In a global moment starkly marked by violence, economic inflation, and political and ethnic divisions, the theme of caring for one’s neighbor seems more important than ever. This Spring’s issue of the InSights Journal presents five articles and a book review that consider this theme from several angles related to theological education and Christian communities.

These pieces develop the theme of neighbor-care in various ways. First, each article to some degree defines theological education itself as care for others. Theological educators show care for their students by equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to serve in their vocations; those students in turn will shepherd others – whether church members, those belonging to other faiths, or those in need in various ways in their communities – by practicing the skills they have learned. Thus, theological educators demonstrate care by challenging their students to gain knowledge and skills. In addition, they must care for their students by helping them grow in passion for Christ and his church and in developing a vision for the redemption of all things.

Shirley S. Ho’s article is perhaps the clearest example of this work of care in the seminary, as it highlights the integration of cognitive science principles into theological education for the benefit of students (and, eventually, those whom students will serve in their ministries). She maps theological educational practices onto the framework of cognitive science in order to encourage her readers – primarily faculty and the executive staff who determine curricula – to enhance the effectiveness of the training they provide.

Helen Yeung’s book review provides an excellent complement to Ho’s analysis as it encourages new practices of community life and devotion out of the experiences of author Maria Liu Wong.

Second, two of the articles develop the topic of interfaith relations as a demonstration of theologically guided care. Sara Afshari and Anwar Berhe offer different perspectives on Muslims and their contexts and on how Christians should best care for these neighbors. Writing from Evangelical Theological College in Addis Ababa, Berhe describes how establishing a new Master’s program has trained Christian students to explore theological similarities and differences with Muslims. This program equips Christians to live and work peacefully among Muslims. In Europe, Afshari offers an example of those theories in practice outside the classroom as she compares Muslim and Christian concepts of God’s oneness, of hope, and of God’s justice. She demonstrates the implications of these similarities and differences between the two faiths’ definitions, especially for individuals navigating the challenges of displacement and for the Christian communities that seek to care for them.

Of course, as Afshari shows most plainly, care for one’s neighbor cannot remain in the realm of theory, so readers may draw practical applications for their own situations from each of the pieces in this issue. Evan Hunter’s article on board leadership, which presents a case study from Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon, offers direct, actionable steps for how a board can cultivate effective leadership within a theological institution. Hunter demonstrates how a seminary board should act as a collaborator with the seminary executive so that boards and executives can lead the institution toward greater vibrancy and wiser stewardship of resources together. From Hunter’s article, board members can glean insights for fostering a culture of trust and establishing patterns of accountability across the institution.

Furthermore, from Berhe’s article, readers may be inspired to reflect more rigorously on how their programs could align with their context. By Ho’s article, they may be challenged to consider how their institution’s pedagogies might push back against less helpful aspects of the cultures in which they work. From Afshari’s consideration of the commonalities between Christian and Muslim theologies, readers may be nudged to think about how seminaries might contribute to the effort of making new believers “members of the family” rather than “permanent guests.” Each of these pieces might inspire not only new practices but also projects for further research – such as study of how cognitive science principles actually play out in classrooms in different cultures, or how autobiographical reflection by one student might influence other students’ ministries.

As well as demonstrating how Christians engaged in theological education can care for others, these articles enact three values that have been essential to the InSights Journal since its inception.

Most obviously, the pieces in this issue offer international perspectives on theological education. Discussions span the globe, from Taiwan to Ethiopia, from Lebanon to North America and Europe. As so often in these pages, this breadth highlights the universality of the opportunities and challenges across theological education.

Always in productive tension with this universality, though, is the importance of specific contextualization. The authors in this issue challenge the institutions of which they are a part – whether as faculty, staff, board members, or alumni – to tailor their programs to address their institutions’ specific geographic, demographic, and cultural contexts. Even Afshari’s article, though not aimed at a seminary, reveals the importance of Western institutions becoming sensitive to the opportunities opened by recent waves of refugees and migrants.

To hold these apparent opposites of globalism and contextualization together, the pieces in this issue reveal the importance of interdisciplinary, collaborative approaches. Cognitive science can be integrated into theological education; psychology can be interwoven with theology; one person’s autoethnography can provide a foundation for others’ devotional practices. Collaboration can unite school executives and boards, international and local leaders, faculty and students, lay practitioners and academics. These creative approaches underscore the importance of collective wisdom and shared vision in theological education.

As those called to mirror Christ in the world, members of theological educational communities must continue to reflect upon and to practice care for others. This issue’s articles will contribute to those efforts as we seek, together, to love those around us well.

Evelyn Reynolds

Evelyn Reynolds directs the ScholarLeaders LeaderStudies program and serves as Editor for the InSights Journal for Global Theological Education. She joined ScholarLeaders in 2019. She has a PhD in medieval English literature and an MFA in poetry, and she and her husband live in Indiana.