The Body of Christ Has Many Members

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Holy bible

Faculty and students in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) program at Conrad Grebel University College have found that conversations between those with different approaches to Christianity are a valuable learning experience. Class discussions about the Bible, Christian theology, ministry, and church history are all enriched due to diverse approaches to Christianity from both students and professors.

Grebel’s MTS program is taught in an interdisciplinary and ecumenical setting with a distinctive Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective. Carol Penner, an MTS professor, describes the program as “a place where you can explore your faith from where you are at, and engage with people from all parts of the body of Christ.”

Erika Mills has co-pastored at Blue Mountain Community Church since she graduated from the MTS program in 2017. She’s also a hospital spiritual care provider. MTS helped Erika in her pursuit of a certificate with the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care. “Some of the most important aspects of providing spiritual care is an understanding of cultural diversity,” she said. “Engagement with sacred texts and local churches shape a person’s worldview and contribute to faith development.” Learning about Mennonites helped her understand the “value of community and importance of justice as mission. My MTS degree introduced me to the process of scriptural interpretation that prioritizes wisdom and ethics as a foundational interdisciplinary approach.”

Major Heather Samuel has been serving with The Salvation Army for 17.5 years. The Salvation Army does not practice baptism or communion and is usually characterized by their use of military ranks and uniforms. However, Heather found that it wasn’t the obvious denominational differences that led to the best discussions. “Differences in sacraments,” she said, “have led to great discussions and much support from my classmates and instructors as they seek to learn about The Salvation Army.”

Denominational diversity taught Heather that “You tend to get tunnel vision when you are always with people of the same denomination and feel that the issues and concerns you may be finding are solely the problems of your denomination.” She continued, “But learning with others gives you much wider perspective, support, and knowledge that it is not just your denomination, and helps give a greater respect to the Church at large.”

Since 2017, Bruno Peitl has pastored at Vine Church Canada, a Brazilian Pentecostal Church. This 2019 graduate also studied law in Brazil before coming to Canada and is now in school to be a lawyer in Canada. Pastoring and law are “two different worlds,” Bruno said, “one that you achieve with your mind, and other with your heart. As lawyers we love concrete things, and as a pastor I love stretching my faith!” MTS helped stretch Bruno’s faith with the “influence of so many Christian backgrounds. I was able to learn more ways to see Christianity and expand my cultural faith background.” He added, “and learning more about the Mennonites was an amazing experience.” 

All of these pastors in different denominations bring different ideas, perspectives, and beliefs to class discussions, making it more interesting and giving everyone a deeper understanding of the broader church. The MTS program at Grebel not only allows students to learn from the professors, but allows students and professors to learn from each other. This reciprocal learning environment fosters a sense of community and understanding between denominations, which serves as a reminder that all denominations are one in the body of Christ.   

Written by Abby Rudy-Froese

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