Every couple of months UTS Communications brings our readers news from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) to give insights into some broader issues facing seminaries: theological education, relationship with congregations and stakeholders, and engagement with the wider public too. We hope you find this background information useful. In this article the topic is partnership. As UTS faces its own financial challenges, there may be some useful ideas to glean and act upon. I hope the article from ATS provides inspiration and that God can partner with us to reveal interesting new possibilities!
Robin James Graham, UTS Director of Advancement and Communication
7 models and a theological foundation
As part of the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers Initiative (ECFFM), The Association of Theological Schools recently hosted a peer-learning event to discuss current and future ways in which seminaries might partner with congregations to address the economic challenges facing students and alumni. Nearly 20 faculty and administrators from 12 seminaries participated in the dialogue, thinking about how God views partnership and looking at several models.
Is there a theological foundation for partnership? For many seminaries, the starting place for partnering with congregations is need-based. They only consider partnership seriously when they face a need they cannot address on their own. By looking at how God works, is it possible to see the theme of partnership in new ways that can be helpful for theological institutions? Does God choose partnership as a model by default because other preferred methods of working are not possible? It is easy to lose sight of the fact that God could have chosen far different methods of working. By looking at Scripture, however, it becomes clear that, while God does work independently from humankind, often this Divine Being chooses to partner with vulnerable human beings to accomplish many divine purposes in the world. These human beings sometimes get it right and sometimes fail miserably. Yet, God’s commitment to partnering perseveres despite these challenges. In light of this, participants at the event wondered if the value of this way of working is far more significant than simply a means for obtaining financial resources for students.
Mary Lederleitner is in a dual role serving as Researcher/Coordinator for the ECFFM Initiative at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and as a consultant on the leadership team of the WycliffeGlobal Alliance. She is author of the book Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission.