Dalen Jackson has been academic dean and professor of biblical studies at BSK since the seminary opened for classes in 2002. Previously, he held administrative and teaching roles at Truett-McConnell College and Judson College, and he has been a pastor, interim pastor, and youth minister.
How have we shaped our curriculum to meet the needs of contemporary ministry?
Our primary focus has always been on ministry—in churches, in chaplaincy, and in various other contexts, with our scholarship in service of that focus. So when we reshaped our curriculum recently, we tried to center it even more carefully in theologically reflective preparation for actual ministry practice. In every course in the classical areas of theological study, we make connections and encourage reflection on ministry practice; and in every area of practical study, we offer critical theological reflection on those areas of practice. Further, we have several integrative courses that challenge students at various stages to exercise their imaginations as they pull together the knowledge they’ve acquired, developing ministerial identity and vision and cultivating habits, practices, and competencies for ministerial leadership.
How does the diversity of our student body contribute to the educational experience?
We realize that opportunities to diversify our faculty will come slowly, but the present faculty is mindful of the absolute necessity of giving voice to diverse perspectives on the church and on our fields of study, in spite of the fact that much of our own training has been in spaces and discourses dominated by whiteness. Having a diverse student body holds our feet to the fire in that regard. For every assignment we shape, student responses help us to gauge how well we have engaged perspectives that are meaningful beyond the experience of white Christians. In the give and take of classroom discussion, the students teach us and each other out of their own personal experiences and those of their communities of faith. The learning experience for faculty and students alike is exponentially richer for the added diversity of our community.
What is BSK doing to make sure distance education opportunities are high quality?
In the summer of 2020, the faculty met weekly (over Zoom) to explore both technological and pedagogical aspects of our new mode of teaching. We are fortunate to have administrative leadership that is savvy and experienced with digital media, bringing a wealth of insights that translate into increasing confidence from the faculty in our ability to teach well in this strange new world of distance education. We have solicited feedback from students, trawled the discussion posts of our higher education peers, attended webinars, and read old-fashioned print books about teaching in various distance education contexts. We have also been able to leverage our earlier experience with our learning management system and Zoom technology to enlarge our toolbox of teaching resources.
How will the partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia and the establishment of the Institute for Black Church studies impact BSK’s mission?
These initiatives are perhaps emblematic of the communities of faith we find ourselves seeking to strengthen and build bridges between. The CBF Virginia churches share with us a recognition of the need for new models of theological education that fit the present needs of churches, as well as a calling to reflect critically on our heritage and open ourselves to the mission of God that includes racial justice and a more diverse ecclesial vision. The Institute for Black Church Studies will open us up to a world of possibilities for engagement with the Black church and a theological vision that can challenge our truncated theological heritage and help move us toward a more holistic understanding of God’s working among us.