Methodist e-Academy welcomes first full class

The Methodist e-Academy, a program using technology to provide theological 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. Begun as a pilot project in 2008, the e-Academy is a cooperative effort among the theological education programs and seminaries in Europe. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry provided $60,000 in start-up funds. Twenty-two students from nine countries are already enrolled for the fall semester.

Central and Southern Europe Bishop Patrick Streiff, chair of the governing board of the Methodist e-Academy, said the Methodist theological schools in Europe have built a unique educational program in Methodist studies combining modern Internet technology with on-site seminars. Classes are offered in German and English in Methodist history, theology and ecclesiology. They 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. «For most students, using English or German in the Methodist e-Academy is a foreign language,» Streiff said. «But it helps them to connect with Methodists in other countries. It is a future-oriented solution for regions where students have no chance to receive education at a (United Methodist) theological school. It has tremendous potential to build personal connections and equip disciplined Christian leaders for a new century.»

The e-Academy has agreements with theological schools in Norway and Germany that will allow accreditation under European standards so that future students will be able to receive academic credit for their studies, said David Field, coordinator of the e-Academy.

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 weekday schedule is quite busy with my church business, e-learning helped me to better organize and manage my study time,» Jandovsky said. The Rev. Margarita Todorova, a pastor in Bulgaria, said, «The best part of this course was the interaction with students from the other European countries. It has been an enriching experience.» 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. Michael Nausner, one of the instructors, found he had to adjust his conversational style of teaching to work with emailing texts or posting online. «I feel the student/teacher interaction was good because we scheduled a one-hour chat every week,» said Nausner, officer for international relations, Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany. «The chat room gave us the possibility to interact directly about the contents of the course.»

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 would seek to promote cooperation, in hopes of helping to establish a network of people involved in training lay preachers and local pastors.

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

Source: Vicki Brown, GBHEM, Nashville/USA - United Methodist News Services
Date: May 12, 2011