Lutheran Studies Program
Yale Divinity School has established a diploma program in Lutheran Studies. The program, beginning next autumn, will be administered by a committee authorized by the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. Paul Stuehrenberg, Yale Divinity School librarian, will serve as its director.
“I am pleased that the new Lutheran Studies Program can build on the Yale-Berkeley partnership and the increasing cooperation between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church,” says Divinity School Dean Richard J. Wood. “This program will offer candidates for Lutheran ordination or lay leadership a depth of study in their tradition within the rich, ecumenical, university context of the Yale Divinity School. Its close relationship with the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale is an important expression of this commitment.” He adds, “We hope to provide similar programs for other Protestant traditions in future, but no schedule has been set at this point.”
“That Berkeley Divinity School, a seminary of the Episcopal Church, should establish a Lutheran Studies Program in cooperation with the Lutheran faculty is an affirmation of the strong ties that exist between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church,” notes Mr. Stuehrenberg. “The two have encouraged their seminaries to initiate programs that will build on and strengthen that relationship.”
The Lutheran and Episcopalian denominations date back to the beginning of the Reformation. The Lutheran tradition, established in Europe, maintains a confession derived from the theology of Martin Luther. Its worship service retains elements of pre-Reformation tradition, and in that respect is closer to the England-based Episcopalian denomination than most other Protestant traditions.
Philip Turner, dean of Berkeley Divinity School, which affiliated with Yale in 1971, notes the importance to the Episcopal community of having a strong Lutheran presence at Yale. “Berkeley came to Yale because of theway Yale has been ecumenical: it is a place where students and faculty from different traditions can talk with one another in an atmosphere of mutual respect, without having to compromise their own traditions. Berkeley has a self interest in maintaining the diversity of Yale Divinity School. We are delighted to have a role in encouraging a strong Lutheran presence on campus.”
The establishment of a Lutheran Studies Program at Yale Divinity School is an expression of the school’s commitment to expand ties with Christian denominations, notes David Bartlett, academic dean. “The review of the Divinity School completed last year identified the school’s relations with denominations as an area needing special attention. The Lutheran Studies Program, then under development, was identified as one model of how the school could enhance its relations with the churches.”
While the program does not yet have official approval from the Lutheran Church, the Reverend Michael Merkel, chair of the Committee on Oversight of the Lutheran Studies Program, observes that the course of study that underlies the program is expected to be considered favorably by the committees that supervise and approve candidates for ordination. “The Diploma in Lutheran Studies will certify that students have followed a prescribed course of studies designed to make them familiar with core texts and with a particularly Lutheran approach to theological education. Our program requires, for example, that students study Greek to enable them to read the New Testament in its original language. While Yale Divinity School encourages this, it is not required for graduation.”
Members of the Committee on Oversight of the Lutheran Studies Program are the Lutheran faculty members of Yale Divinity School: David Connell, Guy Erwin, George Lindbeck, Larry Lyke, Gene Outka, Paul Stuehrenberg, Douglas Sweeney, David Trobisch, and Walter Wilson. Dean Bartlett and Dean Turner also serve on the committee ex officio, as does Carl Sharon, Yale’s Lutheran chaplain.
The Yale Divinity School is interdenominational and nonsectarian. The faculty is drawn from the major Christian traditions and the students represent about 50 denominations and groups. Instruction is provided in the history, doctrines, and polity of all the major church bodies. In addition, students do supervised ministry in area churches and social service agencies, as well as study preaching and counseling.
The Divinity School offers programs of study leading to the degrees of Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Religion, and Master of Sacred Theology. Programs for the Doctor of Philosophy are offered by the Department of Religious Studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.