It was my honor this week to deliver to first John and Claire Evans Lecture at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando. I spoke simply about the minister as a "pastoral theologian" of the church. Eventually the text of my lecture will be posted on the website that contains my columns.
The Evans are members of First United Methodist Church in Oveido. John Evans is deceased, but Claire remains a very active member. I appreciate their committment to The United Methodist Church, and I know that Asbury Seminary is very grateful for their support of theological education.
Next week I will participate in the Committee on Theological Education, which will be making plans for the future development of theological education in The United Methodist Church. There are a lot of issues we are facing. How well are our United Methodist seminaries preparing students for ministry in congregations? How are they shaping students in the Wesleyan theological vision and way of discipleship? How can we give better support to the many theological schools outside the United States that may have different educational standards than the thirteen United Methodist seminaries? What should be the future of the Ministerial Education Fund as we begin to move toward being a more world-wide church? Presently, all the funds from MEF support the thirteen seminaries, and these seminaries are dependent upon this support. If we become a more world-wide church in structure, then should we alter the distribution of funds from the MEF or increase them? These and other issues will be addressed by our Committee.
It will take us several years to complete our work as a Committee. I would welcome any thoughts that you may have about theological education in The United Methodist Church. I need this input since it has been a long time since I was a student (!), and I have not spent my life in the academy. Some of you have recent experience in school or work in theological education.
My main concern as I move forward in the work of this Committee is to be a part of a conversation about how seminaries can really prepare students for contributing to the mission of the Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and leading congregations in a time of tremendous change in the relationship of the culture to the church and a time when so many congregations need to relate to their surrounding neighborhoods. I do not expect seminaries to provide all the techniques since techniques change rather rapidly, but I do think that seminaries need to orient their students so that they are prepared to deal with the realities of today.
Theological education is so important. It shapes the minds and hearts of future leaders of the Church. If you have thoughts to share, please use the response to this blog to do so.