Purposeful Life Work & The Church of the Brethren

Brethren Theology of Vocation and Purposeful Life Work

The relationship between the College and the Church is a covenantal relationship, with the College "honoring and giving witness to the tradition, spirit, and values of the Church of the Brethren" (Mutual Expectations Committee, "Statement of Basic Understandings," Elizabethtown College, December 3, 1992, 1).  Our most recent intentional vocational exploration together has taught us that the Church of the Brethren's combination of both Radical Pietist and Anabaptist historical and theological stand yields a unique understanding of vocation, related to themes such as "uniting work and spirit" and the Anabaptist/Calvinist "hope and work."  Such a theology of vocation highlights hospitality to strangers and others, as well as inclusivity, and has implications for interfaith dialogue and action, as well as providing a more nuanced understanding of the College's commitment to global understanding and peacemaking within the context of the College's motto: Educate for Service.


Brethren Philosophy of Education

Our recent Church-College retreat caused us to re-read Chet Williamson's centennial history of the College, Uniting Work and Spirit.  Together, we also have revisited the Brethren Philosophy of Higher Education, including these guiding principles:

  • Modeling the priesthood of all believers, which means that education focuses on the weight of the argument over the status or position of the speaker;
  • Learning in a community of mutual discernment, which includes a prioritizing of pedagogies beyond lectures (which presuppose one unquestioned authority) in favor of colloquium, conversation, and experiential learning which develop the student holistically in talents and skills;
  • Cultivating the virtues of the heart, as much as the knowledge of the head, which creates an institution of a certain character, and long-serving faculty and staff who love and believe in the institution's values;
  • Searching for new understandings through both ancient texts and modern research, with openness to re-interpret even the most ancient truths;
  • Living with truth-telling and integrity, including both celebration and humility;
  • Working hard, doing it right, and commitment to a "good measure," or high quality for the lowest cost;
  • Valuing service and generosity more than profit;
  • Educating for reconciliation, justice, and nonviolent conflict resolution;
  • Being global neighbors acting for the well-being of communities and peoples locally and around the world

(Donald E. Miller, "The Brethren Philosophy of Higher Education," Brethren Life and Thought 49 no. 3-4 (Summer-Fall 2007): 173-187)