Scholars on Board: Two leading figures in Christian communication scholarship lend their weight to CCSN
By Divine Agodzo
In case you’d heard that leading Christian communication scholars Quentin Schultze and Mark Fackler are now retired, you can go ahead and discount it.
The two leaders of Christian communication scholarship will not only continue to pursue personal projects that build on their legacies, but have also signed on to help advance the work of the Christianity and Communication Studies Network (CCSN) as Senior Fellows.
Schultze (Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), is author or editor of more than a dozen respected titles, including the recent An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication (with Diane Badzinski). While he’s left his post at Calvin College, Schultze says he’s certainly not giving up his active involvement in the field of Christian communication scholarship.
“I’m rewiring rather than retiring,” Schultze remarked. “First, I need time for prayer, meditation, and reflection. Second, I feel called to explore practically but also deeply the communication aspects of servant leadership.”
Mark Fackler, Schultze’s long-time friend and Calvin College colleague, also has various activities lined up following his departure from Calvin College in 2015. Fackler earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he first met Schultze.
“The happy circumstance of meeting Quin and others at the University of Illinois set a trajectory for a career that has been so full of relationships and opportunities. I have been blessed,” Fackler said. “Now at Handlon Correctional Facility, a Michigan prison, Calvin has launched a course of study that turns the challenge of teaching in another direction. I report each week to my supervisors: ‘Lovin’ it!’ I continue to put words on pages hoping they make sense, and make sense of, the ethical choices facing our second decade of the new millennium.”
Fackler’s pursuits follow 33 years spent teaching and mentoring communication students and future scholars as professor of communication at Calvin College, and earlier at Wheaton College. His areas of expertise include journalism and democratization, ethics and development, and peace studies. He has authored, co-authored, or edited key communication texts, including the Handbook of Global Communication and Media Ethics and Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning. Fackler has taught at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, and Daystar University in Kenya. His work as a scholar, teacher, and author is influenced by Niebuhr’s fifth model, the Christ transforming culture.
“I see the task of communication scholarship as understanding the construction and transmission of meaning through the free use of symbol to generate responsible culture,” Fackler says. “Christian communication scholars believe that this symbol-making capacity reflects the grant of the “image of God” at the beginning of humankind and culture in the book of Genesis, and ought to promote and demonstrate the “river of life” image in the book of Revelation, in effect, the mission of God, beginning to end. How this fleshes out in daily news coverage, leadership decisions, and life in city and “bush.” These are the scholarly dramas that have opened my eyes and ears around the world, and still do.”
Schultze’s work as a communication scholar, author and teacher reveals a similar commitment to realizing shalom, a Hebrew word roughly translated to mean peace. Over his career, Schultze says he’s drawn intellectual inspiration from several seminal figures in the panoply of Judeo-Christian scholarship, including Clifford Christians, James W. Carey, Jacques Ellul, William Stringfellow, Abraham Heschel, and Søren Kierkegaard.
Schultze left the communication faculty at Calvin College in 2015 after than 33 years. Since then, he has focused on building on the pioneering work of Robert Greenleaf by establishing the Center for Servant Leadership Communication and working on two related books. The Center’s goal is help leaders become more virtuous, trusted, and skilled communicators.
“This is deep, interdisciplinary work even though it focuses on communication,” he said. “I believe that the future is the hands of everyone who accepts responsibility for being caretakers of their own, small parts of the world. In this sense, just about everyone is called to be a leader.”
“The launch of CCSN is part of the vision to build one of the most innovative online platforms for dialogue, relationship building, and mutual learning at the intersection of communication and Christian faith,” Woods said. “The network is blessed to have the support of two of the top scholars in our field and their contributions as Senior Fellows will no doubt contribute to creating an intellectually and spiritually rich experience for our users.”
For Schultze, investing his time and talents in the CCSN is really an opportunity to be a servant leader to the next generation of Christian communication scholars.
“The best scholarship emerges from communities of mutual learning and teaching,” Schultze says. “CCSN provides the kind of community that it is difficult to create within academic institutions these days.”
Schultze says Christian communication at its best is an act of faith grounded in mutual responsibility and respect. He advises aspiring Christian communication scholars to live with integrity, ask great question, and be receptive to answers, even if they are incomplete.
“Know the main currents in the field and be open to considering new developments in light of existing or unfolding knowledge,” he says. “And have fun. Is there anything more interesting to study than human communication?”
Schultze and Fackler hold the rank of Emeriti Faculty at Calvin College.