To recognize anything as world-changing is a large claim, which is why Dr. Mark Markuly, dean of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, was both honored and a little shocked when he learned that the Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry was named a seminary that is “Changing the World.”
“First of all, in the field of graduate theological education, awards are rarely given, so to get recognition for something is actually pretty unique,” Markuly said. “Within the culture of our academic domain, singling out individuals and praising them can be believed to be diminishing to others, so [receiving an award] is, in some ways, a little anomalous.”
Given to just 26 institutions across the country, the award names Seattle U’s School of Theology and Ministry a “Seminary that is Changing the World.” The award acknowledges “the most innovative seminaries and schools of theology,” and these include several big name schools like the Yale Divinity School and the Princeton Theological Seminary. The schools named by the list have further agreed to work together as members of a consortium working to strengthen and advance theological education in the United States.
All 26 institutions also maintain a series of commitments designed to strengthen and embolden the quality of education for students. These commitments range from allocating noteworthy financial awards to decrease the debt burden for graduates of the programs to offering co-curricular opportunities designed to address social justice issues like homelessness, food security and prison reform.
Markuly was surprised when Seattle U was officially named to the list, given the rarity of the award. Nevertheless, the school’s ecumenical roots, variety of degree programs and commitment to educating the whole person, made The School of Theology and Ministry an obvious candidate.
“The innovative dimensions of the School of Theology and Ministry has always been a kind of radical openness,” Markuly said. “The school began as an intentionally ecumenical school. We actually had partnerships with several Christian and Unitarian denominations to actually try to figure out a curriculum in which we could have common learning across our historic traditions.”
The unique conception of the School of Theology and Ministry through an ecumenical worldview is indicative of Seattle U’s commitment to open, respectful dialogue across belief systems. Throughout its almost 45-year history, the school has sought to craft bold, contemplative leaders with the necessary skills to create change and lead evolving global communities. To meet this end, the school offers a multitude of degrees that aims at holistically addressing issues of our time.
“Our couples and family therapy degree is pretty unique and really interesting because it prepares therapists to be able to talk to the whole person of their clients,” said Director of Marketing and Communications at the School of Theology and Ministry, Hannah Crivello. “In our program, we really try to prepare these future therapists to be able to talk about the client’s own spirituality, and the client’s own religion if the client wants to talk about it.”
Crivello indicated that a focus on the whole person and knowledge of a range of spiritualities and religious beliefs gives graduates the wherewithal to be able to speak to anyone, which is important with the increasingly globalized nature of the modern world.
“What’s amazing about the school is the idea that it is preparing therapists, pastors, non-profit leaders and leaders in general to be able to be really versatile and open,” Crivello said. She added that students are especially ready to react rationally to unique situations and individuals. “They are taught to use the strength that every community member brings to any environment.”
According to the Center for Faith and Service, the consortium’s ultimate goal is to recruit, train and launch a generation of world changing leaders. This fits well with Seattle U’s mission to educate the whole person and empower leaders for a just and humane world.
“The very title, Seminaries that Change the World, is a provocative reminder of what theological education has meant in the past and what its purpose and promise is for the future,” said Director of the Center for Faith and Service, Rev. Wayne Meisel. “The 2015…schools has demonstrated a commitment to invite, welcome, support, train and launch individuals into the world as community leaders.”
Will may be reached at [email protected]