Author Topic: Theological education crisis...  (Read 5338 times)

Mark Brown

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2016, 02:09:32 PM »
Let me propose a thought experiment.

Start a third seminary.  It is online only, so its campus consist of renting cloud space from Amazon.  Its curriculum is exactly the same as CSL/CTS with one modification, homiletics is moved to the exegetical department and all other "practical" classes are cut.  Total full time academic study 2 years.  The student continues in their home congregation.  The substitute for the practical curriculum is a two year deaconry at a real congregation.  It would be an ordained deacon.  Said deaconry would come with a stipend, inteded to be paid by congregation, but if the congregation is too small, the synod/district/home cong picks it up.  This could be two years at a large congregation in the suburbs, it could be two years in a small congregation in a rural area under the supervision of the next closest pastor.  Admission is based on Home Congregation putting forward the man for original study and supporting it.  Placement as deacon is based on faculty in conversation with local pastor.  Ordination as pastor and first call are based on faculty and supervising pastor.

Total price: $10,000.  (I don't think that is crazy.  Texas has colleges that will offer a full BA for $10K.  This is two years less.  Georgia Tech offers a MA in the same way for ~$7,000.  Don't like that, ok, make the total price $15,000).

If that third seminary was allowed to be started.  Let's say I'm a sacramental entrepreneur and think this is the best place to innovate to get the gospel out and by some miracle the people of the Synod let me.  What percentage of current seminary students would I capture?  Would the program expand or contract the number of people studying?  Would it serve the church?  What stands in the way of such a program?

Not signing onto every detail you've suggested (mostly because I haven't looked into it myself), but I agree with the gist. I think the SMP program should become a true "alternate route" like Springfield was back in the day. I'm not sure you need a third seminary per se, because cohort experiences and week long intensives serve a good purpose, but we've always been purveyors of alternate routes, so why not have it online today?

M. Staneck
I said third seminary as part of the thought experiment.  Something that does not have legacy costs.  Something dedicated to a skinny mission.  I get cohort experiences, but I also intentionally excluded those for the experiment because I want to focus on the local congregation and circuit being the place of personal connection.  Such week long intensives to me often serve as the excuse for why we couldn't do a distributed model.  The though experiment to me in part is why a central physical seminary with all the cost and potential mission creep that comes with.

John_Hannah

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2016, 03:02:34 PM »
What's up with the two LCMS seminaries where only one is needed? When I have posed that question to responsible and knowledgeable officials the answer usually comes down to the two different constituencies that provide benevolent (non-tuition) financial support. Therefore, so the story goes, the synod would gain no financial advantage in closing either one. Actually, it would be a loss.

I guess that it makes sense if, in fact, that is the case. Still, one of these years....

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Charles Austin

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2016, 03:12:44 PM »
I began attending seminary in 1963. Tuition was something like $150 per quarter, with about $50 per quarter for books. (I did not live in student housing.) There may have been a couple of other costs. My synod paid the tuition.
When I graduated our indebtedness was about $4,000 in my wife's student loans for college; and that was being drawn down a thousand dollars a year for each year she was a public school teacher; although we had to pay something like $200 a year in maintenance costs.
Seminaries at the time, were supported by the church, in my case the LCA. Seminarians were often supported by their synods.
Times have changed.
But I cannot imagine one entering the full-time, professional ordained ministry without that which I learned during those three years of seminary and year of internship. How one "gets" that learning today is up for discussion.
In some parts of the church in earlier centuries, some clerics were quite uneducated, taught mostly how to read the service or enough Latin to say the mass. That created a certain "kind" of clergy.
We Lutherans have had another kind of ordained ministry. And perhaps the nature of that ordained ministry will change.
Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. Back home from Sioux City after three days and a pleasant reunion of the East High School class of - can you believe it! - 1959.

Mark Brown

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2016, 03:17:27 PM »
What's up with the two LCMS seminaries where only one is needed? When I have posed that question to responsible and knowledgeable officials the answer usually comes down to the two different constituencies that provide benevolent (non-tuition) financial support. Therefore, so the story goes, the synod would gain no financial advantage in closing either one. Actually, it would be a loss.

I guess that it makes sense if, in fact, that is the case. Still, one of these years....

Peace, JOHN
I don't doubt that there are two donor bases that have been developed and that they are non-transferable.  What I think the thought experiment asks is: are what the donor bases supporting what the church needs?  Could a third way be deployed that would: a) serve the church better, b) cost much less (i.e. all the donors could go away and it would still cost less) and c) be attractive to a larger group of potential candidates.  Do we have fights and crying sessions like LLD, SMP, small church/large church, church planting, ethnic mission, etc, all because we are trying to extract the funding to support something that if it was disbanded something better could come in its place.

John_Hannah

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2016, 04:29:34 PM »
What's up with the two LCMS seminaries where only one is needed? When I have posed that question to responsible and knowledgeable officials the answer usually comes down to the two different constituencies that provide benevolent (non-tuition) financial support. Therefore, so the story goes, the synod would gain no financial advantage in closing either one. Actually, it would be a loss.

I guess that it makes sense if, in fact, that is the case. Still, one of these years....

Peace, JOHN
I don't doubt that there are two donor bases that have been developed and that they are non-transferable.  What I think the thought experiment asks is: are what the donor bases supporting what the church needs?  Could a third way be deployed that would: a) serve the church better, b) cost much less (i.e. all the donors could go away and it would still cost less) and c) be attractive to a larger group of potential candidates.  Do we have fights and crying sessions like LLD, SMP, small church/large church, church planting, ethnic mission, etc, all because we are trying to extract the funding to support something that if it was disbanded something better could come in its place.

I couldn't agree more.

Missouri has never excelled at flexibility nor honest analysis. I doubt that your suggestions would work without an exceptional leadership and a common commitment to withdraw from competition between institutions. (E.g., the two seminaries; DPs vs. SP; DP's vs. the sems.) Otherwise, excellent idea.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2016, 04:43:08 PM »
What's up with the two LCMS seminaries where only one is needed? When I have posed that question to responsible and knowledgeable officials the answer usually comes down to the two different constituencies that provide benevolent (non-tuition) financial support. Therefore, so the story goes, the synod would gain no financial advantage in closing either one. Actually, it would be a loss.

I guess that it makes sense if, in fact, that is the case. Still, one of these years....

Peace, JOHN
I don't doubt that there are two donor bases that have been developed and that they are non-transferable.  What I think the thought experiment asks is: are what the donor bases supporting what the church needs?  Could a third way be deployed that would: a) serve the church better, b) cost much less (i.e. all the donors could go away and it would still cost less) and c) be attractive to a larger group of potential candidates.  Do we have fights and crying sessions like LLD, SMP, small church/large church, church planting, ethnic mission, etc, all because we are trying to extract the funding to support something that if it was disbanded something better could come in its place.

I couldn't agree more.

Missouri has never excelled at flexibility nor honest analysis. I doubt that your suggestions would work without an exceptional leadership and a common commitment to withdraw from competition between institutions. (E.g., the two seminaries; DPs vs. SP; DP's vs. the sems.) Otherwise, excellent idea.

Peace, JOHN


In my experience, all organizations tend to resist change, usually quite effectively.  Extraordinary leadership, extraordinary circumstances, or both generally are necessary if fundamental change is to stand a chance.






Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #21 on: May 20, 2016, 05:25:18 PM »
What's up with the two LCMS seminaries where only one is needed? When I have posed that question to responsible and knowledgeable officials the answer usually comes down to the two different constituencies that provide benevolent (non-tuition) financial support. Therefore, so the story goes, the synod would gain no financial advantage in closing either one. Actually, it would be a loss.

I guess that it makes sense if, in fact, that is the case. Still, one of these years....

Peace, JOHN
I don't doubt that there are two donor bases that have been developed and that they are non-transferable.  What I think the thought experiment asks is: are what the donor bases supporting what the church needs?  Could a third way be deployed that would: a) serve the church better, b) cost much less (i.e. all the donors could go away and it would still cost less) and c) be attractive to a larger group of potential candidates.  Do we have fights and crying sessions like LLD, SMP, small church/large church, church planting, ethnic mission, etc, all because we are trying to extract the funding to support something that if it was disbanded something better could come in its place.

I couldn't agree more.

Missouri has never excelled at flexibility nor honest analysis. I doubt that your suggestions would work without an exceptional leadership and a common commitment to withdraw from competition between institutions. (E.g., the two seminaries; DPs vs. SP; DP's vs. the sems.) Otherwise, excellent idea.

Peace, JOHN


In my experience, all organizations tend to resist change, usually quite effectively.  Extraordinary leadership, extraordinary circumstances, or both generally are necessary if fundamental change is to stand a chance.


Agreed. There are congregations that are more willing to die than to change.
"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]

Dave Likeness

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2016, 06:15:24 PM »
The two LCMS seminaries in St. Louis and Fort Wayne are friendly rivals.
Our current Synodical President Matthew Harrison has said on various occasions
that neither seminary will be closed during his tenure. 

So when someone asked me, "What do you think are the chances that one of the
seminaries will close?"   I said, " Slim and none, and slim left town and none just
passed away.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2016, 08:03:23 PM »
What's up with the two LCMS seminaries where only one is needed? When I have posed that question to responsible and knowledgeable officials the answer usually comes down to the two different constituencies that provide benevolent (non-tuition) financial support. Therefore, so the story goes, the synod would gain no financial advantage in closing either one. Actually, it would be a loss.

I guess that it makes sense if, in fact, that is the case. Still, one of these years....

Peace, JOHN

If we did close one seminary and kept the remaining one as the sole provider, how would this decision be made?  In other words, which seminary is closed?  Given the difference in the general character of the two seminaries, do you try to merge these personalities, or does one predominate over the other?  Also, how do we decide on which faculty stays and who goes?  I would not want to be the person or committee who ultimately makes those choices or offers the recommendations to Synod.   
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #24 on: May 20, 2016, 08:48:44 PM »
I recently was in conversation with a friend who is a Pastor and educator, commenting that the "old" LC-MS system was a "vocational technical" process.  The Concordias, high schools and jr colleges, as well as the Senior College were all targeted to one end, namely production of vetted clergy and teachers.  That program worked for well over 100 years.  Sometimes the system even produced "theologians."  Prior to the Senior College, the Bachelors degree was awarded at Seminary.  What precludes treating seminary education as a 4 year college degree, that can be undertaken directly out of high school?

The secular order is very comfortable enabling 4 year college graduates to teach in the subject of their major.  What is it about the pastoral office that requires more than that? 
Mark (retired pastor, golfs the pastures) Renner

exegete77

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #25 on: May 20, 2016, 08:53:13 PM »
In The AALC, we faced the huge debts of seminary education, but from the perspective of a very small church body. We still send a few to CFWTS and CSL. By 2010, we couldn’t continue the old model. I was tasked with others to develop an online seminary (live video, everyone sees and hears everyone else). We have one man who has been teaching Greek and Latin for 20+ years. We now have six professors who usually teach one class per qtr (Four of them have doctorates, one with an STM, and one who is working on doctorate.)

We have 28 courses (exegetical, systematics, historical, and practical) plus the Greek requirement. Had there been an online option at the time I would have included that as a requirement as well. The cost is $400 per course per Qtr, which is still an investment for the student, but not overwhelming. Our congregations have been committed to make up the other costs with running the seminary (mostly the video costs and annual gathering). We have students all over the country, and we connect them with a local congregation (if possible).

The biggest challenge was getting used to live video. But now those who have been in classes for 2-3 quarters find that the fellowship is real and helpful to them.

We started with one student in 2010. Now we have 20+ with more joining in the fall; anticipate 50 students by 2018-2019. We even have international interest in our seminary. Several of our graduates are serving our congregations. Without the online seminary, our church body would die in 10 years.

Do we have all the answers? Absolutely not. We are still looking at various aspects of it. We are working to provide a theologically solid seminary education. It is different than residential education, but not wrong.

Rich Shields
President, American Lutheran Theological Seminary
The American Association of Lutheran Churches
« Last Edit: May 20, 2016, 08:55:13 PM by exegete77 »
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Robert_C_Baker

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #26 on: May 20, 2016, 09:03:14 PM »
What's up with the two LCMS seminaries where only one is needed? When I have posed that question to responsible and knowledgeable officials the answer usually comes down to the two different constituencies that provide benevolent (non-tuition) financial support. Therefore, so the story goes, the synod would gain no financial advantage in closing either one. Actually, it would be a loss.

I guess that it makes sense if, in fact, that is the case. Still, one of these years....

Peace, JOHN
I don't doubt that there are two donor bases that have been developed and that they are non-transferable.  What I think the thought experiment asks is: are what the donor bases supporting what the church needs?  Could a third way be deployed that would: a) serve the church better, b) cost much less (i.e. all the donors could go away and it would still cost less) and c) be attractive to a larger group of potential candidates.  Do we have fights and crying sessions like LLD, SMP, small church/large church, church planting, ethnic mission, etc, all because we are trying to extract the funding to support something that if it was disbanded something better could come in its place.

I couldn't agree more.

Missouri has never excelled at flexibility nor honest analysis. I doubt that your suggestions would work without an exceptional leadership and a common commitment to withdraw from competition between institutions. (E.g., the two seminaries; DPs vs. SP; DP's vs. the sems.) Otherwise, excellent idea.

Peace, JOHN

What Mark said and what John said. Missouri has a difficult time discerning between what it wants and what it needs. It often opts for the former, even though that often militates against the latter.

The Synod does not need two brick-and-mortar seminaries. Just look at the declining number of seminary graduates, the declining number of baptized members, and the average age of all members. At most, the Synod needs ONE brick-and-mortar seminary, and that for only two years. Much of the book learnin' could take place online under the supervision of a man's parish pastor.

But that isn't what the Synod wants, so it will never happen.

Daniel L. Gard

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #27 on: May 20, 2016, 10:16:41 PM »
Sorry but I am not buying into the whole on-line training of pastors. If that happens to become the standard medium of pastoral formation then within a generation the LCMS will be a loose association tied together by Concordia Plans and LCEF but not by theological bonds.

It is a recipe for the loss of confessional Lutheranism in North America. But have no fear - the African Churches, who value theology and unity, will open their seminaries to the remnant of confessional Lutheranism in America. And probably send missionaries here.

Dave Benke

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #28 on: May 20, 2016, 10:28:27 PM »
Sorry but I am not buying into the whole on-line training of pastors. If that happens to become the standard medium of pastoral formation then within a generation the LCMS will be a loose association tied together by Concordia Plans and LCEF but not by theological bonds.

It is a recipe for the loss of confessional Lutheranism in North America. But have no fear - the African Churches, who value theology and unity, will open their seminaries to the remnant of confessional Lutheranism in America. And probably send missionaries here.

They're already sending missionaries to the US, Dan, as are the Koreans and other more nationalities/countries/language groups, not only to preach to immigrants from their part of the world, but to preach the Gospel to all who will hear.  I don't know what the number or percentage of Roman Catholic priests is who serve here, but it's not small.  As important as the confessional identity is, there is also the desire to reach those who have not heard the Good News with the Gospel.  There are those with who opine that the second feature is what is being bred out of American training.

Dave Benke

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #29 on: May 20, 2016, 10:38:58 PM »
There seems to be a confusion of information and formation. 
Mark (retired pastor, golfs the pastures) Renner