“Anticipation” is rather healthy word to describe embarking on a DMin. “Guarded Anticipation” is more descriptive of the reality of beginning a DMin at a school that you have never visited in person but only spoken to a few of the professors. “Ecstatic Anticipation” is present reality after one year of being at George Fox Seminary and a part of the LGP6 cohort.
Every time you change institutions you have to “feel out” what the expectations for you as a student and what are the expectations of the staff back to the student. Will this be experience be strictly academic and sterile or will it seek to embrace a holistic approach to the whole person – spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and educationally?
What amazed me was from the first phone call and email from George Fox, there was a sense of peer to peer. Was this a reality of the institution or great training in marketing for enrollment? The answer came quickly at the Hong Kong Advance in the Fall of 2015. I was among peers who truly wanted me to succeed and supersede my expectations of an earned doctorate.
Next was the LGP6 cohort. This cohort was an eclectic blend in the strongest use of the word eclectic. Would we even like each other? Why him? Why her? Why the diversity of personalities and backgrounds? Little did any of us know that we were going to create the most incredible “vegetable stew” filled with flavor that each person brought to the table.
Several things seem to point to the success of this first year:
- Academic excellence blended with a spiritual component. Some of the reading material was outside my realm of expectation. What was the lead mentor trying to do? Was this an academic “water boarding” exercise? Little did I realize that I was doing introspection in some areas that were foundational to my American, capitalist, successful, and partial thinking thought processes.
- Interaction stressed outside the required class time. The once distant, eclectic members of LGP6 began to interact with great fervor. We began to challenge and encourage at the same time. God’s sense of humor of combining this group together was for more than accountability and class structure, He was allowing “iron to sharpen iron” (Proverbs 27:17). The uniqueness of each member was appreciated, not tolerated. Life events were celebrated and prayer over.
- Commitment to vision and values of George Fox Seminary. I have not seen or experienced a vacillation from the original presentation of the vision and values of the university’s staff in regards to the interaction with the student. Each time I have made contact with anyone it has been with great concern and nurture for the best possible outcome for me as an individual, not just as a student.
- Freedom of expression and lack of criticism for your views. Whether it is in our weekly “Campfire” or in papers, we were free to express our bent and ideology without repercussion. Our cohort was comprised of various expressions of the body of Christ that embraced a plethora of thoughts, idealisms, and convictions. Understandably this is a doctoral setting of thinkers without a single track that we were required to run on. This is so freeing to allow open expression without the fear of criticism.
At the beginning of the 2016 we read Stephen B. Bevans’ book, Models of Contextual Theology. Bevans set the year in motion and internal retrospection by stating that, “A real danger in contextualization is that one could mix Christianity and culture in a way that does not enhance but compromises and betrays Christianity.” If we keep moving the needle to appease, or to be compelling, will we move away from truths that are untouchable by times, culture, and current conditions? Embrace the changes that are resident in times, culture, and current conditions but never let go of the eternal truth that resounds from an eternal God.
The mentality of weighing the current culture and its shifting against historical Christianity has been the staple that has been foundational to our interaction and discussions. Several books and assignments have caused me to rethink my leadership style and the way I interact with those who are different in their thought process. An example was “Visual Ethnography”. I thought I would have to endure the book and the assignment. It proved to be a highlight of my year that has continually caused me to “earn the right to hear someone’s story”, as author Sarah Pink would challenge us.
The focus of these years of academic bantering is to complete a quality dissertation. I see myself enjoying the journey of research with a different set of “lenses” than when I first began. My research has shifted from trying to prove a predetermined outcome to approaching the subject with new tools. I have no doubt that I will produce a high quality dissertation that will impact the Christian community. Greater I believe is the making of a better person that is being developed with a broader spectrum of life and leadership.
 Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2013), 22.