‘Like a piece of knitting, we hold in tension what is already there and what is emerging … who we are and who we are becoming.’
Principal of Australian Lutheran College (ALC) James Winderlich has used a knitting analogy to explain the two guiding principles for the college’s new direction: its identity deeply embedded in the history and life of the LCANZ, and the need to embrace and respond to the diverse needs of a 21st century learning church. Explaining the vision of ALC’s recently unveiled strategic plan ‘Towards 2028’, Pastor Winderlich said, ‘We are not always who we once were, and we need to balance this with who we are becoming and need to become’.
The ‘new ALC’ has been shaped by feedback from members, congregations, leaders and agencies, gleaned from various churchwide surveys in 2021. One key theme was the need to focus on being gospel-centred and knowing how to minister to people. There was also widespread reluctance to move to Adelaide to receive training; this was seen as a ‘deal breaker’.
‘We’ve listened to you, we understand your training needs, and we are responding’, Pastor Winderlich said.
The change of name from Luther Seminary to ALC in 2004 was a major step in promoting the college as the LCANZ’s training institution for not only pastors and teachers but for all people of the church. The new direction builds on progress made in creating learning hubs that equip LCANZ people for mission and ministry wherever they are serving or will serve. A stated aim of the plan is to ‘affirm people in their vocation and reflect the diversity of the contemporary, missional church’.
The days of teaching exclusively via classroom lectures at the North Adelaide campus are long gone. Under the new plan, ALC is embracing practice-driven learning and experience in the field, while ensuring that the college is ‘a safe place for learners (staff and students) to wrestle with questions of theology and faith’, Pastor Winderlich said.
Digital learning capability will be enhanced to engage with learners as they remain connected to the community in which they live, worship and serve. Flexible and responsive learning programs will be key components of the new ALC.
Increasingly, the staff team will reflect the diversity of the communities in which LCANZ people serve.
Cheryl Bartel, vice-chair of the ALC Board, said the changing profile of the church ‘is triggering a need to understand what it means to be inclusive’. ‘We need to visualise what a connected, intercultural learning community looks like, and to value the richness that this brings to our church’, she said.
Reflecting on the recent ALC Festival of Learning, which was held under the theme ‘Speaking Many Languages, Hearing One Voice’, Mrs Bartel said it presented ‘a rich and diverse opportunity to engage with practical theology and contemporary issues’.
Pastor Winderlich and the ALC Board encourage congregations, schools and other agencies to discuss their training needs and to share them with ALC.
A copy of ‘Towards 2028’ can be downloaded from the ALC website at https://alc.edu.au/about