retreat saw about 180 participants across the college, seminary, and graduate school participate in three-day training on vocation and leadership, accompanied by a semester-length curriculum. Additionally, we continue to provide strategic mentoring for our Kern Scholars and our five-year undergraduate/graduate pastoral students.
Another facet of the work at Trinity this year involves identifying the unique resources available to us in our learning community that can be leveraged toward innovative projects that further embody faith and work integration. Examples of this work include a new initiative led by Donald Guthrie, aimed at contextualized ministries research with doctoral students in the educational studies program. Additionally, Mosaic Ministries – a leading program for pastoral students at Trinity interested in learning about and participating in reconciliation and community development ministries – is focusing this semester on the vocational implications of faithful discipleship in the midst of living and serving in a highly racialized society.
The Oikonomia Fellowship program sponsors students to work alongside a faculty member for mentoring, researching, and training. Each faculty member is involved in research related to Oikonomia Network subject areas, and the student functions as a research assistant. Meeting about once a week, the faculty member seeks to hone the student’s skills, push their knowledge of the area, and discuss future research trajectories. The faculty member also takes an interest in the student’s preparation for ministry, current ministry experiences, and future plans. Oikonomia Fellows have also participated in their own reading group, lead by a faculty member – a healthy experience for student fellows to talk about issues relating to faith and work, explore and critique the reading, and learn from each other and from faculty.
Partnerships and Outreach
The Center for Transformational Churches is also cultivating external partnerships through collaboration with other campus entities and church representatives. Under the leadership of Bruce Fields, a conversation has begun among black church leaders aimed at organizing a consultation around the themes of God, image-flourishing, and jubilee. Our partnership with Sapientia, the online periodical of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding, continues this year, and new collaborative efforts through Trinity’s office of student leadership development are connecting youth pastors from our region with opportunities for more training from Trinity educators and new avenues of discipleship and leadership development for their students. These new relationships with youth pastors will serve to enable more youth from our region to participate in the 360 Conference, a large student leadership conference hosted by Trinity College’s Emerging Kingdom Leaders in April 2016.
The Small Business Enterprise program, launched last year, brings together pastoral and business students at Trinity to support nascent entrepreneurs in partnership with Thrive Covenant Church. Five potential entrepreneurs in the Thrive Covenant congregation were each paired with one pastoral student and one business student; these teams of three met weekly with Trinity faculty for learning and mentoring. Seed funds were awarded for business plans based on their potential for success. The program moves toward launch of the business enterprises in the coming school year, and is also launching a new iteration of the program in a new neighborhood.
We are very pleased to announce that on February 10, Trinity will host David Brooks, author of the bestselling book The Road to Character and New York Times columnist. The question of moral character is always one of the major intersections between the church and the larger culture within which it exists. As Brooks has argued, while religion cannot be reduced to nothing but morality, the church does provide a critical public service when it models, explains and defends moral character. We are looking forward to a major event that will help us explore this important opportunity for the church; details are coming soon!
And, of course, the Center for Transformational Churches now houses the national office of the Oikonomia Network. The network’s events at the Evangelical Theological Society went off without a hitch and the faculty retreat is coming together on schedule. Greg Forster’s full transition to Trinity has gone very smoothly; in addition to organizing the newsletter, retreat and other initiatives, he is now taking classes in the divinity school to earn a master’s in systematic theology. In addition, the recent hiring of Adam Joyce as program assistant now gives the Center the capacity to take over all remaining functions of the ON national office, such as management of the website and email list.