What good does it do you if you dispute loftily about the Trinity, but lack humility and therefore displease the Trinity? It is not lofty words that make you righteous or holy or dear to God, but a virtuous life. I would much rather experience contrition than be able to give a definition of it.
Thomas à Kempis
Facing a Problem
Ministry students can identify with à Kempis—normally, they want to do ministry rather than read about it, write about it or define it. They are more interested in watching God’s word transform people’s lives than they are in parsing Greek verb forms. Within the academy, the abstract realm of theory and the seemingly esoteric disciplines of theological training are in tension with the pressing demands of praxis, the godly urge students have to attend to the hurts of afflicted people without delay. Like many academic institutions dedicated to education as a process for the formation of Christian ministers, the Graduate School of Theology (GST) at Abilene Christian University (ACU) has struggled with this problem.
On the one hand, the GST faculty believe that rigorous academic study has great value, not only for those who choose to pursue doctoral degrees but also for ministers. Although students do not always appreciate the need for some of the more esoteric subjects, people entrusted with pastoral care in today’s complex world ought to be well-equipped in every relevant area. ACU’s M.Div. program requires a strong showing in various theological disciplines. Some are cash-and-carry subjects, where the students’ investment pays off in immediately applicable skills they will use every day. Some courses impart more specialized skills, and still others have the purpose of forming the minister personally and theologically. The academic experience, with its lectures, papers, seminars, tests, and biblical languages, is integral to solid ministry formation.
On the other hand, the academic environment is an artificial one, far removed from the wild and woolly setting of daily ministry. Faculty hear the question of relevance regularly, e.g. “Will I use Greek in my ministry?” or, “What possible value will Church History have for today’s church?” In time, most students come to see the significance of the various components of their program (or to tolerate whatever they do not appreciate). Nevertheless, the artificiality and methods of the academic setting pose a deeper and more difficult problem: the matter of integration. In the realm of daily praxis, as ministers are confronted with situations requiring a pastoral response, they find that these situations rarely call for the kind of response typically expected in the modular classes of an M.Div. program. In the face of tragic death, congregational conflict, or ethical dilemma no test, research paper, or annotated bibliography will do the trick. The instruments that professors use to measure outcomes in seminary courses fit the academy but are ill-designed to measure results on the field. Moreover, the multifaceted realities of the human experience have a troubling tendency to challenge us on every front at once. Whereas seminary courses normally focus on one discipline, real ministry problems are usually inter-disciplinary—they require the minister to rely on many resources at once, such as Scripture, history, theology, and ministry.
Naturally, ACU’s GST faculty are sensitive to the need for an M.Div. curriculum to be practical and integrative. Individual professors do a wonderful job of drawing out the practical implications of their subject matter and of concretely modeling the integration of theological disciplines in ministry. Also, the M.Div. program has various non-academic components built into it. These elements ensure that students not only have an opportunity to integrate what they have learned but are also continually assessed in appropriate, non-academic ways. These include Internships, Mentoring Groups, a Supervised Practice of Ministry program, psychological testing and counseling, and so forth.
However, for years the capstone experience of ACU’s M.Div. program was far from integrative: a battery of Comprehensive Exams. On top of the assessments specific to each course taken over a three-year period were laid a set of final, written tests. In this grueling two–to–three-day experience, finishing M.Div. students had the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the material they had learned by taking written tests in each of several major areas of instruction. The format included short answer, fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, and many lengthy essay questions. Various professors marked the portions of the Exams connected to their own disciplines. As an experience of academic consummation, it was suitably intimidating—indeed, to a legendary degree—but it accomplished little in the way of ministry formation. In fact, it was rather like taking final exams over again in every course. Its usefulness as a measurement of outcomes was also limited. The experience measured certain academic outcomes, but yielded very little information about the candidate’s ability to integrate and apply academic learning in concrete ministry situations.
In place of the traditional Comprehensive Exams, ACU’s GST faculty felt the need to design and implement a final M.Div. assessment more compatible with the actual aims of the program, a test better suited in form and function to the integrative results the faculty were hoping to achieve. Ideally, the assessment would not only give students the chance to demonstrate their skill in integrating the various theological sub-disciplines for real ministry, but it would be formative in its own right—a learning experience. It would bring students and faculty into dialogue with each other over realistic ministry problems, yielding opportunities for a communal learning experience and for the frank discussion of a student’s strengths and weaknesses as a ministry professional.
Proposing a Solution
The faculty decided that case studies could provide the ideal basis for such an integrative assessment. Several of the faculty had attended the Association for Case Teaching’s Summer Institute and were well acquainted with cases as a teaching tool, especially in ministry courses. Bob and Alice Evans had insisted for years that good cases were highly flexible and could be adapted to various purposes—why not as tools in a process of integrative assessment?
Cases are true to life, presenting students with authentic situations. Though nothing substitutes for the laboratory of genuine ministry experience, cases furnish learning opportunities that consistently come closer to actual experience than just about anything else used in the classroom environment. The real situations they narrate are complex and multi-dimensional, requiring ministers to dig deeply into their tool chest and employ inter-disciplinary strategies. A good case is able to push ministry students to draw on the resources of many disciplines, such as the broad areas of the M.Div. curriculum: Scripture, history, ministry, and theology. In the classroom, teachers typically focus on only one or two facets of a case, usually processing the case in about an hour. But good cases are richly endowed with complex problems, and for examination purposes it is possible to attack a case more thoroughly, requiring students to explore comprehensive and balanced responses.
Since 1993, the GST at ACU has relied on cases as the heart of its M.Div. Comprehensive Examinations. At the end of their program, a finishing cohort of students is assigned a set of three cases. They analyze the cases carefully in fully researched papers, or briefs, prescribing ministry solutions to the predicament of each case. Faculty committees assess the briefs and direct an oral defense, giving students the opportunity to defend their papers and to develop non-written components of their response to the case situation.
The GST faculty have carefully considered the function and role of this summative experience as a component of the overall curriculum. According to its written guidelines, the GST expects M.Div. students to demonstrate competencies in 15 specific core areas. For each competency, the faculty prescribes one or more assessment mechanisms, by which it determines that students have achieved adequate expertise or maturity in that area. The faculty have determined that the case-based Comprehensive Exams, with their written and oral components, are able to provide significant, though partial, measurements in 9 of the 15 core competencies:
The ability to interpret biblical texts in a way that reflects responsible research and faithfulness to the Christian tradition.
A basic understanding of the history of the Christian faith and of the Stone-Campbell heritage.2
The capacity to reflect theologically in response to issues, situations, and experiences.
The ability to integrate theological and theoretical concepts with concrete ministry situations.
The maturity to make personal appropriation of theological understandings, meanings, and values from the perspective of personal faith.
The capacity to care for persons in crisis with appropriate understanding, response, and guidance.
The ability to lead the church in the practice of its ministry.
The capacity to manage oneself personally and professionally in ways that demonstrate character, build trust, and enhance one’s ministry effectiveness.
Facility in both written and oral communication.
For most of these competencies, the Comprehensive Exams provide only one of several assessments the GST uses to measure outcomes. Nevertheless, the faculty place great emphasis on the role of the Exams in evaluating a student’s readiness for ministry. For each area, students are expected to make a good showing in their Exams. Along with fulfilling the other M.Div. program requirements, obtaining the degree hinges on successful completion of the Comprehensive Exams.
Formulating a Method
The faculty have given considerable attention to developing a sound Comprehensive Exam procedure. A M.Div. Norms Committee, made up primarily of faculty, is entrusted with the responsibility of formulating procedures, adjusting them in response to student and faculty feedback, and monitoring the process by means of periodic faculty discussions. In particular, the Committee seeks to bring the faculty to a consensus regarding the express criteria by which to assess finishing M.Div. students. The process and the standards are under constant review and subject to continual refinement.
The existing procedure is as follows: At the beginning of their last semester, M.Div. students at ACU receive 3 case assignments—1) a contemporary ministry case, 2) a case drawn from Church History, and 3) a biblical text case. Students receive the same assignments. The students’ task is to study each case, conduct research that will aid them in their analysis and prescription, then write up their analyses and prescriptions in briefs of about 12 pages in length, one brief per case assignment. Along with the cases themselves, at the beginning of the semester students receive clear, written instructions explaining the entire process and giving due dates for their written briefs, along with the range of dates late in the semester during which their Oral Exams will occur.3
The faculty select a different set of cases each year. They usually draw the first two case assignments from the existing corpus of published ministry and Church History cases, though the faculty often adapt the published cases slightly to make them more suitable for the Examination format. Students receive a copy of both cases; appended to both the ministry and history case are a series of questions prepared by the faculty, designed to guide the student’s reflection on the cases.4
The biblical text case is unique.5 Students are not given a case. Instead, all the students are assigned the same passage of Scripture to interpret. On the basis of his or her exegesis of the passage and biblical theology, the student creates their own contemporary case study connected to the problems of the text, a case that they then analyze and process. In other words, students study the assigned passage carefully, then devise a case study that poses the sort of problem, which in their estimation the text is well suited to address. In turn, the student analyzes their own case in light of the theological emphases of the biblical text, prescribing a pastorally appropriate intervention for the situation of their case. All these components comprise the written brief for this assignment. Ideally, the student’s case narrates a real situation, as good cases do, or perhaps it is a composite of real situations. However, since students are not allowed to select their own biblical text, and since many M.Div. students have only limited ministry experience, faculty do not require that the case be a real situation—only a realistic one. This assignment gives the faculty an opportunity to gauge students’ exegetical and hermeneutical abilities, including their sensitivity to the hermeneutical sensibilities of their own heritage. It also demands that students exercise their pastoral imagination and demonstrate a realistic grasp on the possible circumstances that can arise in genuine ministry environments.
Each of the three written briefs should demonstrate expertise in all the relevant theological disciplines and facility in the use of primary and secondary sources. However, a brief is not a discipline-specific research paper. Faculty are looking for disciplinary competence, but also they expect students to explore the multi-disciplinary problems that the case situations present. Although the assignment requires an adequate level of discipline-specific skill (e.g. in Church History, New Testament exegesis, systems dynamics, or Christian Education and spiritual formation), as an assessment it is not attempting to replicate the results of discipline-specific courses, in which students’ aptitudes in various areas have already been tested. Instead, for purposes of the Comprehensive Exams, faculty focus special attention on the matter of integration—Is a student able to blend and inter-relate the various disciplines of their program in response to a realistic ministry situation, and do so responsibly? To accomplish this, students invariably find it necessary to do a significant proportion of fresh research due to the unique features of the case. However, the Comprehensive Exams are not meant to bring students to the edge of new academic frontiers. Faculty hope that students will not normally find it necessary to research deeply into unfamiliar areas. Instead, students should be able to rely heavily on the materials, resources, skills, and perspectives they have already acquired through the M.Div. program. The briefs are not meant to be cutting-edge research papers; instead, students are encouraged to think of them as theological and pastoral position papers, articulating a thoughtful and appropriate response to the problem posed by the case.
Guiding Students through the Process
To guide students through the process, an ongoing briefs-writing workshop has been incorporated into a course entitled, “Hermeneutics: History & Practice.” This course has been a part of the curriculum since 1998, when the GST faculty responded to the typically uneven results of the Comprehensive Exams by blocking out space and time in the curriculum for guided preparation. Far from an introductory course in exegesis or hermeneutics, this course has been especially designed as a capstone experience for finishing M.Div. students. From within a historical and philosophical framework, it attempts to bring together the seemingly disparate threads of the M.Div. program into a coherent whole, aimed in the direction of responsible Christian praxis, or practical theology. The course material focuses on students’ summative exercise in pastoral integration, the Comprehensive Exams. The teacher serves the students as a primary source of information about the Exams, addressing students’ questions about the workings of the process, explicating the criteria by which students will be assessed, and orienting students to the Oral Exam experience.
The teacher’s major role is that of brief-writing coach. The class is structured around the process of writing the three briefs. Near the beginning of the semester, the professor teaches each of the cases in class, utilizing the diverse learning styles and activities typically associated with case teaching. This familiarizes students with the cases and enables the professor to facilitate ongoing collaborative discussion about the cases. Students are not allowed to collaborate in writing their briefs, but the teacher encourages ongoing conversation within the group, forming the class into a learning community focused on the assigned cases. After being introduced to the case, each student submits a written précis to the teacher, a summary proposal of their preliminary perspective on the case. This includes a statement of how the student intends to proceed in their research, which angles they believe to be most worth pursuing, what resources to utilize, and so forth. The teacher appraises the quality of each précis and returns a written response to the student. In a matter of weeks, students submit rough drafts of their briefs, which the teacher also evaluates, marks, and returns. Lastly, students submit final drafts to the teacher and to the GST for use in the Comprehensive Exams.
The teacher’s feedback during the brief-writing process is meant to guide students, but in a measured way. In keeping with the open-ended nature of case processing, the teacher of the capstone course is not looking for specific solutions or proposals. Students are required to suggest a resolution and formulate a concrete prescription, just as they would in their role as practicing ministry professionals. However, often there is no single “right answer” to the problem posed by a case. Also, the teacher must guard against compromising the assessment procedure by interfering in the student’s work. The teacher’s role is to serve as a coach, responding to students’ work in ways that prompt students to sharpen their thinking, achieve focus, and integrate soundly. The student’s researches, analyses, and proposals must be their own.
The faculty have found the capstone “Hermeneutics” course to be an indispensable part of a student’s preparation for Comprehensive Exams. However, students must become familiar with case learning and with the aims and methods of integrative pastoral thought long before their final semester. With this in mind, the M.Div. Norms Committee encourages faculty to use cases wherever possible in their teaching, and to provide opportunities for students to process cases thoroughly, in keeping with the requirements of the Exams. Otherwise, students in their final semester may feel that they are being asked to do something for which they have not been adequately prepared.
Assessing the Outcomes
Each student undergoes one Oral Exam for each brief. For every Exam, a different team of persons is formed, usually three students and three faculty members. Each faculty member on the committee represents a different area of specialization. Team members (student and faculty) receive a brief in advance from every student participating in that particular Oral Exam. During the two-hour Exam itself, each student has 12 minutes in which to make an oral presentation. They may summarize the gist of their briefs, add important remarks or explanations they neglected to include in their briefs, and offer any other comments they choose. The remainder of the Exam is spent in critique and discussion, with faculty and students alike engaged in conversation. Students explore and critique one another. Faculty probe students’ work, challenging them to clarify, explain, or defend points that seem unclear or weak.
On the basis of a student’s written paper and their performance in the Oral Exam, every member of the faculty committee scores the student in each of the prescribed areas of competency.6 After a brief conference, in which they compare their individual scores, the faculty committee agrees upon a joint score in each area and submits their results to the GST Chairman. Students normally pass. However, it is possible to fail, in which case the student may be required to take that portion of their Comprehensive Exams on another occasion. Their graduation is thereby delayed and they are required to process an entirely different case. More commonly, the faculty committee may decide that the student needs to do some additional work in one or two especially weak areas. If so, they will recommend to the Chairman that the student be given a specific remedial assignment targeting specific competencies, usually a written assignment that may be completed within a week or two, though it might also include an oral component.7
Converting their assessment of students’ particular qualities into numerical scores poses faculty with a difficult challenge. Numbers are incapable of precisely reflecting a person’s theological acumen or their pastoral skills and instincts. Nevertheless, faculty need a standard way of measuring and describing student performance in terms of expected goals and outcomes. To facilitate this, the faculty have formulated a series of descriptions for each of the nine competencies that the Exams measure. Each one-page description includes a brief general summary of a given competency, accompanied by detailed descriptions of the evidentiary characteristics of that competency. The latter descriptions of concrete characteristics are broken down into four possible levels of mastery within that competency:
3—good mastery (a “standard” score)
2—minimally acceptable mastery
1—sub-standard, unacceptable mastery
The descriptions, formulated by faculty specialists within each area and agreed upon by the entire faculty, provide faculty with a means of blending qualitative and quantitative assessment in the Exams.8 The faculty use the narrative descriptions to arrive at a numerical score. In order to pass outright, a student must have an average score of no less than “2” per competency; in addition, the student may have received the sub-standard score of “1”for no more than two competencies, regardless of the student’s overall average.9 In this way, the Exams give weight to overall performance but also to the mastery of individual competencies.
Students become acquainted with all 15 of the M.Div. competencies early in their program. At the beginning of the brief-writing process, they are further introduced in the capstone Hermeneutics course to the nine detailed competency descriptions that faculty use to assess them in the Exams. They keep these benchmarks before them as they prepare their briefs, and faculty are encouraged to use the categories and wording of the competency descriptions in their responses to students’ work.
Perfecting the Process
No process is perfect. Each year concerns arise that make it necessary for the GST faculty to review the Comprehensive Exam process, competency descriptions, methods of evaluation, and the procedures of preparing students for their Exams. Feedback from both students and faculty is welcome. Everything is subject to critique and refinement as the faculty face specific challenges and seek to improve the process.
For example, the faculty are sensitive to the fact that a student’s final semester is often the most difficult. Heavy academic workloads are accompanied by the anxiety of seeking employment and by various other things. The intense processing of three complex cases increases the burden considerably. The faculty are currently considering whether to shift one of the three cases to an earlier period, perhaps to the second year of the program. This would lighten a student’s load in their final year and it would provide the student with more intentional and early, rigorous training in the integrative task of case processing than they presently receive. However, such a shift would create other difficulties. It would mean a two-stage summative assessment rather than a single assessment in the final year, complicating the process for students and faculty. Would both stages include an oral component? Also, since students would have completed only one-half to two-thirds of their program, they could not be expected to perform at the same level as in their final year. Hence, faculty would need to modify the criteria by which they assess student performance, creating a two-tiered measurement scale. Perhaps the case brief done in the second year would be considered as formative, rather than summative.
Another ongoing problem is the paucity of suitable cases. Many excellent teaching cases exist, but the Comprehensive Exam process requires cases that pose appropriately complex and multi-faceted problems, forcing students to draw broadly on the resources of their entire M.Div. program. The existing selection of published Church History cases is particularly narrow.
These issues and others occupy the M.Div. Norms Committee and the entire faculty as they constantly refine the process. However, in spite of its flaws and limitations, the faculty are committed to this process. The faculty have found that case-based Comprehensive Exams lend themselves to being a positive, formative event. The experience is necessarily sober and intense. However, it is also a time for affirming students’ positive qualities, building collegial relationships, and challenging students in areas where growth seems needed. The faculty intend for the Exams to be not merely a student’s final ordeal, but also a moment of blessing. Moreover, the entire process challenges the faculty themselves, those notable specialists in a variety of fields, to think and function in an integrative and inter-disciplinary way.
Finally, the case-based approach to summative evaluation of M.Div. candidates at ACU ensures that the assessment mechanism is consistent in form, content, and function with the integrative outcomes the faculty hope to achieve. ACU is in the business of forming ministers. The faculty enjoyed recent confirmation of its investment in this approach when it learned that two of its graduates applying for ministry positions were required, as part of a church’s interview process, to prove their mettle by responding to a written case that narrated a scenario of church conflict. The transition from Comprehensive Exams to the church environment could not have been smoother. Few church leaders would prescribe Greek or History exams to their ministry candidates, but the potential of a good case to assess and form ministers is undeniable.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR M.Div. ORAL EXAMS
Please Read These Instructions Carefully
As an M.Div. candidate for graduation, you will be expected to respond to three cases that are designed to integrate the various components of your program. There will be a 2-hour oral exam for each case. The exams are scheduled for 9–20 April 2001. You will be asked to present your informed opinions and conclusions on each case to a panel of two or three faculty members as well as one or two other M.Div. candidates. You will also be expected to discuss the cases and defend your positions.
Read each case carefully. Prepare a written brief on each case. You should address thoroughly any questions posed at the end of the cases as well as any other issues that you deem pertinent. In preparing the brief you are to bring to bear the various disciplines studied in the M.Div. program as they are relevant. This means that both Old Testament and New Testament, as well as church history, Christian thought and doctrine, and ministry areas (such as preaching, missions, counseling, education, evangelism, and worship) should be included. Your task is to integrate the various theological disciplines and apply them to specific ministry situations in each case. You may organize your briefs in any way that seems appropriate to you. In other words, you should not simply answer the questions at the end of each case study as though they were a test. But you must include your responses to each question somewhere in your brief. These briefs will serve as the basis for your oral presentation and discussion. They will also provide the faculty examining committee and the other M.Div. candidates with an overview of your responses.
For each case, both in your written brief and oral examination, you should work to ground all suggestions for practical application in a well-conceived biblical theology. The "how to" for ministry application should be rooted in the "why" of the biblical witness (both Old and New Testaments). These briefs are not designed to be lengthy papers but, rather, are position papers for use in the oral exams. They should be no longer than 10-12 pages. However, they should be written with the same skill and focus as a good term paper. They should include a list of sources (in other words a bibliography) you have used in your preparations. They must be coherent and intelligible so that your peers and your faculty examining committee will understand them clearly. You will be graded both on the cogency and clarity of your written briefs as well as your oral presentation and discussion. Use whatever resources you deem appropriate, but you must work independently of one another. Each of your written briefs should be in the office of the Administrative Assistant of the GST Chairman on 3 April 2001. Bring them in person or mail them to ACU Box 29XXX, Abilene, TX 79699 (or e-mail them attached as a Word or WordPerfect document to email@example.com). If you live out of town and must express-mail them, do so! The graduate office will prepare multiple copies, one for each of the faculty members who will examine you, and one for each of the other students participating in your sessions. You may pick up copies of the briefs of the others participating with you two days before each exam. Pick them up in the Graduate School of Theology office.
Each oral examination will be 2 hours in length. Each student will be asked to give an oral summary of the conclusions he/she has reached. This oral presentation is not to exceed 12 minutes. Timing will be exact, and at the end of 12 minutes the presentation must stop. Those who do not finish in the allotted time can expect to be penalized for an incomplete presentation. Use the 12 minutes to lay out the pertinent issues and your main conclusions. (Again, don't forget to connect your practical suggestions with good biblical theology!) You will have plenty of time during the subsequent discussions to amplify and clarify your conclusions.
After a short break (during which the faculty will deliberate), students will be engaged by the faculty in a period of discussion. Faculty questions can cover any aspect of the subject introduced in the case study and may be wide ranging.
Each student will participate in three such oral examinations, making a total of six hours spent in defending the three briefs. You will be informed soon as to the times the exams will occur, which cases will be discussed on which days, and who your faculty examining committees will be.
Students will be notified of their results as soon as possible (normally a week or less). Students who do not receive a passing score may either be assigned remedial work or be required to wait to retake the exams at the next set of M.Div. oral exams. The committee will determine the appropriate remediation in cases where students do not receive a satisfactory score.
A Case Study from a Biblical Text Background:
For many years, case studies have been very useful educational instruments for preparing students to integrate theoretical knowledge with actual situations. Cases have most often been used in law, ethics, government, and religion where students are asked to resolve a dilemma by a) analyzing the case and b) applying the results of their academic study to the specific case. Many cases involving congregational life begin with a congregational dilemma and move to a resolution. In this assignment, however, you are asked to begin with a scriptural text and apply that text to a ministry situation. In other words, instead of beginning with a case and then using various texts to address that situation, you are starting with a biblical text and then applying it in a ministry case of your own making.
Write your BRIEF using the procedure outlined below. Your task is not to prepare a sermon on the passage but to show how you as a Christian leader would minister to the church facing the circumstances articulated in your case. Your responsibility is to integrate exegesis, theology, history, and ministry praxis.
Text: [INSERT BIBLE TEXT] Steps For Writing Your Brief:
1. Background of the tradition (related to this text). Write an initial background for your scriptural text by reflecting on how churches in your religious tradition have applied it and by indicating what your congregation is most likely to bring to the passage. What are their likely presuppositions concerning this passage and the issues it addresses? This section may require some research, which can include a survey of church literature (for example, look at the Restoration Serials Index) and/or interviews with those who have had wide experience. This research will be integrated into the case you will write (Step 4).
2. Exegetical Reflections. Write a section composed of exegetical reflections on the passage. Focus on the critical issue(s). This is not a formal exegesis, but consists of the exegetical reflections that might precede the writing of a sermon; i.e., insights gained from new research. Address key issues and problems. You may want to compare your insights with the results gained from the previous section.
3. Biblical Theology. Place your findings in the wider context of biblical theology. Compare the emphasis of this passage with similar passages written by this author and with other biblical writers who addressed a similar topic. Compare the emphasis of this passage with pertinent Old and New Testament teachings. Overall, how is this issue addressed? Are there any overriding themes and responses?
4. Case, Analysis, and Prescription. Write a case in which you describe a contemporary situation in the life of the church today for which the assigned text can serve as a valuable resource. In other words, demonstrate how your analysis might speak to an actual situation. How would you use your findings for resolving a contemporary dilemma? You should avoid simply describing your own ministry situation so that you may address the issues as objectively as possible. Ideally, good cases are always narratives of real situations. You may wish to include in your research information about actual cases which you can find in various publications. Or, you may use your own experiences or the experiences of others. You must briefly analyze your case, bringing it into dialogue with your earlier findings on the text in order to arrive at a healthy pastoral resolution.
This section consists of four brief sub-sections:
a. Case: Present your case.
b. Analysis: Identify critical issues in this ministry context that intersect with the issues presented by the text. What is going on here? What are the problems? What is the dilemma or crisis upon which this text can shed light? Include insights from your research in the Background of the Tradition (Step 1, above).
c. Theological Reflection: In light of Steps 2 and 3 above, include the biblical and theological themes that emerge in this situation (e.g., faith, guilt, alienation, grace, reconciliation, sin, redemption, creation, incarnation, suffering, etc). Be specific about where you see evidence of them. Where is the activity of God in this situation? How would healthy teaching (grounded in well-considered biblical theology) affect this case?
d. Prescription: What can be done to address effectively the issues raised in the case? What ministry intervention would be appropriate? What are some short-term solutions? Long-term solutions? How does an understanding of your text (Steps 1, 2, and 3 above) play out in healthy ministry in this situation?
5 Integration of theological and theoretical concepts with minstry situations
4 3 2 1
6 Maturity in theological understandings and personal faith
4 3 2 1
10 Capacity to care for persons in crisis
4 3 2 1
11 Ability to lead the church in the practice of its ministry
4 3 2 1
14 Capacity to mange oneself personally and professionally
4 3 2 1
15 Demonstrate facility in both written and oral communication
4 3 2 1
MASTER OF DIVINITY
PROFESSOR EVALUATIONS Each professor will evaluate each student by the criteria established in the competency norms. At the conclusion of the exam, the committee will consult to determine the score for each student based on a mathematical average of the individual evaluations. Please use the standard rounding rules: round up from .5 and higher; round down for .4 and below. Example: 3+3+2=8/3=2.67 thus the evaluation score is 3; 3+2+2=7/3=2.33 thus the evaluation score is 2.
PASS A student must have a combined score of 18 or more.
FAIL If a student has a combined score of 18 or more and also has 3 or more 1’s, then the committee should determine an appropriate remedial assignment. A student whose final score is below 18 may also be given the following conditions for completing his/her work.
Conditions are not restricted to, but may include:
Retaking the case (next semester)
Rewriting the brief and retaking the oral exam on the revised brief.
A written assignment in the deficient area of the brief or an addendum to the original brief to improve the deficient area.
The examining committee will report the exam result to the Graduate Chair who will establish a schedule for the completion of the remedial work. The committee composed of the chair of the examining committee and members of the examining committee will assist the Graduate Chair in adjudicating marginal cases and in determining a schedule for remediation.
Appendix 5 COMPETENCY 2: INTERPRET BIBLICAL TEXTS IN A WAY THAT REFLECTS RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH AND FAITHFULNESS TO THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION
Description: Students will use scripture texts in ways that demonstrate facility with sound exegetical practices, questions, and methods, articulating the results of the research for the benefit of the church in their written briefs and in the oral exam. This should include familiarity with a range of biblical materials in both Old and New Testaments, knowledge of appropriate scholarly works, and sensitivity toward the historic use of the texts in Christian history generally and in the Churches of Christ (Stone-Campbell Movement), or the specific tradition of which the student is a part. While the brief is not a discipline-specific research paper, it demonstrates that the students know how to use technical tools and have digested scholarly works so that they are able to communicate the information meaningfully to the non-specialist.
4 Excellent response. Student shows outstanding knowledge of the contents of the Old and New Testaments; demonstrates extraordinary familiarity with the major current scholarly views on the most significant topics and texts; does exegesis thoroughly and competently; knows well the major views of leading thinkers in the history of Christianity and in the Stone-Campbell (or his/her own) tradition; communicates clearly to a non-specialist audience for the benefit of the church.
3 Very good response. Student demonstrates high level knowledge of the contents of the Old and New Testaments; shows very good familiarity with the major current scholarly views on the most significant topics and texts; does a very good exegesis of texts with only a few weaknesses; demonstrates an above-average knowledge of the major views of leading thinkers in the history of Christianity and in the Stone-Campbell (or her/his own) tradition; communicates very well to a non-specialist audience with only rare unclear or incomplete applications to the church.
2 Minimally acceptable response. Student indicates some knowledge of the contents of the Old and New Testaments; has some familiarity with the major current scholarly views on the most significant topics and texts; does a mediocre exegesis of texts while indicating obvious weaknesses; has some knowledge of the major views of leading thinkers in the history of Christianity and in the Stone-Campbell (or his/her own) tradition; communicates reasonably well with a non-specialist audience but has difficulty applying to the church for healthy spiritual growth.
1 Unacceptable response. Student shows clear weaknesses in knowledge of the contents of the Old and New Testaments; knows a below-average amount of scholarly views on the most significant topics and texts, while demonstrating a definite lack of understanding of leading views and arguments; has little understanding of the major views of leading thinkers in the history of Christianity and in the Stone-Campbell (or his/her own) tradition; communicates poorly with a non-specialist audience and shows little ability to apply
1 Originally published in Journal for Case Teaching 12 (2001) 3-25. Used with permission of the author.
2 Abilene Christian University is affiliated with Churches of Christ, sharing in the heritage associated with 19th-century American leaders Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell. Though most of the students in its GST plan to minister in churches within this tradition, many do not; the latter are assessed according to the particular features and needs of their own heritage, whatever that may be.
3A copy of the detailed instructions that students receive are found in Appendix 1 at the end of this essay.
4 See paragraphs 3–4 of Appendix 1 for instructions given to students regarding the use of the questions included with the cases.
5 In Appendix 2, see the specialized instructions students receive.
6 See p.4 above for a listing of the competencies. See Appendix 3 below for the scoring sheet that faculty use.
7 See Appendices 3 and 4 for the more detailed explanation of the scoring procedure that faculty use in the Exam.
8 See the sample competency description in Appendix 5.
9 See Appendix 4 for an explanation of how faculty tabulate scores and use the results in determining student success.