March 9, 2011

The Twelve

Chosen from 37 applicants, ten men and two women began the historic collaborative MIT-CBTS Doctor of Ministry Program yesterday. (Had there not been women in the class, Heather and I were considering going on strike!) Hailing from all over Myanmar and representing varied ethnicities, they began the course “New Ways of Being Church.” Most of these learners are instructors themselves in Bible colleges and theological schools, and they are eager to pursue doctoral studies to further their vocational pursuit. Class that starts at 8 and stretches to 3:40 is wearying even for the most ardent students—and professors, too. We are grateful for tea breaks!

Learning names in a classroom inches away from a construction project is challenging, but sounds of progress on the five-story building that MIT so desperately needs is encouraging to us all. (I told them I was used to construction noise!) It was heartwarming to hear their expressions of gratitude for being selected for this program. It is a privilege to be a part of this venture.

Equipped with significant biblical literacy—even in a second language—they express a deep sense of urgency about producing translations, commentaries, and contextual theologies. They bring key questions and insights from years of ministry and leadership in their respective conventions. One of the most promising aspects of the course will be the case studies each presents from his or her discrete ministry contexts. These will illumine power structures in the church that marginalize women, youth, children, people with disabilities, and the poor. MIT has considerable investment in peace and gender studies, so these learners (mostly MIT graduates) will bring a keen sensitivity to these issues of justice.

It is not hard to imagine that the future of the churches in Myanmar will be shaped in some measure by these gifted scholar-practitioners. They understand the mission of the churches in holistic ways and believe that redemption has liberative and social implications. A part of the morning’s lecture was on the relationship of the Reign of God to the church, and it is clear to see that the Reign is “gathering strength” in surprising places in Myanmar.

Molly T. Marshall, Ph. D.

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