Sabbatical Spotlight- Dr. Ben Conner & Dr. Suzanne McDonald

Sabbatical_stories_blog

Dr. Ben Conner

conner-ben.pngDr. Ben Conner, Associate Professor of Christian Discipleship, is spending his sabbatical developing courses for the new Graduate Certificate in Disability and Ministry (GCDM), particularly the introductory course, “Introduction to Disability and the Church,” and a course related to Friendship House entitled, “Living into Community: Friendship House.”

He will also travel to develop partnerships and recruit students for the new Graduate Certificate in Disability and Ministry.  He has already encountered much interest and will be following up on those leads.

Dr. Conner will work with Hope College to host the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability on May 23-26. WTS has the opportunity to lead a morning plenary session on how working with people with disabilities is transforming our understanding of theological education.

Finally, Dr. Conner is writing a book for IVP Academic that brings together his interests in disability and mission studies entitled Enabling Witness.

“For the project to be successful, I will need to include the voices of persons with disabilities–consequently, I am initiating and growing in relationships with people with all kinds of disabilities,” he explains. “As a result of this interaction, I am expanding my understanding of the Gospel as I learn about Deaf ways of communicating and relating, disabled understandings of embodiment, challenging normate and ableist biases, and considering how to share in faith with people with significant intellectual disabilities.”

 

Dr. Suzanne McDonald

lr-Suzanne-McDonald 2014.jpgDr. Suzanne McDonald, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, has a number of speaking engagements, ranging from giving the keynote talk at the annual convocation of the Reformed Institute of Metropolitan Washington to speaking at the Kuiper Seminar for new faculty and staff at Calvin College, helping them to think about the doctrine of election. She will be preparing to give three talks at Covenant College, Georgia, in the Fall for their annual Reformation Day lecture series. This is the first time a woman has been invited to present these lectures.

Dr. McDonald will also present at several churches on ‘Dealing Faithfully with Dementia’ – giving pastors and congregation members some theological and pastoral resources for ministering to people with dementia and those who care for them.

She is finishing up a couple of essays on the doctrine of election and on John Owen’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit and is hoping to map out some ideas for her next major writing project.

She is excited about researching and writing two new courses for the coming academic year. One will be on aging and dementia for the Graduate Certificate in Disability and Ministry. In this course, students will consider how they can walk well with and learn from those who are in the last stage of their earthly lives, and also explore theological and pastoral resources for dealing faithfully with those who suffer from dementia and those who care for them.

The other course will be about the doctrine of creation and “creation care” with a view to helping students to think wisely with scripture and the theological tradition and to explore the kinds of steps that they can take as individuals and in various ministry contexts to act well toward the rest of creation.

“These courses are about issues that are close to my heart, and I’m planning both courses to be a mixture of strong theological and biblical reflection, with guest speakers and maybe some field trips to help us to find hands-on ways to live better into our callings in these areas,” she shares.