E. Byron (Ron) Anderson

Associate Dean of Institutional and Educational Assessment, Ernest and Bernice Styberg Professor of Worship


  • B.A., Carthage College
  • M.Div., Yale University Divinity School and Yale Institute of Sacred Music
  • Ph.D., Emory University

A Teacher of the Faith

In June 2021 I celebrated 35 years as an ordained elder in the Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. While we do not know what shape the UMC will take in the next few years, the fact of my ordination and my experience in parish ministry as a pastor, musician, and Christian educator remain central to my identity as a theological educator and my work at Garrett-Evangelical. With these as starting points, I continue to make two claims about the purpose of my work.

First, as theologian Marjorie Suchocki has argued, we should not expect a "learned laity" when we do not have a "learned clergy."[1] In fact, Suchocki’s concern for a “learned clergy” is why Garrett was established in the first place. What this means for me is that preparation for Christian ministry, whether that ministry will be exercised primarily with congregations or in the wider community, requires the formation of minds as well as hearts if those ministries are to be of any consequence for our world today. As a theological educator, I am committed to both a “learned laity” and a “learned clergy”. I am called to be a teacher of the faith with others who are called to be teachers of the faith to the benefit of all called to be "church."

Second, theological education is of the church for the sake of the world. As Methodist theologian Geoffrey Wainwright stated some years ago, "the believer-theologian lives and works within the fellowship of the church, draws sustenance from the church, and seeks to serve the church--which is itself in the service of God, who is … in the service of the world, seeking its redemption."[2] My vocation as a theological educator therefore engages me, in various ways, directly and indirectly, in determining, interpreting, and reinterpreting the church's normative beliefs and practices. More, it means that I do not teach or write for my own benefit but for the good of the church and of the world.

I am a pastor, therefore a teacher of the faith. I am a teacher of the faith, therefore a teacher in and for the church for the sake of the world. Whether I teach liturgy (my primary area of scholarship), or music, or spirituality, or any other related topic, I do so with these ends in heart and mind.

[1] Marjorie Suchocki, "A Learned Ministry?" Quarterly Review (Summer 1993) 11.

[2] Geoffrey Wainwright, "Theology as Churchly Reflection" in The Vocation of the Theologian, Theodore W. Jennings, ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985) 19.