Discerning the Contexts of Ministry (CM)
Course descriptions and scheduling are subject to change by administrative decision. See course offerings booklet for current offerings. Some courses will be offered on a two- or three-year rotation.
In this course the ministries of Jesus and the early church serve as models for learning to participate in God’s mission today. Studying mission in the New Testament builds on Old Testament foundations. Successive historical paradigms of Christian mission inform vision for mission in the Twenty-first Century. The missionary nature of the church calls for a critical review of cultural and theological barriers to mission today. The course includes visits to centers of world religions in Washington. It also includes experimenting with evangelism as initial spiritual guidance in which each student develops personal relationships with persons beyond the church.
This course tracks the light of religious inspiration in diverse sectors of society, especially examining the arts (film, music, literature). Participants will join instructors and guests in explorations alert for the surprising epiphanies of truth and beauty in popular culture. Preference is devoted to the subtle, the unlikely, the unexpected glimpses of faith in expressions that expand the scope of the religious imagination in fresh appropriations of biblical insights.
Jeremiah’s summons to “seek the peace of the city” animates this interactive course. Students will engage the complex interweaving stories that comprise the urban context and urban ministry. Students will examine how the Scriptures and Christian communal practices can offer Christ’s healing, hope and transformation to individuals, communities, institutions and structures within the urban context. This course will challenge students to hold together word and deed, reflection and action, evangelism and social justice, practices and divine interventions, in a setting that threatens the integration that is so vital for the shalom of individuals, families and neighborhoods in the city.
This course will examine the history, missionary dynamics and current changing demographics of the Christian church worldwide. Beginning with several biblical reflections, the study will trace the expansion of the Christian movement, explore the impact of the Western colonial encounter, highlight growing efforts to embrace contextualized forms of the faith, and examine case studies of specific issues facing the church in different parts of the world. Students will have the opportunity to explore regional developments in diverse geographical settings or examine in more depth particular issues of special interest to them, such as interfaith conversations, role of women in the church, worship trends, or the witness of the church in word and deed.
Many seminary courses examine theological perspectives of various realities. This course takes a unique vantage point on spiritual and religious realities by examining them from a psychological perspective. Topics considered include spiritual and religious experience in childhood and adulthood, death, conversion, mysticism, and prayer as well as social and political dimensions of faith experience. A central dimension of the course is the sharing of faith vignettes by members of the class. Opportunity is also given to explore the cultural dimensions of religious experience.
This seminar looks at the memoirs, speeches, and other writings of authors like David Walker, Mary Antin, and Malcolm X to understand how American Christianity has appeared to America’s social outsiders. American evangelists, and other insiders of America’s Christian tradition, have historically perceived of the Christian message as “good news.” They have testified that Christian communities and symbols provide hope, joy, and peace for all. Despite missionary appeals to the goodness of Christianity, some spectators remain unconvinced of, or even offended by, the gospel message. Often, these spectators—from political, racial, and religious margins—report that, instead of bringing good news, American Christian communities, and symbols, have inflamed despair, anger, and anxiety in the lives of marginalized people.
This seminar is designed for mature students who have had a significant amount of cross-cultural ministry experience prior to enrollment in the seminary. It provides a setting where they can think reflectively and critically on the strength and struggles of those past experiences for the purpose of achieving important insights and personal growth. The seminar meets the cross-cultural requirement in the MDiv program for those with significant prior experience.
This course is designed to offer a reflective and engaging pace in the post-Christendom context in the UK while attempting to investigate the difference and similarity of North American context. Students will engage with some of the best practitioners in the UK, learning through reading, seeing, listening, tasting and observing in Bristol and London and then also through a weekend engagement in postindustrial Pennsylvania context. This course is designed to be provocative and hopeful, allowing the glimpses of a changing historical moment and context for faithful Christian presence and witness.
This seminar involves at least three weeks of immersion in a cultural setting distinctly different from one’s past experience. This includes interaction with religious, social, cultural, political, economic and commercial groups and their leaders. The basic goals of the seminar include becoming a learner at the feet of the people of this community, acknowledging that they alone know what their world is like. Approaches to learning in this seminar emphasize the methodology of “participant observation ” with careful attention to personal reactions and responses to one’s experiences through journaling and group reflection. Special attention is given to how the Christian gospel is communicated and expressed in that setting and how it engages the realities of that world. The particular characteristics and requirements of a given seminar vary depending on the particular setting and who is leading the seminar. The seminar does not assume other-than-English language capability, but learning the basics of another language is sometimes a part of what we learn through participant observation. Descriptions of specific cross-cultural seminars offered are circulated each year.
The study tour, “Places, People, and Prayers,” offers you a rich and multi-faceted introduction to the land, which has been home—and holy—to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike for thousands of years. Day by day we will visit important biblical sites: Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Hebron, Beersheba, Masada, the Dead Sea, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, and more. And we will relive the story of Jesus as we walk the land that Jesus walked. But there is much more to the Holy Land than ancient stones. We will engage in regular People to People Conversations, putting us in touch with the many and varied voices of the Holy Land: Christians, Jews, and Muslims; Israelis and Palestinians. Through it all we will join our voices in prayer. Regular times of reflection, a daily service of Evening Prayers, a Shabbat service in a synagogue, and Sunday worship with Palestinian Christians will nourish our spirits along the way. Our tour will end with a retreat in Tiberias, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Learning to survive, thrive and make a contribution in a cross-cultural context and exploring how the Christian gospel is faithfully communicated and expressed in varying cultural contexts are the twin objectives of this course. The biblical concept of incarnation is taken as a biblical model for understanding the nature, scope and limits of contextualizing the Christian faith in various cultural settings, applying the perspectives and tools of cultural anthropology. Students learn to apply the research discipline of participant observation to learning about another cultural community, giving special attention to how the gospel is communicated and expressed there.
This course focuses a vision for congregations of the faithful at work with God in the world on the urgent moral and social crises of our times. While churches are widely seen as frequent defenders of establishment injustices, their potential for effective, focused moral witness against the major ills of human society is often overlooked. Their proven track record of work to reduce human misery, to minister to the poorest and persons most at risk is an important history to be retrieved and critically evaluated. We will direct our critical attention to Christian churches during Civil Rights Era, and their legacies, in hopes that we will be inspired to engage Christian communities in the ongoing quest for social justice today.
This course calls and equips participants to join in the drama of God’s mission in the world, as ambassadors of the New Community forming in response to the work and teaching of Jesus Christ. Every human culture is a context for this awareness of God’s activity. We review the many diverse shapes the Gospel has taken in order to be intelligible across many social settings and historical epochs. The God who becomes incarnate among us is passionate about engaging human cultures.
This course is a study of biblical perspectives on the physical world (i.e., God’s creation) and on the divine mandate for humans to care for this world. It likewise deals with the practical implications of this biblical call to creation care for the present day life of the church. The course includes (1) study of the biblical evidence-both Old and New Testament-addressing the issues of creation care and (2) consideration of creation care as focused through the lenses, each in turn, of the various theological and practical disciplines represented within the Eastern Mennonite Seminary curriculum. This course is open to persons with or without previous courses in Hebrew or Greek.
This course is a study of biblical and historical perspectives on the roles and relationships of women and men within the community of faith. The focus of the course is a study of the biblical (Old Testament/New Testament) and historical (early church onward) evidence which addresses the roles of women vis-a-vis men within the life of the Jewish and Christian faith communities. The study culminates in consideration of the implications of these biblical materials for the life, work and worship of the contemporary church. This course is open to persons with or without previous courses in Hebrew or Greek.
This course will explore the biblical foundations of the spirit world and trace how these understandings have been both applied and challenged throughout the history of the Western Church. From there we will examine how the conversation is expanding as Western Christians encounter spiritual realities present in the rapidly growing churches of the global south (Africa, Asia and Latin America). Particular themes also treated will include: the Pentecostal appeal among struggling social classes, the language of “spiritual warfare” and peace theology, and case studies of North American congregations and church leaders dealing with difficult “hard cases” involving spiritual dimensions.
In this course we will explore the inter-related nature of racial, religious, and national categories of Identity. We will enhance our understanding of race, nation, and religion through engaging histories of cross-racial, cross-national, and cross-religious encounters in North America. In our efforts to understand the braided realities of these categories of identity, we will use a socio-historical approach while keeping the present in mind. Our purpose is to discover ways that racial, religious, and national histories haunt our lives, churches, and communities in the present.
Racial healing has been a focus of Christian communities since the Civil Rights Movement, but the Christian response has largely focused on the affects of race on people of color and subsequent interpersonal efforts at reconciliation. This seminar will use literary and autobiographical texts to illumine the affects of racial whiteness on collective and individual identities in US American life. In the U.S. racial hierarchy, the white race is assumed to be the default racial identity category and those persons who identify with it often consider race to be the possession of people of color rather than themselves. In this way, racial whiteness has functioned largely as an invisible, yet powerful, social and political discourse that has implications for white people and people of color. Recently,white invisibility has stabilized the power and privilege of white hegemony. In other epochs whiteness has functioned more visibly as the apogee of racial identityy and has operated for most of its existence as the normative category of identity, so that today, even in its invisibility, whiteness is assumed as the normative racial designation for American identity.
A course or courses on the history, theology and/or polity of the student’s denomination may be either required or encouraged. For Master of Divinity students who are members of the Mennonite or United Methodist churches, required courses are listed below. Master of Divinity students who are members of the Church of the Brethren or Brethren in Christ Church are required to take a course or courses offered by the denomination. Students from other denominations are encouraged to do a directed study on the history, theology and/or polity of their faith tradition. Master of Arts in Church Leadership students with pastoral interest are encouraged to take a denominational studies course.
This course examines two aspects of contemporary Mennonite reality. First, what the Mennonite Church has said and, especially, what it is currently saying about what it believes concerning the Christian faith; and second, how it structures itself in the light of those beliefs to carry out its ministry in the world. Focus will be on the expression of faith, its features and trends, in the last half century in the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church, now integrated as Mennonite Church USA. Polity at the denominational, area conference and congregational levels will be studied with special interest in the emerging structures of the integration process. Particular attention will be given to polity and ethical guidelines for ministerial leadership.
United Methodist Studies
The seminary has developed a partnership arrangement with Wesley Seminary in Washington D.C. to cooperatively offer courses in United Methodist studies. At minimum the following three courses will be offered between the two seminaries.
A study of the history of the United Methodist Church from the beginning of the Wesleyan movement until the present.
Through selected resources from The Book of Discipline, from John Wesley’s sermons and journals, from contemporary scholarship in Wesleyan theology and theological method, and from discussion of the contemporary life of the church, students will examine the core of United Methodist belief, and review the doctrinal expectations of candidates for ordination in the United Methodist Church.
Through selected official resources of the United Methodist Church, from contemporary scholarship in Wesleyan theology and United Methodist polity, from readings in ecclesiology, and from discussion of the ongoing practical life of the church, students will examine the ways in which United Methodists have organized themselves for mission in the world.