Expressions of faith-relatedness in higher education: four prototypes

As I sat in a great session at #ACLE2013 on the changing landscape of Lutheran education in the US my mind went back to this passage from ‘The Gift and Task of Lutheran Higher Education’ by Tom Christenson. It is written with a University level institution in mind but I think it holds true for all faith based schools.

“Institutions of higher education that are related to faith traditions may embody that relationship in various ways. Most do so in more than one of the ways I will distinguish. Thus, in practice, these distinctions are not as clear as they are in theory. Still, these characterizations may be helpful in understanding the dynamics of any given institution. I will sketch four prototypes here. They correspond to my experience of such institutions. But it is possible that there are types (besides combinations of the four) that I have left out.

Type A. There are institutions whose religious identity is established and maintained by the presence of an identifiable religious community. The most obvious examples of such institutions are Roman Catholic schools founded by a religious order of monks or nuns who maintain their presence and influence there.

Type B. There are institutions that embody their religious identity in the behavioral expectations of the members of the community. Such institutions may make very explicit the way they expect students (and faculty and staff) to behave.

Type C. There are institutions that embody their religious identity in theological conformity. Such institutions make explicit what the orthodoxy of the community is, and expect persons attending and working there to affirm it or at least not challenge it.

Type D. There are some institutions where religious identity is embedded in the epistemology and pedagogy of the place, i.e., in the way knowledge is thought about, defined, valued, pursued, and communicated, and in its anthropology, the way human being is understood. We know that institutions may differ in their epistemologies, but we are not used to thinking of these differences as embodiments of religious identity.”

What could this mean for the future of Lutheran schools in Australia?

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