Most folks call me Benj. My wife Corrie and I have two children, Daniel and Elizabeth. We hail from the Northeastern USA, Pennsylvania/New Jersey area. My training is in Biblical Studies; I received my PhD in Old Testament from the University of Stellenbosch in Western Cape, South Africa. Corrie is a music teacher (voice and piano) and a choral director, and has conducted choirs here at LCC. Our family enjoys music, sports, and traveling to see interesting historical sites.
Why did you decide to come back to Lithuania?
Our first stint at LCC was the 2014-2015 school year; at that time my responsibilities were entirely in the Theology Department. We had hoped to stay longer, but my father-in-law’s illness drew us back to Pennsylvania to help care for him and spend time with him. Sadly, he passed away in March 2016. But through some very unique circumstances, including the new research center initiative, God called us back to LCC and paved the way for us to return this past summer. When people ask us what we most love about Lithuania, I usually say, “Castles, and kepta duona,” and my wife says, “It sure isn’t the weather!” It really is the people—faculty, staff, students, and community—that make LCC and Klaipėda special, and that’s what draws us back.
Could you tell us more about The Center for Faith and Human Flourishing?
The Center for Faith and Human Flourishing is still quite new, and we—the administration and the Research Council—are still working to establish its identity and specific aims. Broadly, however, the purpose of the CFHF is to foster scholarly research at the University. LCC’s faculty is comprised of thoughtful teachers who do excellent work in their areas of specialization and also creative interdisciplinary projects. But at a small institution such as ours, faculty often struggle to find and win grants for conducting and publishing academic research: conference papers, journal articles, and books. Moreover, because our departments are small compared to those of large public universities, our faculty members rarely share areas of specialization with their colleagues (we only have one Old Testament professor, for example!). The CFHF provides a formal context for collaborative relationships with outside researchers, and will assist LCC’s researchers in seeking and obtaining funding for research activities.
Research is not simply for its own sake, however; the pursuit of truth advances LCC’s mission of providing Christian liberal arts education that transforms people for servant leadership. The CFHF will be a place for robust faith dialogue, which in its way is a microcosm of what we always hope LCC is for scholars and students: a common, international, trustworthy space for the many shades of Christian faith and beyond to discuss how religious faith can bring hope and promote human flourishing.
Many students have not heard about the CFHF since it is a new thing at LCC. What do you think students should know about it in order to engage in active learning?
Students will engage the CFHF primarily through the speakers, conferences and events. They will also learn from their professors how research works. Professors who view themselves as students—life-long learners—make the best teachers. Scholarly research is part of that ongoing pursuit of knowledge. Many students will not spend their careers doing scholarly research, and that is fine. We hope that our students will see in their faculty mentors the methods, the habits, and the attitudes of life-long learners.
One of the program goals is to “empower the faculty and student body for more and better academic engagement with important contemporary intellectual voices”. Could you comment on this and tell us what speakers we are going to hear from in the near future?
We have a great slate of speakers this semester, and we already have several lined up for next semester as well. Earlier this term, we heard from three practitioners in the social sciences, whose Christian faith motivates them to study significant obstacles to security and prosperity. Our November speakers, Jason Michael Peck and Roberta Green Ahmanson, work in the areas of philosophy, literature and aesthetics. Next semester we will host a historian and legal scholar to speak about the status of refugees in the European Union. We hope to maintain this balance of theoretical and practical topics and to encompass a wide range of approaches to the pursuit of human flourishing.
What is the role of research fellows at the Center?
Research Fellows are members of the faculty whose primary role is academic research. They may be in residence at LCC only part-time, but their research furthers LCC’s mission and the specific projects of the CFHF. My hope is that our Research Fellows and the other members of the LCC family (faculty, staff, students, community supporters) will “spread the word” about what LCC can offer as a stimulating international and multicultural context for research.
What are your goals and vision for the Center?
Besides advancing the public profile of LCC as a compelling context for research and continuing to attract thoughtful speakers, I would like to see the CFHF pursue a few specific projects that empower our full-time faculty and our Fellows to tackle important contemporary problems. I also hope to use my platform as a biblical scholar and active church worker to raise LCC’s profile in regional churches and faith-based organizations who can be partners with our faculty, our Fellows and our students in addressing the urgent concerns of our societies.