Sept. 10, 2013
Dr. Michael DeLashmutt, Academic Dean and VP for Academic Affairs, delivered the address at convocation on Tuesday, September 10, marking the start of Trinity’s 70th academic year.
Dressed in academic regalia and carrying the Trinity cross and Bible, faculty led staff and students across the street on a sunny afternoon to Everett’s Performing Arts Center, where the community convened to celebrate the first week of class and install DeLashmutt as dean.
In addition, two faculty members were bestowed with doctoral hoods: Stephen Marshall-Ward, chair and professor of music, and Norma Aamodt-Nelson, affiliate faculty in music.
New student leaders and resident assistants were also installed, as well as a host of new faculty and staff.
The college opens another academic year, its sixth in its Everett campus, welcoming an incoming class of almost 90 students and boosting total enrollment to over 200 students.
At this, the beginning of Trinity Lutheran College’s 70th academic year, and at the start of my tenure as Trinity’s Academic Dean, I want to pause and reflect upon the goal of our educational enterprise. According to our mission-statement:
Trinity Lutheran College, through biblically-centered education, develops Christian leaders with a global perspective whose lives and ministry serve Jesus Christ in church and society.
What does this mean for us today?
As a College we are first and foremost an educational institution. We are a place where student, staff and faculty through the curriculum and co-curicular activities mutually engage in a community of learning. Learning may take the form of lecturers and seminars, papers and exams, but it may also take shape through dialogue, conversation, play and experimentation. In this community, we are all learning together, innovating together, risking together, and it is together that we celebrate our shared successes and learn from our shared failures.
In this community of learning, we define our education as ‘biblically centered’. Now, many Christian colleges make reference to the Bible or to faith in their founding documents and mission statements. Often such statements function as either a token claim that is made to appease donors or as a line drawn in the sand to let you know who is or isn’t in the group. At Trinity, the bible is neither a vestigial appendage left over from more pious times, nor a badge of membership that excludes those of us with different beliefs; we are all invited to engage in this shared and common conversation. By saying that we are biblically centered, we are describing a form of education that is shaped by the wide possibilities that are opened-up to all of us through an honest encounter with sacred scripture.
In other words, ‘Biblically-centered’ education is not limited, closed off, or dogmatic. In neither a CRUX class on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, nor in a science course on Oceanography would Scripture be used to shut-down the pursuit of truth. Indeed, our approach to the Bible is one that finds within the text a ‘surplus’ of meaning – an inexhaustible encounter with the author and subject of the text that is renewed at every reading. Such an approach to the Bible (and to our other subjects) lends to us a culture of ‘epistemological humility’ – a fancy way of saying that we know that there are things that we don’t know!
Trinity Lutheran College’s Biblically-Centered education has as its goal the development of Christian leaders with a global perspective.
It is required of us all to be disabused of the notion that the world ends at our peer group or city. To live a life of justice and mercy, we must recognize that our neighbor – to whom Christ commands our love – may as easily live in London or Bangledesh as Lake Stevens or Bothell.
At Trinity one of the ways we have worked to create a Global Perspective is by growing to become one of the most ethnically, religiously, and socio-economically diverse private Christian colleges in the country. Among a myriad of other ways, it is firstly through this community and within the classroom itself that we are bringing about a global perspective.
As we become a more diverse college, what does it mean for us to claim that we are developing Christian leaders? If you are a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or have no religious background at all can you still be developed as a Christian leader? I think so. There are a number of ways that we could define Christian leadership (servant leadership, emotional influence, oversight, etc.) but underneath whatever theory of approach to leadership you may want to espouse, I believe that Christian Leadership is demonstrated by a kind of practical wisdom that is lived out courageously for the sake of the other.
Becoming a person of wisdom means being able to develop the skills of a generous interpreter; one who can hold in tension a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. It means becoming the kind of person who explores issues with intellectual and emotional knowledge; who can live with the language of poetry and metaphor as well as science and reason; who is able to allow the stranger or the alien to challenge any tentative conclusions; and who can stay both provisional and at the same time decided. While becoming wise means developing competence in such principles and skills, becoming courageous means being emboldened to translate such principles into transformative action, whether in vocational ministry, professional careers, social work, education, or political life. The aim of the work of Trinity Lutheran College is to provide a context for individuals to put wisdom into action, by engaging deeply, sincerely, and compassionately with the needs of society, and by being willing to sacrifice for the benefit of the other.
In other words, to be a Christian leader is to be the kind of person whose life and ministry serves Christ and society. A Christian leader possesses a fundamental orientation towards their neighbor, a selflessness that compels those around them to join in a mission of service to and for God’s world, and an attentiveness to discerning God’s voice, whether read in sacred text or spoken through the mouths of those around you.
I want to conclude with this thought: Some have said that Christian Colleges are glorified finishing schools. Places where young Christians go to acclimate to a Christian culture, learn to adopt the norms that will help them to get by, maybe prepare them for marriage so that they can leave ready to enter comfortable adult society.
At Trinity, we are not a finishing school. We are a beginnings school. We are not trying to acclimate you to a Christian culture, we are educating you to be leader’s in God’s world. We are not trying to teach you to adopt societal norms, we are opening you up to the wildness of a God. We are preparing you for vocation – a calling – which will shine within you like the light of the world, a city on a hill.