Reflections On a Day at IWS

Dr. Patrick Keifert


Patrick Keifert is Professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary and researcher and consultant with Church Innovations, a non-profit institute he helped found.   He spent a day visiting classes and interacting with students and faculty during the June 2006 Session on the campus in Orange Park.  The following quotes summarize his observations which he gave in a talk to the IWS family at the close of the day.


I saw a group of people having fun—delighting in learning and being with one another—while working hard.  I saw no one not fully engaged.


I heard teachers who have deep differences with one another and who seem to be blithely uninterested in pursuing them because they are so excited about what they share.


You are giving respect to practitioners as serious theologians.  I saw in every single class practitioners, without apology, being invited to do hard theological reflection on their experience and being honored as persons who do so.  That’s a big deal.  You are sitting on the top of a revolution in theological education.


I saw a kind of ecumenism (a theology that takes all comers for the sake of the world) that was respectful of the traditions in the room.  I never heard a trivializing of [another’s] tradition.  Lesslie Newbigin argued that if we were to reframe the ecumenical movement around missional issues—not as an ecclesial issue but as God’s mission—we could get rid of most of the problems without erasing difference among the churches.  I saw that happening here.


There is an open and inviting dialogue in the classrooms. 


I saw exemplary team teaching.  This is a high virtue and hard-won achievement. 


I heard church musicians thinking theologically and feeling free to do so without fear that some theologian was going to shame them that they didn’t have the right answer, didn’t say it the right way, or hadn’t read the right German theologian.  You have created a free space where pastors and musicians can talk to one another in healthy, freeing, creative ways, which is, sadly, so rare in the church.  I was deeply moved by seeing it happen.



June 2006