UM Seminaries Offer Online Continuing Education

Vicki Brown

United Methodist theological schools are offering 11 online continuing education classes for clergy and laity beginning fall semester of 2010.

The Online Continuing Education Consortium aims to provide theologically sound, financially affordable, and easily accessible continuing education programs. All 13 of the United Methodist theological schools are expected to participate. Five seminaries are offering classes this fall.

“The Online Continuing Education Consortium provides a new level of Christian leadership development for clergy and laity using technology as a global church,” said the Rev. HiRho Park, director of Continuing Formation for Ministry for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. “This consortium is a prime example of how United Methodist seminaries can work together in collaboration with GBHEM to provide cost effective theological education around the world.”

A survey of United Methodist continuing educators – The Landscape of Continuing Education in The United Methodist Church (Nashville, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2007) – identified these concerns:

  • Limited funding and increased competition among seminaries and other continuing education institutions
  • Lack of accountability and high cost of continuing education through one-time events
  • Limited access to continuing education opportunities for clergy in remote areas.

Eighty-one percent of the respondents wanted GBHEM to provide more continuing education resources and guidelines.

To address these concerns, GBHEM proposed an online consortium idea with the 13 United Methodist theological schools to ensure the quality of classes offered, increase collaboration among the UM institutions, and generate conversation about continuing education for clergy and laity.

The Rev. Randy Cross, assistant general secretary in GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Ministry of GBHEM said the launching of the online consortium is a major step forward in The United Methodist Church’s training and education of its leaders.

“Imagine literally being able to learn and grow in knowledge and effectiveness from almost anywhere in the world, to almost anywhere in the world. We have only begun to scratch the surface of learning with this important tool.”

Those interested in taking the classes will be able to view an online catalogue and Web links to each theological school that is offering the classes through www.gbhem.org/continuingeducation. Tuition and fees will be set by the seminary hosting the class and will be paid directly to that seminary.

“I hope this initiative will be the beginning of expanding accessibility to high quality theological education toward a vision of reaching out to all those who are hungry for more opportunities to study theological subjects regardless of geographical distance,” Park said.

*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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