Eye surgeon/ophthalmologist Jonathan Drummond is almost finished with his first year at Iliff in the JOURNEY MDiv program. He’s still in the practice of eye care that he’s been in for 25 years. In fact, he’s working with the same practice in Stillwater, Oklahoma that he’s been in for 20 years.
He’s keeping the relationships in the community that have sustained him, but Iliff’s program is taking him on a journey of knowledge and new relationships. “My vocation is medicine,” says Jonathan, “but in recent years I started to become increasingly interested about what’s going on at church. Why aren’t people coming back to church?
I’m at home there, but what’s going on?” He was formed by the Presbyterian Church-USA and other traditions, but has been a part of the United Methodist Church for over a decade. He’s interested in doing social justice work that takes the divine seriously. He led Bible study back in med school, so the interest has been there for a long time. With his two 20-something daughters out of the house, it felt like it was time to dig deeper. “I can claim some credibility in my church as a 51 year-old guy that’s been in church for a while, and I’d like to use that space to help young people and people who are marginalized.”
Coming back to school was not without challenges. “In college I wrote papers with a typewriter! Now things move quickly.” But he’s keeping up with the online parts of the hybrid program. Meeting as a group for Gathering Days once a quarter has been formative, too. “It’s the mountain top that we come to and then we go home to consider the experience. There’s a heartbeat to the work that’s a great metaphor for the ebb and flow of life.”
Since he came with questions about the church, it was wonderful to start with Katherine Turpin and Rubén Arjona’s course, “Why the Church?” “They asked us to consider why Church is. What’s its purpose? It was the ultimate first class! I found grounding in the community.” In all his classes, “it’s about being prepared and present.” In Katherine Turpin’s “Congregational Education” course, he learned more about the young people he wants to hold space for. “Youth work on digital technology is helping to maximize an already networked community.” He’s also found more than he expected in Jacob Kinnard’s “Religions in the World” course. Learning about other communities and how they fit together has been eye-o
“It’s about holding space for everyone, even the conservative people back home… I want to transform my little corner of the world!” Jonathan wants to know if the movement and change he is seeing in the church will be all or nothing. When his brother came out in the 1980s, he lost his social position in the community but was allowed to remain. “What are the rules going to be? Why are so many in the church wanting to be defined by who we exclude?… I’m a bystander coming into being as an ally.” His work with “The Reformation Project” (“a Bible-based, Gospel-centered approach to LGBTQ inclusion” in the church) is something he shares with several Iliff students. “Your story is your story— my job is to respond to that with care.” He’s listened to retiring professor Tink Tinker saying that there is work to be done.
Jonathan’s work is still in medicine, but Iliff’s JOURNEY is allowing him to take those talents to new subjects where they are needed. In his medical practice, Jonathan has to “get to the heart of an issue.” Coming to school at Iliff means tackling big issues he’s interested in and finding that heart. “Economy of words is very important to medicine.” As he goes through the program, he keeps on examining his theology in this spirit. “Now I can begin to own what I believe and deconstruct it in order to understand why I believe it.”