Luce International Initiative

Luce International Initiative

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 need to 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 is developing new faculty and student exchanges, organizing seminars, and proposing new forms of pedagogy in order to build and sustain reciprocal relationships with partner schools abroad and transform its curriculum at home. The work done during this period will be integrated into Candler’s long-term pedagogical mission and will engage local immigrant and refugee communities as well as new models of interreligious dialogue.

The initiative will better equip Candler 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 is a combination of innovative faculty and student exchanges. Over three years, 12 faculty and 12 students will serve 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 Sao 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 will spend time in classrooms, teaching and learning, but will also have the opportunity to experience the life, liturgy, theology, social justice, chaplaincy, churches and community practices of the places they visit.  Visiting faculty and students will participate in the full academic and spiritual life of Candler and be resources for the Candler community as it explores issues of internationalization and globalization from perspectives beyond North America.

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

Each seminar will explore 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 will take up the issue of local immigrant and refugee communities with special attention to Candler’s Contextual Education programs. The 2015 Luce Seminar will address questions of non-Christian religions and interfaith discussion within in theological education, giving special emphasis to the international perspectives of our partner schools.

2013 Luce Seminar

The 2013 Luce Seminar focusesd 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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Candler will draw 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 international partners who have extensive experience with pluralism and migration will deepen and enrich North American practices and pedagogies. New technology will allow students and faculty from partner institutions to participate in joint courses and contribute expertise from afar without traveling thousands of miles. New perspectives and practices will allow Candler and other seminaries to prepare students to become leaders in a world in which churches and religious communities that are increasingly linked internationally and experience the global context at their doorsteps.

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."

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