Work, economics initiative at Southern Seminary receives grant

Communications Staff — February 4, 2014

Kenneth Magnuson
Kenneth Magnuson

A new academic initiative at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to foster a theology of work and economics among students and faculty received a major grant from the Kern Family Foundation, seminary officials announced recently.

“We are very pleased to enter into this partnership with the Kern Family Foundation,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary. “This grant will make a real difference in the ministries of our students, who will gain invaluable knowledge and insight from the programs that this grant will make possible. We deeply appreciate this investment in our students and their future ministries.”

Randy Stinson, senior vice president for academic administration and provost, said, “In the next decade the topic of faith, work and economics will be more important than ever. With growing economic complexities it will be incumbent upon every pastor to be able to speak intelligently on this topic in order to teach his congregation how the gospel applies to this important intersection of life. The grant that we have received will go a long way in preparing the ministers of the gospel that we are training on this campus.”

Kenneth Magnuson, director of the initiative and professor of Christian ethics at Southern, expressed appreciation to the Kern Family Foundation for its “generous grant.”

“We are grateful for the Kern family’s commitment to equipping future pastors with an understanding of issues at the intersection of faith, work and economics,” Magnuson said.

The initiative will sponsor conferences, workshops, faculty retreats and discussion groups “aimed at equipping students to understand some basic principles of economics, business and entrepreneurship, the biblical and theological principles that ground and shape a theology of work and how the intersection of faith, work and economics relates to ministry in the church and through the church to the community,” Magnuson explained.

Faculty, students, pastors and denominational and business leaders are projected participants in the initiative’s activities and programs.

The Kern Family Foundation, based in Wisconsin, established the Oikonomia Network in 2009 to support through grants “theological education in the area of work and economics,” according to the foundation’s website. “The Oikonomia Network brings together educators who are doing work supported by the foundation or are exploring whether to partner with the foundation for mutual edification and cooperative effort.”

The initiative is a program of Southern Seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Cultural Engagement in partnership with the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern.

“We believe that where the gospel is received and lived, it transforms every aspect of life,” Magnuson said. “This means not only our personal lives as individuals, but also our work, businesses and even economics. We desire to see our students equipped with a robust biblical understanding of the purpose and meaning of work, economics and human flourishing, as they seek to reach and disciple people who spend a significant percentage of their waking hours in the workplace.”

Additionally, Magnuson said, “We want to see pastors lead their congregations to understand and embrace a strong sense of vocation and God’s calling in all areas of life, in order to serve and minister to others and to promote a gospel saturated vision of life, where the church is active in the transformation of communities.”

Magnuson, who has a background in the business world as well as Christian ministry, noted, “We have an unfortunate tendency to create and reinforce a sacred-secular divide by thinking of pastoral ministry as ‘full time ministry,’ while thinking of the work of our lay people in their business environment not as ministry but as ‘secular’ work.”

Instead, he asserted, “There is a need for pastors and churches to have a well-formed theology of work and economics. Work is a gift of God that is meant to be a blessing and to be integral to the creation mandate to subdue and exercise a godly dominion over the earth. Economic exchange and service to others are meant to be part of human flourishing. Yet because of sin we toil, our work is often futile, and through greed we take advantage of others instead of serving them.”

David Kotter, a New Testament doctor of philosophy student at Southern who has extensive background in business in America and Europe with Ford Motor Company, is the associate director of the initiative. Kotter is also a senior research fellow for the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics in Washington, D.C., and teaches business, entrepreneurship and economics at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Kotter will speak at the first event of the initiative, a Feb. 26 “Faith@Work” lunch talk, “What Every Pastor Needs to Know About Economics,” for doctoral students, faculty and a limited number of master of divinity students.

Topics for future events will include: how Christian virtues should guide work and economics; the purpose, meaning and dignity of work; gospel transformation in businesses, communities and economies; and vocation, calling and stewardship in all of life, Magnuson said.

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