Osmer, Richard Robert 1950–
Osmer, Richard Robert 1950–
Born April 4, 1950. Education: Yale University, M.Div.; Emory University, Ph.D. Religion: Presbyterian.
Office—Princeton Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 821, 64 Mercer St., Princeton, NJ 08542-08031. E-mail—[email protected]
Ordained Presbyterian minister. Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, Thomas W. Synnott Professor of Christian Education. Chair, Committee to Write New Catechisms for the Presbyterian Church.
A Teachable Spirit: Recovering the Teaching Office in the Church, Westminster/John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 1990.
Teaching for Faith: A Guide for Teachers of Adult Classes, Westminster/John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 1992.
Confirmation: Presbyterian Practices in Ecumenical Perspective, Geneva Press (Louisville, KY), 1996.
The Teaching Ministry of Congregations, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2005.
Practical Theology: An Introduction, W.B. Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 2008.
(With Laura B. Lewis and Amy S. Vaughn) Devotion and Discipline: Training for Presbyterian Leaders, Geneva Press (Louisville, KY), 1999.
(With Laura B. Lewis and Amy S. Vaughn) Foundations of Faith: Education for New Church Members, Geneva Press (Louisville, KY), 1999.
(With Laura B. Lewis and Amy S. Vaughn) Can We Talk? Conversations for Faith: Teacher's Guide, Geneva Press (Louisville, KY), 1999.
(With Friedrich L. Schweitzer) Developing a Public Faith: New Directions in Practical Theology: Essays in Honor of James W. Fowler, Chalice Press (St. Louis, MO), 2003.
Richard Robert Osmer is a professor, theologian, and ordained Presbyterian minister. He earned his master's degree in divinity from Yale University and his doctorate from Emory University before teaching as the Thomas W. Synnott Professor of Christian Education at the Princeton Theological Seminary. According to a profile of Osmer on the Princeton Theological Seminary Web site, his specialty is "teaching ministry of congregations, practical theology, and interdisciplinary thinking." In an exploration of practical theology, posted on the Tony Jones Web log, Tony Jones wrote that "Osmer has developed a model of doing practical theology that is extremely helpful…. He's not trying to reinvent the wheel but to describe the field of practical theology as it currently stands." Jones went on to define practical theology as a discipline that "constructively develops theology for the future."
As a practical theologian, Osmer has written and edited several scholarly works in his field. He is the editor of Devotion and Discipline: Training for Presbyterian Leaders, Foundations of Faith: Education for New Church Members, and Can We Talk? Conversations for Faith: Teacher's Guide, all edited with Laura B. Lewis and Amy S. Vaughn. His first solo works include A Teachable Spirit: Recovering the Teaching Office in the Church and Teaching for Faith: A Guide for Teachers of Adult Classes, published 1990 and 1992, respectively. It was his third book, Confirmation: Presbyterian Practices in Ecumenical Perspective, that garnered major critical attention. In Confirmation, Osmer discusses the religious practice of confirmation and its failures, noting that only fifty percent of confirmed practitioners remain adherents throughout their lifetimes. The first part of the book explores changing social attitudes toward adolescence (the time in which confirmation takes place). The second part of the volume discusses changing confirmation traditions throughout church history. The third part goes over the theology behind confirmation and seeks to set forth a confirmation theology that is applicable for today. Critiques of the book were resoundingly positive. Indeed, Ernest Hess, reviewing Confirmation in Interpretation, noted that "Osmer persuasively argues for an understanding of confirmation." Hess went on to note that "this is an important book for anyone concerned about youth in the church." James Dallen, reviewing the book in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, observed that Osmer gives a singular overview of confirmation. For instance, Dallen stated: "Osmer's study is unique in its ecumenical overview, though American Presbyterianism is the primary focus; Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, and United Methodists are the only other churches examined; and Orthodoxy and Catholicism (after the sixteenth century) receive no attention." Despite omissions, Dallen felt that "anyone interested in the future of confirmation will find [Osmer's] study stimulating."
Osmer's second book to receive a great deal of critical attention is The Teaching Ministry of Congregations, which was published in 2005. The book is an exploration of ecumenical terms and ideas, and of how the Church communicates those to their congregants. Like its predecessor, the volume is divided into three sections. Reviewers were impressed by the volume. For instance, Jane Rogers Vann, critiquing The Teaching Ministry of Congregations in Interpretation, com- mented: "This conceptually and theoretically rich volume offers a breadth and depth of engagement with biblical, theological, sociological, anthropological, and historical sources." Seconding this opinion, Christian Education Journal contributor Paul D.G. Bramer called the book "a significant and original work and a major contribution to the fields of Christian education and formation, congregational studies, and practical theology," as well as "a comprehensive, multi-layered, and integrated way to view the teaching ministry of congregations."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christian Century, July 2, 1997, review of A Teachable Spirit: Recovering the Teaching Office in the Church, p. 615.
Christian Education Journal, September 22, 2006, Paul D.G. Bramer, review of The Teaching Ministry of Congregations, p. 392.
Interpretation, January 1, 1992, Robin Maas, review of A Teachable Spirit, p. 71; July 1, 1997, Ernest Hess, review of Confirmation: Presbyterian Practices in Ecumenical Perspective, p. 334; October 1, 2006, Jane Rogers Vann, review of The Teaching Ministry of Congregations, p. 466.
Journal of Ecumenical Studies, March 22, 1998, James Dallen, review of Confirmation, p. 280.
Theological Studies, June 1, 1991, Agnes Cunningham, review of A Teachable Spirit, p. 366.
Theology Today, April 1, 1991, Nelle G. Slater, review of A Teachable Spirit, p. 94; October 1, 1993, Elizabeth Francis Caldwell, review of Teaching for Faith: A Guide for Teachers of Adult Classes, p. 470; July 1, 1997, Daniel O. Aleshire, review of Confirmation, p. 275; October 1, 2006, Thomas John Hastings, review of The Teaching Ministry of Congregations, p. 418.
Princeton Theological Seminary Web site,http://www.ptsem.edu/ (May 26, 2008), author profile.
Tony Jones Web log,http://tonyj.net/ (February 23, 2005), "What Is Practical Theology? Part I."