Around 500 participants from more than 80 countries participated in a week-long conference on how to best use theology to build up pastoral training and leadership development in the global Church.
The 18th global consultation of the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education was held Nov. 14-18 in Izmir, Turkey. The event brought together representatives from over 220 theological programs and resource providers to explore the theme of “formal and non-formal theological education: beyond dialogue.”
Launched more than four decades ago, the ICETE grew out of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and has since become a global hub for Evangelical theological education.
This year’s conference sought to bridge gaps between approaches to train church leaders that could lead to a mutually beneficial, collaborative relationship, according to ICETE International Director Michael A. Ortiz.
“I believe that the Lord allowed us to launch a theme for the week on Monday night about mutuality, leaving our logos and egos behind, serving one another, and moving from inward postures to outward postures,” Ortiz said.
“Participants embraced the vision to begin to write a future story for theological education: a story marked by collaborative moves from talking to doing across all sectors, with the ultimate aim to strengthen the Church.”
Ortiz said the program addressed issues of quality assurance for non-formal training, use of technology for education, spiritual formation and preparing the future for the next generation, among others.
Participants gathered in six tracks to discuss major themes related to theological education. Following the week’s sessions, each track leader presented their findings in the final session on Friday and outlined the next steps to move forward with practical solutions.
Among groups represented at the conference were WEA-affiliated ministries such as Re-forma, which provides recognized certificates for non-formal training programs; Increase, a network of church-based training organizations; and the recently launched Galilean Movement that seeks to raise 1 million “harvest workers” annually to meet the need of exponentially growing churches in different parts of the world.
WEA Secretary General Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher told the consultation via a video message, “the future of the Church is the future of its leaders.”
“What we invest today into the education, training and maturing of emerging leaders will shape the Church in ten or twenty years from now,” Schirrmacher added. “Therefore, this ICETE consultation represents our own future.”
There was also a time of mourning halfway through the event as ICETE issued a statement on the dissolution of one of its regional accrediting members, the Euro-Asia Accrediting Association (E-AAA), following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We grieve the loss of E-AAA, but also, we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in theological education in Ukraine,” the statement added, pointing out the “tremendous efforts” of the Ukrainian delegation to join the consultation in Izmir.
“We do not merely see Ukrainian followers of Jesus as victims. Rather, we look to them as exemplary leaders of Christian steadfastness during unimaginable times.”
After a celebration of the Lord’s Super, worship and prayer, the consultation came to a close with the hope that the event will be remembered, as Ortiz put it, as a “catalytic event in the history of the Church.”
He added that ICETE hopes church leaders will, years from now, recognize that a “mutuality was birthed that accelerated collaboration in the whole of theological education worldwide."
“Now in 2034, the Church [will be] stronger and on mission for Christ like never before because of that one week in November of 2022 in Izmir.”