Life is an adventure for director of nonprofit that sends theological books abroad
Dr. Nancy Arnison sees life as an adventure. “We can seize those opportunities that come our way and fly with them,” she said, “or miss them all together”. She has spent her life seizing opportunities and flying exactly where God leads her.
Arnison is executive director of Theological Book Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing access to educational resources for Majority World theological institutions that are training church leaders who will serve in those countries. Many times such schools are woefully lacking in books and other resources from the West. TBN finds those resources and ships them to the institutions in countries such as China, Paraguay, Central African Republic, and Belgium.
As the second director of TBN and the first woman to lead the organization, she’s stepping into a new city and a new job with a new focus. This former social worker, lawyer, theologian, fundraiser and global rights leader finds her job a blend of all of them.
“I’ve never had a career template for myself, but what I tried to do is listen,” said Arnison. “In each step of my career, God has prepared me for the next step. My experience all comes together in this position. I find that really wonderful, and know that it’s no accident.”
Her place in leadership is no accident, either. Women, she said, are leaders in many different ways. “We’re more than half the population; that’s important because historically and still today women aren’t recognized as the leaders they are, though they’re leading all the time. We’re all created in the image of God, and that includes women. If we are to live in the imago dei, we need to capture all of our skills as we live in the world.”
Christianity, she said, as with many faith traditions, can be used well or detrimentally in society. Some parts of the Christian tradition have not been helpful to women so, she said, we must look at the other parts of the tradition that lifts women up.
“Women were leaders in the early church, and Jesus had a unique view of women. He was all about breaking down barriers of marginalized groups; he was friends with women, ate with women. He was not marginalizing women,” said Arnison.
She dreams that someday the Theological Book Network will not be needed. She dreams that someday the seminaries around the world will be able to resource their libraries as they need to. “I hope they have the resources they need to stay and study in their own communities if they want to, and become leaders in their own contexts,” said Arnison. “Now they come to the West to study, then go home and not have the resources they need there to further their studies.”
She also dreams that us Westerners will find joy in being engaged in this work through funding, donating books, or volunteering. “We have big dreams, but that’s what makes our work exciting. We love our books here, but these books are absolutely treasures in places that have so few of them.”
Arnison also wants to foster women as leaders both here and abroad. “A lot of programs around the world have learned that they must empower women to really make a difference. We’re part of the chain,” she said.
This leader also encourages all women, young and older, to follow their dreams. “Courage is really important to step into arenas you might be interested in but didn’t have time or confidence to pursue. Take that step and know that you can make a difference in the community and world around you.”
THEOLOGICAL BOOK NETWORK
Where: 3529 Patterson Ave. SE
You Can Help:
1. Book or library donations that focus on biblical studies, commentaries, church history, ethics, world religions, reference materials, and copies of religious journals such as Bibliotheca Sacra and Modern Theology.
2. Sponsor a shipment of books.
3. Monetary donation to Theological Book Network.
4. In-house volunteer opportunities: book un/packing and cataloguing; event and sponsorship coordination; filing, online research, administrative help.
Name: Dr. Nancy Arnison
Title: Executive Director, Theological Book Network
Status: Single, 56
Hobbies: Ballroom dancing, playing piano, gardening
Home: Downtown Grand Rapids