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UCC students study theology at Seattle University

Ecumenical theological program includes 13 UCC students

Dee Eisenhauer describes Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry as “a lively model of creative cooperation in theological studies connected with a Jesuit school that emphasizes doing justice.”

The pastor of Eagle Harbor UCC in Bainbridge Island co-chairs the executive board for the STM, which recently reorganized, dropping separate boards for its former Institute of Ecumenical Theological Studies and Institute for Catholic Theological Studies.
“We’re ‘ecumenical,’ too,” said Catholics.

Karen Kennell
Karen Kennell, an STM student, is part time licensed pastor at Fauntleroy UCC in Seattle.

“Imagine a priest unpacking words with a Baptist or a Catholic sister helping people claim their spiritual wide in courses with Community of Christ, Mennonite, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal students,” Dee posited. “It’s the only seminary founded to be an ecumenical learning institution for Protestants and Catholics.”

Among 272 students at the STM in 2009-10 were 13 UCC students, along with students from 17 faith traditions.

With various regional Catholic partners, the other faith partners are the African Methodist Episcopal, American Baptist, Christian (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Community of Christ, Episcopal, ELCA Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian (USA), Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ and United Methodist churches.

People of other denominations attend, so “the diversity makes an exciting learning environment,” Dee said.

While many of the 80 Protestant students are working on master of divinity degrees, many Roman Catholic students are working on master of arts in pastoral studies. It’s a seminary for future Protestant clergy, but not for Catholic priests.

In addition to those degrees, the STM offers master’s of arts in transformational spirituality, pastoral counseling and transformational leadership.

Dee said the transformational leadership program includes a dual degree with the law school, preparing students to work in mediation. The STM also hopes to develop dual degrees with the nursing, business and education schools, and to develop distance education in partnership with Heritage College in Toppennish.

Heather McKendry, left, of First Congregational Bellingham, is a first-year student in the transformational leadership program, and Susan Fairo, a sisth-year MDiv student from University UCC.

“It’s great to have a place for students interested in ministry to go to seminary without leaving the conference,” Dee said. “It’s also ideal for us in the UCC with our ecumenical interest and identity to send students to seminary and expose them to students from different traditions. It’s practical ecumenical cooperation of learning to be good neighbors.”

Many STM graduates are employed in the PNC conference, she said.

The STM started in 1997 and included
the Institute for Ecumenical Theological Studies and the Institute of Catholic Theological Studies, each with separate boards.

The previous experience of the stand-alone Northwest Theological Union from 1984 to 1990 “let us know there was a market,” said Sue Hogan, marketing and communication director at Seattle University.

The first three years, the STM operated
under a memorandum of understanding with Seattle University. In 2000, it became a university program and was accredited by the Association of Theological School, which recently granted accreditation for another 10 years, Sue explained.

The IETS and ICTS names were dropped last year. Having a common board reflects the reality that students are in classes together, said Dee.

The two institutes have been offering a common core curriculum, with each denominational institution setting its requirements for polity studies and worship.

“Students need to learn from their own traditions, not only officially but also unofficially.

They need to be ready to discuss daily what their church believes and does, because students ask each other,” Dee said. “It helps them appreciate their traditions and those of others.”

The STM has 15 full-time faculty, nine of whom are Roman Catholic, as well as several adjunct faculty, including four from the UCC.

David Kratz and Greg Turner are adjunct faculty
responsible for polity classes. Rick Russell teaches pastoral care and Carol Scott Kassner teaches a year-long practicum in spiritual retreats.

Catherine Foote serves as liturgical consultant and Tara Barber connects students with the Committee on Ministry.

Sophie Morse
Sophie Morse graduated with a MDiv in June.

Sophie Morse, who completed the four-year program in June, valued having classes taught by pastors with practical experience.

In a class on ecumenical theology, students wrote on official positions of their denominations and one other on baptism, Eucharist and ministry.

“We presented our papers orally, listening and learning,” Sophie said, often saying, “I didn’t know that church believed that.”

Coming from New England where her parents’ generation still grappled with the Catholic-Protestant divide, she felt fortunate to have done studies that bridged that divide and also fostered dialogue between conservative and progressive divisions in the faith community.”

Engaging students spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, the STM seeks to educate “women and men 
as leaders in Christian ministry
to serve, challenge, and heal
churches, communities and all creation.”

For information, call 206-842-4657 or 206-926-5583.

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © November-December 2010





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