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Click HERE for an introductory YouTube video for Why I’m Not Leaving Bethel.
For various reasons people have been asking me about my future at Bethel Seminary. Some have also asked my thoughts on the future of the seminary itself. They may have asked because I’m close with some of the departed. Or, they may have asked because I’ve attended outside functions linked to those that have departed. And so on.
The title of this blog gives my intentions away. So I’ll say a bit about why I’m not leaving.
However, I’m famous for my prefaces, so I should stay true to form and give a few here first.
- I’m speaking only as one particular current student. I have no insight from the perspective of faculty or staff or anyone else other than me.
- I’m not sending any hidden messages about what I think anyone else ought to do or ought to have done in their own situation. I have enough trouble hearing the voice of God in my own life to be claiming any clarity for anyone else’s journey. This blog is about why I’m staying, not about whether or not others should stay or go.
- Finally, I have no scriptures to quote or Jesus parables to reference. I’ve written before on how these kinds of actions often get used inappropriately in an effort to gain the upper hand. After all, if I quote the Bible, who can disagree, right?
- I can’t say everything there is to be said in a blog on the topic. I’m open for further comments or coffee!
So, on to my reasons. First of all, I’m way too close to graduation. However, even if I had much further to go, I doubt that I would leave anyways. My whole ministry is centered on the church resisting the urge to divide and rather, entering into dialogue. This doesn’t mean there is never a time to divide. However, division in the church has happened far too frequently for reasons that are often way too trivial. Bethel Seminary and the people in it are part of the church. So, unless circumstances get much worse off for me as a student, I will stay. The church and seminary are alike in that both are broken. In that brokenness, I have sometimes stayed, and sometimes left. However, my convictions about my need to struggle to stay have grown the last few years. In fact, I’m currently serving in a church denomination where I stand in a different place doctrinally and a seminary that many are describing as falling apart. I am able to accept that. In my view, both the church and the seminary have done damage to Jesus’ beautiful Kingdom that has caused the hearts of people pain, just as I have done things in my own life to cause others pain. However, where there is great pain there is great opportunity. So, my hope is that the Bethel community will enter into dialogue rather than division.
Second of all, I don’t see that Bethel owes me the right to remain in the same position in terms of its vision, goals, strategies, values, etc. I am not ignorant to the fact that seminaries and churches in our country operate in the clutches of capitalism, and there is no way around it. We can say the church is not a business but we fool ourselves if we think we can be a church or seminary in America unaffected by capitalism. So, when the surrounding economy turns, when payroll and other bills can’t be met, when people in power make decisions, when core values are rethought, I have no delusions that I will not be affected. I accept this as an employee at my job and as a student at my school.
They do not owe me a utopian environment nor do they owe me my chosen doctrinal/worldview beliefs. However, they do owe me a community that is working towards fulfilling the Kingdom. They do owe me fairness when I disagree with their doctrine/worldview. So far, I haven’t experienced any inappropriateness from a professor regarding my grade as a result of my views. I’ve never found a church perfectly aligned with my own views on every subject so I doubt I’ll find a seminary in that mold either. Bethel has always been and so far remains for me a place where I am able to decide for myself what I believe. If that were to change, I suspect that I would leave. But that has not happened so far.
What Bethel owes me is a quality education and I have gotten that with no apparent drop off. In fact, I just finished a class that was amongst the finest I’ve had in my years at Bethel. I’m bummed to see some great professors leave, some on their own and some who didn’t leave by choice. Again, I hearken to the business world where I’ve been hired and fired, where I’ve done the hiring and firing, and where I’ve watched those who were hired and fired. It’s always sad when a company’s direction changes and people lose their jobs but that is the reality of life in capitalism. It’s also one of the reasons the world needs the church. One interesting observation I’ve made is that both for me and for people I know who have had to move on from a job not by choice, things seem to end up better for them in the end. But surely, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes things do end up worse as much as we wish they wouldn’t.
I’m sure there may be some who might say I’d change my mind if I knew all the details. True, I’m not an insider. I don’t know all the dirt. But, I don’t care to learn about the dirt on Bethel Seminary any more than I care to know the dirt about you. If by chance I find out something really bad I’m sure I’ll take it into consideration. But for now, I’ve decided to stay at Bethel Seminary. In the midst of the storm.
P.S. For information on participating in our dialogue group, click on the “Become A Participant” tab and tell us if you’d like to join us in person or via the web. We’d love to be in community with you!