It’s been far too long since we’ve communicated with you via Connection magazine, and we’re excited to be back in touch in this way. Life at Candler continues to flourish, and we hope that many of you have been able to plug into what’s been going on—by reading our monthly e-newsletter, visiting campus, attending an event, meeting up with friends and professors, worshiping with us via live stream, or following us on social media. Wherever you are, you are an important part of our Candler community.
The theme of this issue is “Rethink.” With their blessing, we borrowed the idea from The United Methodist Church’s “Rethink Church” campaign, right down to the image of the iconic red church door. But there’s something unusual about the church door in our cover photo: There’s a vine growing across it! How long has it been since this particular door has been opened, ushering people into a sacred space? Fortunately, in this case, the photographer assures us that the door is a rarely used side entrance. But with two-thirds of millennials reporting church attendance of a few times a year or less—and 40 percent of those saying that they seldom or never go1—a vine soon might consider the main entrance fair game as well.
As influential author and speaker Brian McLaren told a group of Christian educators at a conference in 2018, “In the world of organized religion, we’re in a time of great upheaval. We don’t face mere technical challenges…we face adaptive challenges. This isn’t just a matter of slight tweaks; this is a matter of rethinking the entire system of what we’re doing from scratch.”2
And so we ask: How might we think again about so many concepts we thought were settled? How we connect, how we serve, how we teach, how we transform our communities, how we show and share the gospel in our own lives? And finally, the most important question: Why does this act of reconsidering even matter?
Unsurprisingly, many Candler alumni have been rethinking church since their seminary days; in this issue, we’ll share a few of their stories with you. We’ll also celebrate faculty emeriti, who have taught us to see God and the world in new ways, and we’ll tap into the wisdom of current professors, whose scholarship and reading recommendations remind us that it’s possible to have a fresh take on a familiar subject.
After you read this issue, I hope you will find something on your own journey of life and faith to rethink—and then, by God’s grace, put those new thoughts into action.
Grace and Peace,
Mary Lee Hardin Willard Dean and Professor of Christianity and World Politics