Truett Seminary Introduces “The Program for the Future Church”

July 20, 2021
Program for the Future Church

Baylor University's Truett Seminary is thrilled to announce the formation of a new initiative, "The Program for the Future Church," under the direction of Angela Gorrell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, and Dustin Benac, ThD, Visiting Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow.

The Program for the Future Church will provide a hub for collaborative development at the intersection of practical theology with engagement among scholars from a wide variety of disciplines—religion, sociology, social work, psychology, entrepreneurship, the arts, and more—tasked with examining and constructively engaging the challenges that confront people of faith, those who lead them, and those who educate ministry leaders. Through contextually centered research, the Program will focus its efforts through four pillars: leadership, youth and emerging adults, pedagogy, and lived experience.

"The pillars of the Program for the Future Church represent some of the most important aspects of meaningful ministry: health, forethought, formation, and attention to the things that keep people awake at night," Gorrell explained. "This program will create opportunities for Truett students to practice responding to pressing challenges and learning from illuminations of church and community leaders as part of their seminary experience. It will also help Truett to highlight the stories of the incredible things God is doing within, through, and beyond local churches and communities, as well as allow the stories, illuminations, questions, and challenges of church and community leaders to contribute to the research agendas and course learning objectives of scholars associated with the program."

Acting as a "visible bridge" between Truett and the Church, the Program for the Future Church will create space and structure for existing efforts and initiatives at the Seminary, working alongside programs like the Truett Church Network to strengthen and support what is already working well. The Program will also seek to create sustainable and consistent feedback systems to help in understanding the needs of the Church, and importantly, the future Church.

"Truett Seminary is uniquely equipped to provide research, resources, and relational structures to support the leaders for the future Church," Benac said. "Amid the systemic changes that confront the Church, Baylor's commitment to be for the Church and attentive to the local context where faith forms provide an ideal environment for the interdisciplinary inquiry that is required. While the challenges remain complex, the Program for the Future Church aims to bend our collective imagination toward hope for a new day."

Gorrell joined the Truett Seminary faculty in fall 2019 after serving as an Associate Research Scholar at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, where she worked on the Theology of Joy and the Good Life Project, and as a lecturer in Divinity and Humanities at Yale University. Her research focuses on theology and contemporary culture, education and formation, meaning-making, joy, new media, and youth and emerging adults. She is the author of always on: practicing faith in a new media landscape and The Gravity of Joy: A Story of Being Lost and Found.

Prior to coming to Truett Seminary in fall 2020, Benac served as a Postdoctoral Associate at Duke Divinity School, working on the Everything Happens Project. Benac is a Wesleyan Practical Theologian with research centering on the intersection of practical theology and organizational theory to understand and explore the organizational ecology that supports communities of faith during times of transition and uncertainty. His co-edited volume, Crisis and Care: Meditations on Faith and Philanthropy, was released July 1, 2021.

"Truett has long been interested in building mutually-supportive relationships with local congregations and their leaders. One thing that makes this initiative especially exciting is a commitment to focus first on listening carefully and watching for evidence of the Spirit already at work, and then responding by offering encouragement and educational opportunities for ministers in all kinds of contexts," said Angela Reed, PhD, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Director of Spiritual Formation, and incoming Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. "Drs. Gorrell and Benac are perfectly positioned with the passion and interdisciplinary skills needed to guide the way."

"Baylor's Truett Seminary is animated by a vision to train thoughtful, faithful ministers for a twenty-first century Church and world. At Truett, we exist not only to equip the next generation of ministers but also to serve and support Christian congregations and organizations as they carry out their gospel work and witness," said Todd D. Still, PhD, DeLancey Dean and Hinson Professor. "The Program for the Future Church, led by bright, bold, energetic, and collaborative co-directors Drs. Angela Williams Gorrell and Dustin D. Benac, will enable our school to look, lean, and lead more fully and effectively into God’s good future for Christ’s Church. This is a signal development in the life of our seminary, and I could not be any happier or more hopeful about it."

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