“The Problem of the Theological Curriculum: The Chapter on Theological Education in North America and The West”
One of the chapters in my forthcoming book (“Evangelical Paradoxes) discusses the subject of theological education that train Christian pastors and Christian academics in North America and the West to serve in Christian churches and the academic world. I am very much interested in these two groups: Christian pastors and Christian academics for six specific and main reasons I offered in the book—given their substantial influence in the congregational life, human relations, and contemporary Christian thought in the sphere of Higher Learning, which engage both culture and society. (In this important conversation, I do not ignore other Christian professionals or ministers who continue to play important roles in the church and in the secular world, serving in different capacities and roles, including Christian artists and worship leaders, psychologists and therapists, missionaries and educators–who have also been trained in theological schools.)
Initially, I wrote a 35 page chapter on the problems—some are structural, systemic, ideological, and others are practical and traditional; yet all of them are practical issues—I observed and researched in predominantly White Theological schools (that have formed me, and they are mostly theological seminaries and divinity schools in North America and in the West) in the training of minority students and integrating minority faculty members in their midst. As a side note, I have earned six academic degrees: a Bachelor, three Masters, and two PhDs; three of these degrees are from Christian and theological schools, and my other three degrees are from the so-called secular institutions and universities.
Interestingly, the research has taken me places that I never anticipated or imagined of going. I ended up writing two interrelated chapters (85 pages in total) on the subject matter. I proposed some practical steps to deal with the observable problems I discussed, and some of those propositions and tentative solutions are non-traditional in and for theological education. One of the core concerns is to bridge the racial, gender, and ethnic gaps in the theological curriculum and theological schools. Since the majority of pastors/ministers and theological academics in the major Protestant denominations in North America are trained in seminary and divinity schools, not often in School of Religion—yet this is now becoming a trend in religious education in the United States—my main emphasis in writing these two chapters is to explore how theological environments could be more democratic and pluralistic. Theological schools should be the starting point to foster candid and unintimated conversations about inclusion, diversity, and difference in society and Christian circles, especially churches. I strongly believe that the theological curriculum is the most feasible place to tackle the racial/gender/ ethnic conflict in contemporary American society and Christian (Evangelical) churches wherein we train pastors and ministers and Christian scholars. Racial/gender/ethnic tension in this country and in Christian congregations is always and almost theological and religious. Hence, we must begin thinking together about these complex issues and finding practical, theological, and intellectual solutions in the theological classrooms.
Finally, the first chapter on theological schools and education introduced the reader to the problems I observed. The sequel to that chapter offered an alternative way to deconstruct the theological curriculum and reconstruct it toward the general welfare/the common good, especially to benefit students of color and minority faculty members. I used various theories of (multicultural and democratic) pedagogy and methodologies including theories in multicultural education and curriculum, and postcolonial and decolonial studies to recommend that the theological curriculum needs to be decolonized, dewesternized, and make intellectual spaces and more room for a more liberal, democratic, and gender inclusive, as well as race and ethnic sensitive theological education that would consider the history and contributions of people of color to global Christianity as well as to integrate the lived worlds and experiences of minority students into the theological curriculum. Some of my proposals are non-traditional and a little revolutionary, and that is okay with me. 😊
Folks, at least, I tried and am trying to bring a solution to the problems in contemporary theological education in North America and Western countries, that have practical implications on how we do church and relate to each other humanly, racially, and Christianly.