Friday, February 20, 2015

10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)

... 3. Joanne Solis-Walker became our half-time Directora in late June of 2010. One of the first questions she addressed was whether we would offer the MA or the MDIV in Spanish. Justo Gonzalez suggested that the MA would be safer. It only required a 36 hour commitment and would be less expensive.

On the other hand, the MDIV was almost unheard of in Spanish. Fuller had a program. Asbury Orlando had a Spanish masters but not the MDIV. Only Fuller had an online MDIV and no one had a contextualized one. By "contextualized" I mean one where the content was actually generated by and specifically for a Hispanic context. Other programs simply translated existing English programs into Spanish.

Our curriculum was hard enough for traditional academics to get their heads around in English. Now we had not only to get it into Spanish but to contextualize the courses as well. The only person at the Seminary that really spoke Spanish was Joanne, who lived in Florida and was half-time. Norm Wilson was quite fluent as well but we felt it was important that the process be conducted by individuals for whom Spanish was their first language.

I knew only a little Spanish. I was fluent in Google Translate, :-) but that has perhaps been more of a problem than a help! (I remember my amazement in 2010 at discovering Google Translate. It was both exciting and a matter of despair. Who will need to learn languages in the future when computers will do it for us? How stupid am I next to these people at Google! Look at all the time I've spent learning all these languages, only to be outdone by an algorithm. Five years later, humans are still better than Google Translate. :-)

4. Were we fools even to start off on this venture with such a complete lack of support staff? Whether we were or not, I don't regret it in the slightest.

On Feburary 8, 2011, Cecilia Santrich joined us. She was a microbiologist from Colombia who lived in Lafayette and commuted to Marion as a part time worker for about a year and a half until August 2012. She was spectacular. She kept me moving on putting the pieces of the Spanish MDIV courses together. She made sure the Spanish was top quality.

There's no question that she would eventually take a job in her actual field. She took a job at IUPUI working in a lab there in the Fall of 2012. She worked above and beyond the call of duty! She was a God-send in that period of the Spanish MDIV.

My motto for those first few years of the Seminary was, "If they come, we will build it." I think I stopped saying that some time in the third year. I think the Spanish program is now on a good trajectory because Luigi is here and we are now in a phase of major revision and perfection. It was a little scary there for a while, but I think we're out of the woods now and looking good.

Recruiting for the Spanish MDIV has had its challenges. The scheduling has required some flexibility and creativity. The problem solving has often stretched my brain to the limits. But it has been worth it, a program born of Dr. Schmidt's burden for the global church.

5. Contextualizing the first two onsite courses would not be a great problem. In August 2010, Lenny took over from Russ Gunsalus the first course of the MDIV, Pastor, Church, and World. Joanne would meet with Lenny to get a sense of how to modify that face-to-face course for a Hispanic context. Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus was already in Spanish. We would get permission to translate Steve Seamands' Ministry in the Image of the Trinity into Spanish. At that time the English classes were reading different chapters of Will Willimon's Pastor in several classes. We at least started down the road of translating chapters of it into Spanish.

Let me add that it was a priority to us to find as many books in Spanish written by Spanish authors. In an ideal world, you wouldn't use any books translated from English into Spanish. The problem here was multiple. Sometimes there just weren't any and sometimes there weren't any that were sufficiently academic. Sometimes there were books that were out of print. Sometimes the books were published in South America or Spain and were difficult to get hold of.

We bought pretty much every book AETH had for our library (Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana). We stocked some books to distribute to students directly when they were on campus. We translated some. We even bought out some of the private stock of one author. In some cases, when there was no apparent Spanish equivalent, I read through English books (usually blogged through them) and then we had those summaries translated.

We are currently contemplating using the Spanish LOGOS library for our students so that all they have to buy is LOGOS in Spanish. I have long mentioned that we should have our Spanish team write some books, just for our Seminary. But as David Wright says, "It takes a person." A Dean barely keeping his head above water usually isn't that person. Luigi just might be.

6. The second onsite intensive course was Cultural Contexts. For this one, Joanne and I turned to our mutual good friend, Hugo Magallanes, who teaches at Perkins, formerly of Asbury Orlando. We gave him the English components. I know he kept some, but he also made it his own. I am not totally sure what he teaches now in the class. Don't ask, don't tell. :-)

7. The online courses, especially the six credit hour praxis courses, would be more difficult to contextualize. These are the ones we designed by committee in English. In the late Fall of 2010, we tried to contextualize the Missional Church class by email with most of the cast of characters I mentioned above and a few more.

The goal was to retain the distinctive features of our MDIV curriculum, to translate any assignments that applied equally in Spanish, to modify those that were in the ball park but needed tweaked, and to remove and replace assignments that did not really apply to a Hispanic context.

These experiences were always difficult for me for more than one reason. One is that what I considered the original genius of the curriculum inevitably came into question. NO ONE was educated the way we were trying to educate--problem based learning that integrated the theological disciplines, was practical in emphasis, and had what I consider the best Wesleyan theological sensibilities.

I hope that neither the Seminary faculty nor my Spanish brothers and sisters sensed too much of this inner conflict I had repeatedly. Inevitably, the default sensibilities in any of these sorts of encounters were conflictual inside me. Conflict is not always bad. That is something I have learned well. It is something that I have heard Wayne say more than once from the beginning. Good things often come out of conflict when everyone wants the greater good and is willing to submit to the will of the majority.

So there was often in these encounters what I playfully call the "Presbyterian impulse." I've also called it the "building block" model. It is basically a foundationalist model that says you have to learn A, B, and C before you can learn D. It is a deductive model of learning. It is the way we have all been trained. It is the way all seminary professors have been trained. It is the way missionaries have trained Christians in other countries. It is the personality preference of the traditional academic.

(I have sometimes heard that we would need to use a different model for some different culture. Sometimes this thought is presented in the garb of, "Your model is very Western or Anglo and therefore would not work as well in cross-cultural setting X." Then comes the internal tension and what I will almost certainly be thinking--"This is not Western! Traditional Western educators hate this model." And, "If some from other countries think that the more traditional model fits better in their culture, it is almost certainly because that's how the traditionalist missionaries of the past trained their forebears!")

The Seminary was founded on a pragmatist model, the model of majority human operation. It says, "We learn by doing." It says, "We most naturally learn by proverbs and stories." It says that what most people call the foundations are usually just simplified abstractions of practice anyway. When it comes to the Bible, these "foundations" are often shallow, mirror readings of words in the Bible. It would be different if we were learning math, but ministry is a practical discipline.

In practical ministry, ideas really aren't foundations. They're picture books for the practically challenged and poetry for the reflective.

So as new contexts and situations have arisen, I have considered it my job to represent this founding vision for a "new kind of seminary" that is "not your father's seminary." But you also have to wait for the right moment to speak and, in some cases, you need to allow others to make their own way. I find this sort of situation torturous. More on this in Year 4.

8. We started the first Spanish MDIV cohort on March 7, 2011, with 10 Spanish-speaking students. The Spanish students experienced the same pain from me as the first English cohorts were feeling, only worse. Often the assignments for the praxis courses went up week by week. Even worse, they sometimes went up with patches of Schenck Spanish.

In April 2011, Joanne, myself, and a couple others (Jeannie Trudel and Mwenda Ntarangwi) went down to Puerto Rico to explore the possibility of cooperative ventures. We visited the evangelical seminary there, as well as the international university. Joanne likes to tell new Spanish seminary students that my Spanish was almost fluent at that time until I messed it up by going on sabbatical in Germany in the Fall of 2011. Neither part, of course, is true. :-)

I have participated in the orientation of new Spanish MDIV students since the beginning. I have never tried to do it without a translator, although I did read a devotional in Spanish I put together in March 2011. This is always a delight, and I regret that my Spanish is still so poor. I hope I will still be able to interact regularly with the Spanish MDIV students in the future.

By the way, I was really impressed with how much Spanish Wayne learned and can understand. I've never heard him try to speak it, but I have long felt that he had a much better understanding of Spanish conversations than I do.

In June 2011, Joanne assembled the electronic contextualization team in Orlando at a hotel to contextualize the leadership course. Again, it was a delightful and torturous time for me. How much freedom to change the model should be in play? What was contextualization and what was simply a contrasting point of view? How Wesleyan does it need to be--and how much my kind of Wesleyan?

The model that we were using in English at that time was the result of two years of arduous trial and error. To what extent should the Spanish team start from scratch?

9. We would have one more contextualization meeting in Marion in August 2012 to try to hammer out the last three praxis courses all at once (Proclamation, Congregational Spiritual Formation, and Congregational Relationships). Jim Vermilya served as Interim Dean while I was on sabbatical and had set up the contextualization of the Worship course, relying extensively on Liza Miranda and Eloy Nolivos, with Cecilia orchestrating.

By August, Cecilia was departing, leaving only Bianca Tavera to help us. Lenny Luchetti and Colleen Derr (who had become a full-time faculty July 1, 2011) were able to participate in the Spanish contextualization of their courses. By the Fall of 2013, a first draft of the entire MDIV in Spanish was in place.

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