Posted on December 7th, 2004
Two schools, one a Bible school in the eastern Caribbean and the other a university in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, joined hands and hearts in an experiment that could develop into something more permanent.
Moira R. Rogers, an associate professor of Spanish at Eastern Mennonite University, taught an "Introduction to Anabaptist Theology" class the week of Nov. 22-26 at the Seminario Anabautista del Caribe in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The seminar discussed the distinctive elements of an Anabaptist approach to theological reflection. Although recognizing the broad range of radical movements that the term "Anabaptist" refers to in 16th century Europe, the emphasis was on a critical reflection on what it means to respond to the current contextual challenges facing the participants from the perspective of Anabaptist emphases to Christian faith. The week-long class included dialogue with other contemporary Latin American theological traditions that seek to respond to local challenges.
"Laboring in the heat forced me to seek strength, patience and imagination to design and facilitate each evening in a creative, challenging way," Dr. Rogers said. "I am grateful for the students’ openness to the reading,
reflection, writing, and discussion assignments.
"I’m refreshed to have witnessed the Spirit empowering students to engage their ministries with new strength and vision," Rogers said. "Many in the group expressed appreciation for the experience and said that they gained renewed possibilities for their work and ministries."
Ervin R. Stutzman, academic dean at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, spent Thanksgiving weekend visiting the class and talking with students at the seminary in Santo Domingo. He came away impressed, almost overwhelmed, with what he saw and heard.
Dr. Stutzman noted that the seminar class "had a rich mixture of ethnicities that is typical in the Dominican Republic," with nearly an equal number of men and women. Several students are bi-vocational pastors, he said, and nearly all are lay leaders and teachers in local churches representing two Mennonite conferences and the Church of the Brethren.
"Most of the students are professionals who have had no Anabaptist education or pastoral training," Stutzman added. "They are highly motivated learners." Students will earn one hour of academic credit from EMS if they fulfill all the assignments satisfactorily.
"From my observation, the course was characterized by vigorous participation, both as a full group and in small group discussion," he said. Early in the week, Moira proposed a break time in the midst of the three-hour class, but the students preferred to use the time for discussion each evening."
"I listened as the students and two board members poured out their hearts to me," Stutzman said. "They deeply desire and are praying that we will offer an entire course of study in several cohorts of up to 25 students each. I