Scott Cormode Delivers Inaugural Lecture
Lecture marks Dr. Cormode’s promotion to full professor
“Today, we’re celebrating with Scott Cormode one more step along a path of laudable teaching, scholarship, and leadership in the Christian community,” said Fuller President Richard J. Mouw as he offered opening remarks at the inaugural professorial lecture, “The Next Faithful Step: Forming Christian Leaders for the Future,” of Hugh De Pree Professor of Leadership Development Scott Cormode on Tuesday, April 6.
School of Theology Dean Howard Loewen explained that this inaugural lecture represents the affirmation of Cormode—who joined the faculty at Fuller in 2006—as a full professor. Loewen praised Cormode’s many positive attributes, stating that he is “a leader of leadership, a passionate teacher, and a special gift to Fuller Seminary.”
Joking that the purpose of inaugural professorial lectures is to jumpstart research, Cormode said that he planned to use the time to “play a bit of show-and-tell,” focusing on two of the ten questions for theological education that will fuel his research for the next few years.
For Cormode, the defining purpose of theological education is not merely to teach pastors to “do what they do.” But he observes that many MDiv alumni/ae describe their education as if they were being outfitted for a camping trip—as a time of assembling resources needed for the rest of their careers in ministry. This leads to one of Cormode’s main questions: “How can a theological school move from resourcing to formation as its model for education?” He stated, “We want to do something more sophisticated than merely equip future ministers with resources.” Rather, the goal is to teach students to think in new ways and to cultivate new instincts: “We want to help them see the world differently.”
A formation model of education is characterized by an emphasis not just on the transfer of knowledge, but on changing the students’ mental models of ministry—the images they have in their minds of how things should work. Cormode pointed out that when a mental model begins to change, it is often a deeply disconcerting process for students, and usually one of the best and worst moments in their education. However, he pointed out, “That’s when seminary works.”
Additionally, the formation model of education is integrative, connecting factors such as congregations, cultures, theology, and the Scriptures. In his own teaching practices, Cormode often uses case studies matched with video responses from pastors, pertinent theological articles, and other resources to facilitate such integration.
This type of integrative formation educational model is also designed to help students take what Cormode calls “the next faithful step.” Students are taught to move away from formulaic thinking—that focuses on the many steps involved to reach a specific goal—and instead to assess their present situation so as to respond appropriately.
Concluding his lecture, Cormode reminded his audience that we must listen to the experiences and opinions of alumni/ae as we move from a resourcing model to a formation model. “The grads of Fuller will tell us what we need to know so we can be formed and we can be shaped.”
Encouraging his fellow faculty members to take the next faithful step by asking how they can reshape their own educational practices, Cormode also had an idea for the next faithful step for the students in the room: “Don’t make your education about resources—don’t be like a squirrel collecting nuts,” he said. “See each class as an opportunity to see the world differently.”
Prior to his appointment at Fuller, Cormode served for ten years as George Butler Associate Professor of Church Administration and Finance at Claremont School of Theology, and was also associate dean of the seminary. Working to build a scholarly approach to Christian leadership, Cormode founded the Academy of Religious Leadership (ARL), which is now the professional society for professors who teach leadership throughout theological education, and is founding editor of the Journal of Religious Leadership. In addition to his academic work, Cormode is ordained by the Presbyterian Church (USA).