The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Have seminaries changed drastically?

Or have they evolved?

It’s a shame when an otherwise excellent article is marred by glaring instances of historical amnesia. Seminaries of 20 years ago (or 30, in my case) were always far more than “just preacher factories” (April, "More than just 'preacher factories'"). They strove to prepare us for the ministry we would be facing at that time and to give us the tools to continue to learn for today. They hardly need to be disparaged in order to talk about today’s needs, as Richard Bliese seems to feel the need to do. Then Donald Huber talks about the ELCA of 40 years ago, arguing that “core theological commitments ... have not changed.” Since the ELCA is only 20 years old, I wonder what church body he is talking about? And finally Cynthia Halverson talks about the way the church used to pay for the training of its pastors in the past. Again I don’t know what church she means since our predecessor bodies had differing practices, and 30 years ago I recall struggling to pay tuition. Such statements mislead those with no knowledge of the past.

Paul D. Schmiege
New York, N.Y.

Have rules changed?

I note Michael Cooper-White’s quote, “Pastors in the future will be spiritual entrepreneurs” (April, "More than just 'preacher factories'"). I entered Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, in 1982 from my former occupation in graphic arts sales. When I raised the points of marketing and advertising of the church, many Lutheran professors told me that this seminary wasn’t training entrepreneurs. In both the candidacy process and theological education process, I was told that I was to be “faithful and not always successful as I conduct a ministry under the cross.” Every congregation I’ve served in my 20 years has been in a poorer, struggling rural community. I have gone where the synod needed me ... under the idea of “the call.” If Cooper-White is serious, why not save the ELCA and its congregations much time and money? The ELCA could simply downsize all theology, biblical studies and history faculty by three-fourths and prepare pastors with an MBA and a religion minor. Have the rules changed for ordained clergy in the ELCA? Shall I demand that I go to a growing metropolitan area where businesses are booming rather than these small, struggling Lutheran churches out in the areas where young people are leaving?

David Coffin
Ada, Ohio

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February issue


Embracing diversity