Readers, please accept this invitation to communicate with “Soundings,” either to react to articles in this issue of In Trust or to comment on other issues of concern to leaders in theological education. Feel free to be provocative, but do limit your letters to a maximum of 350 words. All letters are subject to editing. Our e-mail address is email@example.com.
Kenneth Briggs may well have answered the real issue of missing young leaders in the church and from traditional clergy-training pipelines (“Looking for Leaders,” Summer 2002) when he projected a question onto their minds regarding the church’s relevance to them: “Why climb aboard a sinking ship?”
Why climb aboard a ship at all, or pursue training to pilot or rescue one, when such a vessel has been made obsolete in a world without oceans, so to speak?
If the church could see more clearly the kind of transmogrification the world has experienced in the form of post-modernism, it would do more than seek to fill present structures with younger leaders or assume proven training methods of the past are effective for new leaders. It would probe the young with questions and more readily follow the leadership they’re already offering—even at the cost of complete reformation, or rewiring of current structures.
Daniel Aleshire stated his belief (“Vocation: Called to Lead, Called to Heed,” Spring 2001) that “Leadership is a function of a community” and “… is a necessity that communities require in order to accomplish their vocation.” If that is accurate, it is likely the next generation doesn’t believe the church understands its calling as having anything to do with them, their generation, or their rewired world because it hasn’t been open to their ideas, or the pace at which they have expected change in the church thus far.
Efforts underway to bring young people—even high school students—together for thought, study, and talk with pastors and seminary professors in order to discern their calling are laudable. If we’re listening, such interaction will also help the church, its clergy, and training centers rediscover their own vocation in this new day and fuel a positive rewiring for the church’s ongoing mandate.
Will the next generation lead us well? The answer simply may be in the asking.
Mark Isaac, a member of the board of directors of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, is pastor of Koerner Heights Church of the Mennonite Brethren in Newton, Kansas.
Read Them All
The articles in your Summer 2002 issue interested me sufficiently to motivate a reading of the entire issue in one sitting. As I reflect upon my reading, the articles on “Looking for Leaders” and “Toward a Stronger Future” were most helpful in my calling as director of pastoral education for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod under the auspices of its Board for Higher Education. We have engaged our board in a discussion of the tension between a classical education model of pastoral formation and the congregational need for more concrete leadership skills. While we have allegiance to the “tried and true,” there is also openness to discover innovative ways to appeal to the younger set of aspirants for the pastoral ministry. In dealing with the tension points, we are also aware of the desire of some for congregation-based education as described in the article “Church and School Together.” My view is that for some time both “kinds” of schools will exist, but at the end, mainline denominations will want graduates, from whatever schools, to be able to integrate strong and sound theology and effective pastoral practice in their preparation for the pastoral ministry.
The analysis of seminary trustees, in “Toward a Stronger Future,” points to factors important in governing boards for traditional schools to remain viable and valuable for their constituents and for the greater community. I believe the survey is helpful to give focus to ideas for building better boards in the future.
Thanks for the issue, the great articles, and the continuing contribution In Trust makes to the scene of theological education today.
L. Dean Hempelmann
St. Louis, Missouri
L. Dean Hempelmann is director of pastoral education for the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Editor’s Note: The report on board recruitment in the Summer 2002 issue credited to John M. Mulder, president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, was prepared by In Trust managing editor Robin Lind from excerpts of the transcript of an interview he conducted with Mulder and should have been so noted. The text presented was not written by Mulder nor was it submitted to him prior to publication for review or correction as would have been proper. The managing editor apologizes to Mulder and to In Trust’s readers for this lapse.