History has been made. What impact will be felt is yet to be seen, but this year’s Society for Pentecostal Studies saw the launch of a new endeavor that has been in the works for a couple of years now: the SPS Student Caucus.
I have been working with several other guys to see this come to fruition: Justin Gottuso (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Daniel Levy (Princeton Seminary). We were delighted to add Dan Morrison (McMaster Divinity College) to the mix over the last year. This inaugural Student Caucus was (by all means) a success.
AGTS kindly hosted a meet and greet get-together on Friday night after the last plenary session of the day with many student members (and others) in attendance.
Then Saturday morning we held a breakfast session with Drs. Russell Spittler (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Cecil (Mel) Robeck (Fuller Theological Seminary). They shared the formation and history of the Society and offered great wisdom to the student members.
Here is the story of where it began in Justin’s words:
The 2012 SPS gathering at Regent University was my first academic conference, first SPS event, and my first time presenting an academic paper. I had an incredible experience that was beyond any of my pre-conceived ideas, but I also discovered three important issues that needed to be addressed for Pentecostal and charismatic students and next generation leaders.
My first discovery was how important it is to have a mentor who has been around SPS and academia for a while if you are a student or a first time presenter. Dr. Karkkainen from Fuller Seminary read over my initial paper outlines, gave me pointers on presenting, and introduced me to academic conference etiquette-all of which proved invaluable. His wisdom helped me navigate the anxieties and logistics of my first SPS conference.
My second discovery was the power in collaborative research projects and thinking out loud with other SPS members. After my paper presentation, I had the opportunity to discuss my paper topic with fellow scholars and students at SPS. Their ideas helped me see my topic in new ways and open new opportunities for future research. I realized there is power in thinking together and encouraging one another in our scholarship.
My third discovery was how Pentecostal and charismatic scholarly communities like the Society for Pentecostal Studies can help address current issues impacting the local church and the pastors of tomorrow. One of the plenary sessions discussed the need to find new and creative ways to talk about Jesus and experience the power of the Holy Spirit among the Millennial generation. As a “Millennial,” this struck a cord with me as a seminary student wrestling with what it means to communicate the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit to my own friends, co-workers and strangers.
When SPS 2012 was about to end, I approached Dr. Paul Alexander, the President of SPS and shared my idea of forming a Student Caucus within SPS. I explained what I saw as a need for three things: 1) To facilitate mentoring relationships between seasoned scholars and student SPS members; 2) to promote collaboration research and writing projects; 3) to help form next generation Pentecostal and charismatic scholars and leaders. He was thrilled by the idea and encouraged me to draft a proposal. I drafted a proposal and sent it to two friends I made at SPS, Rick and Daniel. I submitted this proposal to Dr. Lois Olena, SPS Executive Director who made final edits and presented it before the SPS Executive Committee in April, 2013. I was overjoyed and a bit shocked when I received the notice that the proposal was “approved” by the Executive Committee!
And here are the core contributions which drive the Student Caucus:
1) Next Generation Formation: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic (P/c) scholarship by networking and building community among next generation student scholars. The SPS is a network of people who are ecumenical. Thus, it is entirely crucial that work being produced by P/c scholars becomes known, first by people who engage in P/c circles, and those within the broader Christian theological community. This could be promoted by a) establishing networks of relationships across North America and around the world of student/independent scholars through social media, especially through the medium of blogging (perhaps an official consortium of Pentecostal and charismatic blogs can be formed; b) promoting student scholarly societies on college and seminary campuses; c) facilitating community building among students and scholars at SPS by hosting special student and Next Gen social gatherings at yearly meetings; and d) managing a student contact list database and sending out quarterly newsletters/updates from around the country.
2) Research and Collaborative Projects: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by writing quality papers for SPS, generating student specific publishable literature, and working on collaborative projects with established scholars. These student leaders could work toward collecting and disseminating research and writing resources that are particularly gauged towards Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship; and also be encouraged to contribute quality papers at annual SPS gatherings. If a paper is considered worthy of publication, perhaps there could be a place for student contributions in Pneuma.
3) Mentoring Relationships: The student leadership team could promote Pentecostal/charismatic scholarship by helping facilitate mentoring relationships and collaborative inter-generational projects with established scholars. This could be accomplished through a) connecting students with particular research interests with established scholars who are experts in that field and are interested in being a mentor; b) asking established scholars about current issues in Pentecostal/charismatic research and what still needs to be written and researched; c) establishing boundaries and expectations for mentoring relationships; and d) promoting collaborative projects inter-generationally between older and younger scholars as referred to in point #2.
We look forward to the future of the Student Caucus as a valuable part of the development of Pentecostal scholars.