Baltic United Methodist Theological Seminary Marks Anniversary with a New President
Tallinn, Estonia--The 15th anniversary of the largest United Methodist theological seminary in Europe was marked by the installation of a new president and an episcopal address linking the role of theological schools to the practice of Christian mission.
Meeli Tankler, 53, a layperson and professor of pastoral counseling and psychology at the school, is the new rector, or president, of the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary. She was the unanimous choice of the board of trustees and of the Estonia Annual Conference.
Bishop Christian Alsted of the Nordic and Baltic Area spoke at the anniversary celebration during which Professor Tankler was installed. He said that "the task of a theological seminary is to engage men and women in mission." His topic was the challenges of theological studies in the 21st century.
"The way it used to be," Bishop Alsted said, "was theological education moving from seminary to pastor to congregation. What we need may be the opposite: from church to pastor to seminary." He emphasized the importance of pastors equipping the laypeople for mission, a theme increasingly heard from United Methodist bishops in many countries.
The new seminary president is married to a United Methodist clergyman, the Rev. Üllas Tankler, who is an executive with the denomination's General Board of Global Ministries. She served a four-year term as president of the European section of the World Federation of Methodist and United Church Women. She is pursuing studies toward the doctoral degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.
Planning for a Methodist Seminary in Tallinn began soon after Estonia regained its independence in 1991. It has grown to be the largest United Methodist seminary in Europe with more than 150 students enrolled in various forms of study. It was established primarily to serve the needs of the poor in the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, but students have come also from Russia, Finland, Ukraine, Moldova, and other regions.
The faculty is made up of indigenous professors and guest lecturers from partner seminaries. Given the international nature of the student body, lectures are simultaneously translated into English, Russian, or Estonian, depending on the language of the speaker.
Methodism first came to Estonia in the early years of the 20th century. It was first linked to mission efforts in Russia and was later part of a structure also covering Latvia and Lithuania. Seventeen United Methodist congregations survived the Soviet takeover of the country during World War II. There are today some 24 local churches.
The seminary welcomes students from other denominations and offers programs equipping persons for service as pastors, chaplains, missionaries, and teachers of religion.
Support comes from United Methodists in Estonia and friends and partners in Europe and the US. The school is seeking new partners in order to serve more men and women who are called of God and need training to reach people in highly secularized European societies and beyond.
Contributions can be made to Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary Scholarships, Advance, # 15021B.
Date posted: Aug 17, 2009