Friday, 28 December 2012

How to Promote Scholarship on a Shoe-string Budget

 One of the most desperate needs of a denomination is a regular influx of young scholarship. The influence of a young educator named L.C. Johnson on Free Will Baptists history illustrates that point. The impact of his articulation of Arminian Baptist theology can hardly be exaggerated. Under his tutelage, two of the most articulate Arminian Baptist theologians arose, F. Leroy Forlines and Robert E. Picirilli, both of whom have become well known theologians in current Calvinist-Arminian discussions. These two theologians are greatly responsible for steering the course of Free Will Baptists over the last 50 years.

One might argue that Forlines and Picirilli are indispensible to Free Will Baptists, but the tyranny of time dictates that a new generation of scholars needs to be raised up to face the challenges of the coming years. Here is a strategy for nurturing young scholars without excessive expenditure of denominational resources.

My proposed Free Will Baptist Young Scholars Program (FWBYSP) at Welch College could be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year. It would follow a year of fund raising in which $3000-5000 would be raised and set aside to fund the project. Late in the school year of 2013-2014, college juniors would apply for membership in YSP, submitting theological essays for consideration. The theology/Bible department would select five of these juniors to participate in the YSP in their senior year, based upon appropriate criteria, including the theological essay. These essays would be submitted to Integrity journal for possible publication.

The key instructive and training element of the YSP would be monthly lunch gatherings, hosted by the college president. These informal gatherings would include a lunch of cold cuts, drinks, etc., organized by a theologically interested college junior. The theology and Bible faculty would meet and interact casually with the YSP participants at the beginning of the luncheon until the speaker presents his lecture. The topic for lectures would be set by the Bible faculty. Speakers would be chosen from the faculty or may involve guest speakers. Guest speakers might be supplied through the many scholarly friends of Welch College. Guest speakers might be given a token remuneration.  

Another key element of the YSP would be the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society of Biblical Literature. Two of the most promising participants of the YSP will be granted $500 toward travel and expenses. Two of the Bible and Theology faculty will also be comparably funded to travel with the two chosen participants.

The final element will be a $1000 scholarship to be awarded to one of the five participants who applies and is accepted for graduate studies in an area of Christian studies. A primary consideration for the scholarship will be a new essay on a topic of the student’s choosing that would be worthy of submission to the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. The recipient of the scholarship award will agree to present a paper either at the annual theological symposium or at one of the YSP’s monthly luncheons in the coming academic year.


Kevin D. Williford said...

The MOFWB State Assn has been trying to develop young FWB scholars for number of years by providing tuition assistance to MO pastors who pursue advanced degrees. I benefited from this program both in my MDiv and PhD studies.

James M. Leonard said...

How insightful!