In the past, heeding the call to serve as an ELCA pastor meant commuting to or living on the campus of an ELCA seminary. Some ordination candidates have asked—and gotten—permission to attend non-ELCA seminaries for some of that time.
In 1994 a new idea began formulating, said Richard H. Bliese, president of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. “That’s when all the seminaries realized that potential students—leaders of the church—aren’t always able to pull up stakes and move to St. Paul or Berkeley,” he said. “[At Luther] it meant exploring how to take the strength of our residential program and put it into distance learning.”
Many of the eight ELCA seminaries offer some online classes, as well as video courses and online advising. All participate in the Fisher’s Net, which provides online learning opportunities open to all, including those registered at ELCA seminaries.
However, Luther is the first to offer an online method for obtaining a master of divinity degree. It follows the school’s creation of an online master of arts degree program in children, youth and family ministry, approved by the Association of Theological Schools in 2002.
Two things drove the move: younger students with interest in such a program and competition from a nearby Baptist seminary offering such an opportunity.
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