By Joe Isenhower Jr.
Twelve “themes” that grew out of suggestions from seminary faculties, board members and focus groups around the church will “be the directive for pastoral education in the LCMS,” says the Synod’s Board for Higher Education (BHE).
At a meeting in October, the board passed a resolution that says those themes would provide “a planning and guiding focus for preparation of pastors for the LCMS in the future.”
The action states that the Synod’s two seminaries “are to study these themes and their implications for curriculum revision and integrate [them] into their internal planning process.”
The 12 themes have to do with the following components:
- academic readiness;
- pastoral practice;
- spiritual formation;
- mission outreach;
- scholarship for the church and the world;
- international/global component;
- flexibility in approach and delivery of pastoral education;
- understanding church within culture and context;
- faithful faculty with pastoral experience;
- community of faith;
- service of the baptized; and
- church administration.
For the full text of the themes, go to www.lcms.org/?914 on the Web.
“I am grateful to all those throughout our Synod who helped develop and fine-tune these themes,” said Dr. L. Dean Hempelmann, director of pastoral education with the BHE, who developed the themes. “Our church body now has been given a clear vision for theological education well into the 21st century.”
Hempelmann said that the board’s action “fulfills one of the first goals I had when I joined the BHE staff in 1999 — `to envision with servants of the church … the purpose and priorities of pastoral education in our Synod.'”
“Our Concordia University System schools offer fine programs of pre-seminary education and our seminaries do a tremendous job of preparing faithful pastors and provid-ing continuing education for them,” Hempelmann said, “but the need that the themes answer is for a unified vision of pastoral education, starting with pre-seminary education, through the seminary experience and lifelong learning for pastors.”
To develop the themes, Hempelmann first interviewed every faculty member of both LCMS seminaries, asking them what they would like to see happen with theological education in the church and what its purposes and priorities should be. He then interviewed the members of the BHE and other church leaders to develop a summary that led to 11 themes.
In focus groups earlier this year with lay leaders, Hempelmann tested the summary and refined the 11 themes. After reading 86 letters and e-mails responding to an article about the themes in the March 2003 issue of The Lutheran Witness, Hempelmann settled on the 12 themes the BHE adopted in
He said that the themes would “serve as a standard” for reviews of the seminaries, which the BHE conducts every three years.
“The seminaries and the BHE are to utilize these themes to develop programs and policies, forge relationships and structures, and use resources to fulfill these themes,” says the board action’s rationale.