At Duke Divinity School’s 96th Opening Convocation worship service on Sept. 6, Dean Edgardo Colón-Emeric revisited the theme of the school’s Pentecost journey, a major theme of his deanship, saying, “If Duke Divinity School is to keep on its Pentecost journey, it needs to devote itself to being guided by the marker of mercy. Our motto of Eruditio et Religio only makes sense when we add mercy. Love of God, love of learning, and love of the vulnerable. Martin Luther said that the cross is the test of everything, crux probat omnia. In a world that has learned nothing from Golgotha except its reproduction, we must also say, misericordia probat omnia. Mercy is the test of everything. How we care for the needy is the measure for the apostolicity of our studies, the holiness of our communion, and the power of our prayers.”
The service marks the beginning of the new academic year and includes a blessing of new staff and a special welcome to the 226 entering students, who came from 35 different states and eight other countries, including Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and South Korea.
The Master of Divinity program gained 130 new students, including 88 residential students (up from 81 the previous year), and 42 in the hybrid program. The Master of Arts in Christian Practice enrolled 13 new students; the Doctor of Ministry, 28; Master of Theology, six; Master of Theological Studies, 22; the Doctor of Theology welcomed six new students to campus, and one special student has enrolled. The Certificate in Theology and Health Care welcomed four residential students to campus and 16 in the hybrid program.
Across all degree programs at the Divinity School, 30 percent of the incoming class identified as a race or ethnicity other than white. Black students made up 18 percent of all students; Latinx students, six percent; Asian students, five percent; and American Indian students, one percent. Fifty-seven percent of students in the incoming class are female.
In the M.Div. program, students from minority racial and ethnic groups comprised more than 33 percent of incoming students, with Black students making up 22 percent and Latinx students, five percent. Female students made up 56 percent of incoming M.Div. students.
There were 33 denominations represented in the M.Div. entering class, with 30 percent affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Baptists made up 17 percent of the incoming students (up from 10 percent the year before); Anglican-Episcopal students, 12 percent; and nondenominational students, 12 percent.
The diversity of churches represented in the community is one of the strengths of Duke Divinity, representing its ecumenical promise, Dean Colón-Emeric said: “Christian fellowship matters. Holy Communion matters. Common prayer matters. It is with the guidance of the acts of the apostles, their communal praxis, that the Divinity School continues to build that most delicate and often discredited of structures: an ecumenical community, a community that boldly professes the Apostles’ creed, a community where Christians from estranged churches study together, a community of generous, joyful Pentecost orthodoxy.”
“This past June, I had the opportunity of traveling to Korea for a gathering of the Northeast Asia Reconciliation Initiative. There, we went on a pilgrimage of pain and hope to the island of Gyodong. This island is separated from North Korea by a stretch of water under two miles wide. In fact, with the aid of binoculars, we could see North Koreans going about their daily business on the other side of the water. At Gyodong, we met North Korean refugees and learned of the peace education work that is happening in the island. That evening back at the retreat center where we were staying, I received a surprise. My colleague Sangwoo Kim gave me a little gift, a small bell. He received this gift from a Methodist bishop who received it in turn from another bishop, Higon Eun—apostolic succession at work.
“This bell is no ordinary bell. Faintly inscribed on the bell is the phrase ‘Bell of World Peace.’ This bell is made from shell casings from the Korean War. Bishop Eun’s organization is called the Peace Dream Forum. Awe came upon me.
“Bullets to bells. This is a bridge to wonder. This is a Pentecost dream. Bishop Eun is not a young man, but Scripture tells us when the Spirit comes the young see visions and the old dream dreams.
“Bullets to bells. This is Isaiah’s dream and the dream of so many exiles and refugees: a day of homecoming, a day when they build up the ancient ruins, when they raise up the former devastations, when they repair the ruined cities.
“Bullets to bells. This is a Duke Divinity dream. A school where we melt and mold dead-end ideologies into life-giving theologies. A school that graduates gospel ringers tolling lament, ding-donging hope, ringing for peace, ringing for justice, ringing to call us to worship, ringing to send us in service, ringing at the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, ringing at the presence of Christ in the poor. It may not sound like much. But if we get enough of these gospel ringers going en conjunto, I believe that awe will come upon everyone and Duke Divinity will become a waypoint of wonder and the church an avenue of awe.”