DUBUQUE, IA – March 23, 2017 –Wartburg Theological Seminary is piloting a new program which began with its first cohort of students in the Fall of 2016. This new pathway to the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree is a collaborative partnership between the student, congregation, synod, and seminary where all partners play a role in the formation of a new leader.
The MDiv Collaborative Learning Program places students in a congregation where they will work part-time throughout the 4-year degree program while accessing Wartburg Seminary’s virtual classroom and engaging in online coursework taught by Wartburg Seminary’s faculty. This unique learning platform gives students an opportunity for simultaneous learning and serving.
“Collaborative students located in a congregational setting bring particular gifts for the mutual enrichment of the whole seminary community, specifically perspectives based on their daily involvement in pastoral ministry in the congregations where they are serving. Moreover, collaborative students receive the mentoring of experienced pastors in an ongoing way throughout their formation process. The existential experiences, insights, and questions of collaborative students assist faculty and all other students to engage more fully in the action-reflection theological method by which Wartburg Theological Seminary has been known,” said Academic Dean, Rev. Dr. Craig Nessan.
Wartburg Theological Seminary launched this program to help meet the leadership needs of the church both today and tomorrow. For prospective students, the program aims to remove common barriers such as taking on significant levels of educational debt and moving to campus.
President Louise Johnson emphasized, “With a projected shortage of leaders to serve the full-time call needs of the church (1000 by 2019) and a continued and startling lack of racial diversity among our professional leaders, WTS has made important decisions to broaden access to theological education.”
Congregations and current leaders will serve as teaching sites and mentors for students in the Collaborative Learning Program throughout the entire seminary experience. Sites may include congregations where there is currently no pastoral leadership and students will serve as a synodically authorized minister or students will serve in larger multi-staff congregations where the student will serve alongside other pastoral staff.
“We know that the Holy Spirit is calling us to change, to broaden our leadership, to reduce debt, to increase the capacity and diversity of our leaders. We cannot do that work alone. WTS is deeply grateful for synodical and congregational partners, who are willing to step out into the future with us. We are also grateful for the Lilly Endowment, Inc. for their financial support of this idea,” said Johnson.
Wartburg Theological Seminary is one of eight theological schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Wartburg is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission. Wartburg educates women and men to serve the church as ordained and lay leaders. Wartburg Theological Seminary was established in Dubuque, Iowa in 1854.