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

Global Vision - Fall 2011

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Alum Profile

Doctor of Ministry graduate applies research to multicultural ministry

by Christine Hallenbeck, M.A. Junior

With the church's missional realities constantly evolving, global church conversations and studies call for a shift in how congregations engage in mission.

The Rev. Dr. James Wilson II, '11, sought a multicultural response to that shift by completing Luther's Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Mission and Leadership program.

He said that he entered the program to "broaden my theological horizon and equip myself amid the growing missional realities facing the twenty-first century church."

Originally from Liberia, Wilson currently serves as the priest-in-charge at St. Philip & St. Thomas Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minn. His congregation recently merged, bringing together two historically African American congregations that had been declining in membership. In this setting, he faced an immediate missional reality in the delicate relationship between African Americans and African immigrants in the new congregation.

"The church, particularly the mainline church, is caught in the midst of a multicultural web; no turning back," Wilson said.

In his D.Min. studies, which closely involved his congregation, Wilson sought to understand how missional, multicultural strategies could move the leadership of a merged congregation toward a multicultural, missional imagination. In a tangible sense, Wilson hoped his research would help reposition the congregation in its life and mission.

To conduct his research, he brought together a group of congregational leaders, facilitated their conversations and encouraged their leadership in the missional opportunities of their congregation and the larger church.

"The group was encouraged to participate by (thinking about their church leadership roles) and the new direction needed for the congregation amid the rapidly changing missional realities facing the twenty-first century church," Wilson said.

Wilson's research brought the leadership group together in four sessions to garner insight into the congregation's ministry.

"(The intervention stage of my research) generated interactive discussion on the topics of Christian radical hospitality, cross-cultural barriers to evangelism, worship, outreach and church growth," he said.

Through his research and conversations, Wilson gained new insight into the church and its current context.

"I have learned with certainty that God's mission is heterogeneous, not homogeneous," he said. "The five years of studies and research have significantly broadened my biblical, theological, missional and ecclesiological horizon."

With graduation behind him, Wilson is already contemplating further research and writing in missiology. In fact, he has even titled his first book, which he hopes to one day publish, "Unlock the Doors: A Missional Imperative for the Twenty-first Century Church."