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My Theological Review Panel Happened

Yesterday I met with my Theological Review Panel (TRP). This was the next step in the ELCA Candidacy process. I’ve been joking that the TRP’s purpose was to determine my LDQ (Lutheran Deficiency Quotient). The panel was extremely gracious and strongly emphasized that they did not feel there was any “deficiency” in my background, but that I simply needed to be well versed in the alphabet and architecture of the Lutheran tribe if I am going to be an effective leader of this group. I totally agree.

Two things were determined in the meeting yesterday.

  1. The TRP recommended me for endorsement. This is the next formal step on the candidacy process. That was very nice and affirming.
  2. The TRP outlined the next step in determining my Theological readiness. They were very excited when I announced that the Seminary had accepted me into the PhD program in Congregational Mission and Leadership. The panel bent over backwards trying to weave my candidacy process into the the PhD program. I am very grateful for that. In doing so they recommended that I use my preparation for the entrance exams as a way to do independent study in specific areas of Lutheran ideas, essentially “killing two birds with one stone.” Specifically, they want me to focus in on Lutheran history in North America, Lutheran sacramental and liturgical forms, Lutheran polity, and Lutheran hermeneutics with a special emphasis on Law and Gospel. They will issue a recommended reading list. In the fall I will write the exams, they will read them, and then based on those exams will determine if there is any further training/coursework required.

Here is the explanation of the entrance exam purpose and process copied from the Luther Seminary website.

The purpose of the entrance examinations is twofold:

  1. To provide an opportunity for the student to review the preparatory work in theology upon which more focused doctoral study is based, giving occasion for evaluation of the candidate’s readiness to proceed.
  2. To encourage a broadly based theological competence among all doctoral students that will produce an atmosphere for theological conversation that crosses the boundaries of particular disciplines.

Three-hour entrance examinations are given in six areas:

  1. Old Testament
  2. New Testament
  3. History of Christianity
  4. Systematic Theology
  5. Pastoral Care and Counseling
  6. Congregational Mission and Leadership

Candidates may choose four of the six areas in which to be examined, though they must sit for the examinations in their own area of concentration. All entering students are required to take the full series of entrance examinations prior to the first semester of the first year of residence. Dates are announced annually.

Each examination assumes mastery of a stated bibliography. These bibliographies and copies of sample examination questions are sent to accepted applicants before June 1 prior to the first year of residence.

In their evaluation, readers expect the examination to exhibit summary knowledge of the field at the master of divinity or master of arts degree level, not the doctoral level. A passing grade is B or above.

Satisfactory completion of the examinations or their equivalent is determined by the department, with results reported to the Office of Graduate Theological Education.

A student failing to pass the entrance examinations before the first semester of the second year of residence will be subject to dismissal from the program. Retention requires approval of the Graduate Committee. Continuation in the doctoral program is contingent upon successful completion of all required entrance examinations.