Methodist E-Academy to Welcome First Full Class in 2011

Date Posted: 5/10/2011

The Methodist E-Academy, a program using technology to provide Methodist studies to clergy and seminary students in Europe, expects a full class of 30 students to be enrolled for the first regular classes in October 2011.

Begun as a pilot project in 2008, the E-Academy is a cooperative effort between the theological education programs and seminaries in Europe. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry provided $60,000 in start-up funds. The 22 students already enrolled for the fall semester are from Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, and Austria.

Bishop Patrick Streiff, chair of the governing board of the Methodist E-Academy and episcopal leader of the Central and Southern Europe Episcopal Area, said the Methodist Theological Schools in Europe – with support from GBHEM and European Methodists – have built a unique educational program in Methodist studies which combines modern Internet technology with on-site seminars.

 “Future Methodist clergy from all over Europe get connected with each other, learn about Methodist studies, and begin to apply what they have learned to their diverse ministry settings. For most students, using English or German in the Methodist E-Academy is a foreign language. But it helps them to connect with Methodists in other countries,” Streiff said. “The Methodist E-Academy is a future-oriented solution for regions where students have no chance to receive education at a UM theological school. It has tremendous potential to build personal connections and equip disciplined Christian leaders for a new century.”

David Field, coordinator of the E-Academy, said classes are offered in German and English in Methodist history, theology, and ecclesiology. Classes include an online component, selected texts, small tutorial groups that meet regularly in different countries, and a block seminar each semester in which all the students come together for a long weekend and a final paper.

“Most of the students are either already in pastoral ministry or in the process of completing their seminary studies,” Field said.

Accreditation Agreements

The E-Academy has agreements with the Norwegian School of Theology (Detteologiske Menighetsfakultet) in Oslo for courses taught in English and the Reutlingen School of Theology for courses taught in German that will allow accreditation under European standards so that future students will be able to receive academic credit for their studies, Field said.

The Rev. Rena Yocom, GBHEM’s assistant general secretary for Clergy Formation and Theological Education, said the E-Academy is an excellent model for cooperatively providing the theological education needed to form Christian leaders in the Wesleyan tradition.

“The Methodist E-Academy is an example of what can be accomplished with a combination of creativity and technology, collaboration and perceived need, mixed with a little Wesleyan discipline and determination. It is a viable tool for global education today,” Yocom said.

Interacting With Other Students

Filip Jandovsky, a pastor from the Czech Republic who is finishing up the last of six modules, found it helpful to be able to do the work online.

“Because my week schedule is quite busy with my church business, e-learning helped me to better organize and manage my study time,” Jandovsky said. “It is a really good option for those who are working full time.”

The Rev. Margarita Todorova, a pastor in Bulgaria, also appreciated the opportunities to work with others.

“The best part of this course was the interaction with students from the other European countries. It has been an enriching experience,” she said.

Other students noted that the quality of the material provided a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Methodist tradition, while the group work and seminar allowed for the development of relationships with students from other countries, social contexts, and language groups.

Online Studies Require Adaptation

Michael Nausner, one of the instructors, found he had to adjust his conversational style of teaching to work with e-mailing texts or posting online.

“I feel the student/teacher interaction was good because we scheduled a one-hour chat every week. The chat room gave us the possibility to interact directly about the contents of the course,” said Nausner, officer for International Relations, Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany.

Lay Preacher and Local Pastor Training Explored

Field said the E-Academy is now exploring lay preacher and local pastor training, since many European churches are increasingly dependent upon lay preachers and local pastors to meet the ministry needs of their churches. The E-Academy hosted a conference in October 2010 to explore cooperation across Europe in such training.

“We agreed the model for the Methodist Studies program would not work and that training programs for lay preachers and local pastors should be carried out in the local languages,” Field said. He added that the E-Academy will seek to promote cooperation, hopefully helping to establish a network of people involved in training lay preachers and local pastors.

Financial Sustainability

The governing board – made up of two representatives from each United Methodist episcopal area in Europe and from the Methodist Church of Great Britain and a representative from the autonomous Methodist Churches in Southern Europe –wants to build the E-Academy on a sustainable financial basis.

“The board has launched an initiative to cover the fees of students preparing for ordained ministry in Methodist churches in Europe through scholarships, partly from the General Board of Global Ministries and partly from individual donors and local churches,” Field said.

Methodist-related theological schools in Europe contribute through the professors who teach, and the Methodist Church of Great Britain pays part of the coordinator’s salary.

Through the end of 2010, contributions totaling $480,000 supported the project. In addition to GBHEM’s start-up funds, funding came from student fees, donations from the Fund for Mission in Europe, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the General Board of Global Ministries, scholarships from individuals and local churches, and the World Methodist Historical Society.

To learn more about the Methodist E-Academy, visit www.methodist-e-academy.org.

Read Summary Report 2008-2011

*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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