By David Johns
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing the church in our own time is the greatest challenge facing the church at any time: understanding the times and discerning the Spirit in how to respond.
This is not easy work. It requires careful observation and critical thinking. It requires the courage to 'desacralize the status quo,' whether that status quo is in society, nation, cherished denomination, place of employment, or our own heart and assumptions. Until this status quo is desacralized it can not be analyzed, and until analyzed it can not be determined to be just or unjust, that is, whether it is in step with the gospel message of life and hope, or whether it is simply another means for exploitation and idolatry.
A seminary education can help us consider differently what is the sacred, how to see clearly and to evaluate faithfully, and how to know more profoundly the gospel of life.
Here is the difference, however. Some programs of study place emphasis either upon the analysis or upon the action. When we are at our best -and we strive often, I think, to evaluate whether we are so doing - ESR attempts to bring these together, understanding the times, and discerning the Spirit in how to respond. It is easier to give our attention to only one piece of the equation, but that is not in the long run going to form women and men prepared to address creatively the challenge of being the people of God in our time.
David Johns is Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. He has traveled extensively among Friends in Mexico and Central America and is a regular contributor to Quaker Religious Thought. He resides in Richmond, Indiana with his family.