Author Topic: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?  (Read 18494 times)

David M. Frye, OblSB

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #195 on: April 17, 2013, 02:42:19 PM »
Ah, I misunderstood your question. There may be no good example in the history of the Church where obedience to the leading of the Spirit in choosing and equipping the Church's leaders was attuned first and foremost to the achievement of a demographic mix.

We know a bit about the backgrounds of the disciples, but there are no indications Jesus chose them for the demographic image of his band of followers. Instead, they seem to be the ones who heard the call, "Follow me," and dropped everything and did so.

I've never understood how the ELCA comes to the determination that the fact that I am a white, male, married, Pennsylvania German with astigmatism and no appendix either qualifies or disqualifies me from any particular ministry. The gifts of the Spirit I have received, whatever they are, do not seem to depend upon any of my demographic characteristics.

The fact that the apostles were all men, in particular, stands as a refutation that gender, specifically, is a necessary qualifier for the selection of the Church's leaders or decision-makers. The reason for this is that if gender diversity were necessary, the Church then would have started out wrong-headed and should have strayed from our Lord's intentions from the get-go. Its persistence and our trust that this persistence is God's will indicate that the premise (gender diversity is necessary) is a false one.

If one were a subscriber to the notion of quotas as a mechanism for achieving demographics "balance," perhaps one might posit that reformed sinners of various stripes should be assured representation. In that case, if I were to repent of my white, male privilege—one of the sins on the ELCA's current "most wanted" list—perhaps I should be placed on the inside track for some vital position in the complexity of the ELCA's structure.

My family's history on my mother's side is bound to the Church of the Brethren. While that community has gone the route of seminary education in recent decades, when I was a child, the practice was for the local congregation (probably the men, I would guess) to gather and to pray and to select one of their own to serve as the pastor of the congregation. There was no system of formal certification or education, and yet, this method seemed to raise up diligent, humble, faithful and exemplary men (or at least it did no worse than any other system).

This is a fifty-year-old example, but that is a bit more recent than one from almost two millennia ago!

It's been tried! See "Disciples, Twelve (12)."

An alternate route would be for the ELCA to place itself in the hands of one of its partner churches in Africa and to trust in the Holy Spirit's guidance in that part of the Church to rekindle and refocus life in this denomination. That would meet the any conceivable goals of diversity, while demonstrating humility and trust in God's providential care.

Checkmark!


If they're really going to put themselves in God's providential care, why not just trust Him to call whoever He chooses to call, and let Him worry about whether or not He has called the right demographic mix?


I was hoping for a more recent example.


I wasn't referring to how they were trained. I was referring to how they were selected to be in the training program. I was referring to the ELCA's quota system. The operative phrase was "right demographic mix"
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #196 on: April 17, 2013, 02:54:04 PM »
The fact that the apostles were all men, in particular, stands as a refutation that gender, specifically, is a necessary qualifier for the selection of the Church's leaders or decision-makers. The reason for this is that if gender diversity were necessary, the Church then would have started out wrong-headed and should have strayed from our Lord's intentions from the get-go. Its persistence and our trust that this persistence is God's will indicate that the premise (gender diversity is necessary) is a false one.


I think that you are mixing up being called for ordained ministry - for which the ELCA has never had "quotas" to fill; and finding volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds for a decision-making body. Jesus had no decision-making body.

"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Erdner

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #197 on: April 17, 2013, 03:00:51 PM »
If one were a subscriber to the notion of quotas as a mechanism for achieving demographics "balance," perhaps one might posit that reformed sinners of various stripes should be assured representation. In that case, if I were to repent of my white, male privilege—one of the sins on the ELCA's current "most wanted" list—perhaps I should be placed on the inside track for some vital position in the complexity of the ELCA's structure.



I think we humans share enough sin through original sin without ecclesiastical bureaucrats devising goals and mystic formulas for quotas to achieve those goals, and treating those who happen to fit the wrong profile as being a special kind of sinner to be set aside and shunned. Perhaps that initial quota system that was adopted at the founding of the ELCA is one of the initial "fatal flaws" that demonstrated that the very foundation of the ELCA means it is ultimately doomed. One or two more exodus-causing incidents like the 2009 CWA, and I suspect the ELCA will end up being one of the smaller Lutheran denominations on "Pastor Zip's" list.

David M. Frye, OblSB

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #198 on: April 17, 2013, 04:44:23 PM »
Yes, the ELCA has never technically had quotas to fill for calling people to serve as ordained ministers. But practice and policy do not always cohere. When, for example, a longstanding practice says that every synodical worship service must always have an ordained woman in a visible position of participation in that service, despite the fact that ordained men outnumber ordained women, then the women will be cycled through much more often than the men. The duck test applies here.

Decision-making in the Church's lift is an exercise of the gifts of the Spirit. I still don't see why this requires any quotas. The difference between exercising the office of the ordained ministry and exercising the vocation of Christians engaged in decision-making is not based upon quotas or demographics, but upon the gifts of the Spirit for particular service.

Jesus, during his earthly ministry, did not have a decision-making body. Eleven of the Twelve, however, constituted the first cadre of leaders in the Church. They made decisions … in obedience to the Spirit's guidance.

The fact that the apostles were all men, in particular, stands as a refutation that gender, specifically, is a necessary qualifier for the selection of the Church's leaders or decision-makers. The reason for this is that if gender diversity were necessary, the Church then would have started out wrong-headed and should have strayed from our Lord's intentions from the get-go. Its persistence and our trust that this persistence is God's will indicate that the premise (gender diversity is necessary) is a false one.


I think that you are mixing up being called for ordained ministry - for which the ELCA has never had "quotas" to fill; and finding volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds for a decision-making body. Jesus had no decision-making body.
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David M. Frye, OblSB

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #199 on: April 17, 2013, 04:50:51 PM »
I agree. I am not seriously suggesting sin-specific quotas. On the other hand, I absolutely would advocate prayerful examination of the Church's various tasks and deliberate efforts to discern the best combination of spiritual gifts that would serve to accomplish each task. Then we seek the Spirit's guidance to find those gifts and invite (summon) people to serve.

The quota system is symptomatic of assumptions embedded in the ELCA that find their foundations in understandings of the Church other than those grounded in the theology that flows from reflection on her Scriptures and her Tradition.

Someone once noted that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

If one were a subscriber to the notion of quotas as a mechanism for achieving demographics "balance," perhaps one might posit that reformed sinners of various stripes should be assured representation. In that case, if I were to repent of my white, male privilege—one of the sins on the ELCA's current "most wanted" list—perhaps I should be placed on the inside track for some vital position in the complexity of the ELCA's structure.



I think we humans share enough sin through original sin without ecclesiastical bureaucrats devising goals and mystic formulas for quotas to achieve those goals, and treating those who happen to fit the wrong profile as being a special kind of sinner to be set aside and shunned. Perhaps that initial quota system that was adopted at the founding of the ELCA is one of the initial "fatal flaws" that demonstrated that the very foundation of the ELCA means it is ultimately doomed. One or two more exodus-causing incidents like the 2009 CWA, and I suspect the ELCA will end up being one of the smaller Lutheran denominations on "Pastor Zip's" list.
David M. Frye, OblSB

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George Erdner

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #200 on: April 17, 2013, 05:56:16 PM »
Yes, the ELCA has never technically had quotas to fill for calling people to serve as ordained ministers. But practice and policy do not always cohere.


If I had a dollar for every time there was an instance of the ELCA's policy and practice not agreeing...

Charles_Austin

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #201 on: April 17, 2013, 06:07:16 PM »
Mr. Erdner misunderstands again, despite having been corrected on this many times. The ELCA's search for "inclusiveness" was a goal, not a quota. It was hoped that the minority membership of the ELCA would increase significantly. I do not think that has happened. There was never an intent to have a "quota" to fill for calling pastors. There were provisions whereby ELCA boards and commissions were required to make sure that minority groups had representation. I never liked those provisions and said so, way back then and ever since.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #202 on: April 17, 2013, 07:19:20 PM »
Yes, the ELCA has never technically had quotas to fill for calling people to serve as ordained ministers. But practice and policy do not always cohere. When, for example, a longstanding practice says that every synodical worship service must always have an ordained woman in a visible position of participation in that service, despite the fact that ordained men outnumber ordained women, then the women will be cycled through much more often than the men. The duck test applies here.


I served as a co-chair for five years on a synod worship committee. We oversaw all synod worship services during that time. While we operated with this "norm," which we created for ourselves: "In ways that are appropriate, leadership in worship shall reflect the ELCA's commitment to full participation of the people of God (lay/clergy, male/female, people of all ages, and people of color and language other than English)."

We never required an ordained woman at any worship service. We rotated among the conferences for the conducting of the worship services and some had no female clergy. We often tried to have a balance between the clergy presider and the lay assistant: one male and one female.


Quote
Decision-making in the Church's lift is an exercise of the gifts of the Spirit. I still don't see why this requires any quotas. The difference between exercising the office of the ordained ministry and exercising the vocation of Christians engaged in decision-making is not based upon quotas or demographics, but upon the gifts of the Spirit for particular service.


Good decision-making seeks to have the widest amount of input possible. Men and women experience the world differently. People of color experience the world differently than the white majority. Seeking to hear their voices helps make better decisions. I have had congregation councils that were all men and one that was all women. I am certain that a mix is better.

Quote
Jesus, during his earthly ministry, did not have a decision-making body. Eleven of the Twelve, however, constituted the first cadre of leaders in the Church. They made decisions … in obedience to the Spirit's guidance.


What do we read about the Jerusalem council? It was made up of apostles and elders. Those who presented the issue were Paul and Barnabas - who were not part of the eleven. Peter addressed the group - one of the apostles. James addressed the group, not one of the apostles. He was the one who proposed the solution that was agreed upon. Then it says: "The apostles and the elders, along with the entire church, agreed …." (Acts 15:22). Does that suggest a democratic vote? Judas Barsabbas and Silas who were not apostles, are sent with Paul and Barnabas. In the letter that they sent, it says, "We reached a united decision…" (Acts 15:25). How would they do that without some kind of democratic process and/or input from the entire church?


Of course, Lutherans don't want to be accused of swallowing the Spirit, feathers and all; so how do you propose that we heed and respond to the Spirit's guidance?
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #203 on: April 17, 2013, 07:28:39 PM »
I agree. I am not seriously suggesting sin-specific quotas. On the other hand, I absolutely would advocate prayerful examination of the Church's various tasks and deliberate efforts to discern the best combination of spiritual gifts that would serve to accomplish each task. Then we seek the Spirit's guidance to find those gifts and invite (summon) people to serve.


How well have you accomplished that in your own congregation? If it's like most, there are a few people who do most all of the work.

Quote
The quota system is symptomatic of assumptions embedded in the ELCA that find their foundations in understandings of the Church other than those grounded in the theology that flows from reflection on her Scriptures and her Tradition.


If there is an assumption embedded in the ELCA, it is that Jesus was on the side of the oppressed. How can we as a church body help raise up those whom society has pushed down.

Quote
Someone once noted that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.


I know that the commercial walnut trees near us in California were one species of walnut that was graphed onto the roots of another walnut species. The combination of two trees made for a healthier and more productive tree. Seeking to include as wide a possible representation for our bodies of deliberations makes for a healthier and more productive church - that will naturally bear good fruit.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #204 on: April 17, 2013, 08:59:08 PM »
Mr. Erdner misunderstands again, despite having been corrected on this many times. The ELCA's search for "inclusiveness" was a goal, not a quota. It was hoped that the minority membership of the ELCA would increase significantly. I do not think that has happened. There was never an intent to have a "quota" to fill for calling pastors. There were provisions whereby ELCA boards and commissions were required to make sure that minority groups had representation. I never liked those provisions and said so, way back then and ever since.

The verbs, Charles, should be in the present tense, not the past, since they are still in effect. 

You may not like the word "quotas," but when it comes to any organized grouping that is to be "representative" (in any sense of the word) in the ELCA, they are a fact in both this church's Churchwide and Synodical expressions.  I have served on a Synod nominating committee and the Synod Council, and have participated in the gymnastics necessary to ensure the quotas are met.

They are not a fact in the congregational expressions, because no congregation would stand for it.  Besides, the progress we have made in reaching 10% POCOLOTEs by 1997 (which is how the goal still reads in our governing documents) has been nil.  And, yes, they are not a fact in the make-up of the various ministry rosters -- but then, despite your repeated harping on it over the years on this forum, no one here has claimed such.  But note the preaching/presiding/liturgist line-ups at Assembly worship services.

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Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #205 on: April 17, 2013, 09:16:58 PM »

Good decision-making seeks to have the widest amount of input possible.


This is a ideological statement based on numerous, unstated suppositions.  Through most of  human history, and in many cultures today, it would be deemed nonsense -- as it is by those who have researched decision-making.  In fact, too much input makes it more difficult to make any decision, good or bad.

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George Erdner

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #206 on: April 17, 2013, 10:14:43 PM »
I suppose it needs to be pointed out that a goal is an objective a person or organization strives to achieve. If that goal is some sort of demographic profile, then a system of quotas is the method used to achieve the goal. Of course the ELCA doesn't have a quota system, it has a goal and it uses quotas as a means to accomplish the goal.


And of course, it also needs to be pointed out that when quotas are used as a tool, they can be formally written down and "official", or they can be understood but unspoken. More than a few people in here have pointed out the lengths that they go to at ELCA gatherings to ensure the right mix of colors and genders. Can any reasonable person deny that such constant displays of quotas in action, whether official or unofficial, do not carry over into deliberations on which candidates to accept for admission to seminaries?

Charles_Austin

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #207 on: April 17, 2013, 10:33:44 PM »
Surely, Steven, you do not object to making the public worship at synod assemblies reflective of the whole synod. If there are women pastors in the synod, why would there not be women preaching and presiding at synod events? Having a policy which urges planners to pay attention to such things is not wrong.
My objection has always been to formal, prescribed "quotas," that is saying that 10 percent of any committee, task force, board, etc., had to be women or minorities.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #208 on: April 18, 2013, 01:53:36 AM »

Good decision-making seeks to have the widest amount of input possible.


This is a ideological statement based on numerous, unstated suppositions.  Through most of  human history, and in many cultures today, it would be deemed nonsense -- as it is by those who have researched decision-making.  In fact, too much input makes it more difficult to make any decision, good or bad.


Democracy is a very inefficient way of making decisions.


In MBTI research, studies show that committees with a broad range of type preferences do better than those of people with all the same type preference.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #209 on: April 18, 2013, 06:42:31 PM »
Surely, Steven, you do not object to making the public worship at synod assemblies reflective of the whole synod.


I was, for some reason, just yesterday reading an old note about the announcement of the preachers and presiders for the Daily Eucharists of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Of the six presiders, one -- the Presiding Bishop -- was a white male; four were women.  Of the seven preachers (the PB presided twice), two -- the PB and the Chair of the Conference of Bishops -- were white males; three were women.

Was this reflective of the ELCA clergy roster?

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