Online seminary education: the case against

Ed Moore, the Duke Clergy Health Initiative’s director of theological education and conference relations:

It remains the case that local congregations are intensely communal, and these are the places most pastors will be serving. Among the offices a pastor occupies in her local church is that of translator-in-chief of the sacred story. She is expected to muster the education she got in seminary, distill it through her strangely-warmed heart (and, we hope, mind), and offer the congregation a compellingly powerful presentation of the Good News, nuanced in the local mother tongue, as on the Day of Pentecost. It is this nuancing that can be learned only in community, and it is a critical skill.

[I agree] some seminary education bears little resemblance to the idealized community we prefer to imagine. It is possible to be alone in the crowd on many campuses, picturesque oak trees notwithstanding. And it is undeniably the case that improving technology will enable us to create academic community of considerable depth and common experience. But that community will be of the like-minded, sharing similar aspirations and bringing to the on-line experience similar levels of education. It will by its nature share a common dialect.

For the practice of local church ministry, a critical issue remains where, and how, the pastor-in-formation masters critical skills for her role as translator-in-chief of the Good News. If I’ve learned to read your true feelings across the table in a seminar of twelve students by noticing your movements, grimaces and sighs, I’m well along the way to ministering to Aunt Carrie.

Can I do the same in even the best on-line learning?

The complete post at Call Response is here.

It is the second of two posts at Call & Response on online theological education. The Episcopal Cafe community gave comments on the case for online education last week on The Lead with comments also appearing on our Facebook page.

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