EMS Theological Framework
Identity and Vocation
The stirrings of God’s Spirit embolden us to ask anew what Eastern Mennonite Seminary is called to become in this time (and place). What saving work is God initiating in the world that summons our wholehearted participation as a community of learning? How do our lives become an offering of praise in gratitude for God’s gracious initiative toward us in Jesus Christ? How do we make known the goodness of God’s holistic salvation in a world burdened by personal, social and environmental degradation? In a world bedeviled by fear, what does it mean to call people to devote their primary allegiance to the God we know in Jesus Christ and the reign of God that transcends national boundaries?
As we ponder these questions, we also ask, “Who are we?” What is our basic identity as a learning community? What is our vocation in the world? What is our mission as a Mennonite seminary in the eastern United States—a residential community that connects with a network of learning communities around the world?
We believe that what we are and what we will become is made possible by God’s gracious initiative to save the world. It is because of Jesus’ cross and resurrection, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and new life in Christ—and only because of these that we can boldly claim that “with God all things are possible.” Jesus Christ reveals to us “the nature and will of God.” He is the Word of God made flesh in a particular man from Nazareth who embodied the character of God’s salvation.
As we respond to God’s gracious initiative by confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and giving him our primary allegiance, we discover the joy-filled liberation of obedience to Jesus. We are drawn into covenant communities of faithful discipleship, churches that model the peace and restoration that God desires for the whole world, churches that find their authoritative guidance for faith and life in the Bible. Within these communities of worship and mission, we cultivate an alternative consciousness. As we immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, celebrate and enact the saving power of the Gospel, we model a way of being in the world that shows forth God’s shalom. And the way in which we do God’s saving work in the world will be noteworthy because we are Christians who covenant together to live in righteousness and justice, to love our enemies, to tell the truth, to care for creation and to proclaim that God is love.
We delight in the power of images to form and express our life as a seminary community. The prophet Jeremiah speaks of those who trust in the Lord: “They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit” (17:8). A tree with an extensive network of branches must have an equally large root system or the tree will collapse.
Missional engagement is core to our identity and vocation as a seminary. Our capacity to engage and be fruitful within the diverse cultures of our world will grow as we attend to our root system. The roots nurture our ability to interpret the Bible, to discern our context, and to be strong yet tender Christian disciples. They give us confidence to know that Jesus is always with us as we “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).
As a Mennonite seminary, we are deeply rooted within the Anabaptist stream of convictions and practices. This radical and living tradition provides a continual source of renewal for our identity. In recent decades, many Christians from other denominational streams have come to appreciate the particular resources of the Anabaptist stream. Anabaptist perspectives on Christian faith have become an important inspiration for creative, prophetic engagement with our postmodern, pluralistic world. The unique strength of Eastern Mennonite Seminary is our rootedness in the riches of the Anabaptist heritage. The seminary’s vitality, however, will depend on the dynamic interactivity of those deep roots with the tree’s broad branches and green vibrant leaves, producing a fruitful, critical engagement with the church and the world.