Greetings from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary! Our update in this extraordinary year includes a new name, a new vision, a new reality – and a new face on our team!
A Long, Strange Trip for All of Us
This time last year, I was boarding a plane bound for Australia for the final residency of Gordon-Conwell’s Doctor of Ministry track in Workplace Theology and Ethical Leadership, co-taught by my friend and colleague Lindsay McMillan. This unique program focuses on the technical, biblical/theological, moral/ethical and pastoral issues associated with the futureof work, the futureof finance and the futureof globalization. In partnership with our personal and professional contacts at Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, The House of Lords, the Church of England, Melbourne Business School and others, the program presumes our ability to visit these places and interact with scholars and practitioners at the forefront of both theory and praxis.
When I arrived in Melbourne, word of a mysterious virus in China had barely made the news, and life on the ground there was as pleasant as I remembered from my days as dean of the Ridley College Marketplace Institute. By the end of our residency, however, things began to change. Just as a precaution, I re-routed my return to Boston via Los Angeles instead of Hong Kong. Upon arrival, I found things to be generally as I’d left them several weeks earlier, and proceeded to embark on a speaking tour of American colleges and universities, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, on the future of capitalism.
As I completed the Texas portion of the tour at Baylor University, I overheard students discussing their travel plans for spring break. It was obvious that some of them had either changed or cancelled their plans, and most were at least cognizant of the warnings that began emanating from the CDC about the dangers of traveling and congregating in large groups. As I boarded the plane back to Boston, there was a palpable sense of concern among the two hundred or so passengers sitting only inches from each other in the most enclosed space imaginable, and I sensed that my speaking tour may be coming to a very premature end.
Sure enough, a week after my return to campus, word came that the entire Northeast and much of the rest of the country was going into “lockdown,” and all classes would be taught “virtually” until further notice. It was the beginning of our “new normal” and none of us knew exactly what the future would hold!
“Permanent” Changes to Our Work at Gordon-Conwell
I suspect many of you reading this article will have had similar experiences, and I also suspect that every person, organization and institution responded differently. For some, the responses will have been temporary, for others however, the changes will have been “permanent,” and that is surely the case for the Mockler Center for Faith and Ethics in the Workplace at Gordon-Conwell.
When we discussed how best to respond to the current crisis, we began conversations with the Public Square Forum, a local off-shoot of the Trinity Forum, with whom we’ve had a long association. Concerned about the proliferation of rumors and conspiracy theories surrounding the pandemic and wanting to allay people’s fears, we called upon a panel of experts (including a world-renowned leader in the field of public health) for the first in a series of “Livestream” discussions entitled, “COVID19: Fear, Facts and Faith.”
The response to this event was enormous, with thousands of people from around the world engaging with the discussion, either live via Facebook or the via the seminary’s website (both live and/or via the recorded session). This led to a series of other livestreams on related topics, including the economic impact of COVID19, xenophobia, race relations and a host of other issues, all explored from a theological perspective, as well as from a pastoral perspective. Soon after, our phones began to ring, with invitations to speak at Harvard Law School (on Niebuhr’s Nature and Destiny of Man, no less!), Oxford University (on the role of new technologies and the use of venture capital in the fight against COVID19), and other topics far beyond the traditional boundaries of the “faith at work” movement.
As we thought and prayed about this unexpected phenomenon, we wondered whether the center should actually re-imagine its wider purpose. Surely, talk of faith and work will naturally lead us into conversations about the meaning of work and the impact of work across a wide variety of vocations and sectors, and ultimately society as a whole? Likewise, shouldn’t we expect discussions surrounding ethics and worldviews to lead us into conversations around human behavior, corporate as well as personal responsibility, and civil discourse? And what do we mean by “human flourishing” if not the flourishing of society as well as the flourishing of individuals?
Our New Name and New Face
Ultimately, our deliberations led us to the conclusion that the Mockler Center for Faith and Ethics in the Workplace needed to expand its vision of what it can and should be. Embracing our “new reality,” we are excited about the global opportunities presented by the expanded use of information technologies, and our extensive network of thought leaders and practitioners from around the world.
To reflect our broader vision, we have changed our name to the Mockler Center for Faith and Ethics in the Public Square. And thanks to the generous support of our matron, Joanna Mockler, we are happy to announce the addition of Sara Minard as the first associate director of the Mockler Center, effective from January 1, 2021.
A trained economist and practitioner herself, Minard brings a wealth of experience to this position, including expertise in international development, impact investing and organizational leadership. Among her first duties will be helping to organize the long-awaited C-Suite Sabbath, to be held on Boston’s Northshore later this year (stay tuned for more information).
These are just some of the changes that we expect to make over the coming months, including the creation of visiting fellowships to help us continue our commitment to world-class research and associated publications. While none of us knows what the future will bring, we do know that organizations such as ours will need to be as flexible and agile as possible to meet the challenges ahead. With God’s help and guidance, we look forward to building upon a legacy of excellence in the “faith at work” space, with a similar commitment to excellence in the broader “public square.”