Author Topic: Theological education crisis...  (Read 5358 times)

RevG

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #30 on: May 20, 2016, 10:50:50 PM »
Yes, I'm the only white male clergy in any of my grad classes at Fordham.  Almost all of the clergy are from either Africa or Asia.  Many are Roman Catholic priests.  Salt of the earth, too, great guys and gals.

The M. Div is a professional degree, I think it's important to make that distinction or categorization clear.  That's not to say it's not a sound education, but it has its limits.  The learning that takes place at St. Louis or Ft. Wayne is not the same as what takes place at Fordham University where I am currently enrolled.  One seeks to get you to think like a Lutheran, the other seeks to get you to think, to learn, to be changed through education (the Jesuit tradition), to find value in all viewpoints.   

Lastly, claiming that residential education is the be all end all for the formation of pastors simply goes against the witness of the church catholic.  I wonder if Paul made sure to teach Timothy according to our categories of Systematic, Historical, Exegetical, and Practical theologies. 

In Christ,
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Richard Johnson

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #31 on: May 20, 2016, 10:54:03 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.

As someone who teaches online seminary courses, I agree with you completely.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Mark Brown

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #32 on: May 20, 2016, 11:17:44 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

Now this is often how this type of change actually works in the corporate world.  Someone else smaller has started almost exactly what my thought experiment is.  And it is succeeding.  But my guess is that the AALC will run out of congregations for placement.  Like when the smaller company needs capital to expand its production.  A large firm would often come in at this point and acquire the company, replacing their internal failing model with the winning model.  Sometimes that smaller company had even been seeded at the start with talent from the larger firm because they know it would be strangled in the cradle inside the company, but it needed to be done.  If this works, watch the requests for colloquy into the LCMS from this program.  Or watch congregations move synods towards the model that can supply educated ministers for a realistic cost basis. 

Ask the next thought experiment.  Would an LCMS congregation and potential minister prefer the SMP answer, which is still awkward and costs more and doesn't give a real career path, or a roll of the dice on the AALC program and a colloquy?

You can weep and moan all you want about online ed.  And churches are not corporations.  But they are not immune from supply/demand cost/benefit.  Unless the M.Div. degree gets its cost under $20K total to the student, you can't really afford it.  I have to laugh at the idea of looking to the African seminaries to send people.  Not at their people which would be good, but that is just another way around the basic problem.  We are too busy building Rube Goldberg machines to protect legacy program revenue streams and desires to build the programs that meet the actual need.  So because we won't do that, we'll take the Africans who aren't encumbered by the legacy costs.

MBA tip.  If you find yourself building crazy programs to protect legacy methods, cannibalize yourself before someone else does it to you after much angst.  Maybe that is a dramatically simplified residential program.  But call me skeptical because I think that still puts extremely high hurdles and destroys too much value of the students embedded in home congregations and places of employment.

exegete77

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #33 on: May 20, 2016, 11:33:05 PM »

Now this is often how this type of change actually works in the corporate world.  Someone else smaller has started almost exactly what my thought experiment is.  And it is succeeding.  But my guess is that the AALC will run out of congregations for placement.  Like when the smaller company needs capital to expand its production.  A large firm would often come in at this point and acquire the company, replacing their internal failing model with the winning model.  Sometimes that smaller company had even been seeded at the start with talent from the larger firm because they know it would be strangled in the cradle inside the company, but it needed to be done.  If this works, watch the requests for colloquy into the LCMS from this program.  Or watch congregations move synods towards the model that can supply educated ministers for a realistic cost basis. 

Ask the next thought experiment.  Would an LCMS congregation and potential minister prefer the SMP answer, which is still awkward and costs more and doesn't give a real career path, or a roll of the dice on the AALC program and a colloquy?

You can weep and moan all you want about online ed.  And churches are not corporations.  But they are not immune from supply/demand cost/benefit.  Unless the M.Div. degree gets its cost under $20K total to the student, you can't really afford it.  I have to laugh at the idea of looking to the African seminaries to send people.  Not at their people which would be good, but that is just another way around the basic problem.  We are too busy building Rube Goldberg machines to protect legacy program revenue streams and desires to build the programs that meet the actual need.  So because we won't do that, we'll take the Africans who aren't encumbered by the legacy costs.

MBA tip.  If you find yourself building crazy programs to protect legacy methods, cannibalize yourself before someone else does it to you after much angst.  Maybe that is a dramatically simplified residential program.  But call me skeptical because I think that still puts extremely high hurdles and destroys too much value of the students embedded in home congregations and places of employment.
Indeed, Mark, that is why we also are encouraging our pastors to think outside the box, i.e. to plant new churches. Several of our classes provide a base for such new areas, and taught by professors/pastors who have done exactly that. One of our key elements is an ongoing mentoring program once the student graduates. Regarding other countries, it is interesting that inquiries have come from Uganda, Ghana, Norway, Great Britain, and Japan. So it doesn't seem to be all one way in interest.

Again, we have much to learn, think through, and change/adapt. But we want to form pastors for current and future work, wherever God opens doors. My only regret is that I wish I were 45 teaching the young men, rather than 67. My desire is to see this expand and grow, not for its own sake but for the Kingdom of God. But my body isn't quite the same as it was two decades ago. Hence, I think like I'm 45, but work at the pace of an old codger. How wonderful to even be a part of this.
Rich Shields (TAALC)

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #34 on: May 20, 2016, 11:55:08 PM »
ILT is experiencing many of the same kinds of things.


Lou

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #35 on: May 21, 2016, 01:03:58 AM »
Why not expand the whole online experience and create an online church? (I think some have done that.) One pastor could preach online each week, a top-notch musicians could create the sound track and karaoke words and millions of people could sit in front of their screens and have their worship service - even in their pjs if they wanted. Think of the savings if congregations didn't have to support buildings. Just hire an IT person who can troubleshoot any of the members' problems with downloading their worship service.






« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 01:05:36 AM by Brian Stoffregen »
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bookpastor/Erma Wolf

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #36 on: May 21, 2016, 01:17:54 AM »
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.   

No. You close both seminaries. Then you restart with a "new" seminary, picking out of the two what you want and who you want. Since it is a new seminary, all tenure has gone "bye-bye." Sell both pieces of real estate (yes, much weeping and gnashing will be spent over that), and start with something new in a new, different location. (Preferably in the midst of your new, target population for witness/evangelism/mission.) Combine the online model with what is considered truly essential from the formation-by-proximity model.

Would this be a very bumpy ride? Absolutely. Is it likely to happen? Of course not. Would it be a good thing, or would it be the final nail in the coffin? Impossible for me to say; however, I think it really would depend on timing (a little), and what the real motivation for this drastic change truly is. Is it to serve the mission of God in a new and more volitile environment, or is it to prop up the corporate structure of the institutional denomination? If the former, it might survive; if the latter, it deserves to die.
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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #37 on: May 21, 2016, 03:40:46 AM »
I repeat what I said upstream. I cannot imagine being a pastor without knowing what I was taught in seminary, that is, the "traditional" disciplines of scripture, systematics, history, languages, and pastoral care. I have witnessed the disasters that can happen when pastors are deficient in these disciplines.
How one obtains that knowledge, processes it, channels it into pastoral ministry is up for discussion.
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.

Team Hesse

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #38 on: May 21, 2016, 07:08:32 AM »
Why not expand the whole online experience and create an online church? (I think some have done that.) One pastor could preach online each week, a top-notch musicians could create the sound track and karaoke words and millions of people could sit in front of their screens and have their worship service - even in their pjs if they wanted. Think of the savings if congregations didn't have to support buildings. Just hire an IT person who can troubleshoot any of the members' problems with downloading their worship service.


Always a hyperbolic extremist, you are....


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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #39 on: May 21, 2016, 07:43:05 AM »
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.   

Evidence of the competitive relationship between the two sems. That goes back at least 60 years and doesn't seem ever to go away. That is why voluntary change is likely never to happen.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

Matt Staneck

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #40 on: May 21, 2016, 08:25:51 AM »
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.

President Gard, that's why at least me and Mark are talking about an "alt route" (alternate, not standard), which is online. Have no fear!

M. Staneck
Matt Staneck, Pastor
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Queens, NY

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #41 on: May 21, 2016, 09:22:50 AM »
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


And the Africans and Indians are the ones knocking down our doors to have more connection with and teaching from us at ILT. The Holy Spirit is up to something.


Lou

FrPeters

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #42 on: May 21, 2016, 09:31:13 AM »
The LCMS has something like a dozen routes to ordination already.  Residential seminary is the primary route by choice both because of its benefit to the church and to the clergy produced by residential seminary training.

Many of us oldtimers who went through the junior/senior college and seminary route have enjoyed a collegiality formed by this common experience.  One of the first casualties of alternate routes without a residential seminary component is to dilute the already weakened common identity and collegial shape of the clergy in the LCMS.  We are already much in danger of devolving from a synod into an amalgamum of semi-independent districts made up of completely independent congregations.  This will effectively finish the confessional identity of our Synod, as Pres. Gard has said.  The problem is that some in the LCMS want exactly this to happen.  So the issue of seminary education and the formation of our pastors IS connected to those who want the local congregation to do nearly everything we currently do together as a Synod.  If the local congregation raises up its own leaders and they are trained online, there is, in effect, no roster of clergy except a list of those who have met minimal requirements.  DPs are already reticent to supervise and discipline congregations except for the most egregious errors and, dependent upon the parish for revenue streams, they can hardly be expected to effectively maintain unity of doctrine and practice given such congregationalist processes toward ordination.  In addition, the last remaining justification for Synod's university system is training of church workers and this would hasten the releasing of these schools to be independent institutions to live or die on their own merits.

There are other solutions.  Do we need to structure our degree to meet AATS degree requirements and recognition?  If seminary training is essential to the mission here in the US and missionary work at large, why do we not fund the majority of this from the national church budget?  BTW, the reality is that only a small portion of sem grads leave the sem with huge debt caused by the Sems (Ft Wayne promises about half in aid) and most of them entered the sem with a huge debt for undergrad education.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 09:33:19 AM by FrPeters »
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Matt Staneck

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #43 on: May 21, 2016, 09:45:50 AM »
Fr. Peters,

I know you aren't putting forward a tribal synod, but when I read your words here I wonder again if our goal is to be a global church or a tribal synod. I think we all honestly want to be a global church (look at all the effort going into missions right now), but the way we sometimes speak and act gives off the vibe that we are happy with a global church, as long as it meets the requirements of a tribal synod.

If a true alternate route (online) is all that stands between us and the collapse of our confessional integrity, then I'm afraid we have already lost our confessional integrity. I like to think the appeal is the actual Augsburg Confession itself, not our long gone tightly knit educational system.

M. Staneck

P.S. As a reminder, I am in favor of residential seminary as a primary option. I am not in favor of apocalyptic predictions of our need to protect an apparently weak confession of faith from the dangers of online education.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 09:49:49 AM by Matt Staneck »
Matt Staneck, Pastor
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Queens, NY

Weedon

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Re: Theological education crisis...
« Reply #44 on: May 21, 2016, 09:51:36 AM »
Random thoughts:

* The goal should of course be to be the church catholic (which invariably brings the global to the tribal and the tribal to the global) forming men to serve in the office of the holy ministry (which necessitates an understanding of that office and why the Lord gave it and what it is to do - the giving out of His gifts to the beloved Bride).

* The value of getting out of your own ghetto or echo chamber or whatever you want to call it; but the easiest and best way of doing so is not attending to all the other voices of now, but giving a careful and critical ear to the voices who speak the mind of the church across the centuries and across numerous cultural divides (which also necessitates being critical enough to actual hear what they are saying in their context, and thus not mishearing the words with which they are saying it).

* The above doesn't necessarily entail moving from place to place, but it does entail being part of a living community that also listens to the Word and ponders together the reflections of those who have gone before us in the faith.

* Academic rigor is a good thing and the Church has over all been blessed by it; it's just that it doesn't always go hand in glove with academic institutions, particularly when those institutions are under pressure to produce a certain kind of product (graduate) that fits a pragmatic and predetermined end (plant and grow a church, understood primarily as consumers of the religious products we are into producing). Pragmatic is not the way our God seems to delight in working; in fact, you might describe Him as the ultimate mocker of pragmatism. Let academic rigor serve the purpose of pondering His delight in doing things His own way, with an absolute reliance on His promises not failing no matter how hopeless they seem, and the academic rigor would toss out the entire pragmatic schemas and the fear that runs right under their surface. It would instead delight with a child's joy in the way He undermines utility to deliver life!

* Living community is the most important part of formation for pastoral service, for we are formed not by disembodied info, but by persons whom we are called to love, listen to, serve, and bless. This holds, of course, most of all for the Three Divine Persons (Blessed be the holy Trinity and the undivided Unity! Let us give glory to Him for He has shown His mercy to us!), but also our sisters and brothers in Christ. Pastoral education isn't a data dump; to put it in classical ed terms, it lives not at the grammar, or even the logic stage, but at the stage of rhetoric.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2016, 10:23:25 AM by Weedon »