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Rev. Jonathan Schmidt, staff to the Forum on Intercultural Leadership and Learning has successfully defended his Doctoral Thesis.

This project documents the development of The Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning and the five-day Engage Difference! program as responses to the need to resource Canadian Christian communities to understand their cultures and contexts, and to develop local theologies, praxes, and pedagogies. The research for this project included interviews with a significant number of FILL program alumni and stakeholders, traces the history of FILL from its founding 100 years ago as The Canadian School of Missions, discusses the Canadian culture and contexts out of which this work is created, describes the Engage Difference! program and the unique approaches to learning developed as it was offered, and makes a number of recommendations to Canadian churches and communities.

Download the thesis here

Living into the Emerging Ecumenical Paradigm: A Process of Conscientization and Discernment Toward Just Intercultural Community for Christianity in the Canadian Context

Abstract:

Canadian Christianity is moving into a new era described by David J Bosch as the emerging ecumenical paradigm, Bernard Lonergan as the possibility of many unique christianities, Karl Rahner as the third great epoch, Walbert Bühlmann as the Third Church, and Lamin Sanneh as a church no longer confined by western European cultural ways of thinking. This new context requires new tools for different ways of being Christian.

This study documents the development of The Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning and the five-day Engage Difference! program as responses to the need to resource Canadian Christian communities to understand their cultures and contexts, and to develop local theologies, praxes, and pedagogies. The Engage Difference! approach draws on an emerging ecumenical consensus about the need for a new embrace of the diversity of the global Church. It provides visions of Just Intercultural community, Beloved Community, and Biblical Shalom as ways to embrace that diversity in Canada.

This thesis describes and explores cultural self-awareness and its role in relationship across cultural and other difference. It names barriers to intercultural ministry for Canadian churches including the Canadian peacemaker myth, the myth of the Ideal British Colony, and Canada’s multiculturalism. Strategies to counter these myths and provide tools for local theologies and praxes include intentional processes of conscientization shaped by the see-discern-act-celebrate hermeneutic circle, Ivan Illich’s epimethean approach and convivial tools, poiesis or ministry as art, and pedagogies from non-western sources.

Using the Appreciative Inquiry “4-D” cycle, of Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny and focus groups of program participants, resource people and facilitators, and institutional stakeholders the research tested the efficacy of those strategies, documented this Canadian ecumenical work as a resource for the wider Church, named the visions of Just Intercultural community that emerged, envisioned next steps for the program, and made recommendations to Canadian churches. This study describes ways the program is helping Canadian Christian communities discern God’s vision for living into the “emerging ecumenical paradigm” and how the program is creating inspired spaces for visions of Just Intercultural community.