Canada: New $500K program to revitalize theological education

By Marites N. Sison
Posted Sep 4, 2012

[Anglican Journal] This September, Emmanuel College will launch a new program that its creators hope will revitalize theological education.

Founded in 1928 and associated with the United Church of Canada, Emmanuel College is a constituent college of Victoria University in the University of Toronto.

The two-year Teaching for Ministry (TFM) program has been made possible by a $500,000, five-year grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. It will produce “scholars…uniquely prepared to teach the next generation of the church’s ministers,” said a statement by Mark Toulouse, principal of Emmanuel College.

Importantly, the program will respond to what educators perceive as a gap between academic experience and hands-on ministerial work. “There’s a disconnect between what students are learning in the academy and how they can use that knowledge or skill set,” says Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, director of the new TFM program as well as the Contextual Education programs. [See excerpts from the interview here.]

Eight doctoral students with scholarly and practical skills will “stimulate the imagination of ministers-in-training and have a more theological approach to the work that they’re doing,” said Wigg-Stevenson in an interview. The hope is that the program “will have a larger impact for God’s work in the world,” she told the Journal.

Canadians in the pews are “really hungry for the spirituality of Jesus,” says Wigg-Stevenson, and the TFM program will help ministers address this need. It also paves the way for cross-border discussions about theological education.

“The multi-cultural, significantly post-Christian culture in Toronto provides an ideal testing ground for developing the types of practices required for ministry in the 21st century,” she says. “We are excited to be able to offer a Canadian perspective to ongoing conversations taking place among American theological schools doing similar work.”

Programs such as TFM “…that creatively combine scholarship and ministry, and theory with practice–represent the future of theological education,” said David Csinos, one of the first TFM Fellows, in a statement.

— Marites N. Sison is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal.