The inaugural meeting of the Global Forum of Theological Educators took place at Familienferienstätte Dorfweil, Germany from May 16-20, 2016 with 86 participants from 37 countries. The three-and-a-half-day agenda included Bible study, worship, and conversations at round tables with individuals from each of the six ecclesial families at each table.
These table conversations were the primary agenda for the meeting. Rather than focus on the presentation of papers, in the usual tradition of academic meetings, participants focused on conversations with each other, intentionally across the usual boundaries, with the goal that all would become better acquainted with one another, share thoughts and experiences related to the education of pastors and Christian leaders, and better understand one another’s work and contexts.
To begin the conversation, brief presentations (20 minutes) were given on six broad topics related to theological education; participants then turned to the others at their tables to pick up the conversation themselves. The six major themes were 1) the unique gifts each ecclesial family brings to the common table, 2) how theological education forms people for ministry, 3) integrity and leadership, 4) what geographical and ecclesial contexts offer to theological education, 5) the role of theological education in God’s mission in the world, and 6) the role of theological education for the future of global Christianity.
In addition to these six sessions, one session brought participants together in geographical groups and another in ecclesial family groups. Each day began with worship (led by a different tradition) and Bible study, again followed by table conversation.
The outcome of the meeting, as described by the participants, was as the planners had hoped: theological educators met and learned from their counterparts from parts of the Christian world they had not met before. As described in the final report of the meeting to the small group of funders, “People talked across boundaries—both ecclesial and geographical—that many participants had not crossed previously. Perhaps more importantly, people listened to commitments of persons from Christian families that they had not heard before.”