Introducing the New Director of the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs

August 30, 2016

The Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs

The Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs will create on-going programming that looks through a religious, spiritual and ethical optic at the world’s most urgent problems, such as poverty and social exclusion, inequalities, human trafficking and migrant vulnerabilities, conflict, violence and terrorism, unsustainable consumption, and environmental degradation. The Center takes a dual approach that conjoins the scholarly examination of these contemporary challenges with practical, solution-oriented responses initiated by faith communities and their members. Building on the School’s experience with the Faith & Family Homelessness Project, the Center’s first focus issue, will be on the broader issue of homelessness.

Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry has hired its­­ inaugural director for the new Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs, a unique approach to bringing faith and social action into the very heart of a theological school’s mission. 

The Center will be devoted to exploring the contributions religious wisdom can make, has made, and continues to make, in understanding and responding to the world’s most pressing social problems.  Religious scholars, leaders, and practitioners involved in the activities of the Center will look for ways in which religious wisdom and the resources of faith communities can lend assistance in the analysis, diagnosis and community responses needed to address complex societal problems.

As the inaugural director, Dr. Manuel Mejido will help the school’s faculty integrate the work of the Center into the curriculum of its six graduate degree programs and community education efforts.  The Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs will explore the best in faith-based and spiritually-informed thinking about some of the major global issues causing human suffering, as well as the most effective social action flowing from that thinking.

Dr. Mejido has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels in theology, social science and development studies programs in the U.S., Chile and Switzerland, while contributing scholarship in the areas of contextual theology, the sociology of religion and social philosophy. Most recently, his work has focused on the ethical dimensions of social policy and development, with an emphasis on empowering the poor and vulnerable, and protecting the planet. For the past four years, he has worked for the United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific in Bangkok where he led the development of a UN online advocacy platform to combat poverty and inequality.

“Dr. Mejido’s work across the globe has embodied the multi-dimensional spirit of the Center,” Dean Mark Markuly said about the new hire. “He has deep experience in many cultural contexts of bridging the academic study of issues with on-the-ground social action and advocacy for the creation of more just and humane governmental policies. This background makes him the ideal candidate for the Center’s inaugural director.  He has lived the delicate balance of a critically reflective faith committed to justice and social action, which is a hallmark of what we are trying to do with this new Center and all of the degrees at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry.”

The Center will offer Seattle University students another invaluable resource for cultivating their own vision and understanding of the role a socially engaged faith can have on public life and the common good.  It will enhance the school’s already established contextual education program, which has students working all year in social service and counseling agencies, hospitals, prisons, non-governmental organizations with humanitarian missions, and a host of congregational settings.  The Center will ensure that graduates enter their professional lives having seen and participated in dynamic and effective faith-based social action, and in ways they can replicate in their own future professional settings. It will also allow congregations in the area to participate in both the learning and social action of the school.

Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, commented: “Now is the perfect time for the Center for Religious Wisdom & World Affairs, which builds on all the School of Theology and Ministry has done to connect authentic spirituality with justice for our world.  I am moved to imagine our future collaboration for connecting religious wisdom with a world that is both hurting and filled with potential!”

Over the course of the next year, the Center will become more integrated into the academic mission of the School and the University.  Two other School staff members, Lisa Gustaveson and Hannah Hunthausen, have already transitioned from their highly effective work with the Faith & Family Homelessness Project into new roles as program staff for the Center.

The Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs provides an innovative approach to learning and action that has caught the attention and support of individuals, organizations, and foundations locally, nationally and globally. The school has already attracted more than two million dollars to assist in the launch of the Center’s work, including some of the most highly selective philanthropic organizations like the Henry Luce and Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, local organizations such as the Shemanski Testementary Trust, Seattle Foundation and Isacc N. Alhadeff Foundation, and several generous private donors.

The School of Theology and Ministry is excited and honored to welcome Dr. Mejido as the Director of the Center or Religious Wisdom & World Affairs.