Public Theology is theology which deliberately seeks the welfare of the city.
Accordingly, public theology often takes ‘the world’s agenda’, or parts of it, as its own agenda, and seeks to offer distinctive and constructive insights from the treasury of faith to help in the building of a decent society, the restraint of evil, the curbing of violence, community – building, and reconciliation in the public arena.
It strives to offer distinctive, good news that transforms earthly society to the kingdom of God. Using a pedagogical process of theory, practice and reflection; we will learn public theology by doing it in the context of the church in community.
(SCUPE S-H 303)
Credit: 3 semester hours
Faculty: Dr. David Frenchak
Course Schedule: Fall Semester *(2014 dates forthcoming)
RSS Religion in Society Studies
This SCUPE course takes place over three consecutive weekends in Chicago in November of each academic year. Students come from seminaries all over the Midwest to take part in this course.
What does a public issue look like when viewed through the lens of theology? To answer that question it is important to realize, when one considers theology as a legitimate way of seeing and analyzing public reality, that theology must be understood as more than a system of beliefs or an organized body of knowledge. Rather, theology must be understood as a discipline to be practiced. Such an understanding enables one to appreciate that s/he is a theologian and by doing theology in context they produce a public product.
Most theological education does an adequate job with the understanding that theology is a system of beliefs and a body of knowledge. Those individuals, however, who choose to wrestle in a meaningful way with an understanding of church and society, are best served not only by learning a belief system but also by positioning and understanding theology as a disciplined practice and by learning the skills and art of doing theology in context. Such learning moves theology out of the realm of a static science to the practice of a dynamic art. When theology is practiced as an art by church leaders it provides the church with the necessary energy to become an agent of reconciliation and transformation in community. The church that practices theology as a way of life is a church that is filled with the spirit of God.
Both, those who are preparing for ministry in an urban world and those who are serving the church in the city do well by their leadership responsibilities by learning the basic skills and components of the art of doing theology. There is no better context for learning and practicing these skills and processes than the city with its concentration of all of life’s diversity and complexity and where public issues are part of every community.
The initial challenge to becoming a contextual theologian is to free oneself from the pervasive idea that theology is all about me, i.e., theology is private and individualistic. For many brought up in the church this it is a major challenge to understand that theology is not an esoteric, optional personal indulgence embedded in the individual’s heart, but instead theology is a vital, practical and deliberative skill by which Christians can make religious sense of concrete life situations and the social, political and economic order in our community.
This course in public issues provides an introduction to the basic skills of the art of public theology and also provides participants with an opportunity to collaboratively practice the art of doing theology that leads to reconciliation and transformation of community life.
Rev. Dr. David J. Frenchak is President Emeritus of the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE). Dr. Frenchak provided innovative leadership in urban theological education at SCUPE for 36 years as the organization’s Founding Director. During this time, SCUPE has expanded its programs and partnerships and grown from the seminary partnerships with its Graduate Theological Urban Studies program to the development of the Nurturing the Call certificate program, the Center for African American Theological Studies Master of Divinity program, the Master of Arts in Social Justice and Community Development degree program, and the Advanced Latino/a Theological Education program leading to a Master of Divinity degree.
Dr. Frenchak has recently completed a research project on the role of seminaries in the community. He also serves on the board of directors of Protestants for the Common Good, a faith-based nonprofit concerned with public policy issues. He brings a wealth of experience in leadership education, pastoral counseling, urban ministry, and asset-based community development as well as knowledge and expertise in the nonprofit and theological education arenas.
Dr. Frenchak has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School and a Master of Divinity degree from Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He pastored Baptist churches in Wisconsin, Iowa and Massachusetts before coming to Chicago to assume leadership of the newly created SCUPE program in 1976.
In addition to publishing articles in several professional journals, Dr. Frenchak has co-edited two books on urban ministry, Metro-Ministry and Signs of the Kingdom in the Secular City. The survivor of a serious automobile accident and significant family trauma, he has shared his testimony on growth through suffering on the Sunday Evening Club program on local Chicago television and has led several workshops on grief and loss for Christian Laity of Chicago.
“The course offers a very practical and effective way of learning. Excellence in the classroom combined with field visits, where seminary students can actually learn about the realities of church in the city is wonderful!”
- S. Sue, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary