Attentiveness: Essential Changes
When is a “pivot” more than a pivot? When it is about more than money and property.
A little over a year ago Gordon-Conwell announced that with the changes in higher education and the changing economy, we would have to sell some or all of the 130 Essex Street property to better fulfill our mission. It was a painful announcement for me, an alumnus of this wonderful school.
However, the need to establish the school on a strong financial footing means reducing maintenance costs, paying off debt, and leveraging more money for student scholarships and salaries. We are in the midst of that property and financial pivot now.
But in the middle of the property pivot came two other important pivots, both part of our new beginning: a doctoral program and a covenant. These pivots are essential changes that build upon Gordon-Conwell’s historic, Christ-centered foundation to support the needs of the global Church today. What I mean is that we have made two changes that are permanent. These are not new centers or initiatives that may have a shelf life of five or ten years. These are two new essential changes—changes for this year, next year, and on and on.
First, the doctoral program. After nearly 18 months of study, preparation, research, and submitting reports, the Association of Theological Schools voted on June 6 to approve our new PhD program in theological studies. The Board of Commissioners at NECHE approved the program last month. That means in the coming weeks we will add the PhD program to our website, and we will begin to receive applications. The first class will enter in August of 2024.
The PhD program will begin focusing on two important areas: theology/ethics and mission/global Christianity. Led by Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor Adonis Vidu, we will primarily seek to support faculty development for seminaries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia.
A PhD program will change the campus climate in a positive way for the long-term future of Gordon-Conwell.
The second essential change was celebrated in a joyous worship service of praise Sunday evening, June 4. Nearly forty-five ordained pastors from the city attended along with hundreds of others to celebrate the signing of a covenant between Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and black church pastors in the region. More than a celebration, the service marked for some of us a potential revival in the city. There was a spirit of celebration mixed with hopefulness, unity, and deepening relationships between Christians of different races and ethnicities.
We were overwhelmed by the universal joy of Christian unity. There is a great desire among Christian leaders to see greater unity in Christ’s mission for the city and beyond.
This is also a permanent change for Gordon-Conwell. Every spring we will meet together: seminary and Black pastors to assess how we are doing in living into the seven stipulations of the covenant. Increasingly Latino, Korean, Chinese, and other churches will be included. Again, there is a great thirst for unity in mission, beginning with Black church leaders.
So we celebrate two permanent changes in three days for Gordon-Conwell. These changes reflect us deepening our standing commitments to the gospel that will extend our effectiveness in participating in God’s mission.
After many difficulties and still with work to be done, I will stop and sing of the goodness of God!
Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is author of the “Attentiveness” blog. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.