The BTS Center has co-sponsored gatherings of the regional theological education programs in the United Church of Christ with the Ministerial Excellence, Support, and Authorization Team (MESA) since 2013. We were a partner in giving birth to the Regional Theological Education Consortium (RTEC) in 2015, and continue to be a primary convener and consultant with that group.
As a result of our work with RTEC, our Scholar-in-Residence, Pamela Shellberg has been consulting with the Wisconsin and Minnesota Conferences of the UCC who are creating an innovative* non-degree program for preparing biblical and theologically grounded leaders for small (and often part-time) churches. We think this is critically important work for re-imagining the Church and its leadership for the future.
* multi-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary, challenge-response model, and aligned with the UCC “Marks of Faithful Ministry” (a robust assessment rubric).
Mission of the Regional Theological Education Consortium
The Regional Theological Education Consortium in the United Church of Christ serves as a hub for sharing resources and best practices in exploring excellence in multiple models of theological education to meet the needs of the church for adult faith formation and preparation of authorized ministerial leaders. The Consortium serves to connect conference and association based programs that are not embedded in a degree-granting institution and which have as part of their goals the formation of Members in Discernment toward authorized ministry as well as a commitment to lay leadership development. The Consortium is a collaborative voluntary organization of representatives of these programs and other partners, related to the national setting of the UCC through the Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) Ministry Team.
In October 2013, an informal organic partnership began between the Ministerial Excellence, Support and Authorization (MESA) Ministry Team of the national setting of the UCC and The BTS Center (BTSC), the mission successor to Bangor Theological Seminary.
The two organizations shared the planning and funding of a three-day convening of representatives of UCC Regional Theological Education Programs (RTEP) to explore models of theological education and ministry formation for Licensed Ministers in the UCC and the creation of guidelines for standards and/or best practices for, and assessment of, Regional Theological Education Programs.
Since that initial co-sponsored event, there have been three subsequent annual gatherings of those involved in developing/leading the widely diverse programs. In addition, in April 2015, MESA and BTSC convened a small team of RTEP leaders to imagine a consortium, a collaborative voluntary organization of representatives of the regional programs, and others that relate to MESA. At the first small group convening, the Regional Theological Education Consortium (RTEC) was born. Some of those that gave birth to the Consortium became the core members of a steering committee, which has met by video conferencing to plan annual gatherings of RTEC, and also planned a second small group “design sprint” in September 2017 to create an assessment tool for use by the regional programs. The most recent annual gathering was in April 2018.
While some of the regional programs have paid their cost of travel to the sponsored gatherings, these events have been generously subsidized by MESA and BTSC.
Because The BTS Center and MESA share a mutual concern about the future viability of Christian ministry – and about churches’ needs for well-equipped, faithful, and effective ministers – they have formulated a joint working agreement designed to encourage insightful, deep conversation among those involved in developing/leading regional theological education programs in the UCC (including, but not limited to, schools of ministry and lay academies) for the purposes of: (a) sharing resources and best practices; and (b) discerning ways to develop curricular standards and expectations.
The Consortium aspires to accomplish the following goals. In the short term, the Consortium will focus on gathering information on existing programs, their students and instructors, goals, methodologies, and outcomes. Intermediate goals include developing an on-line platform for sharing resource and creating a peer culture. Long term goals include the development of standards and a process of peer review and assessment. Ultimately, the Consortium will be a community that shares best practices. Each program will have some sharable resources. There will be promotion of and participation in cross program events (as a new aggregator). Programs represented in the consortium will be robust resources for adult faith formation as well as formation for ministry. As one participant stated, “Our hoped for impact is ultimately on the life of the church through its lay and authorized leaders.”
For more information about the Regional Theological Education Consortium and to learn how you can become involved, please contact Rev. Tisha Brown, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development, Wisconsin Conference UCC at firstname.lastname@example.org.