Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, has been granted preliminary approval from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) for a comprehensive distance education program that may now offer courses for academic credit, applicable toward the Master of Divinity degree. This will enable students in the new Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program the opportunity to receive such credit, and it also attests to the academic credibility of the educational models that are being used.
“We are pleased to receive this approval, as both our new curriculum and the pedagogical models we are using to deliver it are at the cutting edge of distance education and technology,” commented Dr. David Wollenburg, director of SMP. “This is great encouragement to our students, mentors and our professors who are already engaged in this program. Even prior to this approval the program has received a very positive response from our students and their congregations. Students consistently note the high level of substance and commitment, along with contextual application and a strong sense of community. A typical response has been, ‘Yes! This program is all that you have designed it to be and more!’”
“We are pleased that our sister seminary at Fort Wayne has also received this approval, as we have supported our synodical commitment to pastoral formation and have worked together in making our institutional petitions to the ATS,” added Dr. Andrew Bartelt, vice president for Academic Affairs at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. “We will continue to provide leadership to our church in this and in our other programs both in distance and in residential models, as we continue to receive high levels of satisfaction in the placement of our graduates.”
Concordia Seminary has also pioneered distance education to meet the needs of contemporary pastoral ministry through the Center for Hispanic Studies, the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology, the Deaf Institute of Theology and in revising the DELTO program. The SMP initiative, passed at the 2007 Synod convention, is now being recognized not only for its academic credibility, but also for sound theological substance, mission focus, and its relevance and integration into specific contexts.
Wollenburg further noted that “this approval encourages us to move forward to expand the availability of this course of study to form men for the pastoral ministry.” Information is available on the Seminary’s Web site at www.csl.edu  under the Academics tab.