Seminary Spotlight: Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

By Kenneth Barnes, reprinted from the Oikonomia Network

Times of transition are a good time for reflection. As Gordon-Conwell prepares for a new chapter in our history (a milestone anniversary and a new president), I’ve been reflecting on the big picture, and how we are to deal with events and circumstances beyond our control that challenge past assumptions and present us with uncertainty.

This year, Thanksgiving Day fell on November 22, a day that many of us remember with a combination of horror and sadness as we recall the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was an event that defined an era, as the country lurched from the sanguine days of post-war America into a time of unprecedented turbulence and uncertainty. Some commentators have suggested that America lost her innocence that day and as someone who lived through it, I tend to agree. What we didn’t lose, however, were our values and our identity. We still knew who we were and we still knew what we believed in, and those convictions brought us through the immediate crisis into a time of renewed hope and optimism for the future.

In the current context, I have to remind myself of these things, as evangelicalism goes through a crisis of its own. As the social and political ground beneath us shifts and we are faced with the prospect of declining numbers and popular condemnation, we must never lose sight of our core mission. In the case of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, that is “to advance Christ’s Kingdom in every sphere of life by equipping Church leaders to think theologically, engage globally and live biblically.”

That starts of course, with our unwavering commitment to the authority of scripture. But it permeates everything we do from the classroom to the work of the J. Christy Wilson Center for World Missions, the Harold John Ockenga Institute, the Haddon W. Robinson Center for Preaching, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, the Center for Urban Ministerial Education; the Pierce Center for Disciple-building, the Robert C. Cooley Center for the Study of Early Christianity, the Shoemaker Center for Church Renewal, the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience and the Mockler Center for Faith and Ethics in the Workplace. These centers and institutions are more than just “think tanks.” They are places of spiritual engagement with the church and with society, and they collaborate with institutions as diverse as Harvard Business School and Acton University, the Boston Theological Institute and the Oikonomia Network, MIT and the Evangelical Theological Society. They epitomize our belief in whole-life discipleship and our desire to share the good news while bringing healing, justice and flourishing to God’s creation.

Thanks to the generosity of benefactors, friends and alumni, we are blessed to be able to look forward with hope and anticipation as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the merger between Gordon Divinity School and Conwell Theological Seminary, a project spearheaded by none other than Billy Graham, whose vision for academic excellence and humble leadership continue as our guiding lights.

Over the past several years, our steadfast commitment to our core values and our desire to engage with culture through the unique position of the local church has led to the development of several new initiatives, including:

  • A Doctor of Ministry track in Workplace Theology and Ethical Leadership;
  • The Ockenga Fellowship for the development of early to mid-career church leaders;
  • The Mockler Fellows program, offering fully accredited seminary courses (both on campus and through local churches) in the areas of workplace theology, business ethics, faith and economics and apologetics in the public square;
  • A new Managing Church Finances class (administered through our Partnership Program);
  • A new Formation and Leadership class (required for all MDiv students);
  • The integration of content on work and the economy into courses across every division of the seminary;
  • Significant investment in our Digital Live electronic teaching platform; and
  • The development of several new degrees, certificates and diplomas designed to expand our footprint and reinforce our vision for ministry beyond just parish settings.

The seminary has also recommitted itself to the unique needs of the city, through the Center for Urban Ministerial Education under the leadership of Seong Hyun Park, dean of the Boston campus, and the newly formed Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience, led by Emmett G. Price III, dean of chapel. Gender diversity is also an ongoing commitment, with Pam Davis, Jacqueline Dyer, Kateryna Kuzubova and Nicole Martin all recently joining our faculty.

Since its inception, the seminary has enjoyed faithful and fruitful leadership, and the past ten years have been no exception. Thanks to the vision and steadfastness of our current president, Dennis Hollinger, the seminary has secured its financial future and solidified its position as a world leader in theological education. Having announced his retirement last year, the board has completed its search for a new president and recently announced the appointment of Scott William Sunquist, lately dean of the School of Intercultural Studies and professor of world Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary, to take his place from July 1, 2019.

In announcing the board’s decision, Bishop Claude Alexander, chairman of the Board of Trustees noted: “For some time my belief has been that the time in which we live calls for preparing leaders who are global in vision, missional in thrust, biblical in conviction, Christo-centric in orientation, authentic in relationship, multi-ethnic in appeal, socially just in consciousness, entrepreneurial in mindset and collaborative in approach. Scott is a missionary, scholar, pastor and administrator who exhibits these characteristics himself and can raise up new leaders with a passion for reaching the world for Christ. He is a transformative leader who can usher Gordon-Conwell into its brightest years.” These are sentiments shared by the entire seminary community.

Harkening back to the words of President Kennedy at his own inaugural address, the “torch has been passed to a new generation” of leadership at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Committed to our core values, humbled by our noble calling, and inspired by the example of the saints throughout the ages, we seek to be obedient in all that we do, truthful in all that we teach and faithful in all that we are, to the glory of God and the furtherance of his kingdom, until he returns in glory. Maranatha!

Dr. Kenneth Barnes is Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology & Business Ethics and Director of the Mockler Center for Faith & Ethics in the Workplace at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton and Boston, Massachusetts. 

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