the role of trained theologians in the emerging round table church
November 12, 2007
I started on a thread a while ago, and then got distracted, and didn’t get to finish it up. It started out with some thoughts on dwelling in the word, and then some on the round table church. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of pastors in churches the last year or so. One of the outstanding marks of the emerging conversation is that they want to either radicalize, or else just make practical, the protestant principle of the equality of believers. Where everyone of us can make an equal contribution in a church. And I really like this. I simply can’t seem to understand why you need a degree in theology to administer the sacraments, for example, just to point out how serious I am about this.
But, somehow I need to defend the fact that I spent five years studying something you know:-) And since I remain very positive about theological education (although I think some re-thinking at some points might be a good idea, a very good idea). So I am trying to figure out what the role of pastors, or rather, of trained theologians, might be in future church communities.
The thoughts I shared in the previous two posts have some direct implications especially for when we gather, and especially our sermons. Although I have some reservations on the practicality of simply sharing in a round table idea (always there would be some which share more than others), I am very positive about the fact that we need more dialogue and less monologue – somehow.
I think the shift we need to make is from the trained theologians as the one who need to give answers to questions, to the one who need to open possibilities. The local congregation is not the only conversation going on, although we need to make more of the conversational nature of the local church. The round table church is also linked up with a number of round tables. The trained theologian (or for that matter, anyone, but probably this would need some studying, whether officially of unofficially) would be opening up the conversation, so that the voices of other tables in this round tables church (yes, maybe we should talk about a round tableS church, and not a round table church) become part of the conversation.
What else? Well, let me tell a story. One night at about one o’clock, I got a call from someone on a private number. When I picked up, it was a girl talking. She didn’t know me, but got my number from a friend. She was pregnant, and didn’t dare talking to her family about it, and someone told her to call me. Sadly, for some reason she had to cut the connection, just saying that she “got to go” just after she said what it was about, and before I got a name or number, so we never continued the conversation. But, that got me thinking. Sometimes, people want to have a feeling that they are talking to someone that has the skill to handle a conversation professionally. This does not take away the role of friends in times of crisis, a story for another day, but sometimes you want to get a feeling that the person you are talking with have the necessary skill to handle this conversation.
OK, so in short. I think the most important role of the trained theologian would be opening up possibilities in the conversation going on within a congregation, and secondly a pastoral role, caring for those in crisis in a professional way.