Located in a thriving urban setting, Seattle Pacific Seminary (SPS) aims to prepare students for holistic ministry with a threefold emphasis on scholarship, spiritual edification and service. This approach, which we call “Academy, Abbey, and Apostolate,” reflects our Wesleyan identity in joining “knowledge and vital piety” to engage the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such a vision coheres naturally with the Oikonomia Network’s emphasis on preparing people for whole-life discipleship.
Our endeavors in the area of work and the economy draw heavily on the resources that come with being situated within a flourishing university. In particular, our partnerships with the Seattle Pacific University (SPU) Library and the School of Business, Government, & Economics provide a rich setting for students and faculty to explore the intersection of Christian discipleship and the common good. In this article, we highlight two recent developments: a major new addition to the Work and Faith Collection in the Library and a new unit on work and the economy in a required seminary course.
The SPU Work and Faith Collection was birthed in 2008, with the donation of Pete Hammond’s vast array of books and other resources. These materials examine the intersection of Christian faith with work, economics, business, the professions and vocation. In 2017, the collection received a significant addition as business leader Bill Pollard donated a large collection of internal papers and speeches. These documents give researchers the opportunity to explore Pollard’s lifelong aim of integrating Christian values in a business setting. The Pollard papers are arranged around seven primary topics, including the responsibility of leadership, the role of the firm as a moral community, and business as a calling.
One key initiative enabled by the donation of the Pollard papers is a new research program. The Bill Pollard Faith and Business Research Fellowship will bring three scholars to the SPU campus in the summer of 2018 to pursue an original research project related to the content of the papers. One of these scholars will be invited back to campus in 2019 for a presentation of the research to a group of faculty and fellows in SPU’s Center for Integrity in Business.
One of the Pollard Fellowship recipients is SPS Professor of Dogmatic and Constructive Theology Daniel Castelo. His work with the collection this summer will focus on two main areas. First, he will explore the notion of management as a liberal art. In particular, he will consider the distinct contributions the liberal arts have to play in developing leaders that can make complex decisions while attending to a Christian account of personhood, creation and human flourishing. Second, Castelo will examine the formative and de-formative capabilities of business culture. He is especially interested in the ways companies in various cultures think of their collective lives and the moral impact of these various understandings. We are encouraged by the opportunities that the Work and Faith Collection, and the Pollard papers in particular, will provide our students and faculty.
A second significant recent development is a new unit in our core curriculum. The unit is part of the class “Vocational Discernment and Discipleship,” which is now required in all degree programs at SPS. This class explores the theology of vocation, the relationship of work and calling, discernment for individuals and communities, and the holistic nature of discipleship. While the course was an original part of the SPS curriculum and was traditionally offered bi-annually, it is now offered every year.
The Vocational Discernment and Discipleship course now involves a standard unit on work and the economy. The aim is to prepare students to model and promote daily work as a central dimension of faithful stewardship in the communities they lead. The particular components of this unit will vary from year to year. The Spring 2018 offering, for example, includes Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work as a required text. Students will write reflection papers on this text that focus on making these connections in congregations, non-profit organizations and other ministries they may serve. The class will also benefit from the resources of the Oikonomia Network partnership, such as the video talks offered through the Economic Wisdom Project.
While the Vocational Discernment and Discipleship class is a natural curricular home for faith and work exploration, it is certainly not the only contact point. In Autumn 2018, SPS will offer its Theology and Business Integration Seminar. This class serves as a capstone for our M.A. in Business and Applied Theology program, integrating students’ seminary coursework with their work in the School of Business, Government and Economics. Additionally, in Summer 2018, students can take the SPS course in Christian Social Entrepreneurship and Church Planting. As part of this course, students will develop a workable social venture business plan to apply their learning directly to a particular faith community.
These are just a few examples of SPS coursework that is oriented toward the student outcome goals of the Oikonomia Network. We are encouraged by these developments and we look forward to cultivating this ongoing partnership with the network.