Whitworth Theology Department Annual Newsletter 2017
Undergraduate Theology Program
A message from Department Chair Keith Beebe
Dear friends of the Whitworth Theology Department,
For the second year in a row, I am starting to write our annual department update immediately after hearing a theology colleague deliver an excellent homily at our end-of-the-year baccalaureate service. This time it was Adam Neder, who offered a challenging message, "The Highest and Lowest Place," based upon Luke 14:1-14. As his title suggests, Adam directed our attention to Christ's admonition not to waste our lives on the universal temptation of seeking places of honor to bolster our reputations before others. Rather, he reminded us, Jesus liberates us from this pitfall by calling us to humble ourselves and invest our lives in the higher purposes of God. It was an incisive message – mixed with humor – that certainly related to everyone in the room.
Adam's message was just one of many departmental contributions to this year's Commencement Weekend, which included two outstanding student commencement addresses delivered by theology graduates Carys Parker (who was named Outstanding Female Theology Senior) and Benjamin Olson (who was the recipient of the Whitworth Servant Leadership Award). It also capped off four wonderful years with a truly exceptional group of theology graduates. We held a breakfast reception for these 20 students and their families, celebrating their academic achievements and contributions to our department. We also presented special awards to the following students: Carys Parker and Christopher Pieper (Outstanding Theology Senior Awards), Lana Bronn and Christopher Volk (Zondervan Theology Awards), Benjamin Olson (Zondervan Outstanding Hebrew Language Award), and Sophie Ridgeway (a junior who has now received the Zondervan Outstanding Greek Language Award for the second year in a row). Our graduate reception is a highlight of our year, and is always a bittersweet mix of joyful memories and sad farewells. (For some photos of this event and some of our graduates, see our department Facebook page: www.facebook.com/whitworththeology).
Often at this time of year, our own department faculty members also receive awards celebrating their accomplishments, and this year was no exception: Will Kynes received the "Outstanding Integration of Vocation in the Classroom Award" from the Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith & Learning.
We had a full year of activities, and here are some other highlights:
- We continue to see strong student interest in our new major and minor programs (four major tracks with four additional concentrations, and nine minor tracks), with one of our new theology graduates earning an additional four theology minors! (For a list of our program offerings, see: www.whitworth.edu/academic/department/theology/majors&minors.htm).
- Last summer we started designing the plans for our new theology center, which will be an expansion of Seeley Mudd Chapel, made possible by a generous gift from the Barney and Joyce Beeksma family, and others. We are now putting the final touches on the plans, groundbreaking starts in September, and hopefully by this time next year we will be moving into our new home! (For more information on this exciting development, please see the following press release: news.whitworth.edu/2016/10/whitworth-university-announces-new.html).
- Our monthly topical discussion program, "Overflow," is now in its second year and is attracting very good student (and faculty/staff) participation from across campus. Organized and led by a faithful group of theology students, with guidance from theology professors Will Kynes and Josh Leim, the program has tackled some important (and "hot") topics: abortion, sports and theology, the refugee crisis, political discourse, race, and gender equality. (For more, see www.whitworth.edu/cms/administration/university-communications/whitworth-today/overflow).
- This year we hosted two speakers for The Staley Distinguished Christian Scholar Lecture Series. In the fall, Father Josiah Trenham of St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, Calif., presented a lecture, "Orthodoxy & Protestantism: An Orthodox Appraisal of the Protestant Faith." Formerly of the Reformed tradition, with a master of divinity degree from Westminster Seminary, he offered a challenging yet gracious perspective that many found enlightening and thought-provoking. In the spring, we hosted Kristen Johnson, associate professor of theology and Christian formation at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich. Her lecture, "Justice and Our Calling: From Genesis to Revelation," was another inspiring and challenging message, and was particularly applicable to our times.
As usual, every member of our department is busy working on research and writing projects, producing more publications than I can keep up with, so I will leave it to them to give you all the details!
In the meantime, we are all grateful to God for the privilege and calling of doing the work that we do, with such good students and colleagues, and at such a wonderful university. We experience this work as a blessing from God, and we hope that you may also be co-recipients of that blessing as we share our stories with you.
Blessings and peace to you in the coming year,
Graduate Studies in Theology
A Message from Jeremy Wynne, Director of the Graduate Studies in Theology Program
The biggest news from the past year is that we've launched two new graduate degree programs – a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and a Master of Arts in Mission & Culture. Those who are interested will find plenty of details on our website (www.whitworth.edu/gradtheology). Please check it out! For now, I'll say that it's exciting to offer this kind of special preparation. Our students are serving in increasingly diverse ministry contexts, and we want to be as intentional as possible in equipping them for wherever God might lead. In addition to these new programs, we continue to introduce new elective courses, like The Old Testament in the New. And those with a passion for chaplaincy will be keen to learn more about internship opportunities at sites such as Eastern State Hospital.
On another note, I'm often asked whether students are required as part of their degree to write a master's thesis. The short answer is no. In our program, extended research like this is an elective, which will fit some of our students really well. This past May one such student submitted a thesis on the topic of gender, disability and the image of God, and a crowd of 42 guests turned out for the evening presentation of her work. Among them were undergrad and graduate students, faculty, and guests from the Spokane community. The large group question-and-answer was outstanding – proof that we're hungry for careful, faithful answers to the complex questions before us. As we seek to be a well-rounded community, in-depth research like this adds tremendously to that pursuit. So expect additional announcements next spring. We have students hard at work crafting their own original theses on topics as varied as the role of Roman citizenship in the New Testament and a trinitarian theology of the sacraments.
One final thought. Given all that this community of faculty and students has to offer, I'm sometimes frustrated that our advertising resources are so limited. (Oh, to have a regular spot on every Pandora station!) And yet, that very real limitation makes the outcome even more amazing. Each year we're connecting with new students, who are passionate, patient and thoughtful. I could tell you about fire-department chaplains, physical therapists, pastors, and elementary school teachers. Or how about one of our newest students? He's a trained arborist and wants to use his green thumb and aesthetic gifts to glorify God. Marvelous. Doesn't it bring to mind the garden that God himself intends? "On that day: A pleasant vineyard, sing about it!" (Isa 27:2).