Am I Distinguished? (Don’t Answer That)

Yesterday I started teaching two classes at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Never heard of it before? Not surprising. It’s a small, liberal seminary, affiliated with the UCC, the UMC, and the UUA. I taught a class there in 2012, and last summer I was approached about teaching more. And about a title. So they gave me on: Distinguished Lecturer in the Practice of Theology.

That’s a pretty fancy title for an adjunct professor, but it looks good on the back of a book. Plus, I’ve never heard of anyone with that title before. A Google search shows that no one else in the world has this title, so it fulfills my need for uniqueness.

A funny thing about that title is that I rarely lecture. I do with undergrads, but my pedagogy with grad students — heavily influenced by bell hooks — is to ask trangressive questions and catalyze discussion.

The two classes I’m teaching are dissimilar.

The first is “Worship in the Church,” a required class for UMC and UCC students. So we’ve got those, plus PC(USA)s, UUAs and ABCs. Yep, lots of letters. Denominational alphabet soup. Some students seem a bit, shall we say, anxious that the worship professor is a non-denominational emergent guy. But I’ve got lots of guest speakers lined up — you can bet your life that I won’t be teaching on hymnody.

The second course is “Theologies of Atonement.” I’m running this course like a traditional, European theology seminar. In that style, students read the manuscript of the book that the prof is currently writing, as well as related texts, and the prof lectures through the material. I’ve dropped a bunch of heavy reading on the students, more than they usually get in a masters-level course. And they were eager to dive in last night.

I was honestly surprised at who signed up for the atonement class. A couple students are commuting over from Luther Seminary, one is a working Presbyterian pastor, a couple are not Christians, and at least one is most recently a Wiccan. Why people who don’t affirm the divinity of Christ want to spend 14 weeks reading and talking about the atonement, I don’t know. But I know that it’s awesome for me because it will deeply enrich the plural perspectives that I’m attempting to bring to the book.

So, it should be an interesting semester.

Finally, if you’re interested in taking a class with me that includes canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, I’m teaching a masters-level course for United in May and a D.Min. course for Fuller Seminary in September. You can contact those schools if you’d like to enroll in one of those.


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