March 14, 2022
The Seminary Explores catches up with The Rev. Eric Shafer, Senior Pastor of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica, California before his upcoming retirement. He’s worn many hats in the past decades, including those of parish pastor, communications and fundraising executive leader, mentor, and partner in interfaith initiatives.
An ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he is graduate of Muhlenberg College and Hamma School of Theology (now part of Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capitol University). Rev. Shafer was recognized with a 2021 Partnership Award from The Westside Coalition for Housing, Hunger and Health in Santa Monica. He serves on the President’s Council of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), is a member of the Santa Monica Bay Area Human Relations Council and is a founder and board member of Students 4 Students Homeless Shelters.
February 28, 2022
Dr. Russell Dalton, Professor of Religious Education, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas, discussed his interest and research in social justice in preparation for a forthcoming book. He shared that his motivation for this research came from the lack of religious education addressing social justice praxis.
In general, religious education may advocate for social justice but not give congregational members the practical tools for addressing social justice in their respective locations. As a model, he has used the educational method of the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights period in presentations on social justice as well as the of Jim Lawson workshops in Nashville. Both require critical reflection on what participants anticipate happening in their actions It is important for people to know the risks in social justice work and to trust their fellow co-participants in the work. At the conclusion of the conversation, Dalton gives some practical ideas that congregations can use to equip themselves to work on social justice.
October 11, 2021
Dr. Grafton, Academic Dean and Professor of Christian and Islamic Studies, Hartford Seminary, discusses his newest book which he edited, More Than a Cup of Coffee and Tea which was published this year. The book explores some of the important documents and themes that have emerged over the years in the area of Christian-Muslim relations. The book is accessible to both church leaders and laypersons. The global perspective of the book highlights programs and experiences around the world where Lutherans and other Christians encounter and build on the experiences of their Muslim neighbors. In his reflections on seminaries and Muslim issues, Grafton was enthusiastic about the number of seminaries who are including Islamic studies in their courses of studies. He feels that such additions to the curriculum help rostered church leaders to educate congregational members against Islamophobia.
December 28, 2020
Dr. Charles Leonard, Professor of Practical Theology at United Lutheran Seminary; pastor of St. Marks Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, PA talks about the top story for religion in 2020. COVID-19 and its effect on congregational life. The conversation included the pandemic and church membership, connecting members with each other in this virtual environment, difficulties in Christian education, and post pandemic changes to church culture as we have known it in the past.
March 9, 2020
Dr. Darlis Swan, the Ecumenical Representative of the Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), details the ecumenical movement in the United States. She defined “ecumenical” and went on to share her interest in ecumenism from her seminary studies to her work in the Office of Ecumenical Affairs of the ELCA. She also discussed:
- The transition from the ecumenical movement from the U.S. to the global context.
- Suggested readings on the ecumenical movement
- The involvement of congregational members in ecumenical work
- Ecumenical relationships of the ELCA
January 27, 2020
Chaplain Palmer and Chaplain Meeker liken the role of Army chaplains to parish pastors insofar as they are responsible for Word and Sacrament but emphasize the role of “incarnational ministry” in their total involvement in the life of the soldier. Special challenges are the visits to families when a son or daughter is killed, and in recent years the need to address post-traumatic stress. For all this, chaplains must undergo a rigorous course of study in addition to basic training. Both Chaplains Meeker and Palmer encourage seminarians and others to consider a career in ministry to the military.
• Chaplain Glenn Palmer, Chief, Training Development Division, US Army Chaplain Center and School, Ft. Jackson SC
• Chaplain Karen Meeker, Chief, Recruiting Division, Office of Chief of Chaplains, Pentagon, Washington DC
January 13, 2020
Pastor Andrew Geib, Associate Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church in Gettysburg, identified nine top stories in religion for the year 2019: ELCA Church Sanctuary issue, United Methodist possible split, Women in the Church, Collapse of Christianity, the burning of Notre Dame in Paris, and more. While the stories were mostly grim, he ends with word of hope for listeners.
November 4, 2019
Dr. Christian B. Keller, Professor of History and General Dwight D. Eisenhower Chair of National Security, Department of National Security and Strategy, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA, and author of The Great Partnership: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and the Fate of the Confederacy, argues that the Christian connection between Lee and Jackson was a significant glue that bonded the two generals’ friendship, and this in turn supported their strong professional relationship. Although one was Episcopal and the other a Presbyterian, they were both firm believers in Divine Providence, and as evangelical providentialists, were not that different from many Americans of that era.
June 17, 2019
Ron Couchman, a 52-year member of the Gettysburg College staff was the former Registrar and is currently working in Special Collections and College Archives, shares his personal story of coming out as a gay man with the help of therapy and his congregation, St. James, Gettysburg.
With the leadership of a task force of which he is a member and the support of the pastors, the congregation has adopted Reconciling in Christ which emphasizes welcome, equality, and justice. The task force holds a celebration of “Reconciling” each January. He recommends a helpful resource, “ReconcilingWorks,” as a way for congregations to build community beyond itself.
April 23, 2018
United Lutheran Seminary Master of Divinity student Michael McMullen shares his ministry of providing liturgical robes to pastors, choirs and other organizations in need through the non-profit organization Robe Gifting International. Based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Robe Gifting International collects, refurbishes and distributes used liturgical robes around the globe to those in need at no cost.