Thursday, August 11, 2011

tidbits from the LIFT document that might be interesting to seminarians

So, here are a few quotes from the LIFT document the ELCA will be voting on at churchwide assembly:

“Seminaries need to prepare to graduate at 4,000 candidates for ordained ministry in the next ten years.”

They should focus on teaching in a way that leads to:
“A Lutheran theological witness that is more audible in the North American marketplace of religious ideas.
A church with significantly more multicultural rostered leaders and broad cross-cultural capacity.
A church with a significantly younger average age on the ordained roster.
A church which relies less and less on seminarian student debt to support theological education.”

One of the ways to make seminary go quicker is to have colleges and seminaries work together. This "could include B.Th. and articulation agreements that shorten time to M.Div. and MA”

Another way to shorten seminary/make it cost less/ etc is to:
“Recognition of alternate credentials for ministry and Fewer moves for seminary students with longer mentoring in contexts."

In order to make sure first-call pastors aren't overburdened with debt lift recommends:
“That the ELCA as a church commit to giving 1 percent (approximately $18M) of its unrestricted congregational giving as mission support directly to theological education. That the ELCA Church Council appoint a blue-ribbon panel to propose the most strategic, connective and direct manner in which to receive and allocate these monies. Such a commitment aligns with the critical role of faithful and effective evangelical missional lay and rostered leadership in this church’s future.”

Monday, August 08, 2011

What I learned in Seminary: 1 Rotation Group

The first year of Seminary we are required to attend a wide variety of churches (both Lutheran and non-lutheran) along with a small group of other seminarians. After this is done we processed our experiences together.
We attended a suburban youth oriented Lutheran church. There I bristled at several worship songs that stole tunes from The Mamas and The Papas and another by Peter, Paul, and Mary and replaced the lyrics with songs that can be qualified as “Jesus -s-my-boyfriend” music. I was however very impressed by how many youth showed up jazzed-up and excited about church.
We attended a liberal Roman Catholic Church that had more icons and statues in it than I could sneeze at. I ended up asking myself whether “social justice and statues of saints go together?” I recognized that, “I’ve always thought of social justice as a prophetic thing, and prophets as smashers of statues and all attempts to put God in a box.” I suppose the question becomes, does creating statues and icons of prophets lead to more prophetic action, or does it freeze them in concrete and end their witness?
We went to a Unitarian Universalist church near the seminary and I experienced the only “Fundamentalist UU” sermon I’ve ever heard. The preacher essentially said the War on Terror is going to be a new 30 years war and only UUers can save the world from massive destruction. And if that doesn’t happen the only faith that will be left afterwards will be that of the UU. I am pretty sure he managed to break (or at least bend) the UU principle about “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”
We also went to a bi-lingual Spanish/English Lutheran church that I felt very at home in. It took me the three weeks we worshiped there to figure out why. It was congregation size—despite ethnic/linguistic/liturgical differences the size matched the church I attended in Cheyenne. When I went to request a field-ed site I requested this church “or an African American church with a similar feel.” I ended up going to Tabernacle Lutheran, at least partially, because of my experience at this church.

What I learned in Seminary: 0.5 My first seminary paper

As I wrote earlier I am starting a new series that looks back at the various classes I took at seminary in order to look more carefully at some of the more interesting "theological nuggets" I came across in my 4 years of seminary.
In order to start this off I thought I would publish the first paper I wrote at Seminary--pretensions, non-sequitors, warts, and all.

Why Study Theology
By Chris Halverson
Professor Donald Luck believes in a fallen world. One where academic rigor and logic has been shunned, and those skills forgotten. No more heinous proof of this fact need be given than the conversion of the pastors’ studies into offices. (60) Thinkers in this world have fallen into two camps, the Absolutists and the Relativists, both of whom object to theology for their own unique reasons. Luck plants himself at a third point, which defends theology, convinced openness. (136)
The Absolutists see things as black and white, and assume their position is right and therefore all others must be wrong. They hold tight to their ideas, but don’t have a nuanced understanding of them. They do not recognize that accepting “just the Bible” encourages eisegesis. (3) They emphasize being lead by the spirit, but do not come up with a good way to test to ensure the spirit is that of God. Luck gives the example of a student who quit his medicine he was taking for his mental health and discerned that God wanted him to walk around and tell everyone the world was about to end. (10-11) In response to another objection, that “We should focus on committed discipleship” (17) instead of theology Luck argues that theological assumptions prompt actions. (18) He also challenges the idea that theology creates doubt instead of faith; this is the mentality behind the bumper sticker that says, “God said it! I believe it! That settles it!” (21) Luck’s response is that faith is not unquestioning, but instead trust. (22)
The Relativists make the opposite mistake when dealing with theology. They recognize the weakness of their own understanding and ideas, and universalize this intellectual pauperism. Thus all ideas are equal. Therefore they revolt against the idea of Ideas, specifically against abstraction, theory, and a seeming lack of clear-cut results, all of which can be intimidating. (27-43) Luck’s basic response to this impotence of thought is that ideas are real. Ideas have practical consequences(28), are no more theoretical than politics(35), and that carefully thought out theology, while intimidating, is worth it because it is furthering the goals of the church (38) though he admits it does take some practice. (40)
Luck’s third way moves a person beyond ignorant absolutism and impotent relativism. Convinced openness moves people to think critically, recognizing that some ideas and things are relatively better than others. The reader is given seven criterions by which to do this measuring; an assertion should be more informed, faithful to the church’s faith and life, more comprehensive in scope, informative and relevant, more consistent, more aware of the context from which it came, and more aware of alternatives to it. (134-136)
An attitude of convinced openness makes for a good theologian, and Luck things everyone should be one. Being a theologian allows a person to integrate the sacred and the secular in a healthy and consistent way. (47) It also helps church bodies, which are often run by the masses, not professional theologians, to make informed decisions. (55) Encompassing these and other reasons for justifying theology is its goal as defined by Luck. “Theology aims at providing perspective on the church’s faith and life, guiding its mission to the world and its own inner preaching and teaching life.” (65)
Luck’s middle path is a very mature way to look at the modern world’s competing truth claims. The world is neither black and white, nor bla unintelligible greyness; it is shades of grey, carefully examined and continually re-appraisable.