Institute for Faith and Learning Spring 2023 Newsletter
With Gratitude for 17 Years
One of the marks of wisdom is knowing when to do things. Ecclesiastes tells us that for everything under the sun, there is a season.
With a nod to the changing seasons, I have decided that after 17 years at the Institute for Faith and Learning (and 15 years as director), I will step aside, effective December 31. The search for IFL’s fourth director is anticipated in the coming months. For both me and IFL, the time is right.
Being a part of IFL’s work these last many years has been pure joy. I have loved every minute of it: extraordinary conferences about big ideas, retreats and seminars with faculty and staff, mentoring programs for some of Baylor’s best and brightest students, and so many inspiring conversations with others about the mission of church-related higher education.
IFL’s work continues to grow and deepen, both at Baylor and beyond. Its outreach is now across campus and around the world. Along the way, I have had the most incredible colleagues and friends. I’m blessed and grateful beyond measure.
Before then, there is still so much good work to do, including this fall’s Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture (October 25-27). Our theme is timely: Called Together in an Age of Discord. A call for papers is below.
We hope you can join us in October. I will be there, waiting to see all of you!
Call for Proposals for the Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture: Called Together in an Age of Discord
Ours is an age of discord. Social alienation and political tribalism prevail; racial tensions divide. The tone of social discourse is harsh, often mean-spirited. Ideals like reasoned compromise, political civility, genuine community, and pursuit of the common good seem unattainable, too often replaced by a suffocating cynicism that can manifest itself in violence.
Yet people of faith are called together to be instruments of truth, justice, mercy, and reconciliation grounded in charity. How might people of faith remember and realize more fully this sacred calling? What might it mean for people of faith to shape the future—communities, institutions, and the church—in ways that promote hope, not despair, and flourishing, not discord?
The 2023 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture invites contributions from across the disciplines.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
Biblical and theological perspectives on communal calling (vocation)
Leadership in an age of discord
Faithfully navigating the divides (social, racial, generational, and political)
Post-pandemic challenges and opportunities in an age of discord
The common mission of the church and church-related higher education
Opportunities and challenges of technology for social cohesion
How education might shape a culture of the common good
Proposals for individual papers and panel discussions are welcome. Abstracts of no more than 500 words may be submitted by July 25.
You can submit proposals here.
Call 254-710-4805 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Please note: Because of heightened demand for hotel rooms in Waco during October, we encourage you to make your reservations as soon as possible. See our Travel Information page for details.
Crane Scholars Retreat
This year's Crane Scholars Retreat was a tremendous success. The delightful event offered an opportunity for participants to bond, learn, and worship together at Moon River Ranch.
The idyllic setting of Moon River Ranch created the ideal backdrop for Crane Scholars to connect, learn, and engage in meaningful worship with one another.
We were honored to have Dr. Marc Cortez from Wheaton College join us, delivering rich and insightful lectures on the impact of theological anthropology (the image of God) on college students' perspectives on vocation, identity, and performance.
The retreat also featured a variety of team-building activities, breakout sessions, and opportunities for reflection and relaxation. We even enjoyed a group safari! The retreat enabled students to forge lasting friendships and deepen their faith.
Countless students have expressed the value and importance of the retreat, with many describing it as their most cherished experience of the year.
We are honored to conclude the first year of Missio with great success. Our inaugural cohort consisted of twenty-seven faculty members participating in this innovative faculty formation program. The objective of Missio is to bring faculty from various disciplines across the University, encouraging them to contemplate Baylor's distinctive mission and identity, as well as the relationship between faith and learning. Throughout the year, our discussions and readings revolved around the following key themes: (1) faith and teaching, (2) faith and research, (3) faith and diversity, (4) historical exploration of faith-based higher education, and (5) faith and leadership. These topics fostered great insight and discussion, nurturing a deeper understanding of the vital role that faith plays within university life.
In support of their ongoing learning, each member received a book stipend further to explore the relationship between faith and higher education. The program also offered opportunities for colleagues to network and collaborate, which enabled participants to form lasting connections with peers from various departments.
As we celebrate the inaugural year of Missio, we look forward to the various ways it will foster personal and institutional enrichment as we pursue a shared mission.
The Institute for Faith and Learning Supports the Baylor Team at the National Bioethics Bowl
IFL was pleased to help support Baylor's team at the National Bioethics Bowl. The event, hosted in Boston this year, featured three main rounds where 11 pairs of teams from 18 colleges and universities from across the country squared off with one another in discussions of pressing ethical issues facing medical professionals today. Each round gave the two competing teams the chance to answer a question about one of 11 cases distributed by the event organizers in advance and to field questions about their response from the competing team and the judges.
Thanks in part to IFL's support, Baylor was able to bring 14 students to the event who split up into two teams. The teams had done a great deal of empirical research related to the cases, and they used this research to support convincing philosophical arguments. Several judges approached Harrison Lee, a philosophy PhD candidate who accompanied the teams, to commend Baylor's students both on their academic excellence and on their collegiality. One of the judges even said that after judging the event for many years, she had never seen a debate as well-organized and respectful as the one she had just witnessed, where one of Baylor's teams competed against a team from Northeastern University.
Harrison Lee reflected after the event,
The National Bioethics Bowl promotes rigorous thinking about issues shaping the ethical landscape of biomedical research and clinical practice in the modern world. It prepares future medical professionals to navigate those issues responsibly and encourages all who participate to live more fully examined lives. Finally, the bowl helps students learn how to debate controversial topics in a spirit of respectful collaboration. I am grateful to the organizers of the event and proud of our students for their hard work leading to excellent performances, as well as their exemplary collegiality.
Soundings Project Grant Extended to 2025
The Soundings Project has received a two-year grant extension from the Lilly Endowment Inc., allowing Baylor to continue to serve as a hub of innovation for 12 congregations as they reflect deeply and theologically about the nature of vocation. The grant-funded initiative is part of a national initiative, Called to Lives of Meaning & Purpose. Soundings, which received $1.5 million in funding in 2018, has worked throughout the first five years of the project to guide congregations through varying initiatives that all aim to deepen their biblical and theological understanding of calling.
“It’s been a joy to walk alongside these churches as they develop models and approaches to understanding vocation that are specific to their congregation,” Darin Davis, the principal investigator and project director, said. “These churches are faithfully working to follow what their God-given callings are, not only individually, but collectively. There is a growing awareness that the whole notion of calling is so central to their mission and should be a guiding force in the way ahead.”
What We're Reading
We Were a Peculiar People Once: Confessions of an Old-Time Baptist, by David Lyle Jeffrey
A Theology of Creation: Ecology, Art, and Laudato Si', by Thomas S. Hibbs
Living Accountably: Accountability as a Virtue, by C. Stephen Evans
Special note: this book is related to the 2021 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture: Living Accountably.
Petrarch's The Life of Solitude, edited by Scott H. Moore and translated by Jacob Zeitlin