November 28, 2012 - A Nov. 27 forum at Samford University focused on transition and assimilation challenges faced by international students. Sponsored by Samford's Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, the Courageous Conversations event brought together a diverse crowd of American and international students to "Culture Shock: The Life of a Chinese Student in the South."
"This is not a presentation. It's a conversation," said John Knapp, Mann Center director.
A panel of students led the conversation by asking for the audience's reaction to certain questions like, "Are you comfortable talking to someone that has difficulty speaking English?" Over time, the conversation naturally progressed as audience members directed questions to each other, and students stood up to give their replies.
The four student moderators were junior history major Darren Gray, senior graphic arts major Monica Longoria, freshman undeclared major Rebecca Liang and senior accounting major Kirby Xu. Both Liang and Xu are from China.
Angela Ferguson, Samford's director for international initiatives, was also helped with the discussion. She explained the demographics of the international students on Samford's campus.
With 67 graduate students, 51 undergraduates and 77 students enrolled in the English Language Learner Institute, Samford's international students represent 22 countries, and 85 percent of these students come from China.
As the conversation focused around culture shock, one American student posed the question, "What can I do for Chinese students to feel more comfortable around me and my friends? I am so worried that I am going to accidently offend them by doing something wrong."
The Chinese students present gave a variety of answers. One student said it would help if people would just smile and be warmhearted. Another explained her dilemma with American jokes, saying she wished people would simply explain them to her.
"When we are talking, sometimes people start to laugh, and I don't understand. I translate the conversation word-for-word, but I don't find it funny. Instead of saying, 'oh, it's nothing,' it would make me feel more included if someone would just explain it to me," she said.
November 20, 2012 - Students in Samford University's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing participated Nov. 19 in the most recent edition of Better World Theatre as a class project designed to help them better understand ethics in the nursing profession.
The students, all in their first semester of nursing school, produced three short plays highlighting a variety of ethical dilemmas in the nursing profession, including conflicts of interest, interpersonal relationships, and the use of social media. Following each play, the students led the audience in a discussion of the issues.
The project was coordinated by Donald Sandley, chair of Samford's theatre and dance department, and John Knapp, director of the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. The Better World Theatre initiative encourages students to think critically about ethical issues in their field of study by acting out scenarios they are likely to encounter in the professional world.
Actors were Rachel Brown, Midfield, Ala.; Anna Davis, Russellville, Ala.; Julia Ferrell, Jacksonville, Fla.; Martha Kate Goforth, Birmingham; Alex Ludvik, Montevallo, Ala.; Lindsay Plan, Hoover, Ala.; Stedman Poe, Odenville, Ala.; Sonya Ponder, Sylacauga, Ala.; and Mary Kathryn Price, Pleasant Grove, Ala.
Facilitators included Lauren Churey, Boynton Beach, Fla.; Lindsay Corbin, Columbia, Ky.; Helen Degree, Birmingham; Lenni Enslein, Overland Park, Kan.; Noor Hussain, Carrollton, Texas; Jennifer Lackey, Helena, Ala.; Libby McCully, Hoover, Ala.; Wesley Nails, Vinemont, Ala.; Ify Osisioma, Houston, Texas; Chinonso Osuagwu, Houston, Texas; Ashley Staarman, Chester, Ohio; Zach Thomas, Oneonta, Ala.; Janet Washington, Bessemer, Ala.; and Alexandra Younger, Independence, Ore.
November 8, 2012 - Anglican Bishop Laurent Mbanda told a Samford University audience the church is using small business techniques to help people out of the "the circle of poverty" in his African homeland of Rwanda.
"The church is in the business of trying to uplift the conditions of people," said Mbanda, speaking to a gathering of students, Brock School of Business faculty and others. The Nov. 8 program was sponsored by Samford's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.
"Rwanda pushes the idea of entrepreneurship," Mbanda said, and is known as Africa's least corrupt nation. He said the nation wishes to be known as "the Singapore of Africa" because it seeks to export knowledge.
"The church plays an educational development role in the economic progress of the country," Mbanda said.
He described how church members would attend study groups that discussed the Bible and then talked about small business opportunities. These ranged from growing mushrooms for hotels and raising small animals such as pigs for profit to renting building space for small businesses.
"There are so many groups like that," he said. "The church helps people learn how to make money and this helps transform communities," he said.
Mbanda was born in Rwanda but fled with his family at the age of four to neighboring Burundi to escape an ethnic war, and spent much of his youth in a refugee settlement. "My goal growing up was to get out of that refugee camp," he said.
He was eventually able to do so, and made his way to the U.S. for his college education. He earned a master's degree form Denver Seminary and Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Seminary. He returned to Rwanda, "believing God had done wonders in my life," in order to "give back" to his country.
He worked for Compassion International ministry in Africa for 17 years before being consecrated as a bishop in the Anglican Church of Rwanda in 2010.
October 12, 2012 - Religion has been a cornerstone of American politics through history, Christian ethicist Mark Douglas said during a program on "Faith and Politics: Do We Need Religion in the Public Square?" at Samford University Oct. 11.
"Religions and religious faith have always been involved in American politics as both guiding forces and subject matter and they show no sign of disappearing in the foreseeable future," said Douglas, who teaches ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga.
The event was sponsored by Samford's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.
Not only has religion been a "guiding force" in American politics, but according to Douglas, there's been an innate divisive nature between politics and religion since the inception of America.
"Political secularism has been in the U.S. formally, since the Bill of Rights. So politically, there's division [between religion and politics]," Douglas said.
"We started with political secularism, moved our way to cultural secularism and then that manifested itself into more of a civil religion," he added.
Douglas also stressed the idea of faithful engagement in the public square of private issues such as religion, but religious people are struggling to find their voice and to convey their message eloquently.
"There are religious voices all over the place in public, but they are having trouble being coherent," Douglas said.
Douglas spent time in 2006 writing an editorial for an Atlanta weekly The Sunday Paper. While engaging in public discourse about topics ranging from religion, politics, tragedies and contemporary issues, Douglas said he discovered that religious language tends to be tolerated.
"I learned people are more interested in 'attractive' than clear arguments," Douglas said.
Douglas teaches courses in science and religion and directs the master of arts in theological studies program at Columbia. He is author of the book, Believing Aloud: Reflections on Being Religious in the Public Square and founding editor of @this point: Theological reflections on church and culture, the seminary's online journal.
October 11, 2012 - While some students come from middle and high school situations where cheating is common, Samford University is stressing the value of academic integrity in a positive way--through student peers.
Samford's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership has put together a program that appoints a group of students to be Academic Integrity Advocates. Their role is to help develop ways to reach other students, especially incoming freshmen, about the value of good academic behavior.
Is the program working?
"The program is doing a good job of educating students, which reduces the 'I didn't know that was considered cheating' factor," said Lydia Nace, a student who serves as an Academic Integrity Advocate.
She noted that the advocates are working to fulfill a Student Government Senate resolution to write an honor code for Samford. She said the advocates program will continue to take steps toward informing students about academic integrity "and how to respond to the new pressures of academic performance in college."
Nace was part of a group of students leading a Sept. 20 convocation on the topic, "When Winning is Losing: How Not To Get Ahead at Samford." They spoke at a freshmen convocation in Reid Chapel as part of the Mann Center's Courageous Conversations Series.
"The series encourages students to engage in moral discourse on difficult, yet critical issues," said Azalea Hulbert, Mann Center program director.
"Since many students come from schools where cheating is the norm, we feel it is very important to remind them, once they are here, that we have high standards at Samford and that we expect students to do their work honestly and with integrity," said Dr. John Knapp, Mann Center director.
"It is very powerful to hear upperclassmen reminding new students that a Samford degree really means something, and that it is essential to get in the habit of doing honest work."
The Mann Center attempts to remind students of the value of academic integrity in other ways. It continuously develops an online resource center with helpful materials on academic integrity for students and faculty. It also collaborates with the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) and other universities to identify new approaches and best practices in addressing academic integrity.
Knapp and Hulbert will present a program on the topic at the ICAI annual conference in November. And Samford will host the first Southeast Regional Academic Integrity Conference coming up next spring.
October 10, 2012 - Dr. Mark Douglas, a Christian ethics professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga., will lead a program on "Faith and Politics: Do We Need Religion in the Public Square?" Thursday, Oct. 11, at Samford University.
The 6 p.m. program in the Carroll Moot Courtroom of Robinson Hall law building is sponsored by Samford's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. It is open to the public.
Douglas teaches courses in science and religion and directs the master of arts in theological studies program at Columbia. He is founding editor of @this point: Theological reflections on church and culture, the seminary's online journal.
Douglas is author of the book, Believing Aloud: Reflections on Being Religious in the Public Square. He is a graduate of Colorado College and Princeton Theological Seminary with a doctorate in religious ethics from the University of Virginia.
September 25, 2012 - As the countdown to November's national election turns from months to weeks, Samford University's Frances Marlin Mann Center of Ethics and Leadership poses the question: "Can religion have a role in the political world?"
The Mann Center has invited Mark Douglas, a Christian ethicist and author, to speak Oct. 11 on "Faith and Politics: Do we need religion in the public square?" The 6 p.m. free lecture will be in Memory Leake Robinson Hall on the Samford campus.
Douglas is an associate professor of Christian ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Ga., and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is the founding editor of @this point: theological reflection on church and culture, Columbia's online journal. But, it is his most recent book, Believing Aloud: Reflection on Being Religious in the Public Square that makes him someone who can speak from experience.
Azalea Hulbert, program manager for the Mann Center, said Douglas is the perfect choice to lead the discussion. "The Mann Center's mission is to promote ethics and leadership across the campus and in the community. Mark is a great example of that. He is an ethicist and can speak very well to leadership," she added.
The purpose of the event is to create a conversation, Hulbert said. In the past, the Mann Center has hosted similar events in relations with business leaders or legal professions, but this year, they want to shift the focus to theologians.
"We want to promote a conversation about the role of faith in politics," Hulbert says. "Since we're in an election year, it's really important to get the dialogue going about where it fits in."
A 5 p.m. reception will precede the lecture.
September 14, 2012 - Students from Samford University spent the summer on the other side of academia -- and in another hemisphere -- training and teaching South African farmers how to better run their business.
Five students and one faculty member spent three weeks developing coursework for agribusiness for an agribusiness program in Masiphumelele, a township near Capetown. The student group was led by Samford Brock School of Business student Mallory James, who is a senior majoring in social entrepreneurship.
James, who first visited the country her freshman year as a part of for a January term class, said the students teamed with Living Way, a nonprofit Christian ministry that's part of Living Hope. That organization's focus is economic empowerment and it addresses poverty in South Africa, with each of its divisions working on a different solution.
Before this summer, Living Way's program didn't have a set curriculum and was much less structured, she said. "They felt like they were training and now they're hurrying to lay the tracks before it because they're growing really fast and felt like they needed help," James said. "But with the curriculum we feel like we're laying the tracks before the train."
The Samford students spent nine hours a day writing a one-year business curriculum plan to be paired with the program's hydroponic farming, a technique that allows plants to grow without the need for fertile soil. The produce grown by the program participants will be sold at Food Lovers Market, sort of a South African Whole Foods, James said. The grocer already is asking Living Way to grow more products.
"To see people want to learn so bad and have their own business so bad to have more for themselves, their family, and the generations after them is so inspiring," she said.
One of the program participants is 39-year-old Clifford Tavengerwa, who moved to South Africa from his home country of Zimbabwe with the hopes to finding a way to better provide for his wife, two daughters and younger brothers. Back home, he had done some farming and also worked in the tourism industry until it collapsed.
Tavengerwa graduated from an initial Living Way program in December, when and his fellow students submitted project proposals. His plan is to start his own business raising pigs. He and two other students spend three days a week planting cucumbers, tomatoes and beans. The other two days are spent in the classroom learning business concepts in theory and in practice, such as financial management and accounting.
"I am really excited and I'm learning a lot of things," he said in a Skype interview. "I've noticed that since we've been doing the report and running the farm, I've found that it is really important when you do your own business is to do your own record keeping."
What inspired Tavengerwa to start a pig production company was how quickly he could make money. After three months, he'll get a return on his investment by selling the meat. If he keeps them well fed, the business has a low risk, he said. In an area short on food, the need for meat is plentiful, he said, so there's already a market for his product.
South Africa isn't the only foreign country where Samford students spend time applying and gaining knowledge related to small businesses in developing lands.
Samford economics professor Jeremy Thornton brings students once a year to Lima, Peru, to visit grassroots organizations, microlending groups and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Through visits and through working with Peruvian citizens, students learn about policy issues, the economics of growth and how to measure poverty. This helps to add a social objective, something that for years has been an increasing trend in business. It's sometimes referred to as a "triple bottom line" -- a business that cares about profit, people and planet.
"One of the key advantages of having international experience as an undergrad business student is getting a feel for what is idiosyncratic to their own culture and circumstances versus those principles which are universal," Thornton said.
South Africa didn't necessarily become an economic democracy when it became a political democracy 18 years ago, said John Knapp, founding director of Samford's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. The unemployment of black South Africans is around 40 percent and many of the neighborhoods around Capetown are squatter camps. He said Samford is committed to furthering the idea that its students must be "agents of change" through hands-on economic empowerment.
"You have to start by forgetting everything you learn in business school and put yourself in the place of someone who doesn't have that," Knapp said.
Regardless of where or how or why the classes are made or the work gets done, people like Tavengerwa say they've benefited greatly from the students' help.
"I am praying to God nearly daily that God gave me this course so I can apply what I am learning, which is changing my life," Tavengerwa said. "So my prayers are dedicated to my family and the people who are training me so I am able to go home and do what I've learned and make a difference in my community and make a difference in society. Those are the things I'm praying for."
September 4, 2012 - Samford's Academic Integrity Advocates, a team of student leaders, will lead a Sept. 20 convocation for entering freshmen. The program continues the Mann Center's ongoing Courageous Conversations series where students lead their peers in discussing the difficult ethical challenges of daily life.
The September event is one component of the center's campus-wide initiative to promote academic integrity and reduce cheating. The Academic Integrity Advocates will also speak to students in many Freshman Foundations courses. In an effort to promote awareness of the issue at Samford, the center is also conducting research among faculty and students, meeting with faculty groups across disciplines, providing resources to Communication Arts and Foundations instructors, producing video vignettes with discussion guides, and providing online resources via the center's website.
Academic dishonesty, made easier by today's communication technology, is an international epidemic affecting nearly all schools, colleges and universities.
September 4, 2012 - Mann Center programs during this fall's election season will address timely issues in politics. The first will be on Thursday, October 11, as Mark Douglas speaks on "Faith and Politics: Do We Need Religion in the Public Square?"
An Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, Dr. Douglas is author of the new book, Believing Aloud: Reflections on Being Religious in the Public Square, and is founding editor of the seminary's online journal @ this point: theological reflections on church and culture. The program, co-sponsored by Columbia Seminary, will be held at 6 p.m. in the Cumberland School of Law's Moot Courtroom following a 5 p.m. reception in the Robinson Hall Great Room.
More information is available online.
September 4, 2012 - The Mann Center conducted a three-week service practicum in South Africa in July, with a team of Samford students researching and writing curriculum for a micro-enterprise program that serves people in townships in the Western Cape. The project, undertaken in collaboration with Samford's Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement, produced more than 30 detailed lesson plans for courses on starting and managing a small agri-business.
The Mann Center annually works with Living Way, an economic empowerment organization based in Cape Town. The Agri-Academy is a year-long program that teaches people how to farm (through farming greenhouses on Living Way's campus). The practicum is designed to develop students' knowledge and competencies to act as agents of change in addressing social needs.
"I have seen how crucial this has been to my own personal development," said Mallory James, the student team leader and a social entrepreneurship major. "While internships are great and necessary, this experience equips students with so much more. Sometimes I feel like students see a huge disconnect between work and serving God, and the Mann Center's projects have taught me how to bridge that gap."
September 4, 2012 - Students in Samford's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing will learn about ethics this fall by performing and discussing dramatic productions illustrating real-life challenges in professional nursing practice. The group projects will be part of academic courses using the Mann Center's Better World Theater instructional method.
A collaborative venture with the university's Department of Theatre and Dance, the project immerses non-theater majors in all facets of planning, producing and performing short plays. Each performance is designed to set up a student-led discussion of ethics with an audience of peers and faculty.
Reflecting the concluding words of Samford's vision statement - "The world will be better for it" - the initiative develops ethical awareness and competencies in leading peer-to-peer dialog. Last year's productions involved students and audiences in the Brock School of Business.
September 4, 2012 - The Year of Birmingham: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement is a year-long series of programs sponsored by Samford University and the Birmingham Public Library to commemorate the climactic events of 1962-63. The Mann Center will organize a number of these activities in collaboration with other departments at the university. The following are some of the programs now planned:
(Oct. 17, 2012) Taylor Branch, bestselling author of the landmark trilogy America in The King Years, will deliver the annual Roderick J. Davis Lecture.
(Feb. 5, 2013) "Ethnic Notions"; film screening and discussion of racial stereotypes.
(Feb. 19, 2013) "King: Montgomery to Memphis"; film screening and discussion.
(March 5, 2013) "Who Speaks for Birmingham?"; screening of the 1961 CBS News special report by Howard K. Smith, followed by a discussion with U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon, Samford History Professor Tennant McWilliams, and Freedom Rider Jean Thompson.
(May 1, 2013) "Crisis," a screening of the 1963 documentary about Alabama Gov. George Wallace's "stand in the schoolhouse door"; discussion forum to follow.
In addition, the Mann Center is planning Courageous Conversations and other opportunities to consider how Birmingham's past experience with the civil rights struggle continues to define and exacerbate the community's social, economic and political problems.
September 4, 2012 - Medical ethicist John Lantos is featured in the latest episode of the center's video series, Conversations on Ethics and Leadership. Dr. Lantos, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Bioethics at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, discusses moral distress and the role of hospital ethics committees. He spoke at Samford's 2012 Health Ethics and Law (HEAL) conference.
Mann Center Director John Knapp was co-convenor of an international retreat of scholars in July. Conducted in conjunction with the Caux Round Table's Global Dialog on the world economic crisis, the event was held at Mountain House near Montreaux, Switzerland, and included delegates from countries including France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Sudan, Malaysia, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Australia, and the United States, among others.
Dr. Knapp recently provided programs on ethics for organizations including Alagasco/Energen, Double Oak Church (Chelsea, AL), Center for Christian Business Ethics Today (Philadelphbia, PA), and the Huntsville (AL) Rotary Club.
July 10, 2012 - Five Samford University students are spending part of the summer helping to economically empower people who live in South African townships.
For much of July, the Samford team is working with Living Way, a Christian not-for-profit microenterprise center based in Cape Town, South Africa. There, they are using their varied talents and skill sets to develop a basic business curriculum for Living Way's agri-academy that trains and mentors aspiring farmers.
The service practicum is facilitated by Samford's Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement (OSLCE) and the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, which began the partnership with Living Way in 2011.
The current endeavor builds off last summer's work project that focused on entrepreneurial development.
Team leader Mallory James, a senior business major who participated during last year's inaugural involvement, says that getting to know the South Africans who will benefit from their efforts is special.
"I know one of them really well from last summer when I was here, and it definitely makes me so much more passionate and emotionally invested in the project," said James, a Brock Scholar from Memphis, Tenn. "And now, the other group members are beginning to feel the same way."
The team also includes Emily Mallory, a senior Brock Scholar and business major from Louisville, Ky., Tracy Knapp, a sophomore philosophy major from Vestavia Hills, Ala.; Lindsey Mallory, a master of business administration student from Louisville, Ky.; and Madelie Janse van Rensburg, a master of accountancy student from Franschhoek, South Africa.
The students are accompanied by Mann Center director Dr. John Knapp and OSLCE director Janna Pennington.
May 30, 2012 - Anyone who has spent much time in the church is likely aware of its hierarchy of occupations. At the peak of the pyramid are full-time clergy and missionaries, followed closely by other paid workers in Christian ministry. Their jobs are seen as genuine callings, often validated by special ceremonies and rituals. Just below them in rank are the so-called helping professions—social workers, nurses, and the like—whose work aligns neatly with the church's ministry priorities. Moving further down the pyramid we find the vast majority of Christians—salespeople, postal workers, accountants, business owners, electricians, corporate executives, lawyers, and countless others who compose most of the body of Christ. Seldom are their jobs described as callings or celebrated by the church. [While researching this book,] we interviewed a high school teacher who astutely summed up the harm done by a cast system that devalues much good and necessary work:
"I don't think many people understand how a sense of vocation applies to their work, especially if they are not in a ministerial or helping profession. It's clear to me, since I'm a teacher, but how do accountants know their work can be pleasing to or glorify God? How do attorneys hear the Holy Spirit in contentious cases? How can retail managers exhibit the love of Christ?"
I was astonished recently to hear this hierarchy colorfully depicted in a sermon by a well-loved, retired minister. He declared that the church is like a circus that requires all kinds of workers—some to pitch the tent, some to take tickets, and even some to clean up after the elephants. At first he seemed to be working toward a rather strained metaphor for Romans 12:4–5 ("Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others"). But soon it was clear that his vision of the body of Christ was much more hierarchical than anything the apostle Paul ever imagined. He explained that the responsibility of everyone in the church, as in the circus, is to support the performers, chief among whom is the preacher in the pulpit. Granted, his imagery was a bit unusual, but the message that clergy are the stars of the show is quite common indeed. Consider these words of an earnest, freshly ordained seminary graduate preaching to a downtown Atlanta congregation with many businesspeople:
"Generations of people in this country find their identity in their jobs. But that is an empty life, a life that leads you down a path of nothingness. But what might it mean if God says, "Now you are the one to go deliver the message." Your life must be interrupted if you are ready to be an instrument in meeting the world's needs. You must be ready to respond to the calling that God has on your life. Think about the untouchables in India. What if God said, "I want you to be the one to travel over there and give them the message?" What about the epidemic of AIDS in Africa? What if God is calling you to do something about it?"
Must we really go to India or Africa to be instrumental in meeting the world's needs? Could it be that God also needs Christians to serve the world as factory workers, hairstylists, and bond traders?
These two ministers at opposite ends of their careers had the best of intentions, but I doubt if either had ever considered the disastrous consequences—for the church or for individual believers—of a theology that elevates an ecclesiastical elite while subtly devaluing the rest of the body. It is an attitude that betrays a distorted conception of Christian vocation and calling, one that sorts human activities into contrived categories of secular and sacred, suggesting that God is more concerned with church-sponsored work than with Christians being faithful in a thousand other daily contexts.
We should ask ourselves what is being communicated when a church allots time on Sunday morning to commission a short-term mission team for ten days in Mexico, yet does nothing to commission new college graduates for their careers in business or government or education. The crippling and unambiguous message is that ten days of volunteer work are more important to the church—and, by implication, to God—than a Christian's lifelong occupation.
Surely many of us have experienced doubts about the value of our own work. Pastors, too, have days of doubt. But let's be honest; it is much easier to find meaning in some jobs than in others.
I am reminded of a pastor who told me of a woman who suffered bouts of depression and marital strife. "She never smiled—always seemed bitter." He had counseled her on several occasions, but he never fully understood her situation until one afternoon when he stopped to see her at the poultry-processing plant where she was employed. Her shift was just ending, and she showed him the production line where she had just stood for eight hours gutting chickens with a knife. "Her work was grueling, messy, and smelly," he recalled, "and I realized at once why she had so little joy in her life." It is hard to find much redemptive value in repetitively cutting chickens or in hundreds of other jobs that must be contrary to the Creator's intention for human flourishing. There are well-paid lawyers and executives, too, who find it hard to see any divine purpose in their life-draining work.
By and large, the church is ill-prepared for the woman who wonders what Sunday worship has to do with her hard hours at the chicken factory. The tendency to devalue "secular" work only makes it more difficult to look to the faith community for support, encouragement, or constructive guidance. The writer of Ecclesiastes poignantly captures this sense of despair: "So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless" (Ecc. 2:22–23, NLT).
Too often the church portrays itself as a place of refuge rather than a spiritual gymnasium to strengthen Christians for the transformative work they must do in the world. "To belong to the church is not just to belong to a community of believers who come together to 'get something out of' a church service, to be 'fed' and 'blessed,'" writes Shirley Guthrie. "It is to belong to a community of people who come together to be renewed so that they can go back into the world to serve God as they serve their fellowmen." With active church members spending less than 2 percent of their waking hours at church, how much time is devoted to equipping them for their own public ministries?
The church's preoccupation with the private sphere of life is evident in many ways. Think of the litany of illnesses, deaths, and births in church newsletters and Sunday-morning prayers, reminding us weekly of what must surely matter most to God. Many of the people we interviewed shared a perception that the church is unconcerned about their lives in the public sphere:
"The church rarely addresses [work-related] issues. It seems to be more directed toward individual relationships with Christ."
"I do not think it is an interest of the church to help one resolve work problems."
"Family issues, drug and alcohol problems, crises of faith are concerns for my pastor. … It is hard for me to waste the time of one faced with life issues on a personal business issue. I've never heard anything to the contrary at any event I have attended at my church."
"Pastors are too busy taking care of the sick and dying to get involved in people's work whims and troubles."
Is faith only of value when healing is needed? Is it not essential to living our daily lives as instruments of God's healing power in the world? Church culture, like business culture, reinforces the notion that the proper place for faith is the private sphere. Despite this, many men and women in the pews are not easily persuaded that the God they worship on Sunday morning is unconcerned with how they make their living.
Excerpted from How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It) by John C. Knapp. Reprinted with permission of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
March 18, 2012 - A pastor once asked a professor for advice on how to handle a controversy in his church. The largest financial supporter of a Baptist church was nominated to the board of deacons. He happened to be the owner of a busy liquor store.
No one ever complained about his large donations to the church, but his nomination to the deacon board aroused a furor.
That's one of the scenarios addressed in a new book by Samford University professor John C. Knapp, founding director of Samford's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.
"Money is such a defining part of our everyday life; why aren't we learning to think biblically and theologically about money in our everyday lives?" Knapp said. "What constitutes good work? Are there some occupations where it's just not possible to live out one's Christian discipleship? How do we draw that line? Can one be a Christian pornographer? What about if it is an executive at Time Warner, that carries pornography through the cable division? Somehow we're more comfortable about it then. Can we say for certain which occupations are for Christians and which are not?"
Knapp explores the relationship between church and work in a new book, "How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can be Done About It)," published by Eerdman's (192 pp., $15).
"We don't all have the option of choosing the work we do," Knapp said. "Some have more choices. I don't think that means someone who has less choices is less important to God."
Churches often solicit donations without asking questions about how the money was made, but offer little in the way of moral theology for the workplace, he said.
"Many people have a great desire for their work to connect with their faith," Knapp said. "We don't speak so often about someone being called to be a barber, accountant or to work for the county government. That conveys a message of what's most important to God. It demeans daily work. The work of so many is never mentioned, never held up as obeying God's call."
Many times there is an implied devaluation of any work that is not Christian ministry, he said.
"We will go to great lengths to set aside time to pray for people going to do a short-term mission project in Mexico; this is seen as doing the Lord's work," Knapp said. "Do we take time to pray for a person who is starting a new job? Do we pray for new college students looking for a career? Do we commission them for discipleship in those contexts?"
Charles Sheldon, who wrote the novel "In His Steps" and coined the phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" in the 1890s, was known for visiting people at work and even working alongside them, Knapp said.
"Many of the burdens people bring to church are burdens they bring from their work," he said. "There's a need for clergy to become more familiar with what members do for a living, even visiting people at work. Their work is how they express their God-given gifts in the world. It's where they find meaning and purpose in life."
There are numerous examples of high-profile Christians who have led unethical lives in the business world. "Clergy should be encouraging ethical and moral approaches to work from the pulpit," Knapp said.
There is reasonable caution about blatant evangelism in the workplace, he said.
"It's not about evangelizing the workplace," Knapp said. "It's about how do you find meaning in your work."
Historically Christians have struggled with how to teach about money.
"The traditional Christian position, and the Old Testament position, is that a desire for wealth is a danger," he said. "It is symptomatic of a desire to make oneself self-sufficient, and takes us further away from our rightful dependence on God."
The church needs a doctrine of vocation -- calling to be disciples in whatever their line of work -- and a moral theology of work, Knapp said.
"When we think about the work we do, we should think about being an instrument of God's love in the world," Knapp said. "We haven't developed a very good doctrine of money. We range from prosperity gospel -- God wants to make you rich -- to the monastic traditions of renunciation of wealth on the other extreme."
As churches become larger, with megachurches turning into conglomeratesized, corporation entities, the lines between church and business blur.
"We think of church and the world of business as separate worlds, but the church is engaged in business itself," Knapp said. "Do we make business decisions in the church with any more theological thought than in the business world? The church needs to be a model in hiring practices, transparent with budgets, exemplary in its moral practices."
The Mann Center was started at Samford in 2008 with a gift from alumnus Marvin Mann, retired chairman of Lexmark International, who wanted to encourage the teaching of ethical values in all disciplines.
"We can help all of our students think of their own future roles in the world as opportunities for discipleship," Knapp said. "Younger Christians are looking for more integration of faith in life, and that includes faith at work."
February 22, 2012 - “Palliative Care: In Search of the Good Death” will be the topic of a symposium at Samford University on Friday, March 9. Panelists will discuss legal, medical and ethical issues related to end-of-life care. The public is invited free of charge to the day-long program in the moot courtroom of Robinson law building.
9 a.m. The “Good” Death? with Dr. H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., of Rice University and Dr. Ryan Nash of University of Alabama at Birmingham.
10:30 a.m. Rationing, Death Panels, and Health Care Reform with Kathy Cerminara of Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center, and Leonard “Jack” Nelson of Samford’s Cumberland School of Law.
1:30 p.m. Enhancing Autonomy: Protecting Patients from Conflicted and Coercive Healthcare with Dr. Elizabeth Kvale of UAB.
Kvale’s presentation will be followed at 3 p.m. with a time of discussion, questions and debate with all of the day’s panelists. David Smolin, director of Cumberland’s Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics, will moderate.
A complimentary lunch will be provided at noon. For information email David Smolin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (205) 726-2704.
The symposium is sponsored by the Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics, the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care at UAB Medical School, and Samford’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.
About the speakers:
Cerminara, a law professor, is a specialist in the intersection of end-of-life care and health care coverage policy, specifically the coverage rules applicable to hospice care.
Engelhardt is a physician and philosophy professor who has written extensively on the subject of bioethics, including his most recent book, The Foundations of Christian Bioethics.
Kvale is a physician whose specialties include the supportive care of cancer patients, survivorship and the care of palliative patients in intensive settings.
Nash, former medical director of Balm of Gilead Palliative Care Center at Birmingham’s Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, is a specialist in palliative medicine, clinical ethics and medical humanities.
Nelson, a law professor, is a specialist in torts and heath care law, including regulation of managed care, and legal issues in treating terminally ill patients.
February 17, 2012 - Comment remains one of my favourite journals, publishing thoughtful pieces on a wide variety of subjects, often asking how best to think as Christians and what practices emerge from our reflections about God's redemptive work in the world. Readers care about a lot of stuff, and want to learn how to live in these times fruitfully and faithfully.
Of course, as a bookseller, it is a joy to talk about books that might be of interest to this exact sort of engaged, open-minded, and discerning reader. Here are a few choice titles that Comment readers might enjoy.
How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It) by John C. Knapp (Eerdmans, 2011)
In the 1970s, the Christian Labour Association of Canada published a pair of books on the history and development of a seriously Christian view of work—and it was, for some of us, astonishing. Does God care about our daily grind? Can we think faithfully about socioeconomic matters, with profound reforming insights, offering wise and helpful alternatives to the prevailing attitudes about labour, leisure, and love of neighbour? Much water has gone over the dam since those heady days, and, thankfully, many excellent resources have been published helping people of faith relate Sunday worship to Monday work (as the excellent Work Matters by Tom Nelson puts it). Still, although there has been a flood of words, lots of books, and a near paradigm shift about the general understanding that there is a relationship between faith and work, there is still a huge, huge disconnect in most ordinary parishes. Few pastors or preachers do much to truly honour and equip the members of their flock who happen to work in business.
Enter the brave work of John Knapp, the director of the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership at Samford University. He has written widely on the ethics of leadership and how today's business challenges can be pursued faithfully. In this new, well-written book, Knapp explains the research he has done on whether or not local churches are actually helpful to business men and women, offering insights gleaned from his interviews. (A fun appendix indexes the job titles of those surveyed.)
Many of us, through God's grace, have come to adopt a vision of rejecting sacred-secular compartmentalization and the subsequent privatization of faith; we have read in books—and in so many Comment articles—that we should be relating faith and our public lives. But how well do most pastors and Christian educators help us with that? Knapp lets us listen in on his interviews, distills the survey data, and does great Biblical reflection and a quick overview of the history of the "faith and work" movement (drawing on, for instance, the Oxford University Press book, God at Work by David Miller, and naming Laity Lodge and other such pioneers in this field). Yet, too often, the local church lags behind these parachurch organizations. This is, as one reviewer put it, "a wake up call for pastors, churches, and Christian businesspeople alike."
Indeed, How the Church Fails is at least a wake-up call, but it is more, as professor Knapp shows us in the last portion, called "Finding Coherence," numerous, concrete ways the church can help us rethink Christian vocation, develop a moral theology of work, consider more candidly our troubled relationship with money, and develop the potential of the local church as a place for considering the Christians role in the marketplace. Questions to consider follow the end of each chapter make this ideal for adult education classes, small Bible study groups, or perhaps a clergy retreat.
February 14, 2012 - A university-wide initiative at Samford University was launched this year to promote academic integrity and address issues identified by the ICAI survey of students and faculty. The effort includes faculty development, policy reviews, student discussion forums, a student advisory council, and new programs for student orientation. It also includes a campus-wide awareness campaign involving online resources, social media and video productions.
The initiative is led by the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership, a unit of the provost’s office at Samford. As at other institutions that have used the ICAI survey, we found a significant gap between student and faculty perceptions of the seriousness of cheating, with faculty expressing much more concern about the issue. Thus, our main efforts are aimed at helping students grasp why academic integrity matters – to themselves, to their learning community, and to the value of their degree.
Collaboration with ICAI is invaluable, as we can learn much from the experiences of other institutions that are already making good progress with this issue. Already we have adopted a number of best practices discovered with ICAI’s help. Samford is a comprehensive university with diverse academic schools – each of which has its own needs and challenges in promoting integrity.
The Mann Center is continuing to seek positive, engaging ways to reach Samford students. We always invite ideas and suggestions from other ICAI members. To encourage more sharing of this type, we are working with ICAI to develop a regional academic integrity conference. And as we continue this journey, we invite you to follow our progress at: www.samford.edu/manncenter/academic-integrity/.
February 10, 2012 - Students will have the chance to combine convo credit and conversation with a Pulitzer-prize nominated author this upcoming week.
Dr. Michael Lindsay will be giving a lecture in Bolding Studio at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. The topic of the lecture will be Should Christians Seek Power? and will be aimed at students hoping to connect their faith with their future professional careers.
This lecture will be presented in a more laid back environment and give students the opportunity to ask Lindsay questions about his experience in the professional world as well as the many topics he is knowledgeable about.
Lindsay will also offer another lecture during Convo on Thursday titled Does God Care How I Vote?
This lecture will be more specifically geared towards the student population and will also present students with more practical and faith-based knowledge of the upcoming 2012 presidential elections.
Dr. Lindsay is a sociologist as well as an acclaimed author. His book, “Faith in the Halls of Power,” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2007. He also currently serves as the president of Gordon College in Wenham, MA.
His lecture will be sponsored by the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. Azalea Hulbert, the Program Manager for the Mann Center, hopes that students will respond to Lindsay because of his vast areas of knowledge as well as his passion for students.
“He has a relatively diverse background academically, and has focused his research in a lot of areas – politics, business, sociology – that will appeal to students from across the university,” Hulbert said. “He should also appeal to students who are passionate about connecting faith with their future careers.”
Dr. Lindsay’s lecture is a part of the biannual A. Gerow Hodges Lectures in Ethics and Leadership.
Other past speakers include author and philosopher Dr. Jacob Needleman, David Ratcliffe, retired Chairman and CEO of Southern Company and Newsweek contributing editor Eleanor Clift.
The goal of the series is to provide Samford students with the opportunity to listen and talk to nationally and internationally established thought professionals in many different fields including politics, religion and academics.
Both of Dr. Lindsay’s lectures will be free of cost and convo credit will be offered.
February 8, 2012 - A March 9 symposium, "Palliative Care: In Search of the Good Death," will address critical questions related to health care reform and patient autonomy. Cosponsored by the Mann Center and Cumberland School of Law's Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics, it will be open to the public. Panelists include Professor Kathy Cerminara, Nova Southeastern University; Dr. H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Rice University; Dr. Elizabeth Kvale, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Dr. Ryan Nash, University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Professor Leonard (Jack) Nelson, Cumberland School of Law. Professor David Smolin, director of the Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics, will moderate. More information is available online.
On April 13, Samford’s Healthcare Ethics & Law (HEAL) Institute will host the conference, "Moral Distress at the Bedside: A Role for Hospital Ethics Committees?," featuring speakers Dr. David Brushwood, University of Florida; Dr. John Lantos, University of Missouri Kansas City; Professor Leonard (Jack) Nelson, Cumberland School of Law; and Dr. Joy Hinson Penticuff, Concordia University. Registration information and more details are available online.
February 8, 2012 - This week Samford University kicks off a semester-long series of programs addressing immigration in Alabama, an issue that has brought national attention to the state since the passage of the controversial immigration law, HB 56. The Mann Center and others at Samford have led dialogues on this issue for the last two years, and this spring's events will continue this examination of both the moral and the public policy dimensions of the debate.
On Feb. 10 the Birmingham Area Consortium for Higher Education (BACHE) will sponsor an immigration forum at Samford. Other events include a Feb. 20 film screening of "Gospel Without Borders," sponsored by Samford University Ministries' Reel Justice project; a Feb. 23 G92 South Immigration Conference; an April 3 student forum, "The Politics of Immigration: Making Decisions in an Age of Shouting," sponsored by the College Democrats and College Republicans; and an April 24 public debate on HB 56, sponsored by the Samford University Debate Team.
The semester’s activities will conclude with a Courageous Conversation on immigration, part of the Mann Center’s ongoing series designed to promote moral discourse by students on difficult issues. Details on all of these events are available online.
February 1, 2012 - Dr. Michael Lindsay, author and president of Gordon College in Massachusetts, will be featured in the annual A. Gerow Hodges Lectures in Ethics and Leadership Feb. 15-16 at Samford.
Lindsay, author of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-nominated book Faith in the Halls of Power, will lead a session entitled Should Christians Seek Power? Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. in Bolding Studio. A reception and book-signing will follow.
He will speak on the topic Does God Care How I Vote? Thursday, Feb. 16, at 10 a.m. in Reid Chapel.
Both sessions are open to the public and to students, although the Thursday program is targeted toward students.
Lindsay, a sociologist, is a graduate of Rice, Princeton and Oxford universities. He is this year completing the PLATINUM Study, the largest interview-based examination of senior organizational leaders—including former Presidents Carter and Bush and hundreds of CEOs at the nation’s largest corporations and nonprofits.
He taught at Rice from 2006 until 2011, when he was named the eighth president of Gordon.
The Hodges Lectures are sponsored by the Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership at Samford.