In April 1989, upon the recommendation of the Division for Ministry (now the Vocation and Education unit), the ELCA Church Council approved a proposal for the study of theological education in the ELCA. The council appointed a Task Force on Theological Education to develop, in consultation with appropriate partners, a plan for a system of theological education which would:
- prepare the leaders needed for the mission challenges facing the ELCA;
- be sustained financially by the ELCA through a combination of church grants and individual gifts; and
- be appropriately accountable to the ELCA.
After much research and interviews with people across the church, the Task Force developed a proposal for First Call Theological Education (FCTE) was designed specifically for the first three years of transition (Core) for newly called leaders.
We have continuing education, why don't pastors have continuing education required of them
- Dr. Dorothy Marple
Electives were also written into the proposal to provide opportunities for pursuing specific needs or interests. Remembering those early discussions, Dr. Dorothy Marple, chair of the Task Force, remarked:
The whole discussion about core program and electives for the rostered leader grew out of our experience in talking with people in the various professional groups. These professionals said, for example, "We have continuing education, why don't pastors have continuing education required of them?"
The proposal for First Call Theological Education was introduced in the Report on the Study of Theological Education to the 1993 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. That assembly directed the Division for Ministry to encourage synods to develop pilot programs of structured theological education in the first three years of ordained ministry.
The 1995 ELCA Churchwide Assembly received a report with recommendations from the Task Force on Theological Education. The FCTE recommendation read:
To require, by the fall of 1997, that all newly rostered leaders and lay leaders participate, throughout their first three years of ministry under call, in structured programs of theological education, designed and supervised by their synods, according to churchwide standards.
The assembly passed this recommendation with a strong vote of affirmation. FCTE programs are to be designed and supervised by synods, cooperating with other program providers and following churchwide standards. Synods assess these programs yearly and report outcomes to the Vocation and Education unit.