Politics and Interns

by Jim Kittelson (Professor of Reformation history, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN)

March 2000

Although the following came to me in the form of one e-mail, it actually consists of three, interleaved sources. The first contains the words of Professor Mark Hillmer, of the Luther Seminary Department of the Bible, which he serves as an Old Testament scholar. They both begin and end the whole. The second comes from Professor Hillmer's report of a meeting of The Contextual Education Committee at Luther Seminary and the remarks at that meeting of Randy Nelson, who is the director of con-ed. The third chunk is a resolution passed and signed by all the directors of con-ed at ELCA seminaries when they met in Chicago. The entire document is printed here by consent of its original recipients, namely Professor Hillmer and Professor Kittelson.

I sit on the Contextual Education Committee and received this Friday [March 17, 2000].

CONTEXTUAL EDUCATION CONFERENCE, FEB 29-MARCH 3 — In order to promote the educational purposes of internship for preparing rostered leaders of the Church, we, as ELCA Directors of Internship, expect congregations and supervisors that participate in the ELCA Internship Program to maintain a posture of loyal dissent, when facing controversial issues in which they stand in opposition to a position of the Church. Concretely, loyal dissent includes maintaining benevolence giving to synods and the ELCA as well as continued participation in synodical and churchwide events. Such a posture promotes a climate for authentic moral deliberation, conducive to the formation of leaders of the church.

We understand this [sic!] to be in conformity with the 1991 ELCA Internship Standards and Guidelines.

Signed by [the contextual education directors of] all 8 [ELCA] seminaries.

In simple English of course: Cut your benevolences and forget about getting an intern.

Randy Nelson, the LS director of con ed, expressly mentioned the need for this in view of the upcoming conference of Word Alone.

The screw tightens.

Randy also said this is a good year to enforce this, since there are many more requesting churches than available interns.

My good wife asked, “Did you ask them is any of them stood up for freedom?” “No, I didn’t. I just listened and asked polite questions.”

Comments: It should be apparent that the new wording is indeed new, and whether it is "in conformity with the 1991" guidelines for intern assignments must remain an assertion that is not above questioning. Moreover, whether it does or does not hearken back to long established policy is utterly irrelevant, given the present situation.

The fact is that whoever convened the meeting in Chicago inserted wording that can be used to suppress dissent over CCM. Whether such a scenario was intentional of course requires being able to read the mind of an unknown person. On the other hand, intent is both not at issue and irrelevant. The thing speaks for itself: it is one more effort to suppress opposition. As such, it is a naked attempt to legitimate ecclesiastical tyranny.

—Jim Kittelson