The Karam Forum Global Session – on January 20 or 21, depending on where in the world you were – was a rich discussion about the future of theological education. The session content was collaboratively designed by a growing network of Australian educators leading the way in cultivating whole-life discipleship. We also heard from a contributor in Great Britain who fearlessly stayed up until 3:00am – that’s not a typo – in order to be with us, making it a truly global session.
Video of the two-hour session is now available, so check out the conversation for yourself!
Additional resources from the session, such as speaker slide decks, are linked below. And if you’re looking for one of the many links, book suggestions, or thought-provoking questions and comments that were shared with the group via chat, here’s the chat log.
Since the first meeting of Karam Forum in 2017, we have been honored to be joined annually by contingents of Australian theological educators. Trans-Pacific travel was sponsored by our partners at Reventure. Time zone differences made it difficult to accommodate trans-Pacific participation in a digital meeting of Karam Forum, so we set up a separate Global Session.
We asked the Australians to be in charge of the session’s content, so we could learn as much as possible from their experience and insight. Kara Martin of Alphacrucis College hosted the session.
The first two sessions of the Global Session offered Australian reflections on the two plenary sessions of our January 5 meeting of Karam Forum 2021. Since the Australians are upside-down, they started with the second session first!
Rising to the Challenge with Wisdom
Keith McPherson of Alphacrucis College reflected on Darrell Bock’s January 5 presentation, in which Bock argued theological educators must learn to “go from life to the Bible” in addition to their accustomed method of “going from the Bible to life” if they want to develop cultural intelligence and connect theology to the way people live. Among other things, McPherson stressed the importance of learning to move in both directions, to avoid the danger of degenerating into pragmatic prooftexting. Going from life to the Bible is not a substitute for going from the Bible to life; the two are interdependent, like dance partners. McPherson pointed out that this is a competency seminaries can help students develop, and suggested first steps that included identifying pastors who already do this well to be looked to as helpful models.
Rising to the Challenge with Vision
Thomas Kimber of the Melbourne School of Theology and Ian Hussey of Malyon College reflected on the January 5 presentations of Mark Labberton and John Nunes on the future of theological schools. Kimber amplified the theme that theological education is experiencing a crisis because of the church’s failure to live into its identity in Christ; among the notes he emphasized was the importance of a theology of suffering that can bring us joy in the Lord even as we face painful challenges. Hussey picked up on the theme of listening to marginalized voices and reckoning with society’s injustices, describing several tangible ways this is being experienced in Australia.
At another point in the conversation, Hussey uploaded to the Zoom chat a thought-provoking set of 15 practical theological reflection questions to help people make sense of difficult issues or events from a theological perspective. The questions walk through describing and interpreting the issue or event to developing a normative response, seeking common ground and identifying next steps.
Faith-Work Integration Past, Present and Future
The third part of the Global Session was dedicated to a case study of faith-work integration in theological education in Australia – past, present and future. Dave Benson of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity joined us in the wee hours of the British morning to review the recent history of challenges and progress in connecting faith to life in Australian theological schools. In his content-packed slides, veterans of the movement in the U.S. will find both much that they recognize from their own experience and also much to inspire new reflection.
With a focus on the present, Andrew Sloane of Morling College described a recent initiative for Australians to gather and collaborate around these challenges – the Transforming Vocation conference. The presentations and papers Sloane described are available on the conference website, so check them out. The conference is structured to encourage cross-pollinizing collaboration across multiple areas of inquiry.
Martin, the host of the session, made a presentation about the future of faith-work integration in Australian theological education. Her slides emphasize the need to connect imagination (envisioning a fresh expression of theological education) with systems thinking that analyzes the nuts and bolts of how our schools are connected to other institutions and constituencies, such as local churches and workplace Christians at large.
Sloane closed the session with an inspiring closing prayer that laid all aspects of this challenge at the feet of our God and king. We look forward to being together in person as soon as the Lord grants it, and to future collaborations both digital and incarnational!