Attentiveness: Multicultural World - Gordon Conwell

Attentiveness: Multicultural World

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist

“In recognition of the global church and the rich diversity of the Kingdom, we aspire to equip our students to minister effectively in a multicultural world. Therefore, in each course, whenever feasible, faculty will include one or more of the following: reading(s) by scholars from the global church, and/or lecture units, assignments, discussions, case studies, interviews, videos, etc., that incorporate topics related to the global church.”

Two weeks ago, a major affirmation was made by the Gordon-Conwell faculty in approving a “Diversity Policy” (above). What does this mean? It is a significant cultural shift.

Evangelicalism has been a very white and Western phenomenon. It is no longer this way, and, frankly, it never should have been identified as such.

Gordon-Conwell has been an inconsistent herald of the multicultural vision of the Great Commission and the heavenly vision of all nations (pante ethne). Our two founders were pioneers in fighting against slavery (Russell Conwell) and educating for China and Africa (A.J. Gordon). Our Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Institute for the Black Christian Experience, and the new curriculum that includes a required course in “Understanding Culture” are indicators of our concern for empathetic understanding of cultural differences.

In terms of outcomes, all students who graduate from Gordon-Conwell in the future will develop a theological understanding that is not bound to white Western culture/s. Put more positively, graduates will be prepared to minister in the midst of diverse cultures and races. Students will be aware of Asian and Asian American worship and theological traditions. In studying Christianity in the United States they will know about the development of the Black church tradition and the Latino church traditions.

For the faculty in the coming months this will mean reviewing our syllabi with this policy in mind. It will also mean being more conscious of the diversity of students in our classrooms (or in our Zoom rooms!) and how to engage content with diverse contexts of our students.

For prospective students it will mean this type of a welcome mat:

Welcome to Gordon-Conwell! A seminary grounded in Scripture where the life of Jesus is incarnate in all cultures and places.

There is no turning back. This little policy adjusts for some and redirects for others the journey we are on. This will mean more collaboration in order to bring in diverse expressions of theology, worship, counseling, preaching, etc. It will also mean adjusting our reading and our conversations as a faculty.

This is just one of the adjustments that have been made in the seminary in the past year. In the midst of a pandemic, the faculty has accomplished much in moving us away from ongoing divisions caused by race, class, and ethnicity and toward a more empathetic and hospitable institution.

For more information on this direction, review this section of our website: Diversity, Hospitality, and Culture.


Scott W. Sunquist, the President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Tuesday on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.


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