Theological education sees ‘limited’ impact from full communion

Stephen Andrews, principal of Wycliffe College, and the Rev. Kristine Lund, principal-dean of Martin Luther University College. Photo credits: Wycliffe College and Mirko Petricevic
By on March 1, 2022
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Principals of two leading seminaries—one Anglican, the other Lutheran—say that full communion between the Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has had a relatively muted effect on theological education. Yet they also see opportunities for closer ties at a time when this field is experiencing major upheaval.

Stephen Andrews, principal of Wycliffe College (and former bishop of the diocese of Algoma), and the Rev. Kristine Lund, principal-dean of Martin Luther University College, say that more than 20 years after the Waterloo Declaration, the partnership between the Anglican and Lutheran churches has had little effect on either of their schools.

“I haven’t seen so much of [the Lutheran influence] at Wycliffe College in any direct way… and I don’t hear much from Anglican bishops either about the Lutheran component to our education,” Andrews says.

“My impression would be similar,” Lund says. “I think [full communion has] had a very limited impact on theological education for Lutherans, at least out east.” The main interaction with Anglicans for M. Div students at Luther, Lund says, is not in the classroom, but through contextual placements and internships which sometimes take place in Anglican or joint Anglican-Lutheran parishes.

Both principals note, however, that the impact of full communion can look very different at theological schools in different parts of the country. The degree of cooperation between Anglican and Lutheran theological schools often depends on geographic proximity and the relative presence of Anglicans and Lutherans in a community.

In Saskatoon, for example, the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad shares a building with the Lutheran Seminary, leading to a greater exchange of students between the two schools. By comparison, there is no Lutheran seminary in Toronto or Anglican seminary in Waterloo.

Andrews estimates that two to four Lutheran students might enrol at Wycliffe College each year. Meanwhile, there are no Anglican students at Luther. In part, this discrepancy is due to the greater number of Anglican schools across Canada and prospective Lutheran students being closer to them.

Lund believes the limited influence of full communion at Luther is partly due to “theological education in its whole expression [being] in significant upheaval. Preparation of pastors or priests for congregational ministry is not the same as it was 10 years ago or even five years ago.”

In the face of dwindling interest in the M. Div. degree, Luther recently undertook what Lund describes as “a major review of our M. Div. program to discern: how do we prepare candidates for a church [where] we don’t even know what it will be like in five years?”

Lund and Andrews say there has been a shift in student interest away from congregational ministry towards other forms of service, such as helping the homeless, resettling refugees, chaplaincy or serving as spiritual care providers in hospitals.

“We have people who may want to work in the not-for-profit sector who want a theological foundation; people who simply want to deepen their knowledge of the Christian faith, in whatever vocation they’ve been pursuing,” Andrews says. He points to Luther’s pastoral counselling program as an example of alternatives to congregational ministry.

“When I talk with undergraduate students around here, they’re looking for making meaning,” Lund says. “They’re looking to make sense of this world that is so unpredictable and so polarized. Racism, equity, the environment, the erosion of democracy—these are incredibly important issues to young people.” On those issues, she says, theological schools have “something to bring to the table.”

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  • Matthew Puddister (aka Matt Gardner) is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He will continue to support corporate communications efforts during his time at the Journal.