Last week leaders from over 260 theological schools met in Pittsburgh for the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) 49th Biennial meeting. Together we represent God’s “big tent” of Christian traditions in North America, both Protestant and Catholic.
As I prepared for this conference, Academic Dean Ronald Feenstra told me about an interesting and enlightening convergence of dates.
June 6, 1944 is the D-Day date of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, France, which many mark as the key turning point in World War II.
The very next day – June 7, 1944 – is the date that Calvin Theological Seminary was initially accredited by the ATS. That was 70 years ago. But this is the question that intrigued me:
Why did Calvin Theological Seminary seek accreditation in the press and weariness of World War II?
A motivating reason was that pastors who wanted to serve as chaplains needed their training at Calvin Seminary to be more widely accepted and affirmed. The pastoral needs of our troops at war was impetus to pursue accreditation in an association of theological schools that had a broad reach and a reputation of high regard. The Christian Reformed Church in North America and Calvin Seminary wanted to minister in Christ’s name on the world stage whose events of war were having a profound impact. ATS helped open doors of chaplaincy for us to serve.
Since then, The Association for Theological Schools has aided Calvin Seminary by providing a framework of best practices and learnings that continue to shape the ministry and degree offerings of Calvin Seminary for the sake of the world God so loves.
For example, our development of programs that reach students in 20 different nations and the use of Distance Education as a delivery system have been strengthened by the standards and wise insights of ATS even as the journey continues.
In the words of ATS Executive Director Daniel Aleshire:
“Changes in the culture, in the church, and in higher education have been exerting an explosive force that theological schools cannot ignore. …Theological schools have more mission than money, and more calling than history, and have demonstrated the ability to outperform their resources.
Leaders of ATS schools know the problems they face. …And as theological educators, they will bring to the table the theological principles that undergird the value of this enterprise, the practical wisdom to understand how we can serve the shifting realities of communities of faith, and their expertise to discern how best to educate students for this new era of service.”
This is a time for all of us where challenges can seem explosive. But God remains our strength from generations past, and our sure hope for the future. I invite you to pray for Calvin Seminary as we prepare for new students, a new year of ministry, and a future of obedient mission.