Luce International Initiative

Luce International Initiative (2011-2016)

Churches, congregations, and religious organizations face new challenges in their local communities as they become linked to other parts of the world through immigration, refugee resettlement, and broader processes of internationalization. Seminaries can help students understand these challenges and develop new models of leadership that can allow churches to thrive and become community resources. In 2011, Candler School of Theology received a $325,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to create a model curriculum for internationalization for accredited North American seminaries.

With the grant, Candler developed new faculty and student exchanges, organized seminars, and proposed new forms of pedagogy in order to build and sustain reciprocal relationships with partner schools abroad and transform its curriculum at home. The work was integrated into Candler’s long-term pedagogical mission in order to engage local immigrant and refugee communities as well as new models of interreligious dialogue.

The initiative has helped Candler equip students to become leaders who meet the challenges of religious communities that, whether at home or abroad, increasingly reflect a diverse world and are part of a local-global dynamic.

A central feature of the Luce program was a combination of innovative faculty and student exchanges. Over three years, 12 faculty and 14 students served as Luce Exchange Fellows and Luce Exchange Scholars, respectively, with half of the fellows and scholars traveling from Candler and the other half traveling from our partner institutions. 

Luce Exchange Partners

Africa: St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya

Asia: Methodist Theological University in Seoul, South Korea

South America: Methodist University of Sao Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil

Candler chose to focus these new exchanges on Africa, Asia, and South America because of their importance for the growth of global Christianity and because of their significant immigrant and refugee populations in the Atlanta area. These institutions represent regions and cultures that are increasingly critical for Candler’s graduates to understand and engage.

Students and faculty from Candler participating in the exchange spent time in classrooms, teaching and learning, but also had the opportunity to experience the life, liturgy, theology, social justice, chaplaincy, churches and community practices of the places they visited. Visiting faculty and students participated in the full academic and spiritual life of Candler and became resources for the Candler community as it explored issues of internationalization and globalization from perspectives beyond North America. These relationships have enabled new partnerships in teaching and scholarship to flourish beyond the conclusion of the grant.

Candler organized three semester-long Luce Seminars, which anchored the exchanges within the institutional and curricular structure of Candler and provided a forum for discussion and dissemination among exchange participants, Candler faculty and invited guests. The seminars focused on questions of pedagogy, the inclusion of more international and global resources through theological curricula, and strategies for engaging local communities.

Each seminar explored a specific theme in relation to the Luce grant: The 2013 Luce Seminar focused on the integration of international and global resources into traditional core classes of the curriculum (Biblical studies, history, theology, ethics, and practical theology). The 2014 Luce Seminar took up the issue of local immigrant and refugee communities with special attention to Candler’s Contextual Education programs. The 2015 Luce Seminar addressed questions of non-Christian religions and interfaith discussion within theological education, giving special emphasis to the international perspectives of our partner schools.

2013 Luce Seminar

The 2013 Luce Seminar focused on ways of including more international and global resources into Candler’s core courses.

Led by Dr. Jonathan Strom, four Candler faculty—Walter Wilson (New Testament), Anthony Briggman (Church History), Ellen Ott Marshall (Ethics), and Jennifer Ayres (Religious Education)—explored new ways of framing their introductory courses to incorporate perspectives and materials from around the world.  

In January 2013, the seminar began its work with visiting Luce Fellow Dr. Margarida Ribeiro, from the Methodist University of São Paulo, who presented on South American perspectives to core courses. Throughout the semester, seminar participants explored different methodological perspectives and developed new course syllabi in their disciplines. Dr. Paul Kollman of the University of Notre Dame served as a consultant to the seminar and also presented a related public lecture in the Dean’s Lecture Series, entitled: “Understanding the World Christian Turn in Theology and the History of Christianity” on April 12, 2013. The lecture is available on iTunes U.

The syllabi of seminar participants are linked below:

Walter Wilson, Introduction to the New Testament
Anthony Briggman, History of Christian Thought
Ellen Ott Marshall, Introduction to Ethics
Jennifer Ayres, Introduction to Religious Education

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2014 Luce Seminar

Led by Dr. Marie Marquardt, the 2014 Luce Seminar focused on the ways in which faculty at Candler could draw on new immigrant and refugee communities in Atlanta and the Southeast to enrich Candler courses.

Four Candler faculty members participated in the seminar, including Dr. Joel LeMon, Associate Professor of Old Testament; Dr. Beth Corrie, Associate Professor in the Practice of Youth Education and Peacebuilding; Dr. Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament; and Dr. Arun Jones, Dan and Lillian Hankey Associate Professor of World Evangelism. The seminar met six times throughout the spring 2014 semester to discuss readings, present materials, and visit local organizations.

Dr. Miguel De La Torre, Professor of Social Ethics and Latino/a Studies, Iliff School of Theology, served as a consultant to the Luce Seminar and worked with the participants on their projects. As part of the public work of the Luce Seminar, De La Torre also delivered a lecture during the Dean's Lecture Series on April 16, 2014 at Candler.

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2015 Luce Seminar

Led by Dr. Michelle Voss Roberts of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, the 2015 Luce Seminar focused on the question of teaching non-Christian religions in Christian theological education, identifying guiding principles and best practices. Also in attendance were Candler faculty members Dr. Jonathan Strom, Professor of Church History; Dr. Joy McDougall, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology; Dr. Timothy Jackson, Professor of Christian Ethics; and Dr. Arun Jones, Dan and Lillian Hankey Associate Professor of World Evangelism; and Dr. John Azumah, Professor of World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary. The first two sessions were also attended by Dr. Joseph Wandera from St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya while Dr. Mary Boys, Academic Dean and Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary acted as a consultant for the final two sessions.

The seminar wrestled with issues of nomenclature, the range of religions that theological schools should prioritize, the advantages of discrete curricular requirements versus integration across the curriculum, best practices for teaching about other religions and promising pedagogies, identifying the goals and outcomes for students, and approaches to hiring.

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Candler drew on the experiences and learnings of the Luce Exchanges and the Luce Seminars to integrate international perspectives throughout the curriculum and evaluate how international collaboration and reciprocal relationships can further theological education in North America and abroad. The expertise of our international partners who have had extensive experience with pluralism and migration was critical in deepening and enriching practices and pedagogies from our Contextual Education program to new initiatives in multifaith studies such as the collaborative Leadership and Multifaith Program (LAMP) with Georgia Tech.  New technology allowed students and faculty from partner institutions to participate in joint courses and contribute expertise from afar without traveling thousands of miles. These innovative perspectives and practices allowed Candler and our partners to better prepare students to become leaders in a world in which churches and religious communities are increasingly linked internationally and experience the global context at their doorsteps.

Haley Mills 14T

Haley Mills 14T was the first Luce Exchange Scholar. An MDiv student, Haley spent the fall of her second year at the Methodist University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. She studied Latin American theologies, the influence of the church on Brazilian society and liturgy, though she still found time to attend worship services and fellowship events at local congregations, experience traditional churrasco (barbecue) and witness the Brazilian love affair with soccer.

Haley plans to combine her interest in international development with orientation in The United Methodist Church, and she says that Candler, with its commitment to international engagement via the Luce International Initiative, has been the perfect place for that path.

“I want to do ministry in a way that’s connected to The United Methodist Church, but in a non-traditional setting. What brought me to Candler were the opportunities to learn how to do that, as well as the opportunities to travel internationally."


Angelo Luis 16T

"There is not a word that can really and fully describe what I experienced in South Korea. If one word could do it, it would be inspirational. I loved my time at Methodist Theological University and Sunlin Methodist Church. I made great friends. I had a great time leading children's worship. I ate delicious food. I will hold onto these memories very tightly.

I see and practice my faith and life in an organic way. Because of my time in South Korea, I can appreciate how the Spirit works in my life. I will be a staff chaplain at St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll, Iowa. My experience in South Korea has taught me to appreciate and wonder at the diversity of religious and spiritual experiences of people. Even for Christians and other faiths, there are so many different ways God works in their lives and I am privileged to be part of it."

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