In response to the rapidly changing nature of global Christianity, a hiring blitz and the evolving role of divinity schools in shaping those who will become clergy in local churches and top scholars in Christian theology, the Divinity School is aiming to shake up its core curriculum for students.
Given the mission that Dean Gregory Jones has set out for the school--namely, understanding a global concept of Christianity rather than a narrower Southern, Methodist framework--a new curriculum makes sense. In such programs as Black Church Studies, the school examines the similarities and differences between churches in North America and Africa and has recommitted resources to a program in South Africa and the Christian response to racial reconciliation. Likewise, the nature of Christianity in Asia, Africa and Europe and what North American Christianity can learn from their differences have become hot topics in Christian theology. Even in the United States, with an influx of Catholic Latinos knowing how Christianity is practiced in Latin America is even more important.
Indeed, as the Divinity School tries to make its mark as a center of research and learning about truly global patterns and reconciliation of Christianity, the curriculum should duly emphasize those interests.
Meanwhile, the profile of the typical Divinity student is changing. Many more students come into the Divinity School with less knowledge of the Bible than the average student 20 years ago. This diversity of experience is a good thing and likely contributes to a dynamic environment at the school, but also necessitates that more attention should be paid to making sure every student has a good knowledge base of both the Old and the New Testaments.
The curriculum review committee, chaired by Divinity professor Richard Hays, seems to have a good idea of the balance it wants to strike with a new curriculum--traditional enough to provide a solid base of scriptural knowledge and avoid trendy fads in the field and broad enough to incorporate the international questions in Christian theology that have become easier to ask with increased global contact and communication as the University as a whole tries to enhance its presence in the world.
At the same time, the Divinity School should take advantage of its current ties to the religion graduate program since Divinity and religion faculty teach religion graduate students. Perhaps a growing corps of non-Christian scholars in religion could bolster more course options or requirements for comparative understanding of other religions or the points of contact and similarity among different religions such as Christianity and Islam.
Appropriately, the curriculum review comes in the wake of a revision in Trinity College and an ongoing review of the Pratt School of Engineering undergraduate and School of Medicine curriculums. All of the projects are welcome signs that the University is committed to a constant renewal and refreshment of the courses and programs it offers students. As the Divinity committee looks at its own offerings, it would do well to consult with leaders of past curriculum revisions across the school to discuss broad issues of learning, classroom technology and the role of learning in the field.