According to Article 3 of Gordon-Conwell’s Mission Statement, one of our goals is “to train and encourage students, in cooperation with the Church, to become skilled in ministry.” As a seminary, we believe that the theoretical disciplines of Bible and Theology should lead naturally to the practical discipline of ministry. At the same time, we hold true that ministry should rest upon and flow out of sound theoretical knowledge.
For this reason, Article 2 affirms our commitment “to maintain academic excellence in the highest tradition of Christian scholarship in the teaching of the Biblical, historical and theological disciplines.” The Seminary’s commitment to “academic excellence” arises from two motivations. First, Gordon-Conwell recognizes that ours is an age of increased knowledge and professionalism. Students would therefore be ill-served if they were not provided the means to become thoughtful about and proficient in their service for Christ. Second, the Seminary honors Christ through its dedication of mind, heart and energy to him and his Kingdom. This dedication would be incomplete if the mind in all of its capacities were not informed and developed. The Seminary maintains the conviction that an unlearned ministry is detrimental to the Church.
“Academic Excellence” is understood to imply three levels of proficiency. First, it requires the mastery of cognitive content. Second, it aims to produce in students the ability to think critically and cogently within the subject matter of each discipline. Third, it seeks to affect that most fundamental of all integrations between academic learning and life as it is encountered in the contemporary world to which we have been called to minister.
As a graduate school, we expect our students to be proficient in research and writing, which should be afforded them through their undergraduate training. The ability to do proper research, think critically about the subject matter, articulate one’s findings, engage other voices within the field of study, and demonstrate one’s position in a clear and cogent paper is a key component to our educational model.
Though we do not train students in the rudiments of research and writing, we build on these disciplines through research and exegesis papers. Students who pursued specialized undergraduate degrees in fields that did not stress research and writing or students who believe this to be a weakness in their prior training are encouraged to seek out propaedeutic alternatives. This may include reading texts on the subject, securing and working with a tutor, and/or enrolling in a research/writing course(s) at the undergraduate level.
Unfortunately, students with deficiencies in the area of research and writing often produce work that is deemed unacceptable by faculty. In most cases, students betray their own understanding of the material by relying too heavily on the opinions of others, thereby making it impossible for the professor to adequately assess comprehension of the material. The seminary defines such practice as a form of plagiarism. Please refer to the Plagiarism link for further discussion.
At Gordon-Conwell we are as much committed to the process of learning as we are to Biblical/Theological content. Our goal is not to produce theological drones who can mimic the thoughts and words of others, but rather to train thoughtful servants who are confident in their own understanding and practice of the Christian faith and are empowered and equipped to engage the world.