By Kenneth Barnes, reprinted from the Oikonomia Network.
These are exciting times at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the merger between Gordon Divinity School and Conwell School of Theology. The merger was the brainchild of Billy Graham, John Harold Ockenga and J. Howard Pew. The stated aim was to “establish within a strong evangelical framework, an independent, interdenominational seminary whose constituents are united in the belief that the Bible is the infallible, authoritative Word of God…consecrated to educating men and women in all facets of gospel outreach.”
That vision has never changed. But how we train men and women for leadership in the church, and how we engage with the culture around us, has had to adjust to new realities and new challenges. This is true especially for our world-class centers, such as the J. Christy Wilson Center, the Ockenga Center, the Center for the Study of the Black Christian Experience and, of course, the Mockler Center for Faith and Ethics in the Workplace.
Since assuming responsibility for the Mockler Center in 2016, I have endeavored to make it less of a traditional “think tank” and more of a “platform” for the emanation of all things relating to the application of faith to the world of work and the economy. This has meant less traditional networking, and more collaboration (i.e. sharing of assets) with like-minded organizations and institutions around the world.
One example was a series of recent dinners co-hosted by the Mockler Center and Intervarsity College Chaplains (New York), Needle’s Eye Ministries (Richmond), the Faith at Work Summit (Chicago), and the Evangelical Theological Society (Denver). Each event featured a talk by a global thought leader such as Miroslav Volf, Tom Nelson or Peter Heslam. We have also expanded our activities abroad into places as diverse as China, the EU and the UK, as Christians everywhere recognize the powerful potential of business as a force for good and vehicle for the gospel.
Another milestone was the start of our new Doctor of Ministry program in Workplace Theology and Ethical Leadership. Along with my friend and colleague Lindsay McMillan, we have led a cohort of scholars from as far afield as Melbourne, Australia and Vancouver, Canada, on a journey into the future of work and economic issues. In cooperation with Harvard Business School, MIT, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the House of Lords, the University of Melbourne and others, we are helping future church leaders to think deeply about the technical, biblical/theological, moral/ethical and pastoral issues surrounding artificial intelligence, robotics, global finance, sovereign debt and the environment.
In the meantime, we continue to teach specific courses in the areas of workplace theology, workplace ethics, economic systems and practical apologetics, while working with professors across all of our divisions to integrate these topics into their core curricula. For instance, in Systematic Theology III students explore the nature of work in the new creation. In Revelation, they ask whether global capitalism is “Babylon.” In church history they consider the long-term impact of Calvin’s theology of moneylending and usury. In preaching class, they navigate and mine the treasures of the Theology of Work Project website, looking for deep theological insights and practical applications from every book of the Bible. The list goes on!
We are also hosting a roundtable this year at the Mt. Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. The Mt. Washington was the site of the famous Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, where global leaders of finance, trade and policy asked a simple question on behalf of the world’s war-ravaged economies: “What next?” Similarly, we will convene a small group of economists, theologians and pastors to ask: “What next?” for Gordon-Conwell’s second 50 years in the arena of work and the economy. We don’t know what the conference will produce, but we are confident that fresh ideas will ultimately give birth to new content and new programs, across all of our campuses and with many of our sister organizations.
Fifty-year anniversaries offer a great opportunity to look back, marvel and celebrate the past. But they are also the perfect time to look forward, and ask how in the 21st century Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary can be true to its motto: “To advance Christ’s Kingdom in every sphere of life by equipping church leaders to think theologically, engage globally and live biblically.”The answer is yet to come. Please watch this space!