It’s been a crazy year, and you’ve been waiting patiently for word on our annual Karam Forum event. We didn’t want to make any hasty decisions, or make announcements when we weren’t yet sure what we were doing. But we’ve been working behind the scenes to craft the best plan to serve you well.
Karam Forum 2021 will be a half-day digital event, with a focus on how theological education can seize the present moment to thrive in the coming century. It will take place on Tuesday, January 5 – mark your calendar! President Mark Labberton of Fuller Theological Seminary, President John Nunes of Concordia College New York and Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary will be among our key speakers. More speakers are on the way as well.
At least for the time being, there will be no in-person meeting. We will convene digitally to raise our heads up from the “tyranny of the urgent” and connect, collaborate and seek the path forward God has for us as educators – and for our schools. We do look forward to meeting again in person, whenever the Lord provides favorable circumstances.
We’re carefully crafting the event to avoid “zombie screen time” and maximize the opportunity for engagement and discussion. Of course we’ll hear rich messages from leading speakers who have much to say that’s worth hearing. But we’re awake to the difference it makes when we use technology to connect, and we intend not to let your eyes glaze over. Look for more specific announcements in the months to come as we craft the schedule.
The focus of our time together will be to reframe our work as educators with hope and inspiration, in a time of trial for our schools. The slow-motion challenge of reinventing education to serve 21st century needs is now compounded by the fast-motion challenge of reinventing education for a pandemic.
At Karam Forum on January 5 we will work together to reframe this period as a time of big new opportunities for theological education. If we are willing to consider the radical reforms this moment calls for, our schools can not only survive, but thrive, in the new environment. The crucible of the present moment provides the conditions for a life-giving renewal in the world of theological scholarship and teaching.
Precisely because of the emergency, as scholars and teachers we have more real ability to reinvent both the content and the form of higher education than we have had at any time in living memory. It’s all hands on deck, and all of us are suddenly in a highly teachable frame of mind. Now is the time to think big, and rethink our top priorities.
In an ON steering committee conversation about how to focus Karam Forum for the new moment, one member of the committee drew our attention to C.S. Lewis’ classic talk “Learning in Wartime.” (Who was it? Hint: You’ve heard about Lewis from him before.) Lewis asks how it’s possible to devote time to such things as scholarship and education in the face of the Nazi peril that threatens to destroy civilization. The answer is that there are always urgent crises; the world is always in jeopardy. If we wait for favorable conditions to learn, learning will never happen.
When an especially urgent crisis hits, that doesn’t so much create a new situation for scholarship as it makes us more acutely aware of what the real situation for scholarship always is.
As scholars and educators, we can seize this unique moment of clarity as an occasion of God’s calling. At a seminal talk given to an ON event in 2016, Paul Williams remarked that the funny thing about seminaries is that all of them are on what business leaders call a “burning platform,” but “you don’t act like you’re on a burning platform.” Well, no one can say that now!
Obviously this is an especially busy season for all of us, but what better time to carve out a moment to connect and work together to reframe our work? Hold January 5 on your calendar for Karam Forum 2021, and watch this newsletter for updates as the new event continues to take shape. And, as always, pray for healing, justice and flourishing among God’s people and God’s world.
We look forward to seeing you then!