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'E-learning' to enhance theology studies in Europe


Beginning in 2008, online theological courses will be offered in German and English to enhance pastoral education in the United Methodist European Central Conferences. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.

By United Methodist News Service
March 2, 2007 | REUTLINGEN, Germany

United Methodist pastors and seminary students will be able to receive basic theological education though "e-learning" under a new long-term strategy for pastoral education in Europe.

The online courses are to be available in German and English beginning in 2008.

Bishops and representatives of seminaries and annual conferences mapped out a three-year plan during a landmark summit Feb. 10-11 in Reutlingen. The group is working to strengthen clergy and lay leadership development in the European Central Conferences.

"The summit was a big step forward, as we agreed to share resources and to build up a platform for e-learning.""The summit was a big step forward, as we agreed to share resources and to build up a platform for e-learning," said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, who leads three annual conferences in Germany.

E-learning, or electronic learning, uses computers, the World Wide Web and other technologies to provide wider access, flexibility and enhanced learning through a combination of methods.

The e-learning classes are not meant to provide a total theological education, said the Rev. Mary Ann Moman, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

"We hope they will get their basic theological education in university or seminary settings, but this program does bring the Methodist classes to Europe-theology, ecclesiology and history," she said.

Landmark summit


Bishops Rosemarie Wenner and Øystein Olsen participate in a summit in Germany to strengthen clergy and lay leadership development in Europe. A UMNS photo by the Rev. Mary Ann Moman.

The summit was the first event in Europe bringing together the denomination's European bishops and representatives of conference boards of ordained ministry and United Methodist seminaries with staff of the denomination's Board of Higher Education and Ministry "to develop a broad vision for lay and clergy leadership development throughout the continent of Europe," said the Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, the board's top executive.

The summit also was attended by Üllas Tankler, executive secretary for Europe and North Africa with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, as well as leaders in pastoral and lay training from across Europe.

Wenner joined Bishops Øystein Olsen of the Nordic and Baltic Area, Hans Växby of the Eurasia Area and Patrick Streiff of Central and Southern Europe to call together delegates for the summit.

"We discussed which kind of leadership we need as Methodists in Europe (and) how can we develop theological training for pastors in the small churches and language groups all over Europe," said Wenner.

Moman said it is particularly important to bring Methodist classes to Europe, where churches in the Methodist tradition are in the minority. A paper issued by the summit explained there is a plurality of Methodist identities in Europe. "Nevertheless we must ask the questions of what we have in common, what are the essentials, what unites us and what ought to be binding us," the paper stated.

Online courses

The United Methodist theological schools in Europe created a committee to develop the online courses. Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington is assisting the group and plans to videotape the lectures at the Oxford Institute this summer. Students will be able to view those lectures in German and English online, according to Moman.

The group agreed on two priorities:

  • Providing education and training for students interested in ordination as elder or deacon in The United Methodist Church or the equivalent in other Methodist church traditions
  • The education and training of local pastors or the equivalent in other Methodist church traditions

Summit participants looked at the importance of cooperating to develop plans in preparing leaders who can guide the church in responding to the needs and circumstances of the communities in which they live. The group also considered relational legislation in preparation for the 2008 General Conference, the top legislative assembly of The United Methodist Church, meeting April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The 2000 General Conference established a fund for theological education in post-communist Europe, but the 2004 General Conference cut the support and established a fund for global education. The conference did not provide apportionment money for the fund but designated it as a World Service special, meaning the fund would depend on contributions from individuals, annual conferences, local churches and other organizations. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry initiated a campaign to raise up to $4 million to provide technical support and scholarship aid to United Methodist-related institutions of higher learning in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States.

This story was adapted from a news release by Mark P. Nelson, Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary, in Tallinn, Estonia.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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European Central Conferences

United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Ministerial Education Fund

United Methodist Seminaries

Wesley Theological Seminary

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