McCormick Theological Seminary, and the first Asian American president of a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary. I was able to attend, along with other FTE staff, at the tail end of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

First, a moment of full disclosure: I am an alumna of McCormick. I was part of Frank’s ordination commission. We have worked together when I was in Chicago. Now I know Dr. Yamada as one of many important partners in the work FTE does with leaders in theological education.

This inauguration? It was cool..

"> Letting Loose Leadership | Forum for Theological Exploration

Letting Loose Leadership

By: Laura Mariko Cheifetz
February 20, 2012

Earlier this month, Frank Yamada was inaugurated as tenth president of McCormick Theological Seminary, and the first Asian American president of a Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary. I was able to attend, along with other FTE staff, at the tail end of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

First, a moment of full disclosure: I am an alumna of McCormick. I was part of Frank’s ordination commission. We have worked together when I was in Chicago. Now I know Dr. Yamada as one of many important partners in the work FTE does with leaders in theological education.

This inauguration? It was cool.

It was webcast. Attendees were encouraged to Tweet (#mts2040). The service itself brought to a close a whole 30 hours of service and conversation about the multiple futures of theological education. The inauguration was held at the Apostolic Church of God, and I was able to sit with one of its pastors, a classmate from my first class in seminary.

Frank joined a genealogy of Asian American Presbyterian leaders when our friend (and former colleague) Mary Paik presented him with a worn copy of the BHS during her charge to him. Yes—the Hebrew Bible was given to someone who actually remembers his Hebrew. This Bible was passed from Wesley Woo to Joey Lee to Mary Paik to Lonna Lee to Bruce Reyes-Chow to InHo Kim and WonHo Kim to John Lee to me to Irene Pak and to Joann Lee. Each of us put our name seal in traditional red ink and our signature in the Bible over the years. Mary collected 18 other signatories who are Asian American leaders in the wider church. Now the Bible resides with Frank. Mary concluded her charge with, “So with this Bible, I charge you to lead us in the way of justice and reconciliation, knowing that you are not alone. We are on this journey with you.”

In his inaugural address entitled: “The View from 2040: the Futures of Theological Education,” President Yamada turned traditional church/academic leadership styles on its head. He presented a model of leading that believes the visions for the future will reveal themselves to those who listen to God’s vision, and to those who let a new generation play. President Yamada said: “Set this generation loose on the churches. Set them loose in the classrooms. If I must be more concrete, give them jobs… Set this new generation on theological education and the churches, and I guarantee you that they will transform it.”

This moment was more than cool. This Asian American Christian community of leaders spans generations, from people in their 20s to people in their 70s. This community, which played a role in nurturing my leadership, has modeled intergenerational mentoring and friendship. My elders let me and my peers “play,” as it were. Now, it is my turn to let a new generation play.

FTE has a long history of supporting young leaders, and enabling them to be set loose upon the church and the academy. What communities nurtured you? How are you setting the next generation loose?

Tags...: Thinking Out Loud, Shaping the Future


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