What a privilege it was to serve with my colleagues from the School of Psychology (SOP) and the School of Theology (SOT) on the educational task force this last year. Our task was daunting: we were challenged to create an updated curriculum that addresses our changed context, and we were to design a flexible, accessible, and modular program that works for the four master’s degrees across the two schools.
#drivingIn our meetings, the School of Intercultural Studies (SIS) was welcomed into the Bible, theology, and ministry working groups, and SOT was welcomed into the contextualization working group. A driving question for our contextualization group, hosted by SIS, was, what must our students understand about the world in order to serve in God’s mission? We identified all the courses that addressed our global context: Ethics, Philosophy, Globalization, Children at Risk, World Religions, Theology and Culture, Race/Ethnic Diversity, Evangelism, and Missional Churches. Such a configuration of professors and courses was a first at Fuller, and it created synergy across the two schools. All of us wanted to equip students to serve God’s mission in the world, through all the various disciplines we represented. The conversations were challenging, because these issues really matter and they were worth bringing all of our energies to bear on the future curricula. In the end, we felt confident that the cultural training we designed would serve all Fuller students well.
Some of the driving questions on the task force were, what are our commonalities across the two schools? And what must remain as our distinctives? So many of the reasons why we would need two different schools fifty-eight years ago now serve as compelling arguments for why we need to work together today. Rather than choosing electives in one school versus another, students must have access to philosophy and anthropology, church and mission, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, evangelism and service, ethics and development, church renewal and church planting, theory and praxis. They need it all to serve the mission of a global and multicultural church, and we divide their course options to their detriment and to our own.
Students require the insights from the two schools in regard to the core courses as well. All students need equally strong doses of Bible, History/Theology, Ministry, and Mission courses, and each student needs to know how to lead the church in its worship, discipleship, and mission practices. Moreover, our students need all these courses taught from a global, multicultural, holistic, and praxis-oriented perspective, and we cannot achieve these goals from one school alone. We must work together to train all students.
Each school retains its distinctives, however. SIS will continue to train those who plan to cross cultures and who will work in apostolic ways, initiating and leading new ministries outside traditional congregational structures. SOT will continue to train pastors of the church who will lead congregations in their day-to-day service to God’s mission in the world. In addition, both schools will continue to train those students who see themselves as neither pastors or missionaries—those prophets and evangelists who serve in alternative spaces: homes, coffee shops, workplaces, or through media of various kinds.
In the end, SIS was unanimous in its support of the degree changes. Excited about new synergy with the other schools, yet celebrating the difference that makes us the School of Intercultural Studies. With renewed energy, we are confident that the updated curriculum moves us forward in training the next generation of workers to serve God’s mission in the world.
Ryan Bolger is associate professor of church in contemporary culture in Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies.