ICETE & Michael A. Ortiz
Theological Education more Globally Connected
At present, there are nearly 50,000 training programs for church leadership worldwide. Some are formal, while many are less structured. Some are complicated and at times bureaucratically stalled, while others are nimble and ready to shift on a dime. Some are accredited, some are not and desire to be, and some are not and do not care to be. Some are in-person, some are distance models and highly flexible including online formats. Some are local, perhaps regional programs in a single language, while some are global and even extending across various cultures and languages. The array of programs, objectives, modalities, and scopes have expanded beyond our capacity to quantify all of them.
But, imagine how all the varied programs would benefit from being more globally connected, learning from one another, exploring ways to collaborate, and together expanding the global capacity to serve church training needs. ICETE, the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education seeks to move the needle towards that vision.
ICETE – A Brief History & Mission
ICETE has been around for more than 40 years as a network of nearly 1,000 Bible colleges and seminaries from every region of the world. ICETE has mostly existed to advance quality and collaboration in theological education not only through its member schools, but also through aligned partners and associates also globally involved in training. Although ICETE has historically been viewed as primarily serving the more formal sectors of theological education, an interesting development of late has begun to broaden its constituency.
Although ICETE continues to serve formal theological education, the scope of ICETE’s global hub has expanded. There is a growing worldwide awareness that the task to develop church leaders is so monumental that there is no way any one program or sector of theological education can fulfill the needs alone. Nonformal training ministries are connecting with ICETE like never before, organically fostering greater collegiality across the theological education spectrum.
ICETE – Evidence of Hope
Through its history, one of ICETE’s greatest contributions has been its capacity to convene theological education leaders through its 17 global conferences in 40 plus years. In Turkey, ICETE held its 18th gathering of this kind known as ICETE C-22 (Consultation 2022) in November of 2022. At ICETE C-22, 291 training ministries from 80 countries were present. Many sensed the excitement of living out the C-22 theme: Formal and Non-Formal Theological Education: Beyond Dialogue. This brief recap video from ICETE C-22 illustrates the sentiment of those who attended. During the opening, our Executive Director led the gathering to voice the following prayer: “Lord, may ICETE C-22 not be measured by our numbers, but by our mutuality in one common aim – to strengthen Christ’s Church.”
Particularly as a result of ICETE C-22, ICETE has embraced a more holistic view of theological education which is more in tune with the times and has already engendered greater unity between all forms of church leadership training.
ICETE – Emphasis on Collaboration
ICETE’s vision is a lofty one. In essence, we are passionate about how training around the world, carried out with quality and in collaboration, might more effectively serve the needs of churches everywhere. Through collaborative opportunities, our impact begins with theological education trainers and extends exponentially to training programs across all sectors, students, church leaders, and the broader community for the sake of the church. The collaborative focus of our mission connects essential resources and global training leaders to the needs of the Church. Through these relationships, ICETE serves as a mechanism to eliminate duplication and integrate relationships in global theological training.
An example of this can be seen in how ICETE is leading the way globally towards advancing micro-credentials. Following ICETE C-22 in Turkey, ICETE was asked to design standards and guidelines so that all training programs worldwide would have a way to credential their courses. ICETE has been working on this in collaboration with key leaders from each region on the world. Not only has the micro-credentials project modeled global collaboration, but the end product will lead to increased communication, community building, and potential ways to collaborate across diverse forms of church leadership training.
ICETE – More to Come
As we look ahead, ICETE is planning to further promote global collaboration in theological education through its next gathering. ICETE C-25 will take place March 3-7, 2025. The theme will be Next for Theological Education. The in-person event will be preceded by a year-long process of online forums, virtual meetings, webinars, and communication platforms to foster dialogue and exchanges of ideas worldwide about areas of church leadership training that need to be elevated. Some of these topics will include women in theological education, next generation leaders, orality, peace and reconciliation, ethnodoxology, and others as well.
May the prayer noted earlier continue to be our ongoing prayer. May mutuality increase and a renewed collegiality expand among the whole of theological education for the sake of Christ’s Church.