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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The Lutheran sense of vocation

It's key for ELCA colleges and ELCA faculty at secular schools

What makes a college “Lutheran”? Quality education—not the number of Lutherans—is key, according to several educational authorities.

Anantanand Rambachan (left), a Hindu
Anantanand Rambachan (left), a Hindu who heads the religion department at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., stands with Bruce Benson, campus pastor. If ELCA schools had to be administered by Lutherans, Benson said St. Olaf would lose an “invaluable” teacher in Rambachan.
“My argument is that a Lutheran college/university is one that pursues the essential tasks of a university in a way informed by Lutheran theology, particularly as it shapes an understanding of what it means to be human … the enterprise of knowing and learning … and our understanding of community,” wrote Tom Christenson in The Gift and Task of Lutheran Higher Education (Augsburg Fortress, 2004). He is a philosophy professor at Capital University, Columbus, Ohio.

Mark N. Wilhelm, associate executive director for educational partnerships and institutions, ELCA Vocation and Education, agrees: “I suspect many Lutherans involved in higher education today would agree that an ELCA college or university has a high percentage of Lutherans if half of its students are Lutheran. If you had said that to Lutheran leaders 100 years ago, they would have been shocked. They would have said, ‘What do you mean—only half?’


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