Nairobi is beautiful at this time of year with jacaranda and bougainvillea in bloom and the smell of fresh-cut grass. (Okay, there are other smells in other parts of the city, but at the Kenya Commercial Bank Learning Center in Karen, those are the sites and scents that predominate.)
The theme of the consultation was “Rooted in the Word; Engaged in the World.” It was a stimulating time with speakers of the caliber of Chris Wright, who drafted the Cape Town Commitment that came out of the Lausanne III conference of world Christianity in 2010.
Although the majority of theological educators (and participants at the consultation) are still men, two of the women plenary speakers were among the most profound. Myrto Theocharous, the only evangelical female theologian in Greece, compared our preoccupation with God’s material blessings to the fertility cults of old that used God to bless the land. She reminded us that the role of a prophet is not to give comfortable words, but to challenge us to live the Word of God. Havilah Dharamraj, Academic Dean of the Old Testament department of South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India, gave us practical examples of bringing the context into the classroom and the classroom into the context by using an award-winning Bollywood movie about Indian widows (Water) in a class on the book of Ruth.
These men and women are on the cutting edge of engaging in their communities because of their rootedness in the Word. Nigeria has been torn by Christian/Muslim strife. The seminary at Jos had to decide if they would close their campus and not allow local people to pass through (even though it would mean a walk of as much as three miles for some), or risk a fundamentalist attack. They have chosen to remain open. When Bangkok, Thailand, flooded last spring in one of the worst natural disasters in memory, the seminary was not flooded. They could have continued to function as usual, but instead cancelled classes for forty days and involved students in relief efforts.
At this consultation leadership of ICETE is passing from our friend Paul Sanders to another friend, Riad Kassis, a Syrian/Lebanese scholar who has been responsible for Overseas Council’s work in the Middle East. Riad will also be taking over my husband’s former position with Langham Partners International. Since my husband worked for Overseas Council from 1998 to 2005, we feel especially proud of the co-operative relationship these three organizations have as they seek to support theological scholarship in the majority world.
My part was small—manning the registration table, running errands, directing traffic to afternoon workshops, but I enjoyed being surrounded by these fascinating people committed to impacting students, churches and their communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Won’t it be fun when we get to heaven and can hear everyone’s story in detail?