theological education

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Integrating Work in Theological Education

Cahalan, Kathleen A.; Foley, Edward; Mikoski, Gordon S., eds.
Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2017

Book Review

Tags: curriculum   |   integration   |   theological education
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Reviewed by: Jonathan Roach, Stratham Community Church, United Church of Christ
Date Reviewed: October 18, 2017
This intriguing 20-article volume edited by Kathleen Cahalan, Edward Foley, and Gordon Mikoski explores the question of integration in theological education. The editors, who also author multiple articles in this book, divide this text into four sections – schools, curriculums, courses, and frameworks – to engage integration. The authors represent a variety of disciplines in theological education including: practical theology, worship, Christian education, spirituality, ministry, leadership, and church history. In the introduction, ...
This intriguing 20-article volume edited by Kathleen Cahalan, Edward Foley, and Gordon Mikoski explores the question of integration in theological education. The editors, who also author multiple articles in this book, divide this text into four sections – schools, curriculums, courses, and frameworks – to engage integration. The authors represent a variety of disciplines in theological education including: practical theology, worship, Christian education, spirituality, ministry, leadership, and church history. In the introduction, Stephen Graham explains, “this book takes a very broad view of integration, using the term in three ways: making connections between bodies of knowledge, overcoming the divide between theory and practice, and enhancing what is called the ‘professional’ model by integrating intellectual, practical, and moral and professional aspects of theological education” (ix). Cahalan frames this volume with a very personal and robust essay. She writes, “I fear we have left it to the students to connect the dots between study, call, and ministry…the lack of integration in theological education and ministerial practice comes at a high price. It reverberates through the personal, ecclesial, and systemic messes we see every day in the church” (2). She then frames this book with various approaches to integration including: the split between theory and practice, divisions between various branches of theological study, and the integration between the intellectual, practical, and moral/professional domains. In the first section on schools, the authors consider integration across the wider school communities. Foley opens this section by examining the school as an agent in the integrating process. He broadens the concept of school to include formal, informal, and semi-formal education. After chapters on faculty development and renewal processes, Foley returns to provide a case study from Catholic Theological Union and an additional article to sum up this section. He concludes that “these are challenging times, but these challenges are also gifts, and they would be a terrible thing to waste” (71). The second section, on curriculums, addresses the opportunities and problems in the area of integration in theological programs of study. Cahalan begins by exploring the dynamics of seminary curriculum around the concept of integration. She argues that “if faculty want education to be more integrative, they have to do more than rearrange the courses and credits and defend their turf” (75). Then she outlines principles of curricular design to produce integrated learning. Her themes are continued in articles by David Rylaarsdam, who explores overhauling curriculum, Jeffery Jones, who gives special attention to the relationship between field education and the rest of the curriculum, and David Jenkins, who adds the needs of denominations to the mix of curricula drivers. The third section explores integration with courses. Mikoski starts breaking integration down to the course level including engaging the explicit, implicit, and null curriculum. After three well-developed case studies, Jeffery Tribble adds the concept of racial differences and Foley adds the challenge of online classes to the discussion on integration. Finally, in the last section, the three editors engage integration through three lenses: “as models, as practical wisdom, and as theology” (14). All three provide engaging conclusions that should propel readers to action. Although the target audience for this book is theological educators and administrators, this book offers important fodder for independent theologians and leaders of religious communities to consider. In addition to being well-written and clear, a very difficult task for an edited volume, this text unpacks some very complex educational theories and theological issues in accessible non-jargon packed language. Although this text could have benefited by exploring the politics and challenges of change in light of its call for integration, it presents a well-rounded and very worthwhile read. The concept of integration will remain an important topic for faculty, administrators, and religious leaders for years to come, and this book provides a valuable contribution to the discussion.

I wrote a very thoughtful essay about a week ago on teaching social justice as a theological value.  It centered on a chance meeting my spouse and I had with the CEO and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester, Jim Killoran. In that piece, I wanted to make ...

In a low and pensive voice, the young woman student posed her question to the all-women course. Her question sent a gentle shockwave through the room. After some far ranging discussion, my response to her question was this – “Black women all over the world make passionate love all night long, ...

One of the most critical skills theological school deans need, arguably now more than ever before, is that of problem-solving. The challenges facing theological schools continue to become more technologically complex, socially entangled, costly, and multi-faceted. It is evident that most deans are not just dealing with programmatic, administrative, and ...

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How Youth Ministry Can Change Theological Education - If We Let It

Dean, Kenda Creasy, and Hearlson, Christy Lang, eds.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2016

Book Review

Tags: formation   |   theological education   |   youth ministry
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Reviewed by: Sunder John Boopalan, Episcopal Divinity School
Date Reviewed: March 29, 2017
Acutely aware of the North American religious landscape, the editors introduce the volume by noting two ironies – a vast majority of young people subscribe to a superficial understanding of self, God, and the world, and those who are more complexly informed are often mistakenly considered by youth ministries to be “already won” (8). With this awareness, the editors bring together a diverse set of essays that intentionally make an effort to ...

Acutely aware of the North American religious landscape, the editors introduce the volume by noting two ironies – a vast majority of young people subscribe to a superficial understanding of self, God, and the world, and those who are more complexly informed are often mistakenly considered by youth ministries to be “already won” (8). With this awareness, the editors bring together a diverse set of essays that intentionally make an effort to overcome this irony. By making critical references to High School Theology Programs, the different authors weigh in on the matter by treating high school students as full persons who desire and invite serious mentorship, challenge conventionally held notions, and are ready to hit the spiritual formation ball out of the park.

Several authors highlight how young people are often liturgically formed by dominant social conventions that impact their behavior and their ability to articulate the meaning of self and world. If young people are thus culturally tutored, how can those in youth ministry enable a different way of theologically framing lived experiences? How can they creatively disrupt unhelpful naming systems, for example, that young people are enculturated into in such a way that naming the issue could become a means to rethink and rename ways of being in the world? What would this take and what would it cost?

Each author presents arguments and perspectival interventions that are based on hard evidence and long-term work with high school students. Work with youth, in the end, affects youth and those who work with them. The book argues that such giving and receiving offers grounds for holy friendship and mutual companionship that can and will positively change self and world. Faculty members in theological schools are encouraged to actively seek out for themselves and others opportunities to teach age groups that they may not otherwise readily engage. No age is “too young.” While the difficulty of the task is not underestimated, the rewards, the authors argue, are many. Church workers are called to focus not so much on saving churches but rather on “saving lives” (275). Both may eventually be saved in the process.

The subtitle “If We Let It” captures the philosophical framework of this book. Readers interested in learning how youth ministry can change theological education – if we let it – will learn a great deal from this work that serves as a well-researched handbook, an indictment of theological malnourishment, and a mirror that poses hard and important questions to those interested in more than a cosmetic makeover of theological education today.

Wabash Center