Dec 10 2010

Exploring Vocation through Youth Ministry

As a Candler student myself, I did not identify my calling as youth ministry. Indeed, my interests during my time there focus on historical theology, and this is the area of study in which I pursued my doctorate at Emory University later. Yet, I spent several summers of student years working for the Youth Theological Initiative, a program for high school students in justice-seeking theological education. This “summer job” turned out to be one of the most Jibye Talkingimportant experiences I had at Candler—spiritually, professionally and intellectually. At YTI, I had the opportunity to participate in innovative practices of religious education, learning how to engage in theological reflection with young people that enlivened their imaginations and inspired them to move out into the world to transform it. Living in an ecumenical, diverse community of fellow Candler students, Emory University PhD students, and high school students from around the country, and indeed around the world, I developed insights into the dynamics of race, gender and class, honed skills in teaching, pastoral care, worship planning, and conflict transformation, and came to understand myself better as a teacher and minister. Now that I am on faculty at Candler and serve as the director of YTI, I see how the roots of my professional and personal develop began during these experiences as a Candler student.

YTI Mentor and StudentThose who feel called to working with youth, whether in the local church, in a school or in a non-profit context, can explore this vocation at Candler easily. In addition to working with YTI, students can participate in internships in congregations and organizations in the Atlanta area that provide the space to experiment with new ways of engaging young people in transformative ministry. They can take courses in religious education and participate in research projects that draw on the voices and insights of young people directly. They can even pursue a Certificate in Religious Education with a focus in youth ministry.

Those who feel called to other vocations still have much to gain from the unique youth education resources at Candler, however. At YTI, for example, we are experimenting in interfaith dialogue, innovative worship, and new forms of building community that are invaluable for working with adults as well. We are learning new ways of “doing church” that will enliven the work of all congregational leaders, ordained and lay, senior pastors and youth directors, teachers and ministers.

What are you called to do? Come explore with us!

-Dr. Elizabeth Corrie

Dr. Corrie is Assistant Professor of Youth Education and Peacebuilding and Director of the Youth Theological Initiative at Candler.  Her research interests include theories and practices of nonviolent strategies for social change, the religious roots of violence and nonviolence, international peacebuilding initiatives, and character education and moral development with children and youth. She received her MDiv from Candler in 1996 and PhD from Emory University.

Nov 7 2008

What the Torture Debate Reveals about American Christianity

On Wednesday, November 5, 2008, Candler was proud to host a talk and discussion with Dr. David Gushee and Abbas Barzegar (Dr. Gushee left below; Abbas Barzegar right) about torture and American Christianity and how this issue shapes the impression of the United States in the Muslim world. Dr. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. Abbas Barzegar is a PhD candidate in Emory’s Graduate Division of Religion and is teaching Introduction to Islam at Candler this semester. The lunch-time gathering drew about 55 Candler faculty, staff, students and visitors.

Dr. Gushee is an Evangelical Christian, a recognized scholar in the field, a highly visible public figure in the torture debate, as well as President of Evangelicals for Human Rights. Gushee began by stating that the revelation of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was a symbolic, triggering event that brought out Church leaders to speak out against the U.S. government’s use of torture. Gushee went on to say that he, as an Evangelical leader, worked with other Christian leaders on drafting a pan-Christian resolution straightforwardly repudiating the use of torture by the United States. Yet some major Evangelical Christian leaders, such as James Dobson and Charles Colson, refused to join in the call.

Gushee was critical of the moves by the Bush Administration to, among other things, redefine what is and is not torture, to institute “new interrogation protocols” (code for expanding the number of cruel techniques that the U.S. government can use on detainees), and finally to block the release of information regarding the practices that the United States uses to interrogate detainees.

Among Gushee’s recommendations to the leadership of this country regarding torture, I found the two to be most simple and yet most powerful. First, to remind our government that Torture is a Moral Issue. Simple as that. Second, The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) suggests that the United States adopt an position called The “Golden Rule” principle, which states simply: “We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.” As Christians, even in difficult times and in dire straits, we need to stick to our Christian Principles and “do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” (Matthew 7:12 ; Luke 6:31) even regarding interrogation techniques!

Abbas Barzegar gave some wonderful reflections on how the United States’ use of torture has affected the Muslim world and the Middle East. Barzegar stated that the pictures that emerged from Abu Ghraib unfortunately confirmed the fears that many Muslims and Middle Easterners already had about the United States. Namely, that, while speaking about moral leadership in the world and seeming to champion democracy and human rights, the US was acting in deeply and horrifically hypocritical ways. On a hopeful note, though, Barzegar relayed that the Muslim world is willing to believe in the ideals of America and that America can once again be a leader in human rights. The hope is that the torture, deceptions, and cover-ups that have taken place under the Bush Administration will be part of an isolated, though dark, chapter in American history never to be repeated.