For the spring semester leading up to my graduation from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I served as an intern with The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD), immersed in an atmosphere where“cultural engagement” is not an add-on, but key to its mission and function. There have been many practical lessons in this time, such as learning to work in an office culture and understanding office “protocol.” Working within communication channels, even in a small organization, takes adjusting and was made easy by the courtesy and kindness of the staff here at CBHD. Finding and evaluating bioethics curricula suitable for the church allowed me to integrate bioethics with my theological education. Helping Paige Cunningham and Michael Sleasman construct a survey for clergy and their awareness of bioethical issues taught me that seemingly insignificant details matter greatly in the perception of those who would participate. Leadership opportunities— such as planning a webinar for the Healthcare Ethics Council and giving a bioethics presentation for the staff—were set objectives that fit perfectly with the concentration of my internship on adult education. Feedback on my presentation was far more than mere constructive criticism, as I received “gold” in the form of feedback from seasoned professionals who speak and teach on a regular basis. Even though it did not ultimately come to fruition, the experience of planning a webinar during my internship was a valuable experience as I felt my way through the planning process with resources and insights from Jennifer McVey. Leading my first planning meeting for the webinar with CBHD staff helped me to develop and practice skills essential for any leadership role in adult education. More importantly, I saw not only the logistics of the venture involving the many strategic activities of the Center’s staff, but, also, the critical role that personal and professional relationships play in CBHD’s strategic functions and ongoing mission.
CBHD would not be what it is today without a global network of professionals in a wide variety of disciplines committed to and supportive of its mission. These friends of the Center are experts and specialists devoted to engaging with trends in culture, medicine, technology, and public policy who come from various professions and varied streams of the Christian tradition. Whether they are Fellows of the Center, instructors or speakers at the annual summer conference,
or researchers and writers, each contributes to advance the Center’s engagement with various bioethical and cultural issues. These relationships include international students and cohorts who seek to study bioethics and integrate them into their area of practice in their own culture. The network of Christians from diverse ecclesial traditions who serve in their respective vocational arenas, I believe, is a key aspect of CBHD’s statement of “bringing clarity to the complex issues of our day.” Where there is disagreement or controversy, the door to dialogue stays open not merely to keep talking, but to demonstrate God’s love and grace with one another and to those served by CBHD. Maintaining the dignity of men, women, and children extends from the staff here at the Center to the broken and exploited worldwide, because of the Center’s commitment to Christian values and virtues.
Early in my internship, I was told that the work done at CBHD can be viewed, among other frameworks, through the language of justice, and justice is close to the heart of God. CBHD speaks for those who have no voice, and they are in just about every issue CBHD tackles. This framework may not be self-evident to those more frequently focused in the practical dimensions of social justice arenas. Nonetheless, Christ followers invested in the work of CBHD pursue justice and other central Christian values by researching, teaching, writing, guiding, and ultimately ministering to the vulnerable and disadvantaged in today’s technologically advanced world. And I feel privileged to have participated in CBHD’s mission this semester through my internship.