What’s in a Name?

The accreditation process has been very good for ILT. It brought many helpful institutional changes. Accreditation promotes an ongoing process of institutional self-evaluation. Self-reflection and self-evaluation are now a part of the life-blood of ILT. One way this is influencing ILT is that we are considering if the name “Institute of Lutheran Theology” really is the right name for what this school is, or if there is a better one? Please take time to read this carefully. We would like to have responses to give to the ILT Board to help them decide in June. Any feedback you might have will be appreciated.

ILT is committed to preparing pastors for LCMC, NALC, CALC, and ALC, and we have done this in two ways. We have prepared students to serve congregations through the Pastoral Ministry Certificate program and the Master of Divinity degree program. ILT has and never will waver from this commitment. However, ILT has always been more than simply a place that prepares pastors. ILT also prepares people for other types of ministry in the congregation, teaches lay people who wish to take in-depth classes, equips the next generation of Christian academics to serve in higher education, and provides a path for professional development for pastors who want to more effectively serve their congregations.

Through self-reflection and looking at our broader audience, a couple of concerns about the name “Institute of Lutheran Theology” surface. The first one is that the word ‘institute’ in the name is a bit of a misnomer. The word ‘institute’ connotes a think tank committed to a specific research agenda. The word is sometimes used with schools of technology because they exist for the specific purpose of making advances in technology. ILT is obviously not that. ILT is a seminary and graduate school offering graduate programs in ministry and religion. Other words like ‘university’ or ‘college’ do not really describe what ILT is either. ILT offers no undergraduate credits currently, and there is only one academic emphasis. It seems that the best name for what ILT really is, is ‘school’. ILT is a school that teaches theology and prepares pastors from a Lutheran perspective.

While ILT is most definitely Lutheran, the word ‘Lutheran’ is narrower than what ILT is. ILT is not so much a school that makes Lutherans, but it is a school about a theology. Because it is Lutheran, it is a school that has the theology of Christ alone. The term ‘Lutheran’ accurately describes the seminary, but not the student body. Pastors looking for higher education from other denominations are coming to ILT to earn the degrees that come after the Master of Divinity. ILT is more and more becoming a place where pastors from many Protestant traditions can come to study and to learn. The term ‘Lutheran’, while describing ILT’s commitments, is too limiting for the work happening at ILT.

For these two reasons, the ILT Board of Directors is considering a change to the name. It is a change from ‘Institute of Lutheran Theology’ to ‘ILT-Christ School of Theology’. Some of you may remember the name ‘Christ School of Theology’. For a couple of years this was the name given to ILT’s graduate school to separate the work of the seminary and graduate school from the work of the overall institution and the certificate school.

We are looking for your feedback. If you have any questions about why this change is being proposed, or if you would like to comment on the proposed change please feel free to call or email Leon Miles at lmiles@ilt.edu or (319) 471-6260. Any replies will be given to the Board of Directors to aid them in making their decision. The board will be meeting on June 12 to discuss this very important issue. We don’t take this change lightly. If we make it, we want to make sure that it is the right step for our institution. Thank you in advance for your concern for this matter.

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