Our Second Big Announcement: Moving to Wheaton!

Sadness and excitement. Some emotions fit well together. Others, not so much. I can be happy and nervous at the same time (e.g. at my daughter’s piano recitals). And holding anger and fear together is pretty easy too (e.g. my usual reaction when reading You Tube comments). But sadness and excitement? It’s hard to do both of those simultaneously. Instead, you jump back and forth between them like a middle schooler struggling with adolescent mood swings.

To be honest, I’ve been that middle schooler for the last few weeks.

Yesterday I announced that this would be my last year as Academic Dean at Western Seminary. That announcement contained only excitement. (Well, to be honest, there was a lot of joy, exuberance, and impatient anticipation in there as well.) Today’s announcement comes with much more mixed emotions. And, although the title of this post makes the actual announcement somewhat unnecessary, here it is anyway:

I’ve accepted a position at Wheaton College (Associate Professor of Theology), where I’ll be teaching mostly in their M.A. and Ph.D. programs.

As you can anticipate from an announcement like that, the sadness comes from what we’re leaving behind, and the excitement from what lies ahead. Let me explain.

1. Why the Excitement?

It would take too long to explain all the reasons that Wheaton is an incredible school. At the very least I’d have to talk about the students, faculty, global network, and opportunities to connect with the many other schools in the Chicago area. So there’s a very real sense in which Wheaton itself is the biggest reason for excitement. But I’m going to skip over all of that and focus just on three things that really stood out about moving there.

The Doctoral Program

When I started teaching at Western, I told everybody that this was a place I could imagine being at for the rest of my life. (More on that in a moment.) But I often followed up by saying that the one thing that could tempt me to look elsewhere is the opportunity to work with a really good doctoral program. So when something like this came along, I had to look twice.

Nonetheless, this isn’t the first time I’ve had the opportunity to consider working with a doctoral program. But it is the first time I’ve pursued that opportunity. So what made this one different?

  • Cost: I’ve written before about the difficult job market facing Ph.D. graduates. So I’ve always been concerned about how much it costs to complete a Ph.D. in Bible or Theology at an evangelical school, where most students have to pay their own way. Wheaton is one of the few evangelical schools able to offer full tuition and a modest stipend to all doctoral students. That may not change the realities of the job market at the other end, but it does help people face that market on stronger financial footing. I like that.
  • Size: Although large doctoral programs have their advantages, my preference is to supervise a smaller number of students in whom I can really invest. So I appreciate the fact that Wheaton’s doctoral program is intentionally small, accepting only 6 students most years. And this also means that Wheaton’s program is not producing too many graduates for an already job difficult market. For both reasons, the size of the program works for me.
  • Integration: Anyone who reads this blog with some regularity has probably noticed that I’m not a specialist by nature. I find too many things interesting to focus too deeply on just one. And I particularly enjoy working in all the theological disciplines, especially biblical languages, church history, philosophy, and theology. Given that generalist orientation, I’ve always wondered if I’d be a good fit for a doctoral program, where a high degree of specialization is usually preferred. Wheaton’s doctoral program, though, is intentionally different. Although students specialize in one of the biblical disciplines, they’re expected to work integratively across all of them, even demonstrating that integrative ability in their doctoral dissertations. That makes the program a great fit for my own integrative bent.

The Liberal Arts Context

All my teaching so far has been at a seminary, which is something I’ve really grown to love. But the closer we looked at Wheaton, the more we began to realize what a great fit this would be for our whole family.

  • Research: My research/writings interests focus on the human person, which means I routinely have to engage disciplines outside my normal Bible/theology context–especially philosophy and the sciences. Having people right on campus who specialize in those areas will be very helpful.
  • College Ministry: Mary has really fallen in love with the idea of living close to a college campus so she can get more actively involved with the students. (We live about 40 min. from Western, so she hasn’t been able to do that here.) She’s already thinking about what kind of house we should buy and what church we should attend to facilitate her involvement.
  • Family: A big swing moment came when both of my girls decided that they wanted to move. My youngest daughter was excited about it from the beginning, but it took a while for my oldest (she’s 11). Having them on board made this much easier that it would have been otherwise. Beyond that, though, we’re really looking forward to seeing our girls grow up in a context where they are constantly exposed to young Christian leaders from around the world preparing for all kinds of vocations. That combination of global exposure and young adults modeling Christian commitment should provide great learning experiences for the girls.

The Opportunities and Challenges

To be honest, Mary and I both tend to gravitate toward new opportunities and challenges. Indeed, we both knew that we needed to be careful with a decision like this to make sure that we weren’t doing it just because it was something new. From the beginning, though, we were intrigued by the new opportunities presented by a school like Wheaton with its global influence, its strong ties throughout evangelicalism, and the incredible network of schools within easy reach of Chicago.

We’re also doing our best to trust all the people who tell us that Chicago is a great city. Mary has only been to Chicago once, and I’ve only been there for a few conferences. So we’re both rather ignorant of all things Chicago. Nonetheless, lots of people I like and trust say that it’s one of the their favorite cities. Assuming that they’re not lying to us just to be mean, we’ll have lots to explore there as well.

2. Why the Sadness?

It probably goes without saying that the sadness comes from all that we’re leaving behind. Mary and I are no strangers to moving. But this is probably the best situation we’ve ever had to walk away from. And that’s been exceptionally difficult.

Western Seminary

I can say without hesitation that Western Seminary is one of the best seminaries in the country, and it’s been a joy and a privilege to work here these last seven years. Not only does it have an amazing faculty, incredible students, and a beautiful location in the Northwest, but Western has done an outstanding job staying focused on Gospel-centered ministry training, pressing students to think carefully and theologically about ministry, and walking alongside them as they put that into practice in real-life ministry settings. I realize that might sound like a marketing pitch, but those really are the things that Western does well.

And it doesn’t make it any easier that Western is in great shape these days: record enrollments, strong regional networks, a growing national reputation, and a strong commitment to making quality training accessible to people wherever they are, not for the sake of convenience, but so they can stay rooted in the ministry contexts in which God has already placed them.

It’s going to be hard leaving all that behind. But it will be fun to see how God continues to expand the ministry and vision of Western Seminary.

Family & Friends

People who read this blog regularly may be surprised to find out that I actually do have friends. (Well, to be more precise, my wife has friends, and they’re sometimes nice enough to let me hang out with them too.) We also have a great church community and a family that resides largely on the west coast. Maintaining those relationships from Chicago will obviously be more challenging.

On a surprising note, all of the grandparents involved have been amazingly supportive. I think they’re just glad that we’re not trying to take their granddaughters to Scotland like we did the last time we moved!

The Northwest

Driving to school the other day, I was struck by one simple truth: I like the Northwest. It’s beautiful and quirky, rainy and green, earthy and fun. It’s home.

Just to torture ourselves, we drove up the Columbia River Gorge on Monday and walked to the top of Multnomah Falls. If you’ve been there, you understand.

People tell me that there’s beauty in the Upper Midwest too. And again I’m doing my best to believe them despite the complete lack of mountains. But it’s still hard to leave behind all that is the Pacific Northwest.

3. What’s Next?

Even with all the mixed emotions, we’re still excited about what lies ahead. And now that the final decision has been made, that excitement is building. It will take a while for the sadness to go away, but that’s part of any difficult transition.

So what does the future look like?

Moving & Settling In

We’re hoping to move in mid-July. That should give the girls a month or so to settle in before school starts. We’ll then spend the bulk of the next year getting to know our new home. We’re planning for Mary to take the year off to help the girls make the transition. We’ll need to find a new church, which is never easy. And I have lots of new people at Wheaton to get to know. Add to that the normal activities of life, and it will be a busy year.

Forthcoming Books

One of the main reasons I stepped down as Academic Dean was so I could do more writing. So even before I started talking with Wheaton, I was planning toward that end.

I’m still pursuing a publisher for my Good News for the Living Dead, and I’m also exploring a couple of other popular-level books. At the same time, I’m making plans for more academic writing, starting with at least two more books in theological anthropology.

More Blogging 

This blog will be making the transition to Wheaton with me, so I’ll continue writing from there. And I’m hoping that the transition will actually help me spend more time on the blog in the future. As I’m sure you can guess, the last several months have been pretty crazy. As a result, my writing here has been rather inconsistent. I’m looking forward to fixing that as we make the move.

4. Prayers Appreciated

So that’s our big announcement. It’s an announcement that is still filled with both excitement and sadness, though we’re gradually moving more toward the excitement end of the continuum. And we would certainly appreciate prayer as we make the transition, especially for the girls. Thanks for your support, and stay tuned for updates as things progress.

Comments

comments

55 Responses to “Our Second Big Announcement: Moving to Wheaton!”

  1. Brandon Jones February 20, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Marc,

    I have followed your blog for a while, so congratulations are in order. You will be a great asset to Wheaton’s doctoral program, which is already high quality for the reasons you give.

    Blessings,
    Brandon

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      Thanks Brandon. Glad you’ve enjoyed the blog, and I appreciate the encouragement!

  2. Tim Gombis February 20, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    Huge congrats, Marc! Your family will love Chicago and I know you’ll thoroughly enjoy Wheaton!

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      Thanks. And now that we’ll be in the same (general) neck of the woods, maybe we can connect more often.

  3. Brian LePort February 20, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Wheaton is a great school and you’ll be a great fit there. I pray the transition goes well for you and your family. Thank you for all you did for Western and the students while there. I am glad you were there when I was!

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Thanks Brian. I have certainly enjoyed working with you and all the other ThM students here at Western. Great times!

  4. Tyler Velin February 20, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    You have never met me Marc, but I have spent countless hours on the CLL in your CHS class, so I feel like I know you, and now you are leaving. I feel like Manti T’eo…you will forever be my Lennay Kekua. In all seriousness, congrats and good luck.

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Wow, I never thought I’d get to be someone Lennay Kekua! Now I’ve definitely arrived.

  5. Paul Bruggink February 20, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Did anyone remember to tell you about the tornadoes? :-) Congratulations!!

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 10:20 am #

      I don’t think God lets tornadoes hit Wheaton.

      • Al Hsu February 20, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

        Some tornadoes came through Wheaton last July, shortly after the fires in Colorado Springs. We were expecting further judgment on evangelicalism with a plague of frogs in Grand Rapids next.

  6. Brian Fulthorp February 20, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    This is GREAT news Marc!! Congratualtions!!

  7. Craig Beard February 20, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Congratulations, Marc! I pray that this will be a great blessing for you and for all the students you’ll be mentoring in the coming years.

  8. Steve McCoy February 20, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Congrats on the coming move to Chicagoland. It’s a great city.

  9. Kelli Templeton February 20, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    You will leave a big hole at Western. Excited for you and your family. I have the same feelings seeing you leave – sadness and excitement. May God work mightily through you!

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks Kelli. And I hope things are still going well in eastern WA.

  10. tory February 20, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Congratulations! (and I’m so glad you’ll be continuing blogging and writing!)

  11. Billy February 20, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Marc I am excited for you and extremely sad for us at the same time. Congratulations on the job at Wheaton my friend.

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      So sorry we won’t get to connect for lunch as much this way. But let’s definitely do that whenever I’m back in the area!

  12. Bobby Grow February 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Congratulations, Marc! I am excited for you and the family.

  13. Garrick Bailey February 20, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Congratulations from a future (2014) Wheaton PhD applicant. I have been looking forward to this announcement since ETS. Best of luck to you and your family in the coming transition. Also, I pray that you finish well at Western. Thank you for sharing the news in such an insightful manner.

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Thanks Garrick. I’ll look forward to seeing your application next year!

  14. Mary Jensen February 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Congratulations, Marc. It is definitely a bitter-sweet deal. You will be missed at Western and I am thankful to have squeezed in a class from you before I graduated. Both of my kids did their undergrad at Wheaton and were greatly enriched by the people and thoughtful academics there. Do check out Church of the Resurrection for a lively Anglican worship experience. Visits to that church have deepened my walk with God and changed some things about my approach to Him. blessings, Mary Jensen

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      Thanks Mary. And it’s great to hear that your kids had a good experience at Wheaton. Stories like that are a good part of why we’re so excited about the possibilities.

  15. Jeff Patterson February 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Sad to see you go, but excited for you, Dr. Cortez. Though we haven’t met in person, I enjoy your writings and theological acuteness, so helpful in my role as a local pastor.

    Grace.

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      Thanks Jeff. Sorry we haven’t had a chance to meet yet, but I hope you’ll stay in touch.

  16. David Murray February 20, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Delighted for you Marc. Pray that you will be a great blessing in your new role.

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      Thanks David. Now that we’ll be living somewhat closer together, maybe we’ll finally get a chance to meet!

  17. Scott Reavely February 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Marc, Congratulations! I remember the excitement when you were hired at Western Seminary. You have done a great job there. I’m sure God will use you in this next chapter, too.

    • Marc Cortez February 20, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Thanks Scott. I really enjoyed working with you at Western and greatly appreciate your leadership there. I hope we get more chances to connect in the future.

  18. Michael February 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    It has been such an honor to learn from you and work as your grad fellow. I am so glad that you waited to accept this offer until the year of my graduation from Western. That was very kind of you :)

  19. Joshua Barton February 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Marc,

    Congrats brother on the pending transition. Chicago is a great city. Have fun and continue loving and living Jesus. The Pacific NW will miss you and the family!

    In His Name,

    Joshua

  20. Andy February 20, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    First you change the name and look of the blog (still miss the bridge), then you become dean-less (I think I like un-dean too and may use that whenever I make that transition), and now the worst of all, you leave us! The weeping and gnashing of teeth is on. Now I have to decide, do I suck it up and push it to the limit to finish my thesis before the end of the Cortez regime and so honor him in that way or just say, hey he’s ditching us, so forget him and instead form an indelible impression on the new ThM guru by being his first graduate.
    Seriously though, we will greatly miss you but hope your new opportunity brings cool stuff like freezing winters, scorching summers,and the all day drive-in known as I-90 traffic – not even to mention it is LANDLOCKED – do not let them tell you that Lake Michigan is like an ocean: IT IS NOT. Oh, by the way, get used to the overpass being your highest altitude.
    Okay, seriously, seriously, we wish you the best and know you will do great there. Your students will be greatly blessed.

    (And before I get hate comments from Chicagoland folk, just to let you know, I really like Chicago – except for the winters).

    • Marc Cortez February 22, 2013 at 7:42 am #

      We’ll survive the traffic, but the lack of mountains and oceans is definitely a concern. But I think I can remedy most of that through a creative use of screen savers.

      And you should definitely try to finish before I go. Wouldn’t it be much better to be the last person to finish under my tutelage than just the first in a long line of people the next person supervises? That way you get to be the pinnacle of my tenure rather than someone else’s trial run!

  21. Amy February 21, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Welcome to the Midwest and good luck with the move! I hope you’ll find plenty of reasons to come visit us at Notre Dame now and again.

    • Marc Cortez February 22, 2013 at 7:40 am #

      Thanks. And I certainly hope to make it out your way more often. Being closer to opportunities like that is one of the great benefits of being in the area.

  22. Lane February 24, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

    Very exciting, Congratulations!

    Also, if you don’t mind me being shamefully selfish: YAY more blogging!

  23. Annie February 25, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Congratulations! What a wonderful opportunity–and very glad to hear that the blog will continue. I’ve visited Chicago regularly over the years, often in winter. There is a good reason it is called the windy city [though truth in advertising it should be called the biting windy city]. But with the snow, you can take up cross-country skiing. Plus summers are wonderful and fall and spring are beautiful.

  24. Don Carney March 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    Just discovered your threads and articles tonight when my day has to end for work on the morrow …hope to follow your sense of Christ’s message further

  25. Brad Harper March 19, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Marc,
    Congratulations on your new position. We will miss you here in Portland but are confident that God will bless you and your family.

    All the Best,

    Brad

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