Author Topic: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?  (Read 16942 times)

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #210 on: April 18, 2013, 06:59:41 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.

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.

I have no idea what sort of response this is to what I have written, Brian.
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #211 on: April 18, 2013, 08:39:26 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.

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.

I have no idea what sort of response this is to what I have written, Brian.


Through much of history - especially that of the church - decision-making by the people would have been seen as nonsense. Even today, Roman Catholics will state: "the church is not a democracy." They don't (nor in the past) tried to have a representative group of laity and clergy to make decisions on behalf of the Church. The ELCA is not structured like that. We seek to have a representative group of laity and clergy to make decisions on behalf of the whole church body (or whole synod).


Those who study decision-making and personality types most certainly have concluded that a broad spectrum of types leads to better decisions by a group.


However, there are different types of decisions. A technical decision, e.g., to buy a new sound system, can probably be better made by an expert on sound systems than by a group of people who have little or no interest and knowledge in sound systems. Experts, on their own, can make high quality decisions. An airline pilot doesn't take a vote of the passengers when there's a problem. A surgeon doesn't poll everyone in the room before making a decision.


However, I've worked with two congregations in putting in new sound systems. In one, I talked with eight different companies. I did research on the internet. The council discussed it with a couple representatives from different companies. They got a system that met their needs - and learned a bit about systems. They've since upgraded what they had.


At another congregation, I had visited with one company; but a member of the council took it upon himself to contact a local guy, got his opinion and wouldn't even listen to anything that I might have offered - even though I was the one, both as the pastor and the musical director who would be most involved with the system. He went with everything this man recommended (which made it easy for the salesman to install the system) - and it was quite inadequate for the needs of the congregation at the time. Some of the things he bought we never used. If one doesn't have complete information about a problem or what is needed, even an expert can make poor decisions.

Ronald Heifetz, in Leadership Without Easy Answers, which our synod's Missional Leadership Academy requires participants to read, talks about adaptive decisions - where the people need to adapt themselves to a changing situation. The more people involved in making such decisions, the more likely that the people of a congregation will be able to make the changes necessary to carry out such a decisions.


Thus, there are people who study decision-making process who do agree with what I've said: more diversity of input leads to better decisions. (More specifically, more acceptable decisions, which means that those who have to carry out the decision like the decision.) More decisions fail because they are not accepted then because they weren't quality decisions. Acceptance usually requires a group process (and interpersonal skills).
"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 #212 on: April 19, 2013, 12:28:12 PM »

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


...

...

...

Thus, there are people who study decision-making process who do agree with what I've said: more diversity of input leads to better decisions. (More specifically, more acceptable decisions, which means that those who have to carry out the decision like the decision.) More decisions fail because they are not accepted then because they weren't quality decisions. Acceptance usually requires a group process (and interpersonal skills).


As is typical, your initial assertion, your defense of it, and the conclusion of your defense all describe rather different things.

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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #213 on: April 19, 2013, 01:06:34 PM »

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


...

...

...

Thus, there are people who study decision-making process who do agree with what I've said: more diversity of input leads to better decisions. (More specifically, more acceptable decisions, which means that those who have to carry out the decision like the decision.) More decisions fail because they are not accepted then because they weren't quality decisions. Acceptance usually requires a group process (and interpersonal skills).


As is typical, your initial assertion, your defense of it, and the conclusion of your defense all describe rather different things.


Having acceptable decisions is good decision-making. Pretty much the same thing.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2013, 01:08:18 PM by Brian Stoffregen »
"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 #214 on: April 19, 2013, 02:30:06 PM »
The online Inside Higher Ed features Luther Seminary in an article, "The Struggling Seminaries," dated March 29.

Quote

At first, Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., could see itself as exempt from the economic forces shaking seminaries and theological schools nationwide. Luther is the biggest seminary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. Among its peers, it had a reputation for being innovative. Individual donors continued to give, and its local area -- in one of the country’s most Lutheran states -- was supportive.

Last fall, though, it all came crashing down. Enrollments were dropping. The seminary found it was running multimillion-dollar deficits, spending down its endowment and relying on loans. In December, its president, the Rev. Dr. Richard Bliese, resigned, as the seminary’s board began to look at options to trim at least $4 million from the seminary’s $27 million annual budget.

The results were announced last week: layoffs for 18 of its 125 staff members, many effective within a few weeks; the voluntary departure of 8 of 44 faculty members at the end of the academic year, who will not be replaced; the termination of a master’s program in sacred music; and the decision to no longer admit Ph.D students for at least three years.
“I wish things were different,” the interim president, the Rev. Rick Foss, wrote in an e-mail to faculty and staff announcing the changes. “I will never think of this as a good day; it simply isn’t. There will be good days ahead, but this isn’t one of them.”

The changes at Luther have been unusually swift and dramatic. But the trends driving them...


Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/29/luther-seminary-makes-deep-cuts-faculty-and-staff-amid-tough-times-theological#ixzz2Qw2ib475
Inside Higher Ed

Hat tip TitusOneNine.

Pax, Steven+
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Charles_Austin

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #215 on: April 19, 2013, 04:42:36 PM »
So do you mean we cannot blame the difficulties at Luther on the decisions the ELCA made in 2009? Or on the fact that we ordain women? Or on the alleged "liberalism" of ELCA social statements? How ever will we be able to discuss the seminary problem here without those bells to ring?  ::) ::) ::)

Dave Likeness

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #216 on: April 19, 2013, 05:06:58 PM »
Thank You for the article: Struggling Seminaries

There are definitely some trends that apply to all
Lutheran seminaries:

1) Lower enrollments in the past decade
2) Higher costs for both student and seminary
3) Endowment funds down since 2008
4) Seminarian debt is up
5) More married students led to empty seminary dorms
6) Less financial support from ELCA/LCMS headquarters

Most of the trends are financial both for potential students
and the seminaries.  There are no easy answers, but that
is why seminary presidents have become fund raisers.

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #217 on: April 19, 2013, 05:44:36 PM »
So do you mean we cannot blame the difficulties at Luther on the decisions the ELCA made in 2009? Or on the fact that we ordain women? Or on the alleged "liberalism" of ELCA social statements? How ever will we be able to discuss the seminary problem here without those bells to ring?  ::) ::) ::)

As the article, and Luther's own reports, observe, it all came "crashing down" last year, when they realized/discovered they had been running multi-million $ deficits.  IOW, what was sudden last year was the realization that they had been spending more than they were receiving for at least a couple of years, and that reserves were quickly being dried up.

Do the math: income since 2010, or earlier, was not meeting expectations. So at the very least, there appears to be a chronological correlation between Luther's financial decline and the 2009 CWA. 

Now, is there a genuine correlation?  I'd be asking when gifts to Luther started coming in under expectations.  That is information Luther is not sharing via their press releases and general letters.

But I was noting a rather serious disconnect 10-15 years ago between, on one hand, what Luther students were actually being taught on campus and what they were teaching and advocating as they started serving in the ELCA and, on the other, the reputation Luther was maintaining amongst their donor base. 

A lot of ELCA eyes were opened in the wake of 2009, Charles -- your pre-emptive attempt to pooh-pooh the notion notwithstanding.

Pax, Steven+
« Last Edit: April 19, 2013, 06:48:54 PM by The Rev. Steven P. Tibbetts, STS »
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George Erdner

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #218 on: April 19, 2013, 06:02:29 PM »
Why do some people seem unable to grasp the concept of "the straw that broke the camel's back"? That refers to a situation in which the camel is heavily burdened almost up to the breaking point, then one small extra bit of burden is added, which causes the cumulative effect of all the items in the camel's burden to cause him to collapse.


When that "last straw" event occurs, that doesn't mean that there wasn't already a considerable accumulation of load already in existence. Indeed, the point of the saying is that the last bit of burden that causes total collapse might be relatively small.


The ELCA was burdened down with many, many problems and issues before the August 2009 CWA. That doesn't change the fact that the August 2009 CWA was something of a "last straw" that caused a collapse that dragged many other overburdened aspects of the organization down with it.

Jay Michael

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Re: Are Residential Seminaries Viable Today?
« Reply #219 on: April 19, 2013, 09:55:49 PM »
Ken Krueger of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, started The Foundation for Called Workers  to help classmates with educational debt.  He speaks about the work of the foundation here.  This help with educational debt aids residential seminaries purpose of pastoral formation.