Luther Seminary receives $21.4 million commitment to pilot a two-year Master of Divinity programOkay so you read the press release. Now, count how many times the term leader or its derivatives were used and then compare it to how many times the term pastor was used. Get the picture? This is less about preparing pastors than about leadership. The pastoral office so highly esteemed in the Lutheran Confessions is being reshaped into primarily a leadership office and one that bears striking resemblance to the mainline and evangelical descriptions of a pastor but has little in common with the pivotal Lutheran texts of our history AND the historic understanding of the priestly office and the pastoral task.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Luther Seminary has received the largest single donation in its history: a $21.4 million commitment to pilot a two-year Master of Divinity program.
The two-year degree program, covering tuition and some living expenses for students, will launch in fall 2019 and enables students to shorten their education to two years from the current three to four years and ensures that they take on no new personal debt.
Dean Buntrock, the founder and former chairman and CEO of Waste Management, Inc., and long-time benefactor of Lutheran higher education, made the donation covering the five-year pilot program. The donation includes a year of planning and resources to add faculty and staff.
“This pilot project is designed to inspire and support innovative leadership development churchwide," Buntrock said. "It will attract exceptional candidates from across the nation who show potential to be spiritually strong, theologically faithful, and entrepreneurially innovative. The outcomes will lead to further church leadership innovation for years to come. It is also my hope that others in the church will step up and ensure the long term and broad sustainability of education for our church. ”
Buntrock’s gift builds on Luther’s new vision, new curriculum and, starting in fall 2018, the new Jubilee full tuition scholarship for all Master of Divinity and Master of Arts students admitted to Luther Seminary.
“This transformative investment by Dean Buntrock promotes game-changing innovation in educating church leaders, ultimately serving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and church bodies across the nation,” said Rev. Dr. Robin J. Steinke, president of Luther Seminary. “Luther Seminary’s new vision calls us to undertake exactly this kind of leadership formation, embedded within some of the most adaptive congregations we serve.”
Students enrolled in this newly designed Master of Divinity will work through the curriculum year-round for two consecutive years while completing concurrent part-time congregational internships that provide high-impact learning experiences through real-world application. They will receive full-tuition scholarships, living expense stipends, books and other learning materials, computer software, and travel expenses for immersion experiences. They also will be paid for their internships in accordance with ELCA standards. In addition, by reducing the time spent in seminary to two years, students will realize a significant savings in living expenses, estimated at more than $100,000 per learner.
"Identifying, inviting, equipping, and supporting leaders is one of the highest priorities for our work in the ELCA,” said Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, who launched the ELCA Leadership Initiative in November 2016. "We are thankful for Dean Buntrock's generous investment in Lutheran theological education and the benefits this innovative pilot program will have across the church."
Founded in 1869 by Norwegian Lutheran immigrants, Luther Seminary currently educates nearly 40 percent of the ELCA’s pastors and church leaders, provides continuing education to more than 3,000 pastors each year, and supports more than 50,000 pastors every week through our Working Preacher digital resource.
Our vision is this: the Holy Spirit calls Luther Seminary to lead faithful innovation for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a rapidly changing world.
Notice the emphasis on entrepreneurial leadership -- business people trained in marketing, visioning, positioning, and leading transformational change to meet the needs of a rapidly changing
Did you read about connecting those short term students (two years vs three in classroom education) to an adaptive congregation while in seminary (what was once vicarage or internship over a whole year under the tutelage of a seasoned pastor)? In other words, Luther Seminary will be looking to find those congregations that are adaptive to changing beliefs, practices, cultural trends, and social movements and connect these students to them in the hopes that they will learn how to bring change to the congregations they will begin serving in half the time it once took to prepare them to maintain what they found. Half the time, greater expectation, and a higher bar set for them. No matter what your theology, this is an odd development. If doctors did the same, we would cut a few years off medical school and dispense with an internship and stick them in a clinic as soon as possible in places where they meet the greatest diversity of needs and ills. But why is medicine NOT doing that? Could it be that the change all around us requires more from those who must meet that change (much less manage it)?
I applaud the concern for student debt and the commitment NOT to finance seminary education on the backs of the seminarians. Absolutely. Missouri is trying to do this right now without shortchanging our students. But the Church does not need faithful leaders from those who go to seminary. The Church needs pastors. Until we learn that lesson, we will mirror every business or social strategy while starving our people to death from bread that feeds the body without the Word and Table of the Lord to feed the soul. And if we are producing good and faithful pastors and they are good and faithful in their callings, these are exactly the leaders we need (with, of course, the good, informed, and solid leadership of our gifted folks in the pews!).