Program Manager, Walker Leadership Institute

The Walker Leadership Institute, at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, has an opening for a full time Program Manager. This position will work primarily Monday through Friday with occasional support of events and programs outside of regular working hours. This position reports to the Dean of the Seminary.

Full time positions are eligible for our generous employee benefits package including pension program, affordable health insurance and generous vacation time.

Job Summary

Working closely with the Dean of the Seminary, the Program Manager will implement and manage Walker Leadership Institute and Eden Seminary non-degree programs, classes and events. These include working with faculty and church, business and non-profit leaders in providing continuing education in theology, ministry and ethics. The Program Manager also will participate in developing, recruiting, marketing, and evaluating these programs and events.

Responsibilities include

  • Organize and support Eden’s Program Development committee.
  • Implement projects designed by Eden faculty and Walker leadership
  • Manage events, classes, lectures and speakers, attend to project requirements and timelines
  • Communicate Eden/Walker’s events via social media in conjunction with Eden’s processes
  • Engage in market research for Eden/Walker projects


  • Bachelor’s degree required, Master’s degree in business, theology, or related field preferred
  • A minimum of 5 years of experience in project management and program development in an education, non-profit or church setting
  • Commitment to the Progressive Christian Movement and enthusiasm for the vision and mission of Walker Leadership Institute
  • Good communication skills, use of social media
  • Proven record of accomplishment of goals and projects
  • Strategic and creative thinker and designer
  • Ability to support the racial, economic, gender and religious diversity in the larger Eden community
  • Strong collaborative and organizational skills

Please send inquiries and/or applications with cover letter and CV/resume to Dean Sharon Tan, [email protected]. No phone calls please.

About Us

Working at the intersection of faith and business, the Walker Leadership Institute at Eden Seminary equips business leaders with skills and experiences to guide their organizations in better serving the Common Good. The Institute partners with other academic, religious, and business groups to put together workshops, conferences and forums to identify, encourage, and activate community leadership. Our goal is to empower and connect communities.

Founded in 1850, Eden Theological Seminary has been educating women and men to become community leaders for almost 170 years, primarily through ordained Christian ministry. Eden offers a variety of professional and graduate degree programs including: Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Professional Studies, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Community Leadership and Doctor of Ministry, among others. As one of the six seminaries of the United Church of Christ, Eden is a welcoming, inclusive and ecumenically diverse community.

Eden Theological Seminary is an equal opportunity employer.

Learn more about the Walker Leadership Institute.

Eden Theological Seminary will award honorary degrees at its upcoming May 17th commencement to three outstanding leaders whose accomplishments in St. Louis and around the world embody the values which are fundamental to Eden.

“These dedicated leaders demonstrate unwavering commitment to the church. Their faithful service is changing lives both within their communities and around the world,” said David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary.  “We are humbled by their accomplishments and proud to bestow these degrees upon them.”

The 2019 Eden Theological Seminary honorary degree recipients include:

Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree – Reverend Musa Kipkorir Kapkong Maina of Eldoret, Kenya, Moderator of the Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA).  Rev. Maina is a 2005 graduate of Eden Seminary, earning a Master’s in Theological Studies (MTS) degree. His education at Eden allowed him to engage the RCEA in progressive ideas that are inclusive of women as preachers and worship leaders.  He has also been a strong and bold leader in his church for the ordination of women. Last July he helped achieve this milestone transformation when, for the first time in RCEA’s history, women were ordained as ministers in the RCEA church.  His efforts, with support from Eden and others, also resulted in the first RCEA woman, Everlyne Biboko, to attend Eden and earn a MTS degree to prepare for ordination in the RCEA church. Rev. Maina attributes this progressive church advancement, in part, to the insight he gained of women in leadership roles in many U.S. churches while studying at Eden.

Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree – Reverend Philister Tuwei Keter, of Nairobi, Kenya, the first woman ordained in the Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA).  Her persistence and urging helped make this transformation of that church possible.  Born into a humble background, Rev. Keter has volunteered in her church since high school and then studied divinity at St. Paul’s University in Nairobi at a time when women had no hope for becoming ordained. Saying that gender equity is central to serving God, she is now a voice for the voiceless and vulnerable people in society.  Rev. Keter embodies the energy, passion and determination of all the newly-ordained RCEA women.

Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters – Mrs. Jean Dremstedt, a laywoman from Evansville, Indiana.  Jean is well-known, and many times honored, for her life-long support and commitment to charitable causes. She served Eden as a trustee for twelve years, chairing the Advancement Committee, and has been a strong financial supporter of Eden.  She is a member of Bethlehem United Church of Christ and has served with distinction on the board of the Deaconess Hospital of Evansville and the Retirement Housing Foundation of the United Church of Christ.  In 2005, she received the Samuel D. Press Service Award, named for the seventh president of Eden Theological Seminary, to recognize and honor outstanding service to Eden and its mission.

Honorary Degrees and Awards recognize ordained ministers whom Eden believes are models for ordained ministries connected with the traditions, ministries, ecumenical concerns, and values that have been central to Eden and to the United Church of Christ.  The Honorary Degrees and Awards also recognize laity who have lived out their baptismal ministry through their vocations, through their service to society or community, through their service to the church or through some particular witness that expresses commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Eden’s commencement will be held on May 17, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. at Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ, 826 Union Boulevard in St. Louis.  In addition to the honorary degree presentation, Rev. Dr. Ted A. Smith, Associate Professor of Preaching and Ethics at Candler School of Theology – Emory University, will deliver the ceremony’s commencement address.

Declining church attendance is forcing some religious leaders to make difficult decisions — namely, what to do with outsized or vacant places of worship.

Many U.S. churches were built decades ago during times of religious growth. In some communities, however, shrinking congregations no longer have the financial resources to maintain these large church properties. Eden Theological Seminary will host a two-day symposium this week focused on ways religious and community leaders can repurpose these buildings.

Many old churches have “substantial value,” said Robert Simons, professor of urban planning at Cleveland State University.

“For the most part, there’s a pretty short list of prohibited uses most faiths subscribe to,” said Simons, who will speak Wednesday at Eden Theological Seminary. “If you decommission the building and take out the sacred objects, it becomes a piece of real estate.”

Developers and private individuals are repurposing old church buildings for a variety of uses, including housing, retail and restaurants. Urban Krag climbing gym in Dayton, Ohio, shown here, is housed in what was once an abandoned church.
Credit Urban Krag

Developers and individual buyers have repurposed churches in Missouri and across the country for new uses, including cultural centers, housing and restaurants.

In St. Louis, a team of skateboarders and engineers converted St. Liborius — a 130-year-old Catholic church — into an indoor skate park.

Jubilee Church in Webster Groves sat vacant for more than 10 years before it became a bed and breakfast in 2016.

Similarly, the Grandel Theatre in Grand Center — now managed by the Kranzberg Arts Foundation as a performing space — was once a First Congregational Church.

Though the age of the church and its condition are important, Simons said, the real estate market is the main factor that affects whether it sells.

“You can have a great building in the wrong location and there’s not much you can do at all,” he explained, adding historic preservation tax credits may provide additional incentive for developers.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Webster Groves church was home to seven different congregations since its original construction in the late 1890s. It sat vacant for more than ten years before it was converted into Tuxedo Park Bed and Breakfast.
Credit Tuxedo Park STL

‘It’s not about closing buildings’

Beyond the logistics, shuttering a church can be an emotional task for parishioners.

Memories “accrete over time” in places of worship, said David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary, making it difficult for congregants to let them go.

“People have a loving relationship with these spaces,” Greenhaw said. “They were married there, their children were baptized there, they attended funerals in these spaces.”

But these aging buildings can place a financial burden on congregations, particularly as membership declines.

There’s a psychological aspect as well, said Greenhaw, because overly large churches can “expedite the decline of the congregation itself.”

Eden Theological Seminary is hosting a symposium exploring solutions to empty churches.

“You expect to see a whole lot of people when you enter, and instead it doesn’t have much energy or life,” he said. “It feels half empty, and that leads to it becoming more empty.”

The public symposium at Eden Theological Seminary will feature lectures and discussion groups on a variety of related topics, including how to relocate into a new worship space.

Downsizing to a new space may not be the answer for every church, said Greenhaw.

Instead, some may consider repurposing unused spaces for new community programs. Union Avenue Christian Church, for instance, now houses an opera company, office space for church outreach and an art gallery.

“It’s not about closing buildings; it’s about thinking strategically about how to use them wisely,” Greenhaw said. “How can they be repurposed in meaningful ways to contribute to the community?”

If you go:

Where: Eden Theological Seminary, Press Hall, 475 East Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves, Missouri 63119

When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 23 and 24

Cost: Varies, online registration available here

Reprinted from St. Louis Public Radio

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan, 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.”


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.

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


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

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





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.