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In this episode, Dr. Greg Lee, Associate Professor of Theology and Urban Studies at Wheaton College, discusses Augustine and Mass Incarceration. Much of Dr. Lee’s work appropriates Augustine as a resource for addressing contemporary issues of church and society. A resident of the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, he is especially interested in urban questions of race and class, which he approaches from a distinctly Asian American perspective. WTS student and Wheaton grad Anna Erickson sat down with him.

This conversation comes as a follow-up to the event sponsored by Western Theological Seminary and Hope College‘s Saint Benedict Institute, “An Augustinian Theology of Mass Incarceration.” 

In this episode, Dr. Greg Lee, Associate Professor of Theology and Urban Studies at Wheaton College, discusses Augustine and Mass Incarceration. Much of Dr. Lee’s work appropriates Augustine as a resource for addressing contemporary issues of church and society. A resident of the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, he is especially interested in urban questions of race and class, which he approaches from a distinctly Asian American perspective. WTS student and Wheaton grad Anna Erickson sat down with him.

This conversation comes as a follow-up to the event sponsored by Western Theological Seminary and Hope College‘s Saint Benedict Institute, “An Augustinian Theology of Mass Incarceration.” 

 

2019 WTS alumna, Katie AlleyLike many of her peers, WTS alumna Katie Alley ‘19 had non-traditional ministry in mind when she started seminary. A recent article from Christianity Today cites a survey of 5,000+ seminary students in which almost 40% intend to serve in contexts outside the local church. 

Katie had taken a job with a non-profit right out of college, but soon discovered it was not the right fit. She decided to return to the classroom to explore the deep love she had for God and the church. Western’s emphasis on formation, experiential learning, and internships set it apart from other seminaries. She felt it would be a good place to learn while trying on different hats to see what type of ministry might best fit her gifts. 

During her first year, Katie interned with a community development non-profit. Although she learned a lot, she decided to try hospital chaplaincy the next year, hoping it would suit her better. However, her second internship at Holland Hospital didn’t feel quite right either. Although she was gaining confidence in her work, she didn’t particularly enjoy it. 

Meanwhile, she had begun taking a preaching class and leading chapel—and she realized that felt most natural, even though the thought of pastoral ministry intimidated her. Not having grown up with female pastors, she hadn’t considered becoming a pastor until now. 

Faculty members like Travis West and Kyle Small recognized Katie’s gifts of pastoral leadership and encouraged her to find confidence in herself and push through questions she still had. Pam Bush of the Formation for Ministry office came alongside Katie and helped her explore what intimidated her even as she continued developing her talents. Being an in-residence student gave her access to a group of classmates who were praying and rooting for her. 

“At the beginning of seminary it felt like all my classmates knew what they wanted to do and were really confident,” Katie says. “I learned along the way that everyone was equally scared. Yet, it never felt like competition. We all wanted each other to be successful and discover what we were meant to do.”

After her second year of seminary and with the support of the community behind her, Katie felt ready to give pastoral ministry a try. She spent the summer at Second Reformed Church of Pella, IA under the direction of Pastors Steve & Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell. There she got to preach, visit congregants, and see what it would be like to be on a team of pastors. 

Katie Alley talks to children during worship hour

Youth Director Katie Alley talks to the children during the worship hour at Second Reformed Church of Pella, IA.

While the experience confirmed that she didn’t want to be a solo pastor, she knew she wanted to continue preaching—and when she found out the church’s youth minister took a different call, the opportunity opened to come back full-time after graduation.

As Katie settles into her calling, she realizes that the process of trying different things helped her feel more confident when she finally landed. She appreciates the formation for ministry process at WTS that allowed her to find the best fit for her gifts of ministry and then develop those abilities.

Having a team around to encourage, disciple, and speak truth to Katie was important in seminary and continues to be so. In addition to her ministry team at Second Reformed, she keeps in touch with professors and classmates, many of whom are also in their first calls.

Just like her path to pastoral ministry was unexpected, she knows that the work of ministry will be full of twists and turns.

“Some days are filled with trying to write a sermon that’s not coming; some days I’m visiting people,” she says. “I don’t know what new challenge each day will bring, but as my classmates and I start out, I’m really grateful we have a support system to cheer each other on.”

Rev. Dr. Joseph Small talks about church unity, denominations, and living as the Body of Christ:

“There’s something about the faith that impels us into relationship with each other. Now what happens, especially in American culture, is that denominations become institutionalized, become businesses that sell goods and services to their member congregations, become political institutions where significant issues of faith and morals are decided by voting. And of course, voting divides a question into two sides, as if any question that’s worth asking has only two sides… …the very method we have chosen to resolve disputes guarantees that the disputes will continue, because there are winners and losers of every single vote that’s ever taken.” -Rev. Dr. Joseph Small

Rev. Dr. Joseph Small talks about church unity, denominations, and living as the Body of Christ:

“There’s something about the faith that impels us into relationship with each other. Now what happens, especially in American culture, is that denominations become institutionalized, become businesses that sell goods and services to their member congregations, become political institutions where significant issues of faith and morals are decided by voting. And of course, voting divides a question into two sides, as if any question that’s worth asking has only two sides… …the very method we have chosen to resolve disputes guarantees that the disputes will continue, because there are winners and losers of every single vote that’s ever taken.”

Western Theological Seminary is pleased to announce it has been selected by the family of the late Rev. Eugene Peterson (pastor, author, and translator of The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language), to establish a new “Eugene Peterson Center.”

While the mission and programs of the center will continue to be developed and solidified in the months to come, the center will exist to promote the pastoral theology of Eugene Peterson for future scholarship, the health of pastors and the Church’s renewed imagination. The center will steward the Peterson papers and archives, create generative models for pastoral formation, provide resources to encourage pastors for sustainable, joyful and courageous ministry, and promote robust Christian imagination among writers and culture makers in the wider church.

Eugene Peterson’s relationship with the seminary goes back decades, beginning in the 1980’s when he taught at a Young Life Institute on campus. The Presbyterian minister’s friendship with WTS deepened in 1998 when Rev. Dr. Timothy Brown invited him to campus as the keynote speaker for the Henry Bast Festival of Preaching. In 2008 he returned to speak at President Brown’s inauguration, and was invited again in 2014 to reprise his role at the Bast Festival.

According to his son, Rev. Eric Peterson, “WTS is the school that Eugene exclusively recommended to prospective students who were preparing to serve the church.” In 2010 Eugene said this: “It is everything I think a seminary needs to be–theologically focused, faculty accessible, personally relational and God honoring. I never fail to feel at home there with its professors and students.” After visiting campus himself, Eric agreed. “To witness the combination of first-rate scholars, coupled with a compelling vision for theological education and a student body that exhibits an earnest desire to serve the kingdom was altogether inspiring,” he shared. “The meaningful ways the seminary community is engaging with people at the margins of society resonates with our family’s values.” 

The seminary is excited to be tasked with stewarding Eugene Peterson’s pastoral legacy through the center, which will house diaries, letters, sermons, book manuscripts, Regent College teaching material and extensive documentation related to the translation of The Message within its library archive collection in the newly built Jack & Mary Dewitt Learning Center. 

WTS President Dr. Felix Theonugraha is excited to be able to provide opportunities for students, alumni, and the wider church to engage Peterson’s work. “Forming the whole person has long been an emphasis here at Western,” he explained. “There is agreement among theological schools that we must do a better job focusing on the formation of future pastors, especially as we live in a world that is filled with cultural liturgies that form us each and every day in ways that are contrary to the values of the Kingdom of God. It is tempting today to judge the effectiveness of one’s ministry or a church’s impact based on numbers–how many members, how many attendees, how many sites, how many countries– Eugene compassionately and unassumingly reminds us to turn our eyes away from the glitter of this world and to fix them upon Christ.”

Academic Dean and VP of Academic Affairs Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson, who had a personal friendship with Eugene, said, “I have spoken to countless others who, through his writings and personal friendship, were given a vision of the Christian life that by God’s grace has sustained them in that ‘long obedience in the same direction,’” quoting one of his most famous lines.

“We are honored and humbled by this opportunity to steward and extend the legacy of Eugene Peterson,” said Dr. Theonugraha.

Thursday, February 27, 7:00 p.m., Mulder Chapel

Lecture with Dr. Greg Lee, Wheaton College

The United States incarcerates far more individuals than any nation in the world at radically disparate rates for different racial groups. In this lecture, Dr. Lee will draw on the thought of Augustine to encourage new approaches toward criminal justice. Augustine’s understanding of personal sin stresses the possibility of redemption for individual wrongdoers, and his account of collective evil exposes systemic injustice as a pervasive feature of humanity’s fallen condition. These insights commend Christians’ solidarity with oppressed communities and the exercise of mercy and restorative practices in response to criminal offenses.
This lecture is sponsored by the Girod Chair of Western Theological Seminary in partnership with the Saint Benedict Institute.
WATCH HERE:

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED. For updates, please visit this page.

March 16-17, 2020

Is the “Good Samaritan” Good? Listening to the Parable’s Later Witnesses

The “Good Samaritan” is one of the most popular parables in Christian history and has significant relevance for every age.

As recorded in Luke 10, Jesus imagines an “enemy” as the central hero of the story. Sometimes we can only hear the truth when a storyteller overdramatizes the point.

Of particular interest is the hermeneutical nature of Jesus’ initial response. To the lawyer’s opening query, Jesus replies, “How do you read?” We will hear how others— Augustine, Howard Thurman, Harriet Jacobs, the Solentiname Community of Nicaragua—interpreted the parable in order to hear it afresh for our age.

Indeed, the way one reads the Bible defines and determines the way one thinks about life. Hermeneutics and ethics are inseparable. Jesus reveals how he reads Torah when he places a person most unlike his listeners at the center of the story and asks his immediate audience—and generations to follow—to “go and do likewise.”

MONDAY, March 16:
9:55am in Mulder Chapel: WTS Chapel service (Public Welcome)

10:45am LECTURE in Maas Hall: “Augustine and Howard Thurman”(Public Welcome)

7:00pm LECTURE in Mulder Chapel: “Harriet Jacobs and the Solentiname Community of Nicaragua” (Public Welcome)

TUESDAY, March 17
8:30am in Maas Hall (room 159): Breakfast Conversation – Breakfast Conversation – “Preaching the Parables.” This breakfast is for people interested in reading, interpreting, teaching, and preaching the parables to come and interact with the speaker about this dynamic, delightful, and difficult task! (Public Welcome)

12:00pm LUNCH in Maas Hall (room 159): Community Conversation w/ students, staff and faculty

Dr. Emerson Powery is Professor of Biblical Studies & (former) Coordinator of Ethnic and Area Studies at Messiah College.

He is an alum of Princeton Theological Seminary (1992) and—under the guidance of Dr. D. Moody Smith—Duke University (1999).  

He is the author of Jesus Reads Scripture: The Function of Jesus’ Use of Scripture in the Synoptic Gospels (Brill, 2002), “Philemon” for The New Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary (Abingdon, 2010), and co-author of The Genesis of Liberation: Biblical Interpretation in the Antebellum Narratives of the Enslaved (2016), which wrestles with the function of the Bible in the 19th-century African American ‘slave narrative’ tradition. Peter Paris describes The Genesis of Liberation as “a long sought-after treasure.” Mark Noll claims that the book “is now the gold standard for one of the most important developments in American religion.” With interest in how Scripture functions—in ancient and present-day underrepresented communities—he was one of the editors of True to Our Native Land: An African American NT Commentary (Fortress/Augsburg, 2007).  

In the wider academy, Powery has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Biblical Literature (2005-2013) and the Common English Bible (2009-2011). He was co-chair (with Bernadette Brooten) for the “Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom” section within the Society of Biblical Literature (2014-2019). He was the 2006–2007 (regional) President of the Society of Biblical Literature (SE Region). Presently, he serves on the editorial board of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship and the steering committee for “The Bible in the United States” consultation of SBL. He serves on the Board of Trustees at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

Today’s guest is Dr. Jana Bennett, Professor of Religion at the University of Dayton. Dr. Bennett is a moral theologian and author of Water is Thicker than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness. Dr. Bennet was on campus for a colloquy hosted by the Girod Chair in Reformed Theology, during which she also participated on a panel discussing “A Theology of Singleness.” WTS student James Schetelich sat down to talk with her about her books and why marriage and singleness are important topics for the church.

Today’s guest is Dr. Jana Bennett, Professor of Religion at the University of Dayton. Dr. Bennett is a moral theologian and author of Water is Thicker than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness. Dr. Bennet was on campus for a colloquy hosted by the Girod Chair in Reformed Theology, during which she also participated on a panel discussing “A Theology of Singleness.” WTS student James Schetelich sat down to talk with her about her books and why marriage and singleness are important topics for the church.

 

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