Ada Focer is the Research Director of the CGCM. She comes to this position from a lifetime of action-oriented research, first as a founder and executive director of a non-profit community development corporation in Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood experiencing massive disinvestment after court-ordered busing in the 1970s, then as Deputy Commissioner of Banks for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, then as an investigative business reporter, columnist, and economics editor with a specialty in the post-deregulation banking and finance world. All of these arenas posed opportunities to investigate questions about how value was created and destroyed. The limits of economistic thinking–that we are all self-interested, self-maximizing choosers–became obvious. The power of non-market values propelling committed people to create things of real lasting value became equally obvious.
Ada got a M.Div. at Boston University School of Theology in 2005. She is now a Ph.D. Candidate in Religion and Society in the Division of Religion and Theological Studies. Her main focus of interest has been on the decline of the mainline Protestant tradition in America. Her scholarly and experiential hunch told her that the commonly accepted explanation that liberal denominations declined because they demanded too little and that conservative ones thrived because they demanded so much left out a lot. Her own research has focused on the Student Christian Movement tradition in the U.S. as a “third way” neither conservative nor liberal but with deep roots in the Protestant mission movement, deep friendships with people around the world, and deep disagreements with the U.S. foreign policy, a policy the mainline church congregations supported.
Ada’s dissertation–Frontiers in Relation: Being Christian in a Post-Colonial World–is built on life histories of one hundred twenty-five leaders in the Student Christian Movement selected to spend two years overseas in an innovative mainline Protestant program called Frontier Internship in Mission between 1960 and 1974. She traveled 26,000 miles, mostly in this 10-year old Forester, to interview these amazing people. Results of that research will also be reported on the FIM Project page.