In June, 2013, over one hundred leaders from across the North American Wesleyan Church gathered in Indianapolis for a symposium addressing a key mutual concern: the challenges facing clergy development and education. Unlike theological symposia of past years, this one addressed an area of practical concern rather than a theological theme.
The symposium’s agenda sought to open communication lines among three branches of the church most invested in training pastors: the District Boards of Ministerial Development (DBMD), the District Superintendents, and the religion faculty of the five Wesleyan universities (HC, SWU, KU, OWU, IWU and Wesley Seminary at IWU). The three groups discussed how to best maintain relevant and beneficial teaching practices in a rapidly transforming culture.
Keynote speaker Dr. Keith Drury, Professor Emeritus at IWU, highlighted the challenges to theological education posed by contemporary culture. Counselor Sandra Metz addressed the emotional health and behavior of emerging clergy. Dr. Lorne Oke, Executive Director of IWU’s Center for Learning and Innovation, presented developments in educational technology and their bearing on ministerial education. Dr. David Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs at KU, discussed the integrated outcomes-based approach at Kingswood. In addition, a DBMD panel and a faculty panel each presented their best practices and challenges regarding ministry formation and education.
The conversational culture of the 2013 Symposium contributed to open discussion, substantial progress on issues, and a strong sense of unity. The meetings hummed with genuine enthusiasm and hope. Having many of the leaders that are directly involved in ministerial development in the same room fostered understanding, appreciation, and constructive dialogue.
Dr. Dave Ward, a professor from IWU’s School of Theology and Ministry, commented that “the most important outcome for me was concrete hope for better communication and partnership between DBMD’s and religion faculty at all of our schools.” District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Jennings added, “These two groups have not always communicated with each other well. I hope that because of this symposium, this will improve.”
The 2013 symposium was sponsored and led by the Education and Clergy Development Division, directed by Rev. Russ Gunsalus.