November 17, 2015

A Seminary Can Throw a Party!

            The board of trustees, faculty, staff, and friends of the seminary threw quite the party this past Thursday evening.  (I will not mind missing my funeral quite so much after hearing the loving tributes).  It was a celebration of what God has done at Central over the past decade.  While the spotlight focused brightly on the Office of the President, everyone knows how essential each person has been to our remarkable progress as a school.  I give thanks for each of them—members of the leadership team, professors, staff and, of course, the board.

            Friends and colleagues came from near and far, and their presence underscored Central’s key emphases and initiatives.  Abbot Gregory of Conception Abbey came, which is a testimony to the strong bonds between our institutions and the significance of Benedictine spirituality in this Baptist school.  Marvin Szneler of Jewish Community Relations Bureau/ American Jewish Committee came, demonstrating the commitment Central has to interfaith relations.  Dr. Pamela Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, was in attendance, a graceful affirmation of Central’s focus on gender equity.

            Faculty colleagues from varied Central sites came, and their presence highlighted the expanse of the seminary’s mission.  Sister seminary presidents, Dr. Carla Sundberg of Nazarene Theological Seminary and Dr. Lallene Rector of Garrett, came to show their support, underlining the significance of stalwart colleagues in our complex positions.  The keynote speaker, Dr. Alan Culpepper, founding dean of McAfee School of Theology offered a stirring address about the shape of leadership in theological education.

            Very meaningful was the presence of former board members, those who had walked through very difficult days in institutional history.  They helped hold it together, and now they are witness to God’s providence.

            Key donors came, especially women who head family foundations.  They have offered the lifeblood for Central, and their joyful presence encourages us all.  The high point of the evening was the announcement by Vice President John Gravley that over 6 million dollars had been pledged/given toward securing Central’s future.  Now that is something to celebrate, and I am astonished by such generosity.

            The psalmist writes, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage” (Psalm 16:6).  This is truly my testimony, and I could not be more grateful.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.

November 9, 2015

Saints Among Us


            I had the privilege of presenting Ministry Studies Certificates to 30 Karen in Portland, OR, yesterday afternoon.  These learners have completed 14 courses in Bible, church administration, conflict transformation, and congregational leadership, among others.  Some have driven 6-8 hours each way to be a part of this very practical learning experience.  I am astonished by their commitment and grateful for it.  No wonder the host church was packed to the rafters!

            Usually when I offer a message at one of these occasions, I use Paul’s ringing exhortation:
  . . .  be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
The investment they have made in these studies will bear enduring fruit.

            Duane and Marcia Binkley have organized six of these FOUNDATIONS Judson Communities around the country, and 243 persons have completed certificates.  Several of these learners are already serving as pastors, but they come and encourage members of the churches to participate alongside them.  This makes for a rich shared learning, and together they strengthen their congregations.
            One pastor gave his testimony at the graduation ceremony, recounting the real suffering that had driven his family from their land in Burma (Myanmar), their harsh time in a refugee camp, and their eventual immigration to the US.  He gave thanks to God for preserving their lives and for giving them a new land.  Many in the congregation nodded appreciatively; it was their story, too.  They attribute their resilience to the power of the Spirit.

            The Binkleys know and love Karen people, and they make these celebratory events the very finest occasions possible.  From ordering robes to preparing gifts to arranging the sanctuary to photographing the event, they go the extra mile in serving these eager learners.  Lovingly they support and encourage them as they make their way in their adopted homeland, finding ways to preserve a much of their culture as they can while doing the hard word of assimilation.

            Central is uniquely positioned to collaborate in leadership development initiatives with people of Myanmar—both those remaining there and those resettled here.  Indeed, we have greater credibility as a seminary because we work with both constituencies.  In some instances, we are the interface between varied forms of ministry preparation, which not only involves Myanmar Institute of Theology, but those Bible colleges where Doctor of Ministry graduates teach, and those equipped to serve as instructors here in FOUNDATIONS.
            I count the Binkleys as saints among us, and through their important work I am meeting other saints whose lives bear the light of Christ.  The Judsons’ legacy continues, and Central helps extend their faithful work.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.