Reconciliation

Seminary 2.0

What does it mean to prepare for God’s work in today’s world? As communities expand to include not just next-door neighbors but bordering countries, the traditional seminary preparation, focused primarily on church work, preaching, and teaching, is also expanding.

Southern California, for example, “is an environment that is so in flux that you can’t just do church the way you’ve always done it,” says Helene Slessarev-Jamir, professor of urban ministries at Claremont School of Theology. “You have to be able to connect church to community.” To help students better understand the lives of the immigrant community around them, Helene created an experiential course with the U.S.-Mexico border south of Tucson, Arizona, as its classroom. To stimulate critical thinking on the theological implications of immigration, students witnessed a federal court hearing for 60-some immigrants accused of crossing the border illegally. “Within an hour they had prosecuted them all en masse. All pleaded guilty,” said Slessarev-Jamir. Later that week, the students crossed into Mexico and talked with recently deported migrants, learning about the issue in a way that the traditional classroom might never have been able to teach.

Seminary programs across the United States are rethinking what it means to “do ministry”—embracing an expanding view of the world as community and neighbor—and responding to the real needs of our ever-changing social context with innovative, intentional programs of study. Here are a few that may make you want to head back to school.

NEW 2009
Seattle Pacific University

Business and Applied Theology
Seattle, Washington

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
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No Cheap Grace

At the Christian Amahoro gathering in South Africa in June, former apartheid-era Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok publicly washed the feet of Sean Callaghan, a young white South African man who had been conscripted as a medic into Vlok’s counterinsurgency unit at age 15. In a powerful demonstration of biblical reconciliation, Callaghan returned the gesture.

Callaghan, who testified to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the psychological damage he suffered after his time in the counterinsurgency unit, told Vlok, “Whenever I would swear, I would never use a swear word, Mr. Vlok. I would use your name.” In Vlok’s address to the conference, he described how his conversion to Christ led him to seek reconciliation and forgiveness from those he wronged.

Vlok was granted amnesty in 1999 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the only cabinet minister to have admitted committing crimes—including civilian bombings, torture, and assassinations. In 2006 Vlok also washed the feet of Rev. Frank Chikane, whom he had tried to assassinate years earlier.

“Seeing Vlok wash Sean Callaghan’s feet,” conference attendee Brian McLaren told Sojourners, “would be like seeing Donald Rumsfeld apologize for his role in the Iraq invasion and occupation. But, even while we celebrate Vlok’s change of heart, the problem isn’t as simple as dirt on the feet. Its deep scars will require a lot of time and a lot of grace to heal.”

—Joey Ager

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
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Debating Race

Are we living in the golden age of racial debates? Every week seems to bring some new wrinkle in the national conversation about race, class, and ethnicity. And with the emergence of social media, we can now engage in these conversations with ever-greater frequency and intensity.

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