My name is Eric Smith, and I’m a member of the DSF board, as well as the liaison between DSF and the Iliff School of Theology, where I’m on the faculty. I teach New Testament and early Christianity, and I co-direct our Doctor of Ministry in Prophetic Leadership program, which launched a few years ago.
I grew up in the foothills of the Appalachians in North Carolina, where I became interested in religion at a young age. As a kid I went to programming at the Southern Baptist church that was across the street from our house, and then in junior high I started attending a Disciples of Christ church where my best friend’s dad was the pastor. Pretty soon my whole family started going, and that church became a huge part of my formation. I’m still a member of that church, actually — First Christian Church of Walnut Cove — because even after I was ordained by the North Carolina region of the DOC, I’ve worked in UMC and UCC churches, and I wanted to keep my membership with a DOC congregation. I find my connections to the DOC in my work with DSF, participation in regional and national events and committees, in presenting my scholarship in forums like the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference, and in publishing with Chalice Press.
I think DSF serves a really important mission in its support to students. That’s a role that often gets overlooked or ignored, and so many students end up taking out huge loans to pay for their education. DSF steps into that gap and makes seminary education less of a burden. Most of the students supported by DSF would have to incur a lot of debt without that support, and for some students, seminary wouldn’t be possible at all without the financial support DSF offers.
But beyond the finances, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of a Disciples of Christ network and support system. The DOC really does represent something unique in the landscape of North American Christianity, and it’s so valuable to have a community like DSF where that uniqueness can really stand out. I’m proud of the strong Disciples-ness of DSF, and also of the diversity of genders and sexualities, theologies and philosophies, races and ethnicities, and perspectives that are represented among us.
I work with DSF on the board and as a liaison to Iliff because I believe in what happens here, and I see the fruits of the faithfulness of the present and the past in the formation of leaders for the future. Even as the church changes and evolves, I still see an essential place for it in the world, and the Disciples’ voice only becomes more necessary. I’m looking forward to years of partnership ahead!