Friday, December 19, 2008

It Really Was the End of the Beginning

A preliminary report from the Panel on Theological Education, which put on the Excellence in Ministry conference, is that they had a major post-conference epiphany. With the help of their facilitator, they realized that the UUA's funding of theological schools and theological students was a broken and dysfunctional system and had been so for long enough that people were starting to withdraw from the conversation. In such a mess, it's not possible or useful to play the blame game, the only functional approach is to go back to the drawing board with fresh minds and hearts (and faces, it sounds like.)

With that they saddled their horses and fled home in front of the storm.

They meet again mid-January, and it's that meeting that next tasks in the eight selected areas will be assigned and a report crafted for the UUA board, which will follow the next weekend.

One of the interesting things about this conference was that it was as if it was two conferences being held at the same time; one about theological school funding and another about all the other topics; lay theological education, spirituality and ministry, certification of ministers, ministerial culture, anti-racism, and all the rest. It was the crisis in Theological School funding which engendered the conference, and I imagine that all of us who were spending most or all of our time staying away from that conversation knew that. (And I guess that epiphany was spot on; I stayed away because I didn't think I had anything to add to the impossible tangle it had become.)

I'm glad we're not going to try to fix what is apparently not fixable. I pray that we will have the creativity and courage, flexibility and independence to find and take a new road through this very high mountain called Theological Education.

I also hope that those other seven areas find good homes and innovative leaders, and that a conversation continues among all these layers and centers which create and nurture the leadership of our precious faith.


ogre said...


I guess I find that hopeful.

"people were starting to withdraw from the conversation"

Uh, yeah--to put it mildly.

Alas, the epiphany didn't carry them to a new vision that they could have tried to formulate and push. Failure has a cost.

It'll be a long time before we get to see (possible) progress, I fear. I wonder what the price will be of that.

Sean said...

My fondest wish is that the POTE and the UUA came to understand that our theological schools are vital to our movement--especially if we hope to have a voice in the religious discourse of our times. It's not (only) about helping students afford to go to seminary. It's about having strong institutions that foster both a deep understanding of and connection to our history AND are creatively engaged with the world we live in.

Strong seminaries will only make us stronger.

Anonymous said...

How about holding a rock concert as fund-raiser? :-)