Henry Luce Foundation logoCandler School of Theology has been awarded a $325,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to create an international model curriculum for accredited North American seminaries. It includes faculty and student exchanges, seminars, curricular innovation, and shared practical experience opportunities.

“The Christian church has been profoundly affected by the trends that closely connect different parts of the globe to each other, and Christian leaders must be prepared to cultivate an understanding of the world’s cultural and religious differences,” said Jan Love, Dean of Candler School of Theology. “This generous grant from the Luce Foundation makes it possible for Candler to create a curriculum more fully reflective of international realities that can be modeled in theological education throughout the United States and beyond.”

“The Luce Foundation is delighted to support faculty and student exchanges between Candler and theological schools in Africa, Asia and South America, where Christianity is experiencing the fastest growth,” said Lynn Szwaja, Program Director for Theology at Luce. “These three continents have significant immigrant and refugee populations in the Atlanta area and represent regions and cultures that are increasingly critical for the Candler’s graduates to understand and engage.  We hope that these activities will transform the curriculum and ensure that, in time, every student will encounter international perspectives in his or her course of study.”

The grant funds a four-year program that begins this summer and will be implemented in three overlapping phases. The first phase involves strengthening existing relationships and establishing new ones to lay the groundwork for reciprocal, long-term partnerships with international schools of theology in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The second phase establishes a series of focused, reciprocal exchanges with three international partners. Over three years, 12 faculty and 12 students will serve as Luce Exchange Fellows and Luce Exchange Scholars, respectively.

“There is enormous interest on the part of students and faculty in rich international experiences, and the Luce program will allow us to build sustained relationships with our international colleagues who can help us rethink our courses and pedagogy from a global perspective,” says Jonathan Strom, associate professor of church history who is leading Candler’s international curriculum effort.

During this phase, Candler will launch the Luce Seminar to provide a forum for discussion among exchange participants and other Candler faculty. Each year’s seminar will have a theme. Year one: assimilating international resources into traditional core classes; year two: integrating local immigrant and refugee communities into Candler’s Contextual Education program; year three: exploring international perspectives of non-Christian religions and interfaith discussion.

Building on the exchange experiences and the Luce seminar, the third phase will concentrate on ways of “internationalizing” courses throughout Candler’s curriculum, particularly core courses, Contextual Education, and innovative courses that teach and engage non-Christian religions in the seminary context.

“As a ‘gateway city’ for many new immigrants, Atlanta is increasingly international and interreligious in character. This global-local context is one that our graduates will face not only in the Southeast but across the country. We believe that we have much to learn from our colleagues from other continents about engaging other religions and reflecting on them within the context of theological studies,” Strom adds.

The model emerged, in part, as an outcome of a conference Candler hosted in 2009, “Sharing Best Practices: Internationalizing Theological Education.” Funded by a $30,000 Luce grant, the conference brought together representatives from 12 seminaries, who presented papers and led workshops on their international initiatives.

Candler is uniquely positioned to lead the effort to “internationalize theological education” due to its growing engagement with international communities in Atlanta and abroad. A $20,000 Wabash Center grant in 2009 allowed faculty to study transnational pedagogy, and a community partnership grant from Emory is being used for Contextual Education students to engage refugee and immigrant communities, congregations, and agencies.  

In addition, approximately 40 students each year take part in academic exchanges from Australia to Switzerland, internships from the Bahamas to Mozambique, and travel seminars across five continents. Candler also has pioneered a number of innovative courses including “The Church on the Border,” which takes students to other countries to work with congregations on immigration, and most recently a real-time distance learning course with students and faculty from Methodist University of São Paulo’s School of Theology.

What’s more, Candler has a strong track record of successfully implementing novel new programs, such as the Youth Theological Initiative, Contextual Education, and the Program in Religious Practices and Practical Theology.

“The new international curriculum greatly advances Candler’s mission of educating faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world,” said Love.