What is the future of theological education in the ELCA? That is the question that the authors in this issue wrestle with. This question has important implications for Lutheran Ethics because in our tradition, theology is supposed to be the sustained reflection on the faith with the intention to guide our proclamation, our praxis and our life together as a church. Without adequate theological formation the church runs blind and our ethics become reactionary or dangerously ideological. Additionally, theology is never done in a vacuum; if theology is truly incarnational then it is incarnated in concrete cultures, languages and communities. Unfortunately, for too long Lutheran theology has been myopically Eurocentric, dealing preferentially with concerns born of the White European and European decent experience. Both authors in this issue challenge us to reframe the way we understand diversity in the church and in theological education.
Education matters considerably for the Lutheran movement. Consistent with the Reformers, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) teaches a dual calling “to educate people in the Christian faith for their vocation and to strive with others to ensure that all have access to high quality education that develops personal gifts and abilities and serves the common good.” “This calling,” says the ELCA social statement on education, “embraces all people in both Church and society.” Since April 2013, following Church Council action to establish a Theological Education Advisory Council (TEAC), ELCA leaders have undertaken actions that I believe could engender radical change to make education in the Christian faith essential and universal in this church. While yet unknown in the congregations, this work has moved from study and recommendations to early design that seeks a new church for new times. The Lutheran movement should become a network that serves a democratic turn to theological education for the whole people of God.
During my childhood my father used to talk about the rapidly changing times through a cartoon he saw. In Paris, a man was running with a new dress he bought for his wife so it would not become out of fashion by the time he reached home. Today we are living in rapidly and radically changing times. Science, technology and especially the tele-communications revolution are changing our lives beyond our imagination. In a letter dated October 5th 2015, responding to the ELCA Theological Education Advisory Committee’s (TEAC) report, the Conference of Bishops stated that: “We are at a Kairos moment for theological education in the ELCA.” …The purpose of this article is to raise questions and offer a few reflections on TEAC from the margins: What is TEAC? What is its purpose? In what ways the plan outlined by TEAC has been beneficial for theological education in the ELCA? How will TEAC impact the ELCA’s TEEM programs (Theological Education for Emerging Ministry)? How does TEAC address the dreams and aspirations of people of color in our church? And finally how can TEAC be a resource in moving forward?
There are signs that all is not well with the Christian Church in North America. Among the signs often mentioned are these. First, institutional strength is in decline. Virtually all mainline denominations are experiencing membership loss and financial struggle. Second, the influence of the church seems to be less robust. Congregations were once often the center of community life and their voice a significant force in social discourse. This appears to be less true today. Third, a declining percentage of people identify with the Christian faith tradition. Polls suggest that an increasingly large portion of the population does not see much purpose in the church or has become disillusioned. Karen Bloomquist, a parish pastor, theological professor, scholar and church leader, in Seeing-Remembering-Connecting, offers an extremely helpful analysis and proposal for any congregation wishing to be faithfully engaged in the social order, which is to say, the place we live out our lives.
Lutheran Theology and Secular Law is the second of two volumes edited by Marie Failinger and Ron Duty that boldly take on the task of bringing Lutheran theology and legal theory and practice into conversation. The fifteen essays in the volume are divided into six parts: (1) Our secular age, (2) Lutheran theology and legal philosophy, (3) The individual and the state, (4) International law and human rights, (5) Domestic legal issues, and (6) Professionals, law, and neighbor-love. The three essays in the first two parts of the book are the most theoretical. For this reason, readers might consider jumping in midway through the volume, with the more topical essays, and circling back to the introductory essays later.