CHRISTIAN HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE GLOBAL CONTEXT
IAPCHE’s seventh international conference provided many surprises for the 145 delegates from 34 countries. The process of arrival itself found most of us moving through structures of glass and steel to Granada, Nicaragua, a sleepy Spanish colonial town of wood and terra cotta. We moved from our own church affiliations into a time of work and worship with brothers and sisters from a great variety of church affiliations spanning the historic divisions of the faith. Many traveled from economic powerhouses and rapidly industrializing societies to one of the poorest nations in the Western hemisphere. What could we expect from such a conference in such a setting and with such a variety of people?
The specific venue and, for many, a new association raised further questions. The venue was named after St. Francis, the 13th century reformer who insisted on charity, poverty, and delight in God’s creation. The open architecture and the classic arches of the bell tower suggested our communion with the saints across the centuries. We were pleased that Amanda Niewenhuis (Dordt College, USA) emphasized the bell and its tower in our conference logo, reproduced on the cover of this volume. Although for more than 30 years the Association had echoed John Calvin’s insistence on the great scope of creation—extending to every domain of life—many of the delegates had little familiarity with IAPCHE.
Right from the beginning of the conference the staff at UPOLI, the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua, welcomed delegates and provided hospitality beyond all expectations. From airport transfers and meals, to excursions and cultural presentations, Tomas Tellez (Director for International Relations, UPOLI), UPOLI’s Committee for Local Arrangements, and dozens of student ambassadors clearly demonstrated a great level of care for all the delegates. Tellez also provided the critical link between these many hands and the work of Anne Maatman, (IAPCHE Director of Operations) who coordinated the international inputs from the IAPCHE office on the campus of Dordt College. Such actions, demonstrating a spirit of community, began to answer in deed the questions many had already formulated.
Underlining our commitment to working together with scholars from around the world, we conducted the conference in both Spanish and English. This meant that many members translated abstracts, manuscripts, brochures, biographies, and the conference schedule. We are especially grateful to the following persons for their translation work: Corinne Hentges, Socorro Woodbury, and their students (Dordt College, USA); Darrel Hilbrands and students (ILMES, Mexico); Diana Gonzales and students (Northwestern College, USA); Tomas Tellez and the UPOLI staff; Sid Rooy (IAPCHE Latin American regional advisor); Lindy Scott (Wheaton College, USA); Tom Soerens (UNELA, Costa Rica); and Rob Suwyn (Unity Christian High School, USA). We carried this commitment into the conference itself with simultaneous translation during all of the plenary and track sessions.
Rector Emerson Sandoval (UPOLI, Nicaragua) welcomed the delegates and officially opened the conference; Jerjes Ruiz (UPOLI, Nicaragua) began with a Bible study, “The Temptation of Christ, Temptation of CHE.” Although limited space prevented publication in this volume, we are grateful to Ruiz, Blanca Cortes (Centro Intereclesial de Estudios Teologicos y Sociales, Nicaragua), Alexandre Brasil (Universidade do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Marcelino Bassett (Centro Intereclesial de Estudios Teologicos y Sociales, Nicaragua), and Alicia Winters (Universidad Reformada, Colombia) for Bible studies that reminded us daily of our profound unity in Christ.
Nelly García (Universidad de Costa Rica) began our conference discussions with the keynote theme: Christian Higher Education in Global Context. After that evening’s banquet, John Hulst (IAPCHE Executive Secretary Emeritus) reviewed several Highlights of IAPCHE’s History in order to introduce the Association to the many in attendance who had little knowledge of what we had accomplished during more than 30 years of networking and related activities.
After the conference opening, we moved from our broad theme to three specific tracks. Scholars from all five IAPCHE regions began the discussions:
Track 1: “How does Christian higher education bridge gaps between competing cultures/worldviews.”
Track 2: “What can Christian higher education do to promote educational well-being?”
Track 3: “How does Christian higher education connect kingdom citizenship to specific regional issues and crises?”
Delegates spent the following two days pursuing these three themes more closely in concurrent track discussions.
After several papers and responses in the track discussions, delegates began the fourth day by meeting in regional strategy sessions. In this way delegates who had attended different track sessions could weigh the relative importance of the track discussions for their own region, be it Africa, Asia/Oceania, Europe, Latin America, or North America. These regional reports, presented to the whole conference on the closing day, contributed to a strategy session for IAPCHE’s efforts worldwide.
The conference included two other components—the Research Expo and Institutional Conversations. We were delighted to inaugurate the Research Expo, a forum that provided the opportunity for delegates to give and receive examples of integrally Christian scholarship in specific disciplines and then display in poster form that work for the duration of the conference. Although we would have liked to include many of the more than 50 Research Expo papers in this volume, we have limited the sample to one paper by Elaine Botha (Redeemer University College, Canada). Carl Zylstra (Dordt College, USA) facilitated Institutional Conversations, a roundtable discussion on the ways in which cross-cultural conversations can make institutional leaders more effective in their home culture and institution.
In the closing keynote, Christian Higher Education in Global Context: Where Do We Go from Here?, Joel Carpenter (Calvin College, USA) built on the variety of conference conversations in the tracks, regional sessions, Research Expo, and institutional round table.
Having edited these proceedings I need to address two final items. First, we greatly benefited from the editorial assistance of Helen van Beek (Dordt College, USA) who typed in revisions, formatted, and organized this manuscript—from headers to footnotes. We are also grateful that Jo Faber (Dordt College, USA) donated many hours to assist with copyediting.
Finally, I am struck by the ways in which our conference reflected the context in which we met and demonstrated IAPCHE’s identity and purpose. Like the architecturally unified city of Granada, we all came out of a commitment to the orthodox Christian faith, a faith with deep historic roots. And Granada’s buildings also came in a vibrant variety of colors: lime green next to orange, across the street from pink. So too the members of IAPCHE come from a colorful variety of church affiliations, geographic and institutional settings. And yet we come together to consider centrally important issues for Christians committed to higher education. I pray that the essays included here, like the buildings in Granada, convey the vibrant and faithful spirit of IAPCHE Congreso Internacional 2006.
IAPCHE Executive Director