Ecumenical Opportunities at Episcopal School for Ministry

July 26, 2018
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Since its inception, the Episcopal School for Ministry has followed the same basic pattern – a three year curriculum based loosely on the course of study typical at a seminary. To complete a course of study requires a three-year commitment to one weekend of classes per month. The School was originally formed for the purpose of the training and formation of deacons for the Diocese of Missouri. At the time of its formation, the canonical requirements for ordination to the diaconate were very close to the requirements for the priesthood, as most deacons were transitional deacons, on their way to becoming priests.

As the Church at large has lived into a deeper understanding of the diaconate as a separate order, the canonical competencies for the diaconate have changed, and the original three year course of study at Episcopal School for Ministry may no longer be meeting the needs of those to be ordained deacons. Likewise, the three year course posed a hardship for lay persons who wanted to deepen their own theological education.

In the last several months, Episcopal School for Ministry has been approached by both the Lutheran School of Theology, Saint Louis, and the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy about the possibility of collaborating in the training of lay ministry in both denominations. The ELCA has a category of ministry called Pastoral Ministry Associate, PMA, lay-persons licensed to preach and provide sacramental ministry in congregations in interim situations. The PCUSA has a category of ministry called Certified Ruling Elder, CRE, much the same as the ELCA’s PMA.

Many of the requirements for PMAs and CREs overlap with the training ESM offers for candidates to the diaconate in our Church. In an effort to condense our training from a three year course of study to a more realistic two year course of study (in light of the changed canonical requirements for deacons) and to combine resources with the Lutheran School of the Theology and the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, the Board and Faculty of ESM will meet with representatives of the ELCA and PCUSA on Saturday 2 June 2018, to discuss how our various courses of study might be combined to best effect.

ESM’s goal is to shorten the course of study for deacons to two years (perhaps by intensifying the weekends, and taking summers off), and run more parallel courses available to lay persons who would not have to take the full course of study. Combining resources with the ELCA and PCUSA would allow us to broaden the faculty and offer courses of three or four Saturdays duration (once a month).

The joint meeting of the ESM board and representatives from LSTSTL and Giddings-Lovejoy will probably appoint a task force to consider changes to the curriculum and course of study for all three institutions. We hope to roll out the new program by the fall of 2018. Watch this space for more news.

 

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Author: Beth Felice

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Need more information? Contact Beth Felice, diocesan director of communications

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