Perry Shaw on the 2nd Edition of Transforming Theological Education

15 March 2022

Perry Shaw, author of Transforming Theological Education, explains the rationale behind the new revised and expanded second edition of the book. He also introduces us to some of the additional content present in this new edition. 

As an author you always hope that your book will do well. With that said I have been pleasantly surprised by the very positive response the first edition of Transforming Theological Education has received. Clearly there is a felt need for a practical educational text for those committed to the task of training men and women for service in God’s great missional work. The number of copies sold far exceeded our expectations, and I have heard diverse stories from across the globe of those who have found the text beneficial. The translation of the text into French and Spanish has further broadened the accessibility of the material.

It is gratifying to hear stories of many schools and programmes that have recommended and used the text as a guidebook in innovation. These are as diverse as the Pars Theological Centre, which is engaged in highly creative approaches to training Iranian leaders, the Increase movement, which promotes TEE in Asia and beyond, the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong, the newly established Flourish Institute of the ECO Presbyterian Church in USA, and others beside.

Clearly there is a felt need for a practical educational text for those committed to the task of training men and women for service in God’s great missional work.

Global theological education is in a state of exciting transition, and new innovations are emerging all the time. In late 2018 I mooted to Luke Lewis the idea of a second edition, and he embraced the suggestion enthusiastically. I wanted to update the existing material, capturing some of the changes in education in general and theological education in particular. I was also keen to incorporate new material, based in part on the numerous reviews of the first edition. Consequently, the second edition is notably expanded, including several new chapters. The overall text is about one-third larger than the first edition. The resulting revised and expanded edition was published in January this year.

I have added as an opening chapter some possible directions for thinking theologically about theological education. The most common issue raised by reviewers of the first edition was built on a comment by Paul Sanders, a former Executive Director of ICETE and global theological educator, who observed that “the problem with much of theological education is that it is neither theological nor educational.” The first edition substantially addressed theological education through educational lenses, but lacked a theological assessment. While a full-orbed “theology of theological education” would probably need a complete text, I hope that the chapter I have given to open the second edition will provide a strong theological foundation for the missional-ecclesial vision for theological education that undergirds the remainder of the book.

Some reviewers have commented on my focus on the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. My desire in the first edition was to show how good theory might be worked out in good practice, and since ABTS was my own laboratory experience, my focus there was inevitable. However, I have also seen a number of other schools and programmes engage in thoroughgoing innovation, and I have sought to give an overview of these in an additional chapter on “Models of Missional Curricula.” This chapter also suggests key characteristics that seem to be common to innovative theological education.

I have also added a brief chapter on promoting change. Due to the vast field of literature on the topic of change management I was reticent about including what would be a relatively limited treatment of the topic. However, my good friend Debbie Kramlich reminded me of how many have benefited from the Gleicher–Dannemiller equation and the notion of single, double, and triple loop thinking. These are the focus of the chapter on change.

The material on teaching methods is vastly expanded. Apart from distinct chapters on case studies and multidimensional question design I have broken the methodology material into two chapters – one on effective use of the more traditional methods of lecture and class discussion, and the second introducing a variety of more innovative approaches.

A number of reviewers also commented on the scattered nature of the chapters on learning. I have consequently restructured the text as a whole into three sections. Part 1 addresses broader philosophical and educational foundations for curricular change. Part 2 presents a number of lenses to help in our understanding of the mystery of learning. Part 3 provides practical tools for transformative learning in the classroom.

Chris Wright, who brings a wealth of experience in theological education and mission, originally commented on Transforming Theological Education: “I strongly commend this book to every seminary – from the senior leadership to the most junior faculty member. Read it and learn. Read it and change!” We have completed this revised and expanded edition in the hope that Chris’ comments will be your experience in the years ahead.