… taking the diversity of the world seriously
Background and Context
“Theological education in the United States has no future if it does not take the cultural diversity of the world seriously. In our programs, we have many international students. Therefore, our institutional responsibility demands that we be interested in this issue for the sake of integrity to our mission.” This quotation from Dr. Tite Tiénou, Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, summarizes both external and internal factors that challenge faculty, students and staff at TEDS to a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities involved in its culturally diverse classrooms.
The Broader Context
The general scenario in the United States demands this kind of understanding of diversity. In fact, reflection on issues of international education due to the presence of students from abroad in North American classrooms is not a new concern. However, contemporary matters like globalization, internationalization of education, and a deeper awareness of cultural diversity have been pushing educators to study the impact, challenges and opportunities created by this presence.
Another important factor is that the United States receives about twenty percent of the world’s migrants. Therefore graduates from our schools, even if they never leave the United States, will inevitably face the challenge of ministering to and making sense of the spiritual experiences of a population from increasingly ethnically diverse settings.
Moreover, there is a deeper issue involving God’s Kingdom around the world: most of the world’s Christians live in countries in the Majority World, not in Europe and North America. This shift demands a more globalized and culturally diverse expression of an Evangelical theology that continues to be Christ-centered and biblically sound. Due to the quality of theological education offered in the United States and to historical and missionary links with countries in the Majority World, seminaries across this country receive large numbers of international students.
The context of TEDS
The faculty of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) are aware, whether explicitly or implicitly, of the increasing pressures of this reality. On the main campus of TEDS in Deerfield, Illinois, 20% of the student body is international with 153 students coming from 37 different countries.
There is already acknowledgment on the part of some faculty and administration that this challenge presents a need for new understandings and new ways of teaching and dealing with students. In June 2004, 180 missiologists, theologians, and interested parties met on Trinity’s Deerfield campus for the 2004 Trinity Consultation on Missiology with the theme of “Doing Theology in a Globalizing World”. One outcome of this conference was the book Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity, much of which was written by current Trinity professors.
In addition, Trinity recently entered into a partnership with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST). The plan proposes an exchange program involving ten doctoral students and five faculty members from each school, with the possibility of collaborative research projects during the academic years 2009 to 2014.