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The Transformational Power of Education in Community: A Conversation with Elizabeth Conde-Frazier

“The relational is transformational.” This bit of wisdom is one of many shared by Elizabeth Conde-Frazier in a conversation about the purpose and future of theological education. Speaking with a global audience of leaders in lifelong learning for ministry who gathered via Zoom on May 8, 2024, she offered reflections on misión integral (integral or holistic mission) and the collaborative nature of education as a praxis of freedom.

 

Conde-Frazier is former dean of Esperanza College of Eastern University and current coordinator for the Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana (AETH). She was the second of four authors to be featured in a conversation series between ALLLM members and scholars contributing to the Theological Education Between the Times (TEBT) project led by Ted Smith at Candler Theological Seminary at Emory. Her book in this series, Atando Cabos: Latinx Contributions to Theological Education, explores the changing ecology of theological education in a context of globalization.

 

Theological education is in a time of transition, in which “the old and the new intersect.” She writes, “Such a time calls for experimentation.” Her book’s title refers to the Spanish phrase for “gathering loose ends” (atando cabos sueltos). This humble practice honors what came before while creating something new by repurposing and reusing materials available in the community. Among the loose ends she gathers are testimony, community, collaboration, and “the imagination of compassion.” Each of these is a practice of the gathered faithful.

 

Conde-Frazier’s emancipatory model of theological education is radically democratizing. It includes not only rational knowledge but also creative, affective, imaginative, and spiritual types of knowledge—as well as a holistic sense of how these dimensions of knowledge can be integrated. Every Christian is called into ministry; every Christian is a theologian; and every community of faith educates and forms people into discipleship. This perspective is vital in a context of globalism arising from legacies of colonialism and neocolonialism.

 

Her liberative vision of theological education is not limited to professional ministers but includes everyone in the church community, especially children. The ecology of education spans families, churches, seminaries, and the public square—every sphere of life. During conversation, she also challenged us to consider the difference between power and authority—one is positional and the other relational.

 

To tap into the transformational power of education through relationships, seminaries and schools of theology must build partnerships in community. Theological education must be grounded in holistic mission, attentive to both evangelism and social change, proclamation and justice. How might we reimagine lifelong learning for ministry if we understood theological education as a social movement rooted in communities of faith?

The series is a membership event for those who join ALLLM in search of encouragement, practical resources, and companionship in leading “between the spaces and the times.” The next author conversation will take place October 16, 2024, 12noon ET, with Amos Yong, author of Renewing the Church by the Spirit: Theological Education After Pentecost.

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