The Table Podcast

Global Theological Education

In this episode, Drs. Darrell L. Bock, Scott Cunningham, and Michael Ortiz discuss global theological education, focusing on what theological education looks like in different countries.

Timecodes
01:37
Cunningham and Ortiz are introduced
09:08
Partnering with schools for theological education
15:19
Differences in seminaries worldwide
21:00
Curricula for majority world theological education
29:35
Challenges facing smaller seminaries
34:54
Specific challenges facing seminaries from COVID-19
39:40
Majority world issues in accessing online materials
Transcript
Darrell Bock
Welcome to the Table. We discuss issues of God and culture. And our topic today is theological education, but it’s theological education viewed through global eyes. And we have with us two people how are tied in both cases to different kinds of organizations that are very familiar with the situation around the world. Scott Cunningham and Michael Ortiz are my guests today. Welcome, Scott.
Scott Cunningham
Thank you, Darrell.
Darrell Bock
And Michael, welcome to you.
Michael Ortiz
Good to see you, Darrell. Thank you for inviting us.
Darrell Bock
Glad to do it. Michael is a colleague at Dallas Seminary as well. I’ll have them introduce themselves in just a second. But we certainly, as you can tell – since I’m not in the studio – are transmitting this during the midst of the COVID19 crisis. And although we don’t want to talk just exclusively in terms of COVID, we want to also address just the general condition of seminaries globally and theological education globally as well. It’s hard to talk about it these days without either thinking about the impact of COVID19 and probably the post-COVID19 impact on schools as well. But I think both are seen as, very much, a reality for theological education in general. So, Scott, I’ll let you introduce yourself first. You are tied to an organization called Overseas Council, if I’m not mistaken. And so, tell us a little bit about the council and your role in it.
Scott Cunningham
Yeah. So my wife and I began ministry overseas in the Country of Nigeria where we trained seminary leaders. We were there for over 25 years and became connected with a number of organizations that focus on theological education; focus on how to train leaders better for the church around the world. Especially in what we call the majority world. And one of those organizations is Overseas Council. And Overseas Council was working in Africa.

They actually are working all around the world, but that’s how I got connected with them…was through the work in Africa; the seminaries that I had contact with around the continent they were also partnering with. And their role around the world is to select a number of different seminaries – we work with about 100 altogether now in about 70 different countries. And our goal, then, is to train Christian leaders by partnering with these vital seminaries worldwide. So it’s through the partnerships that we have with these seminaries that we desire to see the flourishing of the church through well-trained leaders.

Darrell Bock
Yeah. My background in this area goes back to a fellow named Bill Taylor, who used to work very closely with the World Evangelical Association, and then Manfred Kohl, who I came in contact with through the Lausanne, Cape Town effort. And we served together as we tried to distribute the materials from Lausanne out to these various locations that were kind of sub-hosts for Lausanne Cape Town.

And the amount of work that these men and others like them did with seminaries – literally globally around the world…I think Manfred’s visited, I don’t know, in the hundreds in terms of seminaries in terms of what he was involved. Really opened up – for me, at least – a global awareness about the different kinds of institutions that exist; the different kind of training that’s going on, the needs; in some cases how, what goes on in Western schools doesn’t entirely fit what’s needed in other parts of the world. Just a whole lot of dimensions of that. Michael, tell us both your role at Dallas and then also your role with ICETE. And tell people a little bit about ICETE.

Michael Ortiz
Sure. Yeah. Well, thanks again, Darrell, for inviting us to be part of this. So currently at Dallas Seminary, what my role is is as Department Chair for the World Missions and the Culture Studies Department. I’ve been in Dallas Seminary since 2016, January 2016. Started there actually to begin the Spanish program at Dallas Seminary, what’s now DTS in Español. And that’s been really – the Lord’s been really gracious with us through that project, and it’s really grown quite a bit. I think in Fall, we had over 100 students taking classes online from about 20 different countries around the world. So that’s been fun just to be part of that. But now, I’m chairing the Missions Department here at Dallas Seminary and really enjoying that; a whole new set of challenges with that, leading a department. And it’s also letting me – allowing me to see behind the curtains even more at Dallas Seminary.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Michael Ortiz
It’s one thing to be a student-
Darrell Bock
Don’t go there. [Laughs]
Michael Ortiz
Yeah. Yeah. I was a student there for a number of years. So Scott was, of course, as well. So there’s one side of it that you see as a student. Then you come onto this side, and you see all kinds of very – mostly great things.
Scott Cunningham
That’s true. Yeah.
Michael Ortiz
But yeah. Besides then, I also serve as International Director for ICETE. ICETE is the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education. And ICETE was founded back in the late 1970’s; 1980, ’81 was then first really ramped up and started to develop the organization. But basically, the birthed out of the World Evangelical Alliance – which, Darrell, you just mentioned the WEA in relationship to Bill Taylor. Although Bill wasn’t involved with that. But the World Evangelical Alliance was instrumental in starting ICETE back in the late-1970’s, early-1980’s. And what it really is at this point is, it’s a network of eight regional accreditation agencies from really all over the world.

And we’ll get into more of that later if you want to, in the details of that. But also, what we do with ICETE is we want to focus on enhancing quality and community – both quality and community – in global theological education for the sake of the church, really. We have a manifesto that was developed right around the time that ICETE was founded. And if you read that manifesto, it is fascinating to see how closely-connected from the very beginning ICETE wanted to be with the church. And as International Director now, like I said, it’s an important value for who we are and what we intend to do with ICETE.

Darrell Bock
Now just to be clear – and of course looking at your last name – it’s transparent. You’re Hispanic. You’re actually Cuban in background, is that right?
Michael Ortiz
Correct. Yeah.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Michael Ortiz
Well, my parents were from Cuba. I was born in New York City and learned Spanish before English and that kind of thing.
Darrell Bock
Very cool. And you’ve ministered, you know…Scott mentioned that he was in Nigeria for a long time. You have been in and out of Cuba multiple times. And that really fueled your global interest. Do I have that right as well?
Michael Ortiz
Yeah. That’s correct, Darrell. I mean, when I was at Dallas Seminary – just about to finish up my THM there – I was introduced to Cuba in terms of missions of work in Cuba and started going there right around 2007 or so. And I’ve been there about 25 times approximately over the last number of years. But over the years there, the Lord has allowed me to really minister in and through and with the seminaries that are in Cuba…a large number of them there. That’s a whole other story if we want to get into that.

But in essence, we were instrumental in starting an accreditation agency in Cuba that eventually developed a relationship with CETA, which is the Caribbean member for ICETE. And of course, Overseas Council and Scott Cunningham and José Fernandez. Many of the people have been really heavily-involved in Cuba as well. So I got – it was a way to introduce me to theological education and really rather smaller setting. And then from there, expand from there.

Darrell Bock
And I take it that some of that relationship came through SETECA, which was a Seminary in Guatemala City. Guatemala has been very involved in ministry in Latin America in general, Spanish-speaking. Actually, the Spanish-speaking world period. I mean, not just to Spain.
Michael Ortiz
Correct. Correct. Yes. Correct.
Darrell Bock
And part of the point of going through that detail with both of you is to show that your ministries have really been global from the very, very beginning in terms of what you were doing and have been involved with. Scott, let me ask you this question. Overseas Council, I take it, advises theological education globally? Fill that. Advises is an interesting word. Fill in the details. What does that mean? What does it take to advise seminaries around the world? And I take it that, for lack of a better description, the contextualizing of theology is extremely important to the work that you do.
Cunningham
Yeah. That’s a good point. All good points, Darrell. Yeah. The word we use is partnership. And that doesn’t tell you anything more than “advises,” does it?
Darrell Bock
Well, in one sense it does. ‘Cause it gets at the idea of, you come alongside. And this is not a paternal relationship. Which is important to underscore.
Scott Cunningham
That’s right. So it would be strong components of what we would think of it as mutuality. You know, where we bring something to the table, and other people also bring something to the table. We may set the table, but other people are bringing into it also. And so, a lot of what we’ve learned about theological education doesn’t come from within. It comes from our partner seminaries who are…some of them doing a fantastic job. So the organization started primarily as a fund-raising agency to supply funds from the West to a seminary in Korea. And so, the word – the name “Overseas Council” was actually the overseas council of the Seoul Theological College to overseas back in the US.
Darrell Bock
And how far back did that go?
Scott Cunningham
That’s more than 40 years ago.
Darrell Bock
Okay. All right.
Scott Cunningham
But it was businessmen in Indianapolis who saw that one of the needs of a seminary in Seoul, Korea, was for funding for students. Okay? And so, that was the origin. And that is important to acknowledge because we still see that the resources of the West can still be used in a legitimate way to assist where there are seminaries that lack resources. Okay? That’s a legitimate thing. Now, we have to think carefully about stewardship and over-dependence and unhealthy dependence and so forth like that. But still legitimate. But what we saw in the growth of the organization was that, often times, schools needed more than money.

In fact, sometimes it didn’t need money at all. What they needed was advice. They needed learning. They needed to learn how to do something better, to work smarter. And so, that’s when we began moving more in the direction of what you would call consultation or advisement. We began to provide training for seminary leaders. We now have a network of what we call our regional directors. International/regional directors. Michael mentioned one of them, José Fernandez who’s our Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. He works with in Cuba.

And those regional directors are indigenous. They know the language, the culture, the people, the networks. They can leverage resources that are local within the context, and then they partner with the seminaries that we’ve selected. So it is one of our values, really…is contextual. Contextual nature of theological education. I think earlier on, you mentioned, Darrell, that these are not necessarily seminaries that you would find in the United States. It’s not like we take a Dallas Seminary and we air-lift it and, you know, [laughs] drop it into India and Columbia or Havana, Cuba.

Darrell Bock
That would be some plane that could do that. But anyway.
Scott Cunningham
[Laughs] Yeah. Well, and not only do we not want to do – not only could we not do that, we don’t want to do that.
Darrell Bock
Exactly.
Scott Cunningham
Okay? When you think about – I just watched a documentary on Frank Lloyd Wright, a great architect of the last century in the US. But the beauty of his architecture is that it blends into the context. So you could take one of his outstanding buildings – an office building in Chicago – and you take that building, and you plunk it down in the middle of the desert in Arizona. And now, it becomes bad architecture. It’s just not contextually relevant. It doesn’t fit the landscape. And so, a lot of what we do is try to help schools think about, “Well, what fits in your context?” And what we mean by that is, what are the needs that your seminary is responding to with the needs of the church? How do you understand the church? How do you understand the needs for the leadership in the church? Christian formation in the church.

And then, how do you design programs that particularly respond to those needs with the resources that God has given you to steward in your context? So we’re very strong on the contextual nature of theological education because we understand it as missional. It’s serving the needs of the church. So an understanding of the needs of the church and partnership with the church is critical in our understanding of what sound theological education looks like.

Darrell Bock
We’ll come back later to discuss some of the unique curricula that that generates. ‘Cause I think that will be fascinating to some people. Michael, let’s talk about what you’re engaged with. I’ve watched you on multiple Friday mornings, bright and early – ‘caues you’re dealing with time zones. And one of the challenges, obviously, of doing global ministry is people occupy all the time zones around the world.
And so, to put together an event, you’re up at – I think it’s 8
30 your time, is 7
Michael Ortiz
Stay tuned, Darrell. Stay tuned.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. But the challenges that you have about helping people with theological education – and I want you to help address this kind of in an overview way – of the different times of seminaries that we’re dealing with here. Because I think most people particularly in the West, when they think about a seminary, think about a richly-resourced, technologically-capable educational institution mostly dealing with graduate students or certainly those of a college education layer or level. Talk about how that is not necessarily what’s going on in a majority world context.
Michael Ortiz
Yeah. well, that’s perfectly true. What happens is, when we – in North America, in the West – we normally use the seminary…we are thinking about graduate-level work; students that that have already achieved a bachelor’s type of degree, and now they’re moving onto a seminary post-graduate work program. But in a majority world, most of those – when we use the term “seminary,” for the most part, they really are referring to programs that are akin to maybe a Bible college type of program or something along those lines. Now, they’re very ministry-focused. So they are preparing students for ministry.

But they’re doing it more and more along the lines of an undergrad type of training program. Now, some of these seminaries do have, of course, master’s degrees programs and even some doctorates as well. But for the most part, they’re usually undergrad. And then if we tried to unpack that even further and try to understand, “What are the – what are the scope of those programs, and how long are they? And how are they staffed, and how are…where does the faculty come from,” and so on – there’s a huge variety of that.

I mean, it’s not uncommon to have most of the professors be bi-vocational or even sometimes tri-vocational. Their pastor even might have a job outside of their church. They’re teaching. All sorts of things. And students, of course, that are…sometimes they have to travel miles, if not – sometimes even days to get to the seminary to study. And some of the commitments that some of these students make are really astronomical. I just received a little blurb article from the Middle East about a student who – despite the COVID, despite the CVOID crises that we’re in – he still has committed…he’s committed to continue his program as best as he can. Of course, the school is no longer able to meet in person.

So what this student is actually doing is, he is traveling hours each day to get a café; a location where he could have good internet access And he doesn’t have, you know…he doesn’t have a high-speed train that’s taking him there or anything like that. And he’s got to figure out, “How is he going to get to this place so he can study?” So that’s another layer. You know, “How are the faculty designed and then put together students? Where do they come from? What are they capable of?” Curricula, the facilities, internet – all of these different layers that come into play that are really varied all across the world; especially in a majority world context.

Darrell Bock
And the students aren’t necessarily – thinking about the education level of the students that they come into this education with. That’s not a given either. You know, I’ve taught in India multiple times on several places that I’ve been. And the one case I remember, I had students who literally had trekked hundreds of miles to come to the site for the week of classes and then trekked back. In some cases, crossing national boundaries to get there. I mean, it’s amazing the commitment that some of these students have. But also, the education level of the students is kind of all over the map as well. Scott, is that not – is that not another reality that these institutions are dealing with?
Scott Cunningham
Yeah. That’s true. That’s true. So within any given context, you’ve got a wide variety of educational achievement and readiness. And schools recognize that. They see where the needs are of the students and design programs to meet those needs. And what you’re actually seeing is a wide spectrum, then, all the way from – as we were describing – up to the doctorate level, but going way down to even like a high school-level. Everything in between.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. Now, I want to talk a little bit about curricula ’cause this is interesting, for one thing. I think I remember you giving a presentation at one point – I don’t remember where it was – where you talked about curricula at various majority world…and when we use the term “majority world” – just to be clear – it’s a description of the majority of the world. I mean, you know, it’s not the narrow band, if I can say it that way, of a particularly Western, often times, context. Multi-lingual in many cases. You know?

You go to – again, I’ll use India as an example. You’ve got multiple languages you’re dealing with in any particular location. You got to other places, people are dealing with three and four languages. In South Africa, I think there’s somewhere between 9 and 11 languages that are spoken in the country. I mean, it’s just an amazing array of possibilities. But the thing I remember most is, I think you – I remember you talking a curriculum. And it included things like agriculture, you know, and things. I go, “You know, I don’t think when I walked on the campus at Dallas Seminary that I was going to sign up for a class on farming.” And so, explain what in the world’s going on there.

Scott Cunningham
Yeah. I think one of the strengths of majority world theological education is, it tends to be a bit more holistic than what we see in the West. And what I mean by that – and this is not…I don’t want to over-generalize. But at times, you see a really healthy integration of disciplines. And part of that, partly, is the worldview. Because Christians in the majority world tend to see their lives as more holistic. So Christianity is not something you just do on Sunday. It’s not something that only the church does within its four walls, but it’s something that does involve our whole lives.

So they tend the see the world as more holistic; not as sacred and secular, but as integrated and together. And they tend to learn that way also. So they don’t tend to learn only in what we think of as the narrow disciplines of biblical studies, historical studies and theological studies, but tends to be more of a blended type of approach, integrated type of approach; a multi-disciplinary type of approach. I think those are all healthy things, by the way.

Darrell Bock
Yeah. So Christianity isn’t just the humanities. It’s about human life and the whole of human life.
Scott Cunningham
That’s right. That’s right. And discipleship, then, is part of growing up as to everything God wants us to be as humans in a new creation.
Darrell Bock
And so, if you’re caring for the whole person – right – then in certain contexts if you don’t know how to help a person work with their livelihood, you’re limited in how you can minister to them.
Scott Cunningham
That’s exactly right. Yeah.
Michael Ortiz
Yeah. I think what’s also-
Scott Cunningham
Oh. Go ahead. I’m sorry, Michael.
Michael Ortiz
No. Go ahead. You go ahead.
Scott Cunningham
Well, I was going to say that…so it wouldn’t be unusual to find a course in agriculture or a course in public health or a course in entrepreneurship. Those are not unusual kinds of courses that you would find within a seminary context. Michael mentioned the fact that, a lot of times, the leaders are bi-vocational. And so, when you prepare a leader, you’re not only preparing them for the pulpit but you’re preparing him for the farm as well. And so, we see programs where an agricultural program is blended with a professional, theological program into one.
Darrell Bock
Go ahead, Michael.
Scott Cunningham
Yeah. What I was just going to add a little bit to that as well…I think Scott’s raising some great points. I think what also happens is that, often times because the professors are usually bi-vocational or sometimes tri-vocational, they’re pastors as well. So they are leading churches and leading congregations. Sometimes multiple churches. So they have a distinctive pulse on what’s going on in their communities. And so, when they come into the classroom where they deliver material within the classroom, it allowed these vocations…they are very sensitive to what’s going on in society and what the churches really need. And at a certain level, we can talk about this gap that exists between theological education and the local church. And that gap has existed there for quite some time. But I think what I find I, in a lot of the majority-world context, that gap might be not quite as wide as in the West sometimes. And that’s for a variety of reasons. We’ve touched on some of those already.
Darrell Bock
And of course, some of these church leaders – I think I remember this from my experience in the Caribbean – is, they aren’t leading a single congregation. They’re actually, multi – they have a circuit. They’re like the Methodist circuit rider. You know, several congregations they’re dealing with on a particular Sunday, for example, or during the week and covering it that way. And this practical role makes them inherently – and I think the African-American community in the states is the closest example of this. Automatically puts them in a social role in the context in which they work, which makes them important citizens in general; not just in connection with their churches.

So the whole thing is more woven together, if I can say it that way. I mean, holistic is a good word, but what does that actually look like? That’s what you’re talking about. It’s these networks of influence and, in some cases, decision-making that end up impacting not just the church but he society as a whole in which the pastor is functioning. So what is required of them in terms of ministry and care extends beyond just the passing-on of Biblical information. Let me ask the question – it’ll sound like an odd question, but I think it’s an important thing to raise because it shows how context does impact.

You know, sometimes if you were to say, “Well, a seminary curriculum has curricula like farming or finance or development,” or something like that, that you’re moving somehow – and I’m going to use this phrase – in a social Gospel kind of era. And there can be discomfort with that with some people in the West. But that’s not really what that represents. It really represents this connection to life thing that we’ve been talking about that is so important to ministering effectively in pastoral care for you people. Scott, develop that a little bit. ‘Cause I think that’s a misunderstanding that sometimes can come about, “Well, are they really doing the work of a seminary?”

Scott Cunningham
Mm-hmm. Yeah. So again. If you think about what the needs of the church are and who’s going to supply those needs, who’s going to meet those needs and you look at what a leader needs to be within a particular context, you want to equip that leader with everything that he needs. You don’t want to leave those gaps. And so, that’s why you do need to provide education, training in areas that we wouldn’t think of as needed for a Christian leader. But in those contexts, if we don’t provide that kind of training then they don’t get it. And yet, for the church to flourish within that community, those are the skills that a Christian leader needs. I don’t know how else to describe it. But it has nothing to do with what we would call the social Gospel except that they do see the Gospel as holistic also, as impacting every part of their lives.
Darrell Bock
Which, of course, is just solid theology in terms of the way God works. So okay. So, Michael, I want to shift gears a little bit. I think we could talk about two kinds of seminaries. We’ve talked about the seminaries that are very much like the West, I said are reasonably well-resourced. I know that Overseas Council has helped many seminaries – but what you might call hub seminaries in different regions – develop their resources, build buildings, classrooms, chapels…that kind of thing that really allow them to function fully.

I think SETECA is like this. I know the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary in the Middle East is an example. I mean, there are loads of examples that we could bring forward. But then, there are – I’m going to use this figure of…they’re the mom-and-pop theological seminaries. You know? They aren’t quite as well-resourced, et cetera. What challenges, particular challenges are they facing in this particular moment? And frankly, challenges that appear – if they’re not actually completely – overwhelming to those institutions because of the limits that they’re operating with and the limits that the current situation has placed them under?

Michael Ortiz
Yeah. And I think we could back up a little bit and just also recognize that most seminaries around the world – even those that you mentioned are some of the larger ones – they still operate on fairly thin margins as it is under normal circumstances.
Darrell Bock
Very good, yep.
Michael Ortiz
So they are already operating on tight budget; hence, you have professors that are bi-vocational and tri-vocational and so on and so forth. What’s happened now is that – and the other part to this that I’ve discovered also, Darrell – as I’ve interacted with the folks I’m talking with on Friday morning – is, it is fair to say that theological education has typically had disruptions and challenges along the way. We live in that climate, in that atmosphere where there are challenges that are going to come to theological education. The way I view COVID19 is, it’s another – it’s an additional layer of disruption challenges that has fallen upon global theological education.
Darrell Bock
So if you have limited resources on the one hand and you have a seminary that might be operating in a very restricted county on another – both of which you might regard as restrictions in one way or another…you add COVID19 on it which takes away your community and your ability to function in the normal ways that a community would function – that is an incredibly thick layer to put on top of what is already a disruptive situation.
Michael Ortiz
That is exactly right. I mean, if you want to use like the football metaphor – American football metaphor – it’s like, you know, you’re about to cross the goal line but defense is now allowed to have a 20-team; 20 players on the field, not just 11. You know?
Darrell Bock
Oh, that is a frightening image.
Michael Ortiz
Right? So that’s the way I see some of what’s happened with COVID19 at this point in time. And there’s a whole host of issues that I’ve discovered. Anything from seminary leaders talking about counseling. How is it that we can counsel not just our students but our professors. Because professors now are restricted with their own personal incomes. They don’t have the income from the seminary anymore. And they’re isolated. They’re at home. They can’t get out. They can’t interact with folks. And they’re wondering, “What is life going to be like at this point moving forward?” Of course, the finances is also a significant challenge for most of these seminaries around the world. A lot of the seminaries through the work of Overseas Council and Scholar Leaders and other organizations – they have developed strategies to be able to assist with their finances.

So they have developed strategies that will not only have first-stream, second-stream but third or fourth-stream revenue sources. Well, those third and fourth-stream revenue sources – those are gone. They’re just not available at this point in time. An example of that is a conference center or using your facilities to host events. Well, we’re not gathering any longer. And this is truly a global pandemic. That’s something I think our listeners need to really understand. This is – we see it on the news. But, man, when you start to talk to folks from these different continents in different parts of the world, you realize this is the real deal.

Darrell Bock
Yeah. I mean, if you look at the – if you just look at the map of the impact of the virus, I think the second nation most-hit right now is Brazil. The third is Russia. There was a time when we were only talking about Italy and Spain.
Michael Ortiz
Right.
Darrell Bock
You know? India is now also erupting. So, I mean, it’s just…I mean, that’s the hard part of it. And of course, we talk about our warm weather situation here in the hubs…that that might have a positive impact. But now, you’ve got the Southern Hemisphere which is going into their winter and Fall season which makes it exchangeable as you move from season to season, from North to South. I mean, it is a massive problem. Scott, what would you add to the challenges that seminaries are facing? Particularly the – all the seminaries are slightly challenged for resources at a global level. But certain communities are more challenged than others.
Scott Cunningham
Yeah. Yeah. So Michael was talking about the financial challenges. That’s one whole bucket. Okay? So as he was saying, the disruption of the normal revenue streams – I mean, if you don’t have churches that can’t meet together…and unfortunately, in many of these contexts you cannot pay your offering online.
Darrell Bock
Mm-hmm.
Scott Cunningham
And so, the churches don’t have money to support the students for the seminary. So that’s one stream of revenue that’s gone. Students don’t have their jobs anymore, so they can’t pay their tuition. They can’t do local fundraising. And the fundraising that they were doing in the West is also drying up. And so, all the – as Michael was saying, all the different revenue streams that they would normally count on for their business model, if you would use that word, are no longer there or are severely stressed. And that would be across the board.

So a financial disruption is one. The other is the educational disruption. Okay? And this is the disruption caused by the fact that we can’t meet together. It’s happening, of course, all around the world. Schools have been closed and so forth or severely restricted. And so, many schools have already begun using online or remote education. And that has given them a sort of leg-up, an advantage, if they’ve already started that. But there are a number of schools that haven’t begun that yet. And so, they had to quickly shift over to what we call emergency, remote training.

Darrell Bock
Oh, wow. [Laughs] What a phrase.
Scott Cunningham
Yeah. Like, “Next week”-
Darrell Bock
“E.R.T.” [Laughter]
Scott Cunningham
And so, “Oh.” You know, we find out there’s something called Zoom, and everyone’s using an App called WhatsApp – which is not common here in the US, but overseas it’s very common.
Darrell Bock
Absolutely. Yep.
Scott Cunningham
Which does provide things – even if you don’t have internet, if it’s on your Smartphone you can use WhatsApp.
Darrell Bock
But the limitation there, of course, is that most internet usage in the majority world is data use-driven. Which is costly. And so, you know, again. The model is different in different parts of the world. So you sit there and you say, “Well, one of the challenges – our school may be capable of delivering over the internet. But the student may not be capable of receiving that delivery.”
Scott Cunningham
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
And if they are capable of receiving that delivery, it actually becomes more expensive for them to pursue their education because they’re literally buying – what – gigabytes at a time.
Scott Cunningham
Exactly.
Darrell Bock
And so, that becomes a real – I know when I travel internationally, you know, I often get a sim local to that country just to facilitate things. And I’m having to buy as I go. You know? And so, that becomes its own separate challenge. It’s not like here where, you know, you may pay a set rate and you may have unlimited. And so, that doesn’t work generally-speaking overseas.
Scott Cunningham
Yeah. So that whole move-to-remote training, remote education…although it’s assumed here in the West that that becomes a viable alternative – although even here, you know, we have hiccups with faculty who are not sure how to do this. “Do I just record my talking head online?”
Darrell Bock
Yeah. Oh, man. That’s embarrassing. Don’t go there. [Laughs]
Scott Cunningham
So, “What do we do?” But those problems are exacerbated in many majority world contexts where you have limited technological infrastructure where it’s costly, and you have limited familiarity with technological training and learning. And so, all of those make it so it’s really a challenge to shift over to teaching through a technological-mediated means. and that’s part of the reason why Overseas Council exists. It’s part of the reason Michael does what he does with the ICETE network – is to try to help schools take steps in that direction to maintain their mission within this dynamic, changing context.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. Just to mention one other things that’s come up, and then we’re going to have to wrap up. There was a segment I wanted to do on kind of, “Okay. So what does the future look like?” But I think we’re just going to have to dedicate 46 minutes to that question. Plus, give you all a little time to see how that falls out. ‘Cause everyone’s kind of flying blind these days. You mentioned the internet café, which is another thing that most people in the West are perhaps not that familiar with.

Probably the best analogy in the West is to think about how people gather at Starbucks, you know, to use their own personal accounts. But that’s not an internet café. Internet café is a place that has internet capability that you go and you – I take it you pay to use their facility – so again, another expense – and it’s guaranteed to give you whatever internet capability is delivered. But it’s not the same as working in your living room. And you might have to travel to get there, et cetera. So that’s a whole other layer of this alternative way to connect if you can’t gather.

Michael Ortiz
Yep. The other factor as well, Darrell – kind of on the other side of this for a moment – is something where they were trying to think through now with ICETE…and Scott’s thought about something as well is, as we move into this new era of education during this COVID time how do we assess quality? How do we assess what is good pedagogy? How do we assess the students that are really learning materials? And so, there’s a whole level of assessment, a whole other question that is starting to come up in terms of, “How do we measure good-quality theological education in light of these new ways of delivering and new ways of receiving theological education?” So that could be a challenge down the road as well.
Darrell Bock
And not to mention the challenge of just, for lack of a better description, internet bandwidth in certain parts of the world where, you know, we’re used to a certain speed and capability that the internet possesses that may not be a given in certain parts of the world as well; as well as the consistency of the electricity and things like that. I mean, it’s just…and on one sense, I’m like, “Man. This is a lot of detail.” But it’s an important detail because it impacts what’s actually able to be delivered in certain contexts.

And it shows the challenge of what it means to not be able to gather in a singular location where all that is already available and provided. Well, I want to – our time has flown. I want to thank you all for this kind of a dip of the toe in the water of global theological education in terms of the challenges that are involved. I’m sure I’m going to ask you guys back to talk about kind of the other half of the story, which is where we may be headed as a result of all this and the kind of changes that might be coming that people are having to wrestle with on the other side.

But I think this introduction to the way in which theological education has to work with these variety of factors and variety of realities and even the different way in which theological education takes place will help people get a sense of the challenges of what global theological education is involved. And we certainly thank you for your ministry and service to your respective organizations and to what that means to theological training around the world. So thank you, Scott and Michael, for being a part of our discussion today.

Scott Cunningham
Thanks for the opportunity.
Michael Ortiz
Thank you. Thank you, Darrell.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And we thank you for being a part of The Table. We hope you’ll join us again soon. If you have a topic that you would like for us to discuss on The Table, please feel free to contact us at this Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. We’d love to consider it. We’re always looking for new topics and, as you can see, we really intend to cover what’s going on between God and culture globally. And certainly, today has been a serious look at that question. So we thank you for being part of the Table and hope you’ll join us again soon.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Michael A. Ortiz
Associate Professor World Missions and Intercultural Studies, Director of DTS en Español JD, Southern Methodist University, 1988; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2008; PhD, Seminario Teológico Centroamericano (SETECA), 2015. Dr. Ortiz moved to Dallas from Sarasota, Florida with his wife, Kathy, in November 2015, but they are not strangers to Dallas as they lived here while he was getting his ThM from DTS in 2008. They have two children: Michael and Alyssa. He and Kathy have been married for over 30 years and now attend Northwest Bible Church. He is Cuban American with a passion for theological education in the Hispanic Community. He has had extensive ministry in Cuba related to leadership development and contextualization within the Cuban setting. He is also a practicing attorney and enjoys cycling, fishing, and photography.
Scott Cunningham
Scott Cunningham currently serves as the Vice President of International Partnerships with Overseas Council. His experience as a theological educator began as a missionary faculty member in Nigerian seminaries. He also served the Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA), assisting seminaries with accreditation.
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