Supporting Theological Reflection and Conversation that Strengthens the Ministry of the Church
Keeping the Conversation Going
Talk, they say, is cheap. But through my work with the Institute for Reformed Theology, I have begun to understand two very important things: talk, especially the kind that goes on at the IRT, is both priceless and expensive.
The talk at the IRT is priceless. Today, true conversation is rare. Possibly because of the poor examples of it that we see on television. Possibly because the need to "win" in controversy has been deeply ingrained in our culture. Who can tell for sure. But true conversation: conversation where parties sit down to listen intently to one another, and then respond thoughtfully and respectfully is all too rare. Yet, this is exactly what we foster at the IRT. We even have it written into our Mission Statement
Even more important, the talk isn't about just anything: talk, at the IRT, focuses on God, and the way God works in the world. It is our firm conviction that the way to the heart of the issues that face both the church and the world today, is not through endless wrangles that replay well-worn positions. It is, instead, through the church its teachers, leaders and laity seeking the wisdom of the church universal to inform contemporary thinking and action. Certainly, Reformed Theology expects no less of its practitioners.
Ultimately, the IRT seeks to strengthen the church. Talk, if it has no end outside itself, is truly cheap. The IRT has dedicated itself to strengthening the church by giving its leaders and people the time and space to think out what is going on around them, so that they may respond with theological integrity. So often, this opportunity to reflect is missing from the schedule, not only of pastors, but of just about everyone. The priceless gift of the impetus, leisure and support to closely consider issues that face the church and world today is what the IRT offers.
Moreover, this doesn't happen just anywhere. In my experience as a pastor, teacher and denominational executive, I have heard, over and over again, pastors cry out for the opportunity to think and reflect on matters of the faith of the church. Of course, There are Continuing Education events, and occasonal retreats, but the opportunity for a group to meet together repeatedly to deal with an important theological topic is nearly unheard of. The IRT's programming is priceless in this respect, too.
However, and perhaps because, the IRT's type of talk is priceless, it is also expensive. The IRT has always made its programs free of charge for its participants. This has ensured that everyone could come to every meeting, even pastors with small continuing education budgets, and professors facing tight departmental budget constraints. Being able to invite anyone, without regard to cost has been one of the things that has made the IRT as valuable as it has been.
It is no secret that institutions of all kinds are now facing difficult budget decisions. The IRT is in a similar situation. However, it is the commitment of our Board of Governors to see that the IRT's one-of-a-kind program goes forward. Having seen how IRT participants have benefited from the program, and how their service to the church has been strengthened, we feel we can do no other.
So that we may maintain this important ministry to the church, we are busy applying to foundations for grants, and approaching churches' governing boards to give generously to the IRT. This will not, however, be enough. We will need the assistance of individuals like you to make sure that the priceless conversation at the IRT keeps going.
There are many opportunities for support at the IRT. Our Public Lecture program, Colloquy support, giving to support this website and the IRT Bulletin, underwriting our administrative costs, etc. What is important to remember about all of these expensive things is that money given to support them is money given to underwrite and strengthen the work of the church. This crucial distinction makes all the difference: supporting the IRT is supporting the church in an absolutely unique and, yes, priceless way.
I hope that you agree that the opportunity to consider issues facing the church with thought and edifying conversation is worth keeping open. If you would like to know more about supporting the IRT, you may contact me by clicking here to send me a message, I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thank you for your consideration.
The Institute for Reformed Theology is an Associated Program of
Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, Richmond, Virginia
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