Luther Seminary has received a grant of $999,999 through Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Thriving in Ministry Initiative. The funding will be used to establish a new program called Leadership for Faithful Innovation, which will create cohort-based learning communities for pastors, synodical/judicatory leaders, and lay leaders to re-imagine models of ministry that form Christian faith in the 21st century. . . In their grant proposal, Zscheile and Jacobson noted that, as contrasted with decades ago, American culture is significantly less supportive today of Christian practices and participation in church life. As part of the grant program, cohort groups will integrate theology, innovation theory, and practice in community in order to discover breakthrough practices for faith formation.So Luther, already deep in financial trouble and with an ever decreasing student body, has been tapped with a Lilly grant to figure out how to re-imagine models of ministry for the21st century. Wow. Like they have done such a fine job in doing just that for the ELCA that now they need to spread their wisdom to the rest of us. Fortunately for the rest of us, Luther will pave the way to find the kind of breakthrough practices for faith formation that have been so effective at turning around the ELCA and its membership decline over the last few decades, well, pretty much since it was formed in 1988. Can't wait.
Luther is the same seminary that has undertaken a program of "mandatory employee training, Transforming White Privilege." As we all know the ELCA is among the most focused on diversity (while remaining the whitest of white church bodies). Could it be that the problem lies with the inherent racism of those white members? Not at this seminary! Read up on the curriculum:
The Transforming White Privilege (TWP) curriculum is designed to help current and emerging leaders from a variety of sectors better identify, talk about, and intervene to address white privilege and its consequences.
The curriculum includes lessons plans, handouts, PowerPoint slides, and video clips covering a number of key concepts, tools, and strategies for change. For example, the curriculum helps groups explore dominant cultural assumptions and perspectives about what is considered normal, appropriate, desirable and/or valid. Dominant culture narratives or norms – e.g. what constitutes a “family,” who is considered dangerous, intelligent, acceptable, and whose perspectives are valid – are codified in customs, laws, institutions, policies, and practices. They reinforce stereotypes and limit fair access in terms of who belongs inside and who remains outside circles of human concern (as the concept is used by John Powell and others). In addition, cultural assumptions are part of what continue to advantage some groups and disadvantage others. And, even when those inequities are persistent and obvious, the history and current policies and practices that drive them often may not be. The deep investigation and chance to “work with” these ideas can help build participants’ capacity to identify, talk productively about, and act to address white culture, white privilege, and their consequences in their spheres of influence.Watch for yourself some of the stuff involved in this curriculum.
January 19, 2017 webinar recording about the “Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity” curriculum from ELCA on Vimeo.
And. . . further east at the new union of Gettysburg and Philadelphia, another ELCA Seminary is in the news. . . You can read local press here. But the gist of it is a leadership crisis because the president of the LGBTQ-affirming school, the Rev. Theresa Latini (first president of United Lutheran Seminary) apparently once was a leader of an organization that said gay Christians should change or at least resist same-sex attractions as a temptation to sin. As we all know this is strictly verboten for any church on the cutting edge of societal change, like the ELCA, and even though she now repudiates that philosophy, saying it was “fear-based, controlling, and particularly marginalizing of LGBTQ+ persons,” that might not be enough for those who insist that only true blue believers in the GLBTQ agenda who have always held this viewpoint are good enough. Makes you think. . . about tolerance. . . which, I guess, is really rather one sided?!?
Even before I posted, it appears that the Board of United has determined that there was too much blood in the water and the seminary that declares itself "A Confessionally Rooted, Ecumenically Connected, and Culturally Competent School of Theology" has terminated Pres. Latini (as of March 14). To which Latini responded: "I have been scapegoated by an historically divided institution resistant to unification and have been given little chance to respond to the accusations against me." Clearly the ELCA has constituencies whose voices carry more weight than others. Although it might be possible to be on the theological fringes of the ELCA and be a leader, it is not permissible to be on the fringes of its social stands.