Eden Theological Seminary is participating in GIVE STL Day on May 1, 2019. On this day, charitable St. Louisans and others can grab their credit or debit cards, go online to GiveSTLDay.org, and donate $10 or more. Please type in Eden Theological Seminary in the search box to give to Eden on May 1. Your gift can help support Eden’s mission of educating women and men for ministry, enlivening critical reflection on faith and supporting bold Christian discipleship.

You can give now by prescheduling your gift. Click here to give now!

What is Giving Day?
Give STL Day is a 24-hour, online giving event organized by the St. Louis Community Foundation to grow philanthropy in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

The minimum donation is $10 and the maximum is $100,000. The goal is to inspire the community to come together for 24 hours to contribute as many charitable dollars as possible to support the work of local nonprofit organizations.

www.moumethodist.org, COLUMBIA, Mo. – April 9, 2019 – NextGen Ministries announced its intention to plant a new place for new people in Springfield with a focus on the college-age population. Bishop Bob Farr has appointed Rev. Tracey Wolff (Eden M.Div. 2017) to this new post. A recent graduate of Missouri’s Planting Academy, Wolff’s affinity for Springfield, particularly Missouri State, makes her a great fit this ministry.

“Some time ago, NextGen Ministries team identified Springfield as an open mission field for college-age ministry,” said Rev. Ron Watts, NextGen Ministries team chairperson. “We have been patiently awaiting the right person and we are pleased that the Bishop and Cabinet has chosen Tracey for this appointment.”

Wolff’s work will be focused on the college campuses in Springfield, particularly Missouri State University, Drury University and Ozark Technical College. This is the first time the Missouri Conference has launched a conference-funded campus ministry in recent memory. In 2007, following the work of the Pathways task force, the Conference shifted how it funded Wesley Foundations at several state universities and charged local churches with connecting with campuses in their neighborhood.

“At the time, it was the right decision to defund Wesley Foundations as we looked toward a new way of connecting with next generations of Christians,” said Jeff Baker, Director of Next Generation Ministries. “In some places, we’ve seen local churches take seriously a call to connect and disciple young people, but the Conference has struggled in some areas to connect with campuses and college-age persons. With this place for new people, we’re trying something new.”

This won’t be a Wesley Foundation, however. The leadership team is approaching this ministry like many new places for new people – with a period of visioning and the assembling of a launch team. Those will be Wolff’s primary objectives in the first months of her appointment.

Campus life has been formative for Wolff’s career. She walked onto the Missouri State’s women’s basketball team in the mid-1980s as a sophomore before becoming a full scholarship student athlete by her senior year. Following graduation, she spent two years as a graduate coaching assistant for the Lady Bears before leaving for Milwaukee in 1991 to serve as Marquette University’s assistant women’s basketball coach, a post she held for 10 years. After Marquette, she worked as Director of Women’s Basketball with Athletes in Action, the sports ministry of Cru Ministries, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. Her experience working with students helped her realize a call to ministry to that age group that has persisted through the years.

“I want to create a space where college-age persons can ask the questions they want about what it is to be faithful,” said Wolff.

Ozarks District Superintendent Lynn Dyke couldn’t be happier to see the possibilities of connecting with Missouri State University, which has experienced 20 percent growth in enrollment over the past two decades. The Office of Next Generation Ministries will be working with the Ozarks District and Springfield-based local churches to identify the best location for the administrative functions of the ministry hub.

“There are 40,000-plus students at Springfield-based campuses,” said Dyke. “As a denomination, we are not reaching this critical mission field. Launching a new place for new college-age people in the Ozarks District will be important to raising up new missional leaders for the purpose of connecting Christ to the world.”

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The Office of Next Generation Ministries is responsible for children and youth discipleship ministries, camping, campus-based ministries, Next Generation Ministries team, Crossroads college-age internships, youth ministry and youth leadership team.

VICE PRESIDENT OF ADVANCEMENT

ORGANIZATION AND POSITION PROFILE

Eden Theological Seminary is seeking a Vice President of Advancement, with an ideal starting date in the spring of 2019. The new vice president will have an opportunity to assist the Seminary in implementing a new strategic plan that seeks to establish Eden as an innovative leader within the ecumenical and progressive Christian movement in the United States and abroad.

Eden’s strategic plan flows from its mission and vision statements and sets a strategic direction for the school.

Mission Statement.  “Eden Theological Seminary is called to strengthen the life of the church by educating women and men for ministry, enlivening critical reflection on faith, and supporting bold Christian discipleship.”

Vision Statement. “Eden Theological Seminary will be recognized as an ecumenical educational center for the progressive Christian movement.”

Strategic Direction. “Eden Seminary will be a catalyst for building, encouraging and communicating hope for the now and future church by taking to scale select programs that lead to measurable transformation of local congregations, institutions and the wider communities they serve. The programs will include clergy education, scholarship for the church, and a robust set of expanded educational programs.”

As a progressive Christian seminary, Eden is deeply committed to the church-both as it is and as it should be—and seeks to use critical reflection to reinterpret its traditions in more just and fitting ways for changing times. It is committed to social justice and change and approaches other religions and cultures with an irenic spirit of openness. At the same time, it focuses on Christian theology and practice as central to its mission and heritage, utilizing an approach that is non-sectarian, critical, and intellectually honest. It strongly rejects the impulse to exclude on the basis of race, ethnicity, class gender, or sexual orientation.

Eden has 12 full-time faculty, including the president and dean of the seminary.  It enrolls a diverse student body of 150 plus. The Seminary offers the following degrees:

  • Master of Divinity (M.Div.) is the prerequisite degree in many Christian denominations for ordination. This professional degree integrates rigorous academic work with participation in and reflection upon the practice of ministry in their denomination.
  • Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) focuses on the biblical, historical and theological foundations of Christian faith. Students in this degree program focus on academic work and engage in faculty directed scholarly research.
  • Master of Arts in Professional Studies (M.A.P.S.) focuses on theological reflection for the practice of ministry. This is a degree for persons who choose to serve as lay, diaconal or recognized ministers in a specialized form of ministry.
  • Master of Community Leadership (M.C.L.) an intensive fourteen-month degree that focuses on leadership for not-for-profit organizations and integrates practical learning, business education and theological reflection.
  • Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) is an advanced degree for people with at least three years experience in ministry after receiving the M.Div. degree. This degree provides an opportunity for continued theological study and disciplined reflection on the practice of ministry.
  • Dual Degree Program (M.Div. or M.A.P.S./M.S.W.) is designed for students to earn both a Master of Divinity or Master of Arts in Professional Studies degree from Eden Theological Seminary and Master of Social Work degree from George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Eden Theological Seminary is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It is also approved by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church for the training of United Methodist students.

Eden’s annual budget is $4.5 million, and its total giving from all sources is about $2.5 million. Its annual fund is about $725,000 per year and is almost evenly divided between gifts from individuals and congregations.

RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE VICE PRESIDENT OF ADVANCEMENT

The Vice President of Advancement reports directly to the President and is responsible for planning and managing all aspects of the Seminary’s fund-raising and constituent development. The Vice President of Advancement is specifically responsible for the following:

  • Serves on the president’s administrative team with the dean of the seminary and chief financial officer and provides staff support to the Board of Directors for fundraising and constituent development.
  • Supervises five direct-reports including donor relations, scholarship administration, communications, church relations, gift accounting, and support services.
  • Works with the president, director of communications, and board of trustees to develop the Seminary’s “brand” and coordinate the telling of the Seminary’s “story” to al constituency groups.
  • Coordinates and implements a comprehensive development plan, including annual and long-range fundraising goals, administration of a development budget, management of all data bases, oversight of a planned-giving program, the implementation of restricted gifts, and the recruitment of volunteers.
  • Pays special attention to the growth of the annual fund through both individual and congregational giving and the utilization of board members to increase the donor base in the St. Louis area and beyond.
  • Provides leadership and day-to-day management of the development staff by providing on-going training, setting annual and long-term financial and performance goals for individuals and programs, developing up-to-date job descriptions, and conducting regular performance evaluations.
  • Evaluates and implements a coordinated plan for sending receipts, acknowledging and reporting of gifts, and maintaining a comprehensive and accurate system of data collection and utilization.
  • Assists the president in coordinating development contacts, preparing/developing donors for the president’s call and “ask,” and strategizing for the best use of his fundraising activities.

EXPERIENCE EXPECTATIONS

The successful candidate for this position will have the following experience:

  • Successful track record asking for and securing large and small gifts; managing complex development operations that includes grant writing, data management, and capital campaigns; and involving other key Seminary leaders, especially the president and board members, in fundraising activities.
  • An understanding of mainline Protestant church life and a willingness to commit to Eden Seminary’s progressive religious identify and mission.
  • Experience with institutional “branding” and the ability to develop in cooperation with others a comprehensive marketing plan to support the Seminary’s institutional advancement program.
  • Strategic leadership qualities, including the ability to see the big picture, design creative and complex strategies for achieving advancement goals, and motivate others to strive for excellence in their work.
  • Highly effective verbal and written communication skills for conveying to staff, volunteers, and other Seminary personnel how the advancement program contributes to Eden’s objectives, and to potential; or current donors how the Seminary serves the broader community.
  • A collaborative working style that recognizes the importance of team work and delegates significant responsibilities to team members.
  • Sophisticated relationship-building skills that develop lifelong connections for the Seminary, build strong team loyalty, and bring into the advancement process a broad constituency of students, faculty, staff, and board members.

COMPENSATION 

Compensation will be based on the candidate’s experience and credentials. The benefit package is comprehensive and attractive, including health and life insurance, short/long term disability, a pension plan, a flex-plan that covers medical and dependent care expenses, and tuition remission benefits. Relocation costs and assistance to the St. Louis area will be provided.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE NEXT VICE PRESIDENT

This position is designed for an energetic and creative advancement professional interested in managing an expanding and maturing development operation to serve the needs of an innovative, forward-looking Seminary that aspires to become the recognized leader in training ordained and lay persons for service in the progressive Christian movement. The next Vice President of Advancement can expect the following challenges and opportunities:

  • Help implement a daring new strategic plan. Thanks to the current economic crisis for the majority of religious seminaries in the US, all theological schools are under significant stress. This is especially true in those schools with small endowments, lagging development programs, and an insufficient support base. At a time when numerous schools are worried about ability to survive, Eden has developed an exciting new strategic plan that intends to expand its already strong academic program by adding new programs, cooperating with the UCC and other mainline denominations in developing new multiple paths of preparation for ordination, and starting new programs of non-degree theological education in order to provide training for lay leaders at a scale unknown before. These are bold goals that will require a well-thought out development strategy to achieve. The new vice president will be challenged to support a program that seeks to take a radically different approach to theological education.
  • Develop a new donor base. The Seminary’s donor base is aging, which requires the development of a significant number of new donors for the future. Generational differences in philanthropic giving require new approaches. The strategic plan intends to generate new donors through its expanded and innovative programs that reach new lay constituencies by serving the needs of a progressive Christian movement that is currently under stress because of loss of morale and membership. The new vice president must be able to take an active and aggressive lead in such new donor development by utilizing the Seminary’s mission.
  • Expand levels of participation in advancement. A successful advancement program involves more than the development staff. It includes a broadening base of participation by trustees, Seminary personnel (administrators, faculty, and students), and other stakeholders. The next Vice President will have an opportunity to develop such fundraising participation in creative and productive ways.
  • Support the advancement staff. The advancement staff is deeply committed to the mission of the Seminary and meeting fundraising goals. The next vice president must be able to mobilize the staff to work together in new ways by enhancing communication, setting clear-cut goals, providing regular performance evaluation, and delegating responsibility. Key to future success is helping staff members see how their work fits into the “big picture,” how the parts contribute to the whole.

THE NOMINATION AND APPLICATION PROCESS

Nominations and applications will be held in confidence. Applications should include a letter outlining the applicant’s background, qualifications and vision for the position: curriculum vita/resume: and contact information for five professional references. References will not be contacted without the prior approval of the applicant. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Submit all applications electronically to Ms. Danita Carter, Executive Assistant to the President at: [email protected].

Eden Theological Seminary is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, color, marital status, national origin, disability or veteran status.

As I approach the end of my three-year journey of earning my Masters of Divinity at Eden Theological Seminary, I have finally had a moment to reflect on the decision I made four years ago that led me to Eden and to a new path for my life.

Four years ago, I had no idea that attending a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, during my undergraduate senior year, would have such a huge influence on my future. While in St. Louis, I had a chance meeting with another protestor, Deborah Krause, who I learned was the Academic Dean of Eden Theological Seminary.  I distinctly remember her fiery and determined spirit.

Following that trip to St. Louis, I met Eden alumnus Rev. Starsky Wilson, and coincidentally also met two other people, who all recommended that I consider seminary and to consider Eden Theological Seminary among others. It felt as if God was calling me to Eden and, although I had never considered seminary before, I took the leap of faith and enrolled in the Master of Divinity program.

As a first-year M.Div. student, my Eden experience stretched and challenged me in a variety of ways. I learned more about church history and theology, but most importantly, how context is essential in shaping both of those subjects. My experience has also helped me to add to my language toolbox to articulate my beliefs and identity, which is constantly forming and reforming, as a Christian and one raised in the black Pentecostal tradition.

My studies at Eden have shored up, challenged and deepened my faith. If your faith holds water, it will stand up to being at Seminary.

We support each other within Eden, and I know we will take that beyond Eden’s doors. Ministry can get lonely and having people to reach out to will be very important.

At Eden I have been exposed to strong, black women preaching social justice along with the gospel. It has been inspiring. The women I admire have doctorates, so I think that is what I want to do next; preaching and working academically toward a PhD.

This has been a journey of ups and downs, and seminary has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I think it will also turn out to be the one of the best things I’ve done. I have been blessed in too many ways to name, and I look forward to what the future will bring to me.

Alexis Tardy
Master of Divinity
Eden Theological Seminary Class of 2019

 

NPR/February 23, 2019

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There’s a debate in the United Methodist Church over whether LGBTQ people can serve as clergy and permit same-sex marriage. Church leaders are meeting in St. Louis beginning today to decide and will vote on the issue. But some worry that it could tear United Methodists apart. St. Louis Public Radio’s Shahla Farzan has the story.

SHAHLA FARZAN, BYLINE: Several dozen people fill the pews at Lafayette Park United Methodist Church in St. Louis.

FARZAN: Among them is Kristen Leslie, an ordained elder in the church. Many of the worshippers here identify as LGBTQ. That’s why Leslie and her husband chose this congregation

KRISTEN LESLIE: Because it was a church that we knew was living in a place of justice just by its very presence of who was in the congregation.

FARZAN: But current rules prohibit clergy in same-sex relationships from actually serving in the United Methodist Church. Pastors also aren’t supposed to officiate at same-sex weddings. But Leslie, who’s a professor at Eden Theological Seminary, has defied that rule. Since the early ’90s, she’s performed at least 25.

LESLIE: We are made in the image of God. And how we love each other, as long as it honors God, who am I to say? Love is love is love is love, as Lin-Manuel Miranda said.

FARZAN: The United Methodists have debated for years whether to make church policies more inclusive for LGBTQ people. It’s largely been a conversation within the U.S. And that’s something that concerns seminary student S. Jewell S. McGhee.

S JEWELL S MCGHEE: I feel like the message that American Christians have given too often is that the rest of the world doesn’t matter as much. And that is a message that is against the message of Christ, as I see it.

FARZAN: The United Methodist Church has more than 12 million members spread across the world. U.S. membership has declined in recent years. But, globally, the church is growing, especially in African nations. And that presents a challenge, says United Methodist Council of Bishops president Ken Carter.

KEN CARTER: In some nations of the world, homosexuality is a taboo subject. Or it’s against the law. And so it’s just a more complex conversation for us.

FARZAN: At the St. Louis conference, more than 860 delegates from across the world will decide whether to lift the ban on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex weddings.

There’s a lot at stake, says Daron Smith, a gay man and lifelong United Methodist.

DARON SMITH: It’s a little nerve-wracking for a group of people you don’t really know to make a decision about you. But I’m hopeful this time. If the decision doesn’t go our way this time, we’ll keep fighting.

MARIE GRIFFITH: They avoided the issue as much as they could for as long as they could because they knew this was going to divide the church somehow.

FARZAN: Mary Griffith is a historian of American religion at Washington University. She says the United Methodists are part of a long line of Protestant denominations that have grappled with this issue, including Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopalians. The difference is that Methodists have held together a vast and disparate coalition longer.

GRIFFITH: Some lean very progressive on the issue. Some lean very conservative. And it will be very, very interesting to see if they manage to hold that together this time or if the thing finally blows apart.

FARZAN: Methodists have weathered divides over social justice issues in the past. The church split over slavery during the Civil War and later reunited. And that gave seminary student S. Jewell S. McGhee hope.

MCGHEE: And I have a lot more faith in a denomination that has already been through trauma, that has already said, wow, we have gotten it wrong. So whatever happens, I am glad to be a part of this history.

FARZAN: Even if there is a split within the United Methodist Church, she says there’s always the possibility it will heal. For NPR News, I’m Shahla Farzan in St. Louis.

Feature Photo: Daron Smith, left, and his husband, Chris Finley, right, worship at a Sunday morning service at Lafayette Park United Methodist Church in St. Louis, Mo. Smith, a lifelong United Methodist, said he feels hopeful ahead of a vote on LGBTQ ordination and same-sex weddings in the church.

Photo Credit: Shahla Farzan/St. Louis Public Radio

Eden Theological Seminary is seeking comments from the public about the seminary in preparation for its periodic evaluation by its regional accrediting agency. The seminary will host a visit on February 25-26, 2019, from a team of peer reviewers representing the Higher Learning Commission. The team will review the institution’s ongoing ability to meet HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation. Eden Theological Seminary has been accredited by HLC since 1973.

Comments must be in writing and must address substantive matters related to the quality of the institution or its academic programs.

Submit comments to HLC at hlcommission.org/comment or mail them to the address below. All comments must be received by February 18, 2019.

Public Comment on Eden Theological Seminary
Higher Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, IL 60604-1411

Rev. Raymond K. Robinson has been hired as Interim Director of Admissions for Eden Theological Seminary. Rev. Robinson will serve in this role from February 1, 2019, through June, 2019.

Rev. Robinson most recently worked as an Assistant Director and Academic Advisor at the Webster University Westport Campus in St. Louis, Missouri. In this position, he assisted, advised and counseled students on their academic journey from recruitment to graduation.

Rev. Robinson is very familiar with Eden Seminary. He is a 2014 graduate of Eden’s Master of Divinity degree program.

For over 25 years, Rev. Robinson has served and volunteered as Youth Minister, Choir President, Bible class teacher, and Associate Minister in various churches in Iowa, Missouri and Mississippi. Throughout his life, he has valued opportunities to communicate with students about their faith, their goals, and their futures.

In 2018, Rev. Robinson received the Salute to Excellence in Education Award from the St Louis American Foundation for his many years of work and dedication. He and his spouse Rosalyn have two teenage daughters.

Rev. Robinson can be contacted at Eden at 314-918-2501 or [email protected] beginning February 1.

Rev. Tiffany Pittman, the current Director of Admissions, has accepted a call to serve as pastor of Emmanuel UCC Weldon Springs and Good Shephard UCC Saint Charles, Missouri, effective in February 2019.

Racial injustice in the St. Louis region came into the spotlight in 2014, but the fight against inequality in the region continues as countless individuals and organizations fight for equality in the community. One of those individuals is Laurie Anzilotti. One of those organizations is Faith & For the Sake of All.

Faith & For the Sake of All reaches out to the St. Louis faith community to diminish racial disparities in the region. St. Louis native Anzilotti, a third-year Masters of Divinity student at Eden Theological Seminary, became involved as part of her contextual education at Eden. Eden is one of the few seminaries that sees a pedagogical benefit to learning concurrently in the classroom and in an outside contextual placement for three years through work with churches, social justice agencies and nonprofits, which helps students integrate the theology they are learning in their classroom with the ministry they are encountering in their work context.

“The contextual education requirement at Eden is unique. It immediately in year one puts people into the context of ministry, in addition to classroom learning. It’s putting you in the world as a seminarian, which is a half-step to being in the world as a minister or priest. It helps you know if the job is for you,” explains Anzilotti.

Anzilotti, who will be ordained as a priest of the Episcopal Church this summer, is pursuing a “bi-vocational” educational experience focused on two things: the priestly call to build a church community centered around the Eucharist; and the church’s and laity’s roles in standing for the gospel and against injustice in the world.

“The first year contextual education program is designed toward social justice and work in the world,” Anzilotti shares. “My first placement in 2016 was with the Interfaith Partnership because my personal call to the priesthood was driven by a desire to work on social justice issues in an interfaith context.”

Two years earlier, a group led by Washington University and St. Louis University released For the Sake of All, a report which identified disparities in the health and well-being between African Americans and white St. Louisans and why they matter to everyone. The Faith & For the Sake of All initiative grew out of this report as a means to deepen congregations’ understanding of and response to issues of race inequality in the region.

Created through a grant awarded to Emanuel Episcopal Church in St. Louis from the Trinity Episcopal Church of Wall Street in New York, the purpose of Faith & For the Sake of All was to inform and activate St. Louis’ faith community in responding to the report’s findings through a workshop called, “Mobilizing the Faithful.”

By the time Anzilotti became involved in 2016, it was time to update the initial curriculum in response to the results of a survey of workshop participants.  The survey showed three things. “First, better training was needed for volunteers who would present the workshops. Second, volunteers and participants needed clear steps on how to take concrete action on the recommendations,” Anzilotti recalls. “And third, people wanted to be connected to each other in that work.” Interfaith Partnership, working through a memorandum of understanding with Emanuel Episcopal Church, was charged with updating the workshop curriculum. That responsibility fell to Anzilotti. She was in her mid-40s and already had extensive professional background in teaching and curriculum development in high schools and camps, which made her the ideal person for the job.

Anzilotti started with reviewing and having wide-ranging conversations with early participants about how they would re-imagine the curriculum. She also relied heavily on support from her peers and teachers at Eden. Anzilotti says that while contextual education appears very much “out in the world,” it remains very rooted in Eden. It allowed her to engage with faculty and staff in a deep and collegial way.

Her successful efforts with updating the curriculum led Anzilotti to her second-year internship, when she was asked by Emanuel Episcopal Church to intern with the church and to broaden her scope beyond curriculum to include all aspects of the Faith & For the Sake of All initiative. In year three, she remained with Emanuel Episcopal Church and divided her time evenly between priestly liturgical and pastoral training and Faith & For the Sake of All.

“It was exactly the work I wanted to do when I entered seminary: to be a priest that worked in the community on issues of justice,” Anzilotti says.

Increased success of the program led to even bigger questions of what to do next. Anzilotti’s efforts focused first on recruiting and training volunteers, getting connections in the community and signing up churches to participate in the workshops. Success in those efforts brought even more volunteers and more training. The critical question changed again, this time asking, “How can volunteers go beyond awareness and instead actively advocate for systemic change?”

Eden’s Professor Deb Krause challenged Anzilotti to think about advocacy partners. Krause’s counsel, along with the support from the rest of her faculty and peer community at Eden, was instrumental in shaping the evolution of Faith & For the Sake of All during this time.

A particularly valuable experience was her third year directed study entitled, “Faith Based Community Organizing” in which she looked at secular, interfaith, Jewish, Evangelical, and Catholic community organizing models and applied her studies directly to the work she was doing with Faith & For the Sake of All.

Faith & For the Sake of All now offers two workshops, “Mobilizing the Faithful: Health” and “Mobilizing the Faithful: Housing,” a new workshop that will be released this coming February. In addition to workshops, the initiative offers advocacy training in conjunction with advocacy partners in the region. The organization continues work with For the Sake of All (now known as Health Equity Works) and George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis, to research and respond to racial justice issues in the St. Louis region.

“Contextual education taught me about the interfaith landscape in St. Louis, that service work can be very siloed by faith and that social justice work is relational,” Anzilotti reflects. “The only way we’ll wind up changing systemic issues is through relationships. It is those relationships that I’ve been able to make through my contextual education experience for which I’m most thankful.”

As Faith & For the Sake of All grows, so too does Eden’s connection to it. Reverend Gabrielle Kennedy, a third year Eden student and ordained deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, joined the Faith & For the Sake of All staff in October 2018, and Eden is co-sponsor of the February 3rd Housing Advocacy Fair which will feature the new “Mobilizing the Faithful: Housing” workshop and eight partner agencies focused on eliminating segregation.

For more information about Faith & For the Sake of All and the “For the Sake of All” and “Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide,” reports, visit www.forthesakeofall.org.

 

 

 

 

February 3, 2019, Faith & For the Sake of All will hold a Housing Equity Fair from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the grounds of Eden Theological Seminary. The Housing Equity Fair will feature many of the housing groups which contributed to the ”Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide” report and will premiere the new Faith & For the Sake of All “Mobilizing the Faithful Housing” workshop. Housing groups will speak to their particular connection to the report’s findings and will provide attendees with examples of concrete actions they can take to dismantle the housing divide in St. Louis. The event is co-sponsored by Jewish Community Relations Council, We Stories, The YWCA, Eden and Faith & for the Sake of All. For more information on the event visit Housing Equity Fair.

 

Black and White Photo Credit: Tim Reed

 

After nearly a century, German returned to the halls of Eden Theological Seminary last August with the arrival of Dr. Gabriele Metzner, a noted scholar from Germany’s Evangelisches Predigerseminar Lutherstadt Wittenberg. As Metzner taught in the classroom, sang in the choir and broke bread with students and faculty, she reconnected the Eden family with its German roots.

Metzner came to teach an Intensive Focused Learning (IFL) class titled, “Pastoral Identity and Christian Education – a German Perspective.” She made the most of those three months and her Eden experience.

Her overall impression?

“Eden is more oriented to contextual education, with more diversity of student backgrounds, ages and denominations,” Metzner summarizes. “In Germany, it is more academic, more philosophical, more historical. All students come from four regional churches.”

And her students’?

“Dr. Metzner has a great curiosity about learning new things and she wanted to know as much about us as we wanted to know about her,” shares Antona Brent Smith, a third-year Eden student who feels visiting professors such as Metzner are invaluable to her Eden experience. “She connected with students not only by teaching, but by sitting down and learning about our lives. She was very intentional about it.”

Contextual Education Makes Eden Unique

The single biggest difference Metzner observed is that Eden integrates inside-the-classroom academic education and outside-the-classroom field experience, what Eden calls “contextual education,” into a single experience over three years. In Germany, the two are separated into unique phases, requiring seven to ten years to become an ordained pastor.

“In the Wittenberg seminary, the education takes place in two parts,” Metzner explains. “Theology studies at university for at least five years. This is followed by a two-and-a-half year internship in a congregation supervised by an experienced pastor, during which the interns visit Wittenberg nine times for pastoral training.

“Eden’s system of bringing together both parts of education was very interesting for me,” Metzner shares. “Eden showed me how to bring together academic studies with the contextual education in a parish and in the community.”

Because their theological and contextual experiences are inextricably intertwined, Metzner observed that Eden students more frequently apply theological concepts to concrete examples rather than theoretical contemplation. And because Eden students are embedded in the community, the concrete takes on a greater mind space for the student. Metzner was impressed with how this is brought to life in Eden classes on social ethics, black theology and constructive theology compared to “systematic” theology common of seminary programs.

Diversity Enriches the Eden Experience

At Evangelisches Predigerseminar Lutherstadt Wittenberg, seminary students are primarily younger, traditional students coming from four regional churches with the specific intent of becoming pastors. Metzner shares she was surprised at the diversity of Eden students across different backgrounds, denominations, ages and goals. She found it interesting to hear so many different perspectives on theological topics.

“I remember the first Reformation session with Adam Ployd when he asked, ‘What is faith? What is Grace? What is Scripture? The word? Baptism? The Church?’” Metzner recalls. “The answers were so different, every student with his or her own biography, their own ways of faith and of life so different from one another.”

Metzner was also intrigued by Eden’s students who do not seek to become pastors or who are studying non-degree classes, such as the NEXT Steps program for people of faith who are at least 55 years old and looking to transition or combine professional experiences and skills to benefit the world through causes of personal importance. There are no non-degree programs at Evangelisches Predigerseminar Lutherstadt Wittenberg and students attend with the express purpose of congregational ministry rather than alternative paths, such as the non-profit or community leadership goals of many Eden students.

“One thing you have here at Eden Seminary is the opportunity to bring new ideas to the education,” she says. “That’s important to me.”

The Spirit of Eden

When asked what of Eden she’ll carry back with her to Germany, she replied with the words of former Eden professor of theology and preeminent American expert of Old Testament theology, Walter Brueggemann.

“Walter Brueggemann writes in his book that Eden Seminary is not a place; it is a spirit,” Metzner concludes. “I felt it too during my time in Eden.”

While she arrived at Eden a stranger, Metzner now carries home the Eden spirit within her, making her forever a part of the Eden family.

From Carter to Comey, the legacy of “Washington’s Favorite Theologian”  endures.
Christianity Today, Elesha Coffman, May 19, 2017

Nearly 50 years since his death, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr still routinely makes headlines. A high-profile documentary, An American Conscience: The Reinhold Niebuhr Story, debuted earlier this year. Recently deposed FBI director James Comey “almost certainly” used his name for his private Twitter account. Ten years ago, TheAtlantic declared “Everybody Loves Reinhold”; last month, Religion & Politics called him “Washington’s Favorite Theologian.” He commands respect from left (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama) and right (John McCain, David Brooks). So what’s the attraction?

Here are five aspects of Niebuhr’s work that help explain his enduring relevance.

1. He thought big.

Niebuhr titled his 1938–40 Gifford Lectures (the most illustrious theology lecture series in the world) “The Nature and Destiny of Man.” On page 1 of the published volume 1, he wrote, “Man has always been his own most vexing problem. How shall he think of himself?” By page 2, he was pondering “the admitted evils of human history,” “the question of the value of human life,” and “whether life is worth living.” These are not questions limited to a single church, era, or school of biblical interpretation. The resources Niebuhr brought to bear on them were similarly broad, encompassing Hebrew and Christian Scriptures; ancient, medieval, and modern theology and philosophy; and the social sciences.

Positively, the grand scale of Niebuhr’s work meant that he could engage almost anyone. Who hasn’t wondered about the problem of evil or the value of human life? (Scribner’s was sufficiently convinced of the appeal of The Nature and Destiny of Man to publish a two-volume, mass-market paperback edition in 1963. The Modern Library ranked it one of the top 20 non-fiction books of the 20th century.) On the other hand, big books full of big ideas are prone to divergent interpretation. It makes sense that people from different points on an ideological spectrum could look at Niebuhr and see what they’re looking for while missing what others see in the same work.

2. He acknowledged sin.

The early 1900s saw the rise of strain of liberal theology famously caricatured by Niebuhr’s brother, H. Richard Niebuhr, in the sentence: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” Reinhold joined his brother in disdaining this glib gospel, especially in light of the horrors of WWI and WWII. In earlier work, such as Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), he held out hope that individuals could choose selflessness and justice motivated by love, but he cautioned that groups of people would always seek their own advantage to the detriment of others. “The larger the group,” he wrote, “the more certainly will it express itself selfishly in the total human community.”

He eventually grew more pessimistic about individuals as well, viewing them as not only prone to do bad things but as indelibly tainted by original sin. In 1954, when asked by This Week magazine to identify the key verse in the Bible, he selected Ephesians 4:32 (“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”) Andrew Finstuen explained in Original Sin and Everyday Protestants, “For Niebuhr, without an acknowledgement of the universality and inescapability of sin, Christianity—and by extension his deeply Christian criticism—had no center of gravity.” Each historical recurrence of man’s inhumanity to man affirms this insight.

3. He prized action.

Niebuhr didn’t always agree with his brother. In 1932, they exchanged articles in The Christian Century on the topic of American intervention against Japanese imperialism and, more broadly, Christian involvement in politics. H. Richard argued for “The Grace of Doing Nothing,” but Reinhold countered, “Must We Do Nothing?” Reinhold became an early, vocal advocate for American entry into WWII, a stance that accelerated a rupture with the pacifist editor of the Century and led him to launch his own magazine, Christianity and Crisis.

The United States continued to pursue activist internationalism after WWII, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, so Niebuhr’s blessing of such actions remained popular. Although Niebuhr never held political office (his 1932 run for Congress, on the Socialist party ticket, failed), he became a political figure, founding Americans for Democratic Action and serving on the Council on Foreign Relations. In this sense, politicians who claim fealty to Niebuhr aren’t so much admiring a prophetic outsider as heaping laurels on a hero of their own tribe.

4. But … irony.

The main thing that prevented Niebuhr from being a court theologian for the American political class was his rich sense of irony, most notably expounded in The Irony of American History (1952). Just as the United States was draping itself in righteousness for an epic battle against godless Communism, Niebuhr warned how easily America’s virtues could become vices, how often the nation declaimed the speck in another’s eye while ignoring the plank in its own, how many times the best-laid plans resulted in disaster.

In a Pew Forum on Niebuhr in 2009, Wilfred M. McClay highlighted a quote from the book, “We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimated.” In other words, Niebuhr said to American leaders, go ahead and throw your weight around, but don’t pretend that your motives are pure, and don’t be shocked if you achieve something less than justice. The first part of that advice has been heeded more often than the latter two.

5. He really did write the Serenity Prayer.

Tracing the authorship of this famous prayer (“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”) became something of a cottage industry a few years ago, but the best available evidence supports Niebuhr’s authorship. This is relevant to assessing his enduring appeal for a couple of reasons.

One, many, many people—including countless members of Alcoholics Anonymous—know something of Niebuhr’s theology even if they have never heard his name. Two, the prayer is a reminder that Niebuhr was a pastor (Evangelical and Reformed Church) before he was a celebrated theologian and foreign policy expert, and faith was not merely an intellectual exercise for him. He speaks to leaders of the free world as well as individuals trapped in addiction. For all of these reasons, he remains worth wrestling with.

Elesha Coffman is assistant professor of history at Baylor University and author of The Christian Century and the Rise of the Protestant Mainline (Oxford).

 

Reinhold Niebuhr graduated from Eden Theological Seminary in 1913.