A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Fall 2010

View more articles in the Fall 2010 issue.

Meet Rev. Orin W. Cummings, Interim Director of the GMI/CCE

Rev. Orin W. Cummings

Orin Cummings, M.A. '03, is currently completing studies in the Luther Seminary Ph.D. program. He came to Luther from Guyana, South America.

Tell us a bit about your faith background.

My faith journey was significantly shaped by both my mother and Lutheran missionaries from the ELCA and its predecessor bodies. Growing up, milestones such as baptism, confirmation and marriage were conducted by missionaries.

Growing up in the Lutheran church affirmed my call to ordained ministry. Since I was ordained, I have passed on the message that Christ is our savior. My faith has been shaped by baptism, other significant childhood events, and my young adult and seminary education. I am driven by a zeal for mission and seek to lift up missionaries for Christ.

What do you see as the current major trends in global mission and the global church?

Global Mission – Glocal is perhaps the way to describe global mission today. Whatever happens in the world affects all. This ranges from technological developments to ecological concerns.

For instance, decisions in the West about sexuality have implications for relationships within the global Christian community. Vast advances in technology, more efficient and effective mass transportation, and distribution of information has made our world much smaller.

Global Church – I see more cultural churches, those where culture rather than doctrine is the greater descriptor of a faith community. I am inclined to see North America, in particular the U.S., as the modern day Palestine of Jesus' time. It functions as the political, economic, cultural and religious crossroads of the world.

How would you compare and contrast the Lutheran church in Guyana to your experience with the Lutheran church in the U.S.A.?

In the past, the relationship between the two churches was that of a "sending and receiving" church. Some amount of "sending and receiving" is still present, but it is not the only or most significant characteristic of the relationship.

Accompaniment has been good for both churches if for no other reason than that of mutuality. One way of viewing this is through the exchange of missionaries. The Guyanese church has not intentionally sent missionaries to the U.S., as the ELCA has historically done and continues to do today. However, Guyanese church leaders who migrate to the U.S. and serve in the ELCA or other Lutheran churches see themselves as missionaries from the South to North America.
How has being a member of the international community at Luther Seminary impacted your view of the global church?

In today's world, education serves as a means for gathering people from far and wide. Luther Seminary is like Jerusalem (the city on a hill) for many international students. We make our pilgrimage here with the intention to better equip ourselves for leadership roles in our individual churches.

We are never sure of what to expect, except that we will benefit from a fine education and that many of our assumptions will be challenged and tested both inside and outside of the classroom. That makes the experience of being in North America an education in and of itself!

On arrival in Minnesota, international students are often very surprised at the number of foreign students at Luther Seminary. The benefit of this experience is far reaching. Immediately I enter into new relationships with Christian sisters and brothers who are and will be church leaders around the world.

For more than a few seasons, we share these sacred grounds as home. We studied, learned from and taught each other in and out of classrooms; nurtured and supported one another around the dining table; faced challenges and distress together; celebrated each other's accomplishments; and reaffirmed our faith whenever the seminary community gathered around word and sacraments.

Luther is a place of hospitality for us, but we are also challenged to be missionaries while at Luther Seminary. This is something that does not come readily to many of us in this setting, but with the encouragement of faculty, we embrace this call.

What has the presence of the GMI on campus meant for you and your family?

For my family, the GMI has been the hospitality center.

Speaking unofficially for all international students, it is the friendliest and most welcoming place for international students. It assists with cultural adjustment issues, acts as a resource center for a number of non-academic needs, provides pastoral care in times of crisis, and gives helpful one-on-one advice.

It is a caring center and one of the most attentive and most approachable offices at Luther Seminary.

Can you speak to the importance of congregational support to the GMI?

Would there be a seminary without the church? We need always to remember that the seminary exists because of the church and the church because of the Word.

Luther Seminary, through the GMI, provides a model of how accompaniment takes a variety of forms—through relationships between the seminary and congregations, the seminary and the ELCA (and other judicatory bodies), and the seminary and theological institutions around the world. The GMI lifts up the seminary's understanding that mission is not what the church does, but what the church is (Bosch).

It is essential to the existence of the local church to educate global church leaders. Support for the GMI creates opportunities for the entire Luther Seminary community to engage with the global church because the GMI serves as a center for global awareness, hospitality and networking. Furthermore, international student visits arranged by the GMI to area congregations nurtures both emerging and long-established congregational engagement in local and global mission.

Historically, the Global Mission Institute and Cross-Cultural Education have had a close relationship, how do you see them working together this year?

It may not be widely known that a partnership already exists between the GMI and CCE. In the past, that partnership was given expression in Mission and Ministry Forums (which continue today) and cooperation in organizing cultural-specific events.

The decision to once again bring the GMI and CCE together is exciting and will be an interesting adventure. Most of GMI's work has a cross-cultural component to it. The GMI is fully supportive of CCE. The GMI is committed to the partnership and will do everything possible to develop a relationship of mutuality for the benefit of cross-cultural education for seminarians. It is a welcome change for GMI to be the face of CCE on campus.

What are your goals/hopes for your time as interim director of the GMI/CCE?

One year is a very short time to implement changes or achieve much, especially knowing that the GMI/CCE is in a transitional phase.

Priority will be given to students' need to fulfill Cross-Cultural Education requirements. We hope to maintain the excellent record of cross-cultural experiences. We do not plan to make drastic changes to what is already established, but want to see these commitments fulfilled to the satisfaction of students, Luther Seminary and its partner institutions.

It is my hope that a benefit of the close relationship between the GMI and CCE will be to promote greater awareness of the glocal nature of the church to the seminary community.

Cross-cultural experiences, the Global Vision newsletter, blogs, Mission & Ministry Forums, and other GMI/CCE sponsored events would showcase on campus the seminary's commitment to glocal mission and emphasize education for mission.

Additionally, we will work to make congregations aware of the way in which the seminary embodies the global church, and that their support of the seminary makes this possible.