February 25, 2019
When seminaries choose to embrace the creative challenges they have, unique and important opportunities to create communities of learning arise. That posture also empowers schools to think differently about how to walk alongside students in a journey of theological education. While several schools are working to be innovative and imagine new ways of building and operating a seminary, one school we think is breaking new ground is NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community.
If you visit their website, you will see that “NAIITS is one of the three divisions of Indigenous Pathways, a non-sectarian organization dedicated to encouraging the Indigenous community to develop and to articulate Indigenous perspectives on theology and practice.” It currently has five degree program partnerships that lead to either a BA Certificate, MA, or PhD. NAIITS carries out its educational mission to Indigenous communities within the framework of its vision statement: “Our desire is to see men and women journey down the road of a living heart relationship with Jesus in a transformative way—one which does not require the rejection of their Creator-given social and cultural identity.”
NAIITS is a full-fledged seminary working with students in multiple countries, various programs, and several different ministry contexts. However, it employs no full-time faculty, offers every degree in partnership with another organization, and invites learners to experience a different kind of learning from an Indigenous Christian perspective. For these and many other reasons, it seems almost impossible to overstate how valuable it is to have NAIITS engaged in the system of theological education.
Recently, Sioux Falls Seminary and NAIITS announced a partnership through which students could pursue a Master of Arts focused in Intercultural Studies through NAIITS as part of the Kairos Project. This is an exciting partnership for Sioux Falls Seminary because it creates wonderful opportunities for Indigenous students and others and because it shows how seminaries, when they break free from the bonds of a scarcity mentality, can work together in a kingdom-minded partnership.
Too often seminaries choose to compete rather than look for ways to work with each other. Our conversations with the team from NAIITS were anything but contentious and competitive. Instead, they were life-giving and generative. That spirit of collaboration continues to form the foundation of our work together.
Over the next two weeks, we will share the stories of two NAIITS students. Please join us as we learn more about the impact of this important relationship.