FROM THE PRESIDENT
Announcing new elements
of a growing commitment
On behalf of the MTSO community, I bring you Advent greetings. It is finals week here on campus, a time with its own kind of expectation and waiting. For many, it may well be characterized more by hope than joy. And yet the larger narrative and deeper meanings of this season are not lost on us in this place. New birth is always in the air here, and it is palpable in the calling and the commitments of those preparing to go forth and serve.
I want to take this opportunity to announce the next step in our strategic partnership with Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Together, our two seminaries have appointed Dr. Timothy Eberhart to a joint faculty appointment as Assistant Professor of Theology and Ecology. Dr. Eberhart earned his B.A. in Religion from St. Olaf College and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. His Ph.D. focus was in theological ethics, and his dissertation was titled “Rooted and Grounded in Love: Joining God’s Feast of Holy Communion in the Global Market Economy.” He is an ordained elder in the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church and has served on various boards and committees of the church as well as other community-based organizations.
Dr. Eberhart shares the following: “How we live as members of the creation reveals a great deal about who we believe God to be and what it means to lead a faithful existence. I’m eager to play a role in this collaborative effort to equip leaders with the wisdom of an ecological perspective and the practical knowledge of how to guide communities into the ways that lead to life.”
This new appointment strengthens our work with Garrett, and it also augments already strong MTSO resources around theology and ecology. Our existing ecology specializations in the M.Div. and Master of Arts in Practical Theology degrees are attracting students, and this is an important next step. I encourage you to use this link to access a draft document that helps define the important sustainability and ecology/theology dimensions of our academic program. It also suggests the importance of bringing additional aspects of our campus life and community into alignment with this aspect of our academic mission.
In the most recent Story Magazine, I shared with you the creation of a Campus Steward position overseeing buildings and grounds, a position that has been very ably filled by Kyle Cunningham. Now I am very excited to announce the next phase of our work.
Following considerable study and deliberation, but also as a bit of a leap of faith, we are launching a sustainability and land-use initiative that will deepen our commitment to ecological wholeness and give MTSO a very distinctive role in the larger landscape of theological education. As you may know, issues of food production and justice are very much at the center of contemporary ecological and environmental movements. With that in mind, we are starting farm. Yes, a farm.
This morning we began the construction of two large “hoop houses,” which are similar to greenhouses. In the spring we will till and plant several acres of an area of campus that has provided little more than grass to be mowed for several decades. Dunn Dining Hall is becoming a farm-to-table operation.
The food we harvest will serve those on campus and beyond. We are already building relationships with a number of organizations that will allow us to connect the organic and locally sourced food movement – often a fairly elite endeavor – with our many other ministry, service and social-justice commitments.
While this move reflects trends on college campuses in Ohio and beyond, it is to my knowledge the first such effort for a U.S. theological school.
We are constantly committed to advancing MTSO in ways that honor those who have shaped it while preparing today’s students to serve and lead in the contexts they’ll encounter. I firmly believe our growing focus on sustainability and ecological stewardship fits that commitment. As always, I welcome further discussion with you.
FEB. 10 and 11
Mark Kelly Tyler leads 2014 Schooler Institute on Preaching
Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler will lead the Schooler Institute on Preaching Feb. 10 and 11 on the MTSO campus. Tyler is senior pastor of the historic Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and a fully affiliated faculty member at MTSO, where he teaches homiletics and African-American studies.
Thanks to the generosity of Schooler Family Foundation, the event is offered to the public without cost. MTSO is offering one CEU credit for a $25 administrative processing fee. Advance registration is required.
Tyler holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Dayton, a Master of Divinity degree from Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio, and a B.A. in religion from Clark Atlanta University. In 2008, he was appointed pastor of Mother Bethel, the first congregation founded by Bishop Richard Allen, the founder of the AME Church. Mother Bethel has been a spiritual, social and community force since the late 1700s.
Tyler, who began teaching at MTSO in 2007, recently was interviewed by host Henry Louis Gates Jr. for the PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.
Burnam chronicles denominations’ LGBT debates
For the last 40 years in the United States, controversy has raged over the inclusion in church communities persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Writing on both sides of the issue has proliferated across many denominations. Yet absent from the discussion was a single document that analyzed the writings across denominations and from both sides of the argument. Paul Burnam, MTSO’s Dickhaut Library director, identified the need and was determined to change the academic landscape in this important area of debate.
Sparked by his ongoing interest in the creation of welcoming and inviting congregations for LGBT persons, Burnam began reading material on both sides of the debate from mainline Protestant denominations. While on his search for primary sources, Burnam realized that there was no academic publication that compiled these denominations’ reactions and arguments on the subject of homosexuality and the church. So he created one himself.
The results of his work were published recently in a bibliographic essay titled “Wrestling Long into the Night: Sources on the Mainline Protestant Denominations’ Debate about Homosexuality” in the online journal Theological Librarianship.
In the article, Burnam focused on seven mainline Protestant denominations: the American Baptist Church, Church of Christ-Disciples of Christ, Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. By examining source material published by the leadership within these denominations on both sides of the debate, Burnam was able to outline official documentation on the subject as well as identify the work of prominent clergy and theological education leaders. He’d like to see his article serve not just as an interesting read but as a starting point for people who want to study the issue more deeply.
“I hope that people can use my article to find sources that will lead them to more sources,” Burnam said. “It would be a great compliment to me if people interested in the topic could use it as a starting place for further investigation.”
During his months of reading, Burnam was surprised to find that United Methodist sources produced more books on the subject than any other denomination he was studying. He theorized that this is a result of the structure and breadth of the denomination.
“The United Methodist Church represents people in many parts of the world. LGBTQ inclusion continues to be a struggle because some people in other parts of the world interpret the Bible more literally, while some United Methodists in the United States are ready to move the church forward on the issue.”
As a librarian committed to the free flow of ideas and information, Burnam believed it was important that “Wrestling Long into the Night” be available through open-access online publishing: “It was a no-brainer where I wanted to submit my article. Open-access online publishing is not new but is gaining momentum.”
Open access provides the free, immediate online availability of research articles, this at a time when subscriptions to many academic journals has skyrocketed. Open-access articles also have full reuse rights, allowing scholars to build upon each other’s work without being deterred by copyright concerns. When these benefits are combined with thorough and rigorous peer review – as was the case with Burnam’s Theological Librarianship piece – the result is both scholarly integrity and easy sharing of knowledge.
“I was able to get my work to a wide audience relatively quickly,” Burnam said. “The article speaks to my feelings about how mainline churches address inclusion and gets those sources into the hands of other scholars who might want to look into the issue.”
NEW VOCATIONAL TOOLS
MTSO’s Office of Vocational Discernment and Community Engagement offers a variety of services, events and resources for students, alumni and employers at its new web gateway, www.mtso.edu/discern.
Through this gateway, students and alumni may register with CCN, a full-service vocational website, at no cost. CCN offers online job listings, e-portfolio building, resume posting and an opportunity to connect through MTSO’s new Alumni Mentoring Network.
The vocational discernment page also includes a video introduction by Director Katherine Dickson, appointment scheduling and a full calendar of discernment events.
HIGHLIGHTS OF DEACON MONTH
What it means to be a deacon
MTSO celebrated United Methodist Deacon Month and the vital role of decon ministry in a number of ways this fall. April Casperson, MTSO’s director of enrollment management and scholarship development, preached at the campus chapel service Oct. 29, 2013, about her path to deacon ministry and the unique role of deacons alongside laity and elders in the United Methodist Church. The sermon has recently been featured on the umc.org home page. Read it here.
Lauren Dennis-Bucholz, a Master of Divinity student in the deacon candidacy process, compiled the reflections of 12 active and aspiring deacons into a banner, which has been displayed on campus. View the banner here.
Happy belated Deacon Month to all those who, as Casperson puts it, “connect the people of God, the church and the world with compassion and justice.”
BEYOND THE CLASSROOM
Faculty members provide
leadership at Oxford Institute
Five members of the MTSO faculty traveled to Oxford, England, in August for the 13th Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies. The MTSO delegation included Sarah Heaner Lancaster, Paul Numrich, Fulgence Nyengele, Robin Knowles Wallace and Lisa Withrow. Originally formed in 1958 to bring together Methodist scholars and ministers from Great Britain and America, the institute now hosts professional Wesleyan scholars, scholarly ministers and laity from around the world every five years.
“We’re like a family but divided by oceans and borders. This began as a dream of how Methodists could get together and learn from each other,” said Lancaster, MTSO professor in the Werner Chair of Theology and North American secretary for the 2013 institute.
“It’s a unique week in which scholars interact with learned pastors and laypersons who are serving in churches. The institute pushes all three groups to think beyond what they normally think and to engage in ideas outside their daily disciplines,” Lancaster said.
At the most recent Oxford Institute, Lancaster was instrumental in planning plenary sessions and organizing working groups that focused on this year’s theme, Wesleyan Communities and the World beyond Christianity.
In order to attend as a full member of the Oxford Institute, applicants must submit a proposal for approval by the governing board of the institute. Proposals must be found to be relevant to the topic and contain sufficient scholarship that advances the ministry of the Methodist tradition in the global setting. Four members of the MTSO community were chosen to present at the August 2013 session.
Participating in the Practical Theology Group were Wallace, Nyengele, and Withrow. Wallace’s paper was titled “Universal Redemption and ‘Catholic Love’”; Nyengele presented “African Spirituality and the Wesleyan Spirit: Implications for Spiritual Formation in a Multicultural Church and Pluralistic World”; Withrow presented “Seeking Meaningful Discourse through Disruption of the Center/Margin Dichotomy.” Numrich participated in the Ecumenical and Interreligious Group and presented his paper, “The United Methodist Church’s Struggle with Evangelism in Its Approach to Other Faith Communities.”
Photos of the working groups are available here.
The MTSO delegation was joined by Timothy Eberhart, newly appointed assistant professor of theological ethics and ecology in a joint position with MTSO and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Eberhart presented a paper titled “Sustaining the Planetary Household: Methodist Contributions to an Ecological Economy.”
Eberhart will be filling Lancaster’s role as North American secretary when the institute reconvenes in 2018. Lancaster, meanwhile, will serve as North American co-chair.
Although the next session is still over four years away, Lancaster already is busy securing funding.
“I’m spending a lot of time seeking grants to enable us to do our work. How money is distributed to fund participation by others around the world is a major focus for me,” she said.
“What’s really important at the institute is the relationships that get made,” Lancaster said, “Meeting people from around the world has long-term benefits. People often stay in touch after the session and these relationships grow into fruitful scholarship and work in the church.”
KEEPER OF THE NESTBOXES
A report from MTSO’s Bird Man
More than 36 years ago, Dick Tuttle began installing the bluebird nestboxes that dot the MTSO campus and nearby Perkins Observatory. He has lovingly tended, repaired and monitored these and other nestboxes throughout Delaware County ever since. Here he shares insights about the boxes, the birds and why those poles have all that grease on them.
In 1977, at the age of 32, I installed a trail of 21 bluebird nestboxes on properties occupied by MTSO, Perkins Observatory, Delaware Golf Club, and the “Big Ear” radio observatory. The trail’s purpose was to provide nesting opportunities for struggling eastern bluebirds while creating research opportunities for students attending Ohio Wesleyan and Ohio State universities. The project was named the OWU Bluebird Trail. Today, 26 boxes stand on the MTSO campus, while six remain at OWU’s Perkins Observatory.
The light green boxes are mounted 5 feet above the ground on steel pipes. Lengths of PVC drain pipe hang below most of these avian nurseries to keep pregnant red squirrels from claiming the boxes for their own nests, and to insure that hungry raccoons and black rat snakes cannot ascend to the boxes to devour nestlings.
All pipes have small zones of fresh automobile chassis grease to deter ants and further discourage raccoons. Four species of native birds use these nestboxes to safely raise their families while enhancing the lives of all that experience the MTSO campus.
The OWU trail is one of 11 nestbox projects totaling nearly 400 boxes that I maintain and monitor in Delaware County. My 2013 nesting season started on March 6 when I arrived on campus to clean boxes and add grease. By early May, nine pairs of bluebirds were raising families. Overall, bluebirds on the OWU trail in 2013 raised 85 young from 21 successful nests after 22 attempts with eggs.
Most of the nestboxes are paired to allow peaceful coexistence between bluebirds and tree swallows as they compete for nest sites. Since swallows are aerial feeders, they don’t compete for food with bluebirds, which feed on insects from the ground. Swallows defend against other swallows within 15 yards of their boxes – inadvertently protecting their blue neighbors’ boxes as well. Fifty-five young tree swallows were fledged from 12 nests this year.
Small Carolina chickadees like to glean insects from the campus’s mature trees, and they attempted three nests, eventually raising 10 fledglings. Another small nester, the house wren, raised 11 offspring from two successful nests.
All native birds pay their rent by controlling insect populations. Bluebirds inspire onlookers with their brilliant blue feathers as they drop to the ground to snatch a crawling insect and immediately return to a nest. Chickadees are cute with their matching black crowns and chins, whereas wrens are feisty and sassy.
Perhaps the most valuable nestbox inhabitant is the aerial-feeding tree swallow. Studies have revealed that each adult swallow consumes up to 2,000 flying insects a day, and 99 percent of their prey is shorter than a centimeter. Deer flies and mosquitoes are on the tree swallows’ menu, along with midges and leafhoppers. Inhabitants of the 12 successful swallow nests on and around the MTSO campus consumed more than 3.6 million insects in 2013.
As students and visitors become aware of the campus’s nestboxes and the birds that use them, I hope they will not forget the experience. Once they leave MTSO and return to their communities, neighborhoods and congregations, they might recognize the potential for nestbox trails and seek volunteers to help enhance their world with nestboxes.
Since the first nestboxes were installed in 1977, those nestboxes along the OWU Bluebird Trail have added 1,864 bluebirds, 1,273 tree swallows, 210 Carolina chickadees, 688 house wrens and 33 tufted titmice – a total of 4,068 native birds – to our world. I hope your future includes our feathered neighbors. Help them if you can.
Doing all the good you can
By Stan Ling
Director of Development
A recent story in The Chronicle of Philanthropy focused on a movement that ethicist Peter Singer has dubbed “effective altruism.” The movement received a major boost in March, when Singer introduced the concept to the public in a TED talk that has been viewed 600,000 times.
At the heart of the movement is a keen desire by participants to add significance to their own lives by using their financial resources to make the world a better place. Dr. Singer, a Princeton philosophy professor, advocates living simply so that others may simply live. Since 1972, he has given more than 30 percent of his salary to end malaria and to provide antibiotics to treat trachoma, the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide.
Singer says, “It’s asking that ancient question that Socrates walked around asking: ‘How are we to live?’” One answer, he writes: “We ought to live so as to do the most good with our lives as we can.”
Our mission here at MTSO is to prepare leaders for the church and world so that, together, we do the most good we can. Your investment in theological education prepares our new leaders to provide hope and encouragement, help those in difficulty to discover new pathways, and offer grace to those ready to receive it.
I suspect many of our alumni and friends have been effective altruists before the movement was named. Thank you.
If you’re feeling moved to make effective altruism a bigger part of your life, I invite you to join the movement to provide a better future for humanity through your support of those who are preparing for ministry at MTSO. Here are a number of options for giving. We appreciate your consideration.