Dr. Scott W. Sunquist
President & Professor of Missiology
Recently I attended the graduation ceremony of the Jacksonville campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This small, embedded seminary provides more than theological degrees for the region. It is becoming a gathering point for Christians in the region. As with most regional campuses, the education is offered mostly by adjunct professors.
Adjunct comes from the Latin, adjunctus with a range of meanings: bound, belonging to, composite, or adjoined. We use this term of some faculty meaning that they are not the “core” faculty, but are adjoined. After what I observed at this recent commencement we need to use the standard definition of “belonging to.”
At the commencement, graduates came forward to receive their diplomas. Since it was a smaller graduating class than most seminaries, the proceedings were a little less formal. Graduates would go over to one of the adjunct professors and give them a big hug, slowing down the ceremony, but adding joy and humanness seldom seen at a commencement. Spontaneity can be scary, but in this case, it was magnificent.
Adjunct professors are often working in churches, in non-profits, or patching together a career teaching at different institutions and teaching online and at different sites. Their degree of commitment to the students and the educational enterprise rivals that of tenured faculty.
For many graduates, a seminary education is the education of other faculty who belong to or are part of our composite of theological instruction. Thus, we need to rethink how we include all of our composite of faculty in faculty development and the spiritual community known as a seminary.
Local churches are no different. We have the full-time paid staff (pastors and educators), but then the majority of the work is done by “adjuncts.” They are known as church members, volunteers, or lay leaders. Are these people in our local churches included in the same training, support and community of church leaders? Many of these Sunday School teachers and other volunteers will be “the church” for members and visitors. The professionalization of ministry and of seminary education needs to be re-thought.
Stay tuned for more…
Scott W. Sunquist, the new President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Monday morning on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses and good ideas.