Central’s annual faculty retreat is a time of learning, assessment, and exploration as we both review recent semesters and look forward to the horizon of a new academic year. It is a time of deepening our relationships with each other and seeking together to embody more fully the mission of Central.
One of the fun things we do is head from Conception Abbey over to Maryville for an ice cream party, which is the Dean’s treat. We all order big things since it is on his nickel!
As you know, Central is a far-flung operation these days, and we offer classes in 11 different locations as well as online. We are pursuing the most innovative and accessible theological education possible. We desire to prepare creative leaders for diverse ministry context, and we are responding to the church’s need.
A major focus of this year’s retreat was our work with the Arcus Grant, which invites us to engage an urgent issue of justice in our time. How will we prepare pastoral leaders—both in the US and Myanmar—to understand and minister with LGBT persons? How will we assess the momentous Supreme Court decision rendered in June about same-sex marriage? As a theological seminary, we cannot ignore this seismic shift, and we need to think biblically, theologically, and ethically about the church’s stance.
Rev. Dr. Julie Kilmer ably led the faculty workshop on a Theology of Sexuality, helping orient our instructional force to shifting nomenclature, the challenges to those who identify as LGBT, and the continuing barriers to full acceptance. Many of us were astonished at the regnant discrimination in our churches and communities.
Many denominations are wrestling with their position on whether to be fully inclusive in the matter of ordination, marriage, and employment. Central has important connections with ABC and CBF, and we know that these issues are far from settled. Yet, we believe that Central is called to be prophetic, and we are seeking to be faithful.
We are not all in agreement internally—and we respect the differing perspectives of students, employees, and supplemental faculty. By cultivating a culture of theological hospitality, we yearn to find ways to build bridges of welcome and respect.
As the Epistle reading enjoins, “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). This is thoughtful instruction, and we pray to live accordingly.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.