Readers, please accept this invitation to communicate with "Soundings," either to react to articles in this issue of In Trust or to comment on other issues of concern to leaders in theological education. Feel free to be provocative, but do limit your letters to a maximum of 350 words. All letters are subject to editing. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Investments and Y2K
I wonder if In Trust is looking at the Year 2000 Problem as it might affect seminaries. In view of the recent theme of electronic delivery of distance education at the Biennium of the Association of Theological Schools, this is something we should all be concerned about.
We are installing our new system here at Atlantic School of Theology and I am being fanatical about being Y2K-compliant. But the issue goes beyond our hardware and software and what we are doing or not doing in the information technology area. I am referring to the impact of the Y2K on investments. What are theological school investment committees doing to ensure that their investments are not going to be impacted severely? I would really like to know what folks are doing, or even what they are thinking about the degree to which they are vulnerable. Potentially, if the doomsayers are correct, companies whose stocks we all likely hold could well be impacted by collapses of companies with whom they do business and on whom they may be strategically dependent. Our endowments are likely to be exposed to rough times indeed.
So, what--if anything--are finance and investment committees doing to review their portfolios?
--William J. Close
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Reverend William J. Close is president of Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax. Responses to his question will be most welcome, directed to the editors of In Trust by mail (2611 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204), e-mail email@example.com, or fax (703/271-5319).
Graduation, and Then?
Articles in two recent issues of In Trust ("From School to Congregational Leadership," New Year 1998, and "Following the Path of Devotion" (included in 'Anatomy of a Turnaround'), Summer 1998) have pushed my buttons. I responded to the first in a personal letter to Ellis Nelson, since he is an old and honored friend, and am responding now to the second.
In the late seventies, Roy Oswald and I had a project to assist in what the Lilly Endowment called "contextual education." It was our perspective that seminaries and congregations were quite different organizational worlds. At graduation seminarians literally crossed a boundary between two different cultures. My dream, in working with seminaries to help graduates "cross the boundary," was, indeed, to help graduates (to help them learn they weren't crazy, although their experience had tended to make all of them think they might be) and to jump-start the graduates on a practice of returning to the seminary for a whole career of continuing education. It was that, but Roy Oswald and I had a more sneaky agenda--we wanted seminary faculties exposed to feedback from their graduates, especially the graduates they felt were particularly gifted, as they reflected on what parts of their preparation had worked for them and what parts had not worked.
For that purpose, we designed the post-seminary conferences as "research" events, and we incorporated seminary faculty members onto the training and research teams. We even had them help design what we would ask the graduates.
Our assumption? That what those faculty members discovered would become grist for faculty meeting discussions the next year--about those areas of seminary life that graduates felt good about as they looked back from the perspective of the congregation and those areas that fell short of the mark.
Our assumption turned out to be wrong. None of the ten seminaries included in the original research caught the point or used the opportunity, with the partial exception of McCormick. The best result we got was that the monograph written on the basis of the first ten research seminars (Roy's monograph, Crossing the Boundary, c. 1979) has been widely purchased and given to seminary seniors or first-year pastors.
The seminaries missed the three points: (1) they tried to help their graduates by feeding them the collected wisdom of some of their predecessors without helping them face the cultural learning each of them needed to make in crossing the boundary; (2) they did not pick up the challenge of connecting with their graduates to initiate lifelong learning at the very moment when they were most anxious to do some learning; (3) they cut out the possibility of a "feedback loop" to help each seminary and its faculty learn from the immediate experience of their graduates.
The partially successful effort, the one that got incarnated in the Transition and Survival Skills Training Experience (TASTE) program in the Presbyterian Synod of the Trinity, began with our frustration in getting through that stone wall. We collaborated with Union Theological Seminary in Richmond to "study" what went wrong in the whole system. (Why, for example, did seminary graduates, no matter what seminaries did, seem to be out of sync with their own expectations, the expectations of the congregations and presbyteries and the seminary?) We got representatives of the whole system together--congregation, "care committees" who worked with aspirants prior to seminary; presbytery "care committees" who worked with them during seminary; seminary faculty members; seminary board members; people from congregations that received graduates; and presbytery executives who dealt with many of the steps. We got them together to find out what wasn't working. It was out of those conversations that first the Presbytery of West Virginia, then other contiguous presbyteries, and finally the synod adopted the "boot camp" program they came to call TASTE. I think that program may have made some of the hopes we began with begin to work--I gather that that synod program has now been adopted by Union Seminary.
The thing that worries me is that I'm not sure--on the basis of our work--that seminaries, as learning systems, can be a home for an educational experience so fully based in the other culture. I am afraid it will become an academic course in "what you ought to do in a new congregation," and not an experience of learning from trying to learn while immersed in the new culture.
In Trust readers need to know that a wheel has already been invented, and there is a lot of knowledge about such wheels. My experience says seminaries have little ability to do the kind of teaching and learning that are most helpful to graduates in adapting to congregational culture.
I have come full circle in my thinking. Yes, there is an enormous gap between the classroom experience and the congregational experience. I do not believe those leading the classroom experience can, from within their culture, deal with the congregational culture into which their graduates must go. I have regretfully come to think that the seminary must be freed to do what it can do--give first-class exposure to the lore and tradition of the faith and the church. That's a core need for every person who seeks to serve as a pastor.
But it is the need of the church, its executives, its pastors and people, to be an educational context for the equally important tasks of preparation for congregational leadership--and there are three of those tasks:
I don't think the church can do its threefold task without fine seminaries doing the academic preparation (although I think those seminaries could do a better job with better feedback). Similarly, I do not think seminaries can do their job if they are not supplied with a flow of fine human beings of deep faith entering their life every fall, and, when the time has come, moving out into another part of the community of faith at their graduation.
--Loren B. Mead
The Reverend Loren B. Mead is founder of the Alban Institute and a veteran consultant to organizations.
In the Spring issue of In Trust, a table was included as part of a "Balance Sheet" article on seminaries' long-term investments, based on figures submitted to the Association of Theological Schools. Central Baptist Theological Seminary had submitted the wrong figures to ATS, consequently these were also wrong in the table. The correct amount should have been $4,618,233, resulting in a 26.7 percent increase over the previous year.
--David W. Freisner
Kansas City, Kansas
David W. Freisner is vice president for administration at Central Baptist Theological Seminary.
Thank you for reporting the mistreatment of Dr. Barbara Fiand ('Changing Scenes,' Summer 1998). The Reverend Gerald R. Haemmerle, current president of the Athenaeum of Ohio, would have us believe that neither "troublemaking students," nor orthodoxy, nor her gender were cause for her being barred from teaching seminarians. Then he puts out the hint that Dr. Fiand "does not support priesthood"--a claim for which he was required to show no hard evidence nor to provide any opportunity for refutation.
The same smoke screen was used in my case. When the administration unilaterally cut short the investigation of my book and proceeded immediately to an unlawful dismissal, it circulated the story that I failed to respond "in a timely fashion"--despite the fact that the Reverend (now Mr.) Robert J. Mooney, former president of the Athenaeum, confessed, in sworn testimony, that the process had "no timelines" and that he told me to "take all the time you need." Then, by leading innuendos, this was expanded to imply that "Milavec was either unwilling or unable to respond." In the end, the administration added more smoke and mirrors to make it appear as though the violation of my rights within the illegal "nonrenewal of contract" was "in the cause of charity" since, in this way, the truth of my "dismissal" could be hushed up. In the end, justice and charity were trampled upon and, in its place, secrecy and double-talk were manipulated by way of blaming the victims.
Meanwhile Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk shields the perpetrators. The archbishop ratified a Declaration on Due Process in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1993 that boldly declared, "It is imperative that no member of the church be deprived arbitrarily of any right or office." Yet the archbishop worked both openly and secretly to block my access to these "effective safeguards for the protection of rights."
"Power tends to corrupt," the Catholic historian Lord Acton pronounced, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I love my church and the Gospel it stands for. Archbishop Pilarczyk, for his part, does not love justice enough to walk his talk.
Aaron Milavec was dismissed from the faculty of the Athenaeum of Ohio in July 1996.
In Diane Amussen's fine article in the Spring 1998 In Trust there was a sidebar with the names of the seminaries participating in the Lilly Endowment's Information Technology for Theological Teaching grant program.
There were two inaccuracies in the sidebar regarding our seminary, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. First, the project director is Lawrence Rast, not Marge Gruber. Second, my official e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Lawrence R. Rast, Jr.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Lawrence R. Rast, Jr. is assistant professor of historical theology and Lilly Project director at Concordia Theological Seminary.
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