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Higher education

Staying alive F

or generations ELCA mem- bers have thought of seminary education this way: A Lutheran

student prepares for Lutheran min- istry at a Lutheran congregation. But the mission for today’s seminaries is more complex. ELCA seminaries are provid-

ing theological education more broadly and ecumenically than ever. Instead of simply educating only ELCA members for service in their denomination, Lutheran seminaries prepare leaders to serve the mission of the gospel in many and varied American churches. Today a student on the campus of

Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Colum- bus, Ohio, could well be an Episco- palian or a Presbyterian. Trinity and Bexley Hall, an Episcopal seminary, share a campus and faculty. “I really love that about Trinity,”

said Libby Buuck, a recent ELCA graduate who is awaiting call. “We participate in two worship tradi- tions that recognize a sacramental theology. Bexley hosts a common meal each Tursday followed by a compline service, and sometimes it’s outdoors. It is a big plus.” Rick Barger, seminary president,

calls Trinity’s overlay with Bexley seamless. “Tis works to help both seminaries clarify who they are,” he said. “It strengthens our Lutheran identity and the identity of the Epis- copalians too.” Tat’s because Trinity’s task is

to form leaders for the Christian church in the world. “We invite peo- ple to Trinity to prepare themselves

36 Today the Lutheran Teological

Seminaries embrace ecumenical, Lutheran future By Ann Hafften

to do something with their lives, something that involves changing the world,” Barger said. “Here they will get the training and inspiration for that.”

A growing trend At Lutheran Teological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., students might easily be Methodist or part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Southern prepares members of these church bodies for service to their congregations. It also offers a military chaplaincy track in concert with a school at nearby Fort Jackson. Provost Clay Schmit said 45

percent to 50 percent of students at Southern are non-ELCA. Total enrollment is about 110, and about 25 to 30 students enroll each year. Six of the seminary’s nine faculty mem- bers are ELCA; the other three are Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian. “A distinct benefit for students is

the richness that the ecumenical con- versation brings to the classroom and the broad understanding of what’s held by others,” Schmit said. Tat comes out in chapel, where worship- ers “see value in what other denomi- nations offer,” he added. In the past Lutheran seminaries

provided an ecumenical component primarily for Lutheran students. In the 1970s, for example, a student at Wartburg Teological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, could take courses at the Aquinas Institute of Philoso- phy and Teology (Roman Catholic) and Dubuque Teological Seminary (Presbyterian).

Seminary at Philadelphia prepares leaders from 28 denominations for a wide range of pastoral ministries in the Christian church. President David Lose calls it “a blessed pattern of cooperating more.” “[Ours is a] Lutheran seminary

serving an ecumenical church,” he said. “All our seminaries face identity issues. It is time to be honest about who we are and how we’ve come to be the way we are. To be Lutheran is to be ecumenical. Martin Luther would say that. We are at our best when we are in conversations with other Christians. … We learn from being in real relationship with others, not just tolerating them.” During 2014, Philadelphia Semi-

nary admitted 60 first professional degree students (master of divinity and others)—34 are from the ELCA and 26 from other denominations. It admitted 19 students for advanced degrees (master of sacred theology, doctor of ministry and doctorate)— eight are ELCA and 11 are from other denominations. Te seminary’s specialized

course work ranges from “Te Black Church” and the “Latino Concentra- tion” to interreligious and multicul- tural ministry concentrations. Te “Public Leadership” track employs the resources of Philadelphia’s metro area, including courses at the Temple School of Social Work and the Fox School of Business.

Active outreach In 2012, Trinity hired a recruiter for vocation, Teodore Ceasar, one of its graduates who serves a Pentecostal church. He relates to prospective ecu- menical students, master of divinity students from non-mainline tradi- tions, student groups at historically black colleges and African-American

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