Alternatives in Theological Education

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 09/01/1997
End Date: 
Sun, 12/31/2000

Lance Barker and Ed Martin directed this study to explore models of theological education for ministry other than the professional degree programs of theological education schools, that currently prepare people for various kinds of commissioned, licensed, ordained, or otherwise legitimated ministry. The study identified 158 different programs in six US and Canadian-based denominations. These programs functioned not as graduate theological education but as centers for ministry preparation and support, though they often served as launching pads for later graduate-level training. <p> Barker and Martin selected seven specific Alternatives in Theological Education (ATE) programs for in-depth study: (1) Commissioned Lay Pastor Program, Holston Presbytery, Tennessee, Presbyterian Church (USA); (2) Course of Study, Perkins School of Theology, The United Methodist Church; (3) Dr. Jessie Salteaux Resource Center, United Church of Canada; (4) Lay Ministry Program, New York Conference, United Church of Christ – Northeast Region, Disciples of Christ; (5) Mutual Baptismal Ministry Program, Diocese of Northern Michigan, The Episcopal Church; (6) Partners in Ministry Program, Nebraska Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and (7) SCOPE, Southern Conference, The United Church of Christ. <p> Barker and Martin employed qualitative methodology in their research. It sought to produce integrated perspectives, describing the character of the programs and their outcomes while addressing the meaning of their presence within the whole context of theological education. Narratives resulted from personal interviews, questionnaires and telephone interviews, from participant-observation at the seven program sites, and from visiting congregations served by students and graduates. <p> Barker and Martin concluded that denominations must continue to attend to the variety of options available to prepare people for authorized ministry. In addition, the project they that: (1) ATE programs tend to democratize access to theological education, (2) these programs engage people in their life and home or local situations, (3) they fulfill the need for adult education, and (4) they do not lead to a decline in the competence of ministry leadership, though some congregations still long for seminary-trained persons.