Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents
January 11, 2008
In the first week of January my wife and I attend the annual meeting of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents. Over the last seven years we have been blessed to enlarge our world by engaging in conversation, refreshment, and growth with other leaders who self-identify as evangelicals.
This year again was a blessing in our calendar. It is first and foremost a "fellowship" so agendas are kept out of sight. Usually someone guides our growth time (Doug Birdsall from Lausanne Movement for world evangelization shared this year). Dan Aleshire, ATS executive director, gives his perspective on theological education and its future directions. Evangelical seminaries now make up 60% of the student make up of all 240 ATS accredited seminaries. Although they are more conservative in theology, evangelical seminaries tend to push methodological boundaries more than mainline or Catholic schools. They are more entrepreneurial.
By and large most evangelical seminaries remember that they are servants to the church. There are times when a seminary needs to be prophetic and speak into the life of culture, including the church. But our primary purpose is to meet the ministerial preparation needs of the church.
Most presidents at the meeting live similar lives. As a result each one understands building relationships with people of wealth for partnering in ministry, knows how difficult some issues are with faculty or personnel or finances, realizes the balancing act of family, church, and seminary, and feels the weight of responsibility for their particular ministry. Physical difficulties attack many. A few years back one president died of a brain tumor. His successor and his wife have suffered their own physical struggles. Some have experienced marital troubles. Some have been fired by their boards in ways that still haunts them. Renewal by sitting on the sand in the sun in conversation with people who understand your journey better than many proves possible.
We learned that three couples in our gathering of sixty or so would not return next year. Several patriarchs did not return this year because of retirement. New attendees are embraced so that they will feel aided in their lonely journey. Spouses share at deeper levels and get more personal than their president spouses. Of course, they go back to the room and bring their spouse up-to-date. Out of the eighty or so members, not all attend. Their dues help pay for our time, a fact all are thankful for. But they would be better served by attending and opening up their own journeys, the good and the bad, the easy and the tough, so that God could minister to them as he has done to Barbie and me.
Next year we go to San Antonio, a place we have not been. Of course, it is a long way to the beach, but hopefully it will be warm enough to sit by the pool and share renewal with each other as needed. A real blessing from God. Thank you.