Author Topic: Luther Internship Redux (Dec. 2004)  (Read 1879 times)

Richard Johnson

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Luther Internship Redux (Dec. 2004)
« on: December 07, 2004, 03:34:52 PM »
From "Forum Letter" December, 2004

A number of correspondents have observed that our article about Luther Seminary and one of its internship assignments made little mention of the role the synodical candidacy committee may have played in approving the student in question (“Learning Deficiencies at Luther,” FL:33:10 ).

Naturally, there is a reason for this. The seminary official most responsible for the internship declined to tell us which candidacy committee was involved, and when we did find out — from another seminary official — it was too late to incorporate it into the story. Should you wonder, the committee is the Intersynodical Candidacy Committee serving, among other places, the Greater Milwaukee Synod, apparently this intern’s home synod. But knowing that, as we found out, changes little.

Among our correspondents were those who would excuse the seminary and scapegoat the candidacy committee. It was suggested to us that once the committee has endorsed a seminarian for internship, the only possible reason a seminary might deny it would be the lack of an available site.

Not quite. We will concede the candidacy committee itself bears a good deal of the responsibility, but it is not the chief culprit in this business. Even should the committee approve an internship, as it evidently did in the instance we reported, the seminary itself is not obligated to place a seminarian on internship. As we pointed out in the piece, a great deal of effort was made to find an internship site for the student, even to the extent of ignoring or overlooking several key points in the ELCA’s policy on internships. Only an active ignorance of the policy permitted the seminary to accept as supervisor a pastor who is out-of-compliance with ELCA policies.

You can read for yourself Internship in the ELCA. It is part of the overall Candidacy Manual located at <www.elca.org/dm/documents.html>.

There are several things to highlight from the internship section in that manual. Seminaries are required to “place eligible students on internship in accordance with the expectations of the ELCA. . . .” One must immediately ask whether a supervisor publicly in open violation of Vision and Expectations qualifies as an internship supervisor.

Further, seminaries are to “maintain effective communication with synodical bishops.” As we said, that seems not to have happened in this case.

Bishops are expected to be fully informed, beginning with being the ones who identify and encourage congregations and pastors to consider applying for an intern.

And then there are three specific requirements for the intern: (a) endorsement by the candidacy committee, (b) enrollment at or affiliation with an ELCA seminary, and (c) approval for placement by the seminary.

It is the last one that is most pertinent to Luther Seminary, and all the seminaries for that matter. The seminary must approve the person and lacking approval, the seminary is not bound by any recommendation from the candidacy committee. As for internship supervisors themselves, a pastor ordained only three years may serve as a supervisor. However, supervisors “must be
approved . . . by the seminary . . . in consultation with the synodical bishop.” We are pretty sure that did not happen in the case we reported.

There’s more. Supervisors are to “know and support the polity, policies, and positions of this church. . . .” and internship sites are to be chosen “after consultation with the bishop of the synod.”

There may be more to the few items beside the ones we gleaned from an admittedly hurried reading of the manual. But these things seem awfully clear in placing most of the responsibility for internship upon the seminaries, and upon Luther Seminary for this particular internship.

We agree wholeheartedly with one correspondent who pointed out, “The ultimate source of these problems are the bishops, who have de facto altered ELCA policy by refusing to enforce clear policies. When ELCA policy shifted from expelling to ‘censuring’ congregations out of compliance, ELCA policy was effectively changed to a sort of complex local option. Thus, the question now before the ELCA is not simply whether policy will be changed in a more ‘liberal’ direction, but whether we will return to the policy in place when the ELCA was formed, or remain with the ambiguous situation the bishops have created.” —— by the editors

Copyright 2004 American Lutheran Publicity Bureau
« Last Edit: December 07, 2004, 03:43:53 PM by roj »
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Luther Internship Redux (Dec. 2004)
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2004, 08:02:19 PM »
Would you have been willing to be a supervisor for this intern, who, as I understand it, has met all seminary requirements, who is living by V&E, but is transgendered?

If not, why not? Apparently that question was asked of different sites, and they refused.
"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]

Marshall_Hahn

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Re: Luther Internship Redux (Dec. 2004)
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2004, 09:31:43 AM »
Quote
Would you have been willing to be a supervisor for this intern, who, as I understand it, has met all seminary requirements, who is living by V&E, but is transgendered?


The implication of your question seems to be that, if a student has passed her classes and is in compliance with V&E, her placement on internship is automatic.  As one who spent 10 years on our synod's candidacy committee, I can tell you that that is not the case.  We dealt with a number of candidates with whom we raised concerns that are nowhere mentioned specifically in V&E, but in our judgment were serious impediments to ministry.  It is the function of a candidacy committee to assist the church in discerning a candidate's readiness for ministry, which is true for internship committees and supervisors, as well.  While I do not claim to know enough to make a judgment on this particular case, what has been reported is enough to raise some serious questions.  Is a person who is struggling through such serious issues of sexual identity a proper candidate for ministry?  Is it appropriate to entrust such a person with the responsiblities of an internship ministry?   How does this person understand the doctrine of creation?  These are just a few of the questions that would need to be addressed prior to considering this person for internship.  

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Luther Internship Redux (Dec. 2004)
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2004, 10:14:12 AM »
In this particular case, it seems that his candidancy committee found him fit for an internship. I don't have a sense that he is struggling with his identity, but has made peace with himself over it.

The question remains, would you and your congregation have been willing to accept as an intern someone who had met all the requirements, including approval by the candidancy committee, but was transgendered?

The reason he is at the congregation he's at is because they were willing to accept him. It was not the first congregation that was approached.
"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: Luther Internship Redux (Dec. 2004)
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2004, 11:27:28 PM »
Quote
In this particular case, it seems that his candidancy committee found him fit for an internship. I don't have a sense that he is struggling with his identity, but has made peace with himself over it.


In this particular case, "he" is always a "she" when writing or quoted in the Luther Sem student newspaper in the 2 years prior to internship, at least according to the issues available on Luther's web site.  She also identifies herself there as "queer."  Granted, part of internship is testing one's "identity," but on so many different levels?

There are other troubling indications on Luther's site regarding the theology of this particular intern.  One can do well in seminary classes, be a fine pastoral presence, live in accordance with the specific standards of the ELCA disciplinary guidelines, and be psycologically well-adjusted -- and still be totally wrong for the Office of the Ministry.  

Marshall Hahn brings up, for example, the doctrine of creation.  The very way this candidate for ordination presents her/his personhood raises serious questions about anthropology, what s/he teaches not only intellectually or spiritually, but bodily.  

Certainly the ELCA ought not rush headlong into preparing "transgendered" persons -- still a very new and dubious concept in itself -- for the ministry prior to engaging in theological reflection about the meaning of "transgendered" itself.

Which is one reason why I would not supervise such an intern.

Steven+
« Last Edit: December 13, 2004, 11:28:52 PM by przip »
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