From the Rector's Desk - April 2018

Dear PLTS Partners,

As I have traveled around Regions 1 and 2 these past months visiting synod councils, individuals and congregations, people have been enthusiastic and supportive of this new chapter in the story of PLTS and have requested more ongoing communication about the seminary. In response to that request, I am committed to writing a monthly email to update partners about what is happening at the seminary and sharing some reflections on the formation of leaders equipped to engage the challenges of ministry in the 21st century, especially in the context of the West.

A couple of weeks ago the leaders of the ELCA seminaries gathered for their meeting in Chicago and spent some time talking with the ELCA Conference of Bishops about the need for raising up new leaders, and the obstacles impeding gifted people from responding to the call. There are, of course, a variety of gifts and ways to be involved in ministry. There is a need for more pastors in the ELCA, and that was a primary focus of our conversation. The new curriculum created by the PLTS faculty, which will begin in the fall, is designed to address the financial obstacle by allowing students to complete the M.Div. in three years, including internship, instead of four years. This will reduce the cost of seminary.  You can read more about the commitments and perspectives that guide the formation of leaders at PLTS on the website.

I want to briefly share with you three more things we are working regarding leadership development. All of these initiatives are being done in collaboration with the synods in Regions 1 and 2 where there is both a strong commitment to PLTS and a desire to explore new ways to raise up leaders.

  1. A priority for PLTS is to make the new curriculum accessible to more people through a distributed learning model. The popularity of distributed learning in higher education in general and seminaries in particular is a trend that will only continue to grow because it makes theological education more accessible and more affordable. The challenge of distributed learning is how to do effective spiritual and theological formation through an online format. We are working on a model that would teach the new curriculum created by the faculty online and include cohorts in the synods where students would gather for reflection and discussion of what they are learning as it relates to their particular contexts, and be mentored by seasoned leader in the synod in the practice of ministry. We have had several conversations with the Bishops and leaders in the Pacifica and Southwestern California Synods about launching a pilot to develop this model.
  2. Many of the conversations I have had with Bishops and synod leaders have been about the particular competencies and skills leaders need in the challenging cultural landscape of the church in the West. PLTS and California Lutheran University are applying for a $1 million Thriving in Ministry Initiative Grant to develop a Leadership Project together with synods in Regions 1 and 2. We have a conversation with Bishops and synod staff this Friday to discuss the leadership skills and an online model that would include webinars, cohort groups and project learning focused on leadership skills such as emotional intelligence, community organizing, conflict management, vocational assessment, social entrepreneurship, intercultural competency, and financial management. This project would be for both pastors and lay leaders.
  3. The 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly approved adoption of the roster of Ministry of Word and Service. There are now two rosters: Word and Sacrament and Word and Service. The role of Deacons on the Word and Service roster is to connect the church with the needs of the world and work to equip others to lead a living, active and caring Christian life. This is an important new development in the ELCA which could have a significant impact on the public witness of the church in society. In January 2019 PLTS will host a consultation with key leaders in Regions 1 and 2 who are working on this. We are very interested in playing a key role in the formation of people called to serve in Word and Service.

These are both challenging and exciting times. There is more openness, especially in this part of the country, to new ideas and ways of being church. We appreciate your partnership and support of PLTS.

In gratitude,

Ray Pickett