Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What Bill Clinton Thinks About Theologians Without Borders

Bill Clinton’s new book, ‘Giving’, is bound to be succeeded by ‘Giving II’ as the first volume bulges with inspirational and innovative examples of how ordinary people are giving.

I hope the former President will include a couple of pages in ‘Giving II’ on Theologians Without Borders, as an innovative way for people to give.

Here’s what Bill might write (based on his principles and quotes in ‘Giving’:

TWB is not an organization focused on the obvious giving of money; it’s about giving skills—theological teachers giving their expertise. As I said in ‘Giving’, “One of the greatest gifts anyone can give is a useful skill…. [and] education is the ultimate skills gift.”

I love the way TWB offers opportunities, not only for theological teachers but for other people with various gifts, to join in the team or to go as a librarian, an accountant an IT expert or with some other gift and make a difference. This resonates with that quote of Martin Luther King Jnr. that I mention in my introduction: “Everybody can be great…. Because everybody can serve.”

“When I left the White House, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life giving my time, money and skills to worthwhile endeavors where I could make a difference.” TWB is strategically suited for those who retire from theological teaching and pastoral leadership to continue to make a difference.

TWB is a good example of the giving of time—anything from a few days of teaching to six months or longer. I said in ‘Giving’: “While we don’t have all the same amount of money, we do have access to the same twenty-four hours in every day. Nearly everyone can carve out some opportunity for giving. The gift of time can sometimes be more satisfying and more valuable than money.” (p32)

For too long seminaries and churches have generally been perceived, and have been in reality, institutions that are asking for money. It is encouraging to see through TWB that seminaries and churches are moving “from getting to the giving business.” (pxi)

Apart from the good that theologians will do, this is terrific modeling for their students—when teachers leave their offices and classrooms and go to serve in another country. Perhaps they could take a group of students with them and share the teaching experience and (believe me, I’m no theologian but) why not make this an experience that the students can take for credit towards their degree?

I said in ‘Giving’ that, “the modern world, for all its blessings, is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable. And so the great mission of the early twenty-first century is to move our neighborhoods, our nation and the world toward integrated communities of shared opportunities, shared opportunities, and a shared sense of genuine belonging, based on the essence of every successful community—that our common humanity is more important than our interesting differences.”(p4) TWB gives a superb opportunity for genuine partnership and the stewardship of resources in an enterprise that is expensive. It is heartening to see the way TWB is committed to addressing the uneven distribution of opportunities to learn truth and be equipped for ministry.

TWB is an example of what I have devoted an entire chapter to addressing in my book—the gift of a model of giving. The ‘…without borders’ suffix suggests that TWB is following the example of Doctors… Reporters…and Clowns Without Borders. This is a model that others have given to you and as I said, “Why reinvent the wheel?”

In my book I have another chapter on ‘Gifts that Keep on Giving’ and the fine example of Heifer International, an organization that gives cows and goats that keep reproducing offspring that can be donated by the new owners. There is a very real sense in which the gift of teaching becomes multiplied. You will find that students receive your learning and become inspired to do likewise.

Geoff Pound and echoes of Bill Clinton in Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (London: Hutchinson, 2007).

A full review of this fine book is at:
‘Jon Stewart and Clinton Talk about Bill’s New Book, ‘Giving’, Reviewing Books and Movies.

Image: Double billing at an AIDS summit.