Friday, July 01, 2011

Institute of Lutheran Theology Happenings

As many of you know, I have had the opportunity these last years to serve as the founding president of the Institute of Lutheran Theology. I have been grateful to have been able to do this. The time came a few months ago, however, for me to reevaluate what it is that I can do and can't do. With the Institute growing so quickly, it just is not possible any longer for me to serve both as President of ILT and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Accordingly, as of the June ILT Board meeting I am no longer president of this organization, but now VP of Academic Affairs only, I am very excited to be back doing mostly academic work, and am thrilled about the new person the ILT Board has selected to represent ILT as president. The announcement of this new person will come later this summer.

Many people connected with the Institute of Lutheran Theology have recently been contacted by a former staff person of ILT concerning a new start-up entitled "St. Paul Lutheran Seminary." As it turns out, two former staff members of ILT are advertising that a new seminary will be on-line this fall, and they have apparently gotten one former ILT faculty member to teach for them. Like the ILT Board and the rest of the ILT staff, I am concerned that people understand that "St. Paul Lutheran Seminary" is in no way connected to ILT. Its efforts are neither supported nor sanctioned by ILT.

Now the question arises: What motivation might there be to start a new seminary? It seems that when things like this happen within Lutheran circles, there are generally the following motivations:

One might start a new seminary because of theological reasons. However, it appears that the new entity has no theological differences with ILT. The Institute has always tried to understand Lutheran theology in the context of its origination and development, and related this theology to the contemporary intellectual horizon. I doubt if the new organization is opposed to this.

One might start a new seminary because of ecclesioloigical reasons. However, it appears that the new entity is striving to serve the same market as ILT. The Institute has always tried to serve LCMC and NALC congregations, and support as well those ELCA congregations who sense they are not being fed theologically by the ELCA seminaries.

One might start a new seminary because of structural/organizational reasons. However, it appears that the organization of ILT as a "distributed residential community" with non-geographic "Designated Teaching Centers" using the latest in synchronous technology is one with which the new entity might agree.

Sometimes it is said that if one puts three Lutherans in the same room, one gets three different theological traditions. Lutherans have traditionally privileged truth over unity. When important doctrinal/theological issues are at stake, Lutherans have historically separated from one another. However, Lutherans need not be opposed to unity. We can work together. Sometimes unity is a very good thing. ILT has always hoped that one seminary might develop to be the voice of theological conscience within present day Lutheran diaspora. I do not think the present context warrants a division or reduplication of efforts in the building of a truly confessional Lutheran seminary.

I have been working on trying to build ILT for about six years now. We have now a very fine faculty, scores of students, a great curriculum, dozens of congregations relating closely to us, and the financial stability to accomplish those things we believe that God has put before us. The future is very exciting! Let us work together in trust and love.

Soli deo gloria.