The New Conspirators Conference, hosted earlier this month by Tom and Christine Sine of Mustard Seed Associates, was a great success in asking questions about whether or not the future has a church and if so, what some of its distinctive missions might be. Reflecting on who I am and what Washington Seminary is about, I think the word missional is a significant word with which we connect. We are not merely attractional, hoping that people come to us, but are preparing students to go out into the world. I still have a sense that there is value in offering options like Under the Green Roof that attract people to come, but the whole idea of raising up students to go out and serve the community is a significant opportunity that I think expresses what we are about. I believe that God is missional, and so my theology is missional -- that God always goes where people are -- and so should the seminary, which is partly why we’re connected with the church.
Secondly, the idea of mosaic, the idea that we have multi cultures within our church, is certainly true at Washington Cathedral, which has an Esperanza service. Washington Seminary is hoping in the future to offer Spanish-speaking students the opportunity to complete a Spanish only degree. More and more Spanish language resources are becoming available, including books, but also other resources (Logos Bible software is now available in a Spanish edition), so we are hoping to be a place that increasingly embraces other cultures and other language streams, and so that is part of the future, and is very much a part of the mosaic of who we want Washington Seminary to be.
The monastic component, intentionally practicing prayer and spirituality while living in a busy world, is also something we are about in that at some level, the learning mode, where people spend time listening and reading, and then come for a conversation as the mentored part of what it is we do I think lives somewhat within the monastic tradition, and one could say that the mentors, in a sense, are the abbots, those who are the overseers, the spiritual companions along the way, so I have a great interest in the monastic tradition as something that nurtures the life of Washington Seminary.
And emerging, which is of course a broad term, has something to do with the church not holding to traditional modes, but asking authentic questions about how we engage culture in significant ways that are postmodern. Dwight Friesen, my good friend, spoke to what it was that we are doing at Washington Seminary as innovative, which is one of the words that I think is significant about who we are: we are trying to innovate and do things differently. Another word I heard at the conference about our seminary was from Mark Scandrette, who introduced Washington Seminary as alternative, which I think is also a helpful adjective, to say we’re not just trying to do it the same as we’ve always done it, but we’re trying to think how we can be more person-centered, how we can have more diversity within the programs, by allowing each person to have a sense that they are important rather than the program being of primary importance, so we want to be person-centered rather than program-centered.
And so, the conference I think as a whole for me was an enriching conversation in examining Washington Seminary in the light of those things that were the three clear goals of the conference. We want to communicate creative models of what New Conspirators are trying to address. We are certainly trying to engage in new modes of communication, and even when we look at biblical hermeneutics, it’s about learning how that affects our communication in all parts of life. We want to connect leaders from all four streams; connection is certainly something that Washington Seminary is about as a network organization which connects through personal conversations, through connecting with books and programs, all of those different ways that our students might be out and connected to others, we want to be about all of those things. And lastly, we want to create new ways to advance God’s new order in our world. Creative is one of those other adjectives that I really want to embrace, that we are attempting to be creative in new ways, new modes, new personal connections that really honor and respect the dignity of each person within God’s broader mission.
So this was a great conference to reflect on all those things and to discover that Washington Seminary is not mostly stuck in just one of these models, but that we are really caught up in some way in furthering all of them. All of these speak to us, and hopefully we will speak for them and to them and with them in the future.