This past month 22 students graduated with a masters degree in Global Urban Leadership and one with a doctorate through CTM’s partnership with Bakke Graduate University.
This celebration was the fruit of much labor and much love. Each student read nearly 15,000 pages, written more than 300 pages and completed at least 10 projects in which they translated principles into practice. These students underwent a demanding process of learning how to do theology from below – learning how to read Scripture with and for the communities they serve. This was no ivory tower experience. This was theology done in the context in which the leader’s serve. All of their classes were held in informal settlements like Kibera and Mathare.
As graduates they join a very exclusive club. Less than 1% of the world’s population holds a masters degree and a fraction of 1% holds a doctorate. A very rare and seductive kind of power was conferred upon them along with their degrees and they will be called to steward it on behalf of those they serve. They will be tempted, as all people with power are tempted, to use their gift for their own ends, thereby excluding others.
Stewarding power and using one’s voice on behalf of the voiceless is not without its risks. That is why Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, said that if we want to teach and preach a subversive Gospel, “The key is not to be detected too soon.” Why? Because theology from below is often experienced as a threat by those from above. This should not surprise us. Even Jesus’ first sermon ended badly. The crowd became enraged and filled with vengeance when Jesus began to teach about the expansive movement of grace throughout history that made room for the excluded (See Luke 4:16-30).
One incident that occurred at graduation illustrates in a small way how power has been stewarded and how these graduates will continue to steward power for those considered least in the world.