Former School of Intercultural Studies deans gather for annual spring panel
Former Dean Paul Pierson speaks
Watch this panel discussion on Vimeo.
On Tuesday, April 10, students, alumni, and other members of the Fuller community gathered in Travis Auditorium for the annual Spring Missiology Panel Discussion, sponsored by the Center for Missiological Research in the School of Intercultural Studies. Focusing on the topic “The End of Missiological Education (As We Know It): The Path Thus Far,” the conversation explored the continually changing landscape of missiological education by assessing the history and legacy of the School of Intercultural Studies, founded at Fuller in 1965 as the School of World Mission.
The distinguished panel included three former School of Intercultural Studies deans: Paul E. Pierson, senior professor of history of mission and Latin American studies; J. Dudley Woodberry, senior professor of Islamic studies; and C. Douglas McConnell, provost and professor of leadership and intercultural studies. Each of the panelists described the changes that took place in the discipline of missiology during their respective times at the helm of the largest academic missions training institution in the world.
Paul Pierson, who served as dean from 1980 to 1992, spoke about the years preceding his term—the early years of missiological education at Fuller. Then, the emphases were church growth and culture, and most of the students were Western missionaries returning from field assignments. Later in his term as dean, Pierson recalled, the tide turned toward urban mission. “As I studied history,” he said, “it appeared to me the most important frontier in mission was the growing cities in the world.” He pointed out that urban mission studies is still a critical issue today.
Next, Dudley Woodberry, dean from 1992 until 1999, described how an urban task force was formed during his term. Further, it was during that time that the School of Intercultural Studies began doing major research and saw world trends toward transformational development and business as mission.
Provost McConnell, who served as dean from 2002 until 2010, discussed the name change the school underwent at the beginning of his term, when the School of World Mission became the School of Intercultural Studies. “My first task as dean was to bring the school into a new place where its name could be a vehicle of access instead of restricting access,” he said, referring to countries that are reluctant to admit Christian workers without a secular occupation and degree.
Also during the past 15 years at Fuller, the dividing lines between the three schools began to blur as integration became an important focus. “The era I began in is the era we are still in,” said McConnell. “Missiology must include reflections from everywhere.” Additonally, during his term the Center for Missiological Research was established, and a greater concentration was placed on children at risk, the poor, technological influence, and engaging with other religions.
After discussion among the panelists, the floor was opened for questions. Much of the conversation focused on the tension between staying relevant to the changing times and holding onto the school’s core values for missiology and fulfilling the Great Commission. When asked where Fuller’s missiological focus will be in the next 10 to 20 years, McConnell responded that there must be an increasing understanding of the church in the world and the church’s role speaking to injustice.
“We must keep the vision of radical discipleship that has kept the church going,” he said. “Things may look different now, but it’s still the same Jesus.”