Rev. Mark Knutson: finding what his ministry needs in Wesley's Doctor of Ministry program
When deciding where to pursue a Doctor of Ministry, Rev. Mark Knutson knew he wanted to study in a place that shared the values of his home congregation in Portland, Ore. He also wanted to learn in a different part of the country, with a unique culture and diverse student body. Wesley was the perfect fit for both of Knutson’s criteria.
“Given the context of where I am a pastor, right in the heart of the city with a very diverse congregation that is thriving and growing, I wanted to come to a seminary that understood this, that is innate to who the seminary is. To talk about leadership in a city like this at a seminary like this, is just a gift. That’s why I chose Wesley.”
Knutson has served as senior pastor of Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland since 1995. He describes the congregation as a, “thriving multicultural, multinational, multigenerational congregation of justice seekers and peacemakers.” Those qualities are shared among the students, faculty and staff at Wesley, he said.
“Being justice seekers and peacemakers is not new to Wesley Theological Seminary,” Knutson said. “It’s part of the DNA of this seminary.”
Knutson is a member of the Church Leadership Excellence track and studies innovative leadership strategies that can be used in the local church immediately when he returns home. For Knutson, the bridge between his time in intensive classes at Wesley and his ministry at Augustana is key. He even publishes his class syllabi in the church’s newsletters so congregants can read along with their pastor as he studies.
“Leadership is not just about the pastor, it’s also about the laity and the congregation,” he said. “Leadership is key today, not just in the church but in society. With the issues we’re facing nationally and the things that have ramped up — racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia — the church needs to be at the heart of leadership saying, ‘no, that is not the direction we want to go.’”
One of the biggest blessings Knutson experiences in the Church Leadership Excellence track is the diversity of his cohort. The group is denominationally, racially, ethnically, and generationally diverse, he said.
“All the members of my cohort have already accomplished some amazing things in their communities and the places they serve, so the energy and the desire to see the Church grow for the right reasons is energizing,” Knutson said. “I’m on vacation when I’m here. I am so excited because I get to be in a room with others without the daily agendas coming at me, but to really go deep in thinking and talking from experience. That is powerful stuff.”
To individuals considering a Doctor of Ministry, Knutson offers his own experience as advice.
“I thought about doing a Doctor of Ministry program for years, but I didn’t get around to it because of the intimidation of going back to school,” Knutson said. “This seminary welcomes you in. The hospitality of the faculty, staff and students really allows you to create and put what you’ve learned immediately into practice. Don’t be intimidated. You can do it.”
Applications are now being accepted for the new cohort of Doctor of Ministry in Church Leadership Excellence, which will begin in May 2018. Deadline to apply is February 15, 2018. For more information and to apply, please go to our Doctor of Ministry homepage.