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Whitworth Theology Department Annual Newsletter 2017

Gerald Sittser (1989-present), Professor of Theology, Senior Fellow in the Office of Church Engagement

Greetings in the name of Christ.

I will not be the first person, I am sure, to mention the hard winter we had in Spokane. It was the longest, coldest and wettest on record. Yet as I gaze into our backyard on this gorgeous spring morning, observing green grass, hostas and ferns in full array, our bees busy at the first sign of the sun, perennials in spring bloom, and buds on our apple trees, I am reminded of the Psalmist’s line, "But joy comes with the morning." My heart is full of gratitude.

I have now fully transitioned to my new role at Whitworth. I am teaching only two or three courses a year in the department. The other half of my duties is in the Office of Church Engagement, which Whitworth launched three years ago when the Lilly and Murdock foundations awarded us generous grants, with more funds to come, I am sure. Terry McGonigal is director of the OCE, and I am senior fellow. I am working a great deal with local and regional churches, teaching in the Academy of Christian Discipleship, and enjoying more time for research and writing. We have developed partnerships with about 30 local churches and a dozen or so regional churches. And we have just begun. It is very fulfilling work. Pastors are surprised when the university turns toward them and their churches to serve, not to ask for money or students. We want to collaborate with them in discerning how we can be faithful to the gospel in an increasingly secular society.

I signed with Baker to write a new book, tentatively titled The Third Way: How the Early Christian Movement Formed People in the Faith. The purpose of the book is to tell the story of how the Christian movement grew steadily and successfully over some 250 years, all the while facing suspicion and hostility from the powers that be. Christians learned how to engage the culture without accommodating to it. We have a lot to learn from this early period and these faithful Christians.

Our department is enjoying the fruits of a revised curriculum, and Forrest Buckner, our dean of spiritual life, is now leading our new Ministry Training Fellows Program, which has replaced the old Certification for Ministry Program. Meanwhile, Jeremy Wynne is doing great work leading our Graduate Studies in Theology Program, which added two new degrees this year.

A word about my family. Pat and I have five children between the two of us, all married. They are all doing well. My three have their own children, my sons having become fathers last fall (grandsons Charlie and Peter). All three of our girls will be living in Spokane by the middle of the summer, too, which delights us to no end. I continue to enjoy gardening with Pat, doing a woodworking project or two, and reading. We welcome many people into our home, too. I hope that will include you!

Thank you for your support and prayers. God bless you!

Jerry Sittser