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More than 100 students are enrolled in the distance learning program, director David Wollenburg said. The program is open only to those who have been sponsored by someone already working in the ministry.

Classes include “Lutheran Distinctions,” “Preaching I & II,” “Introduction to Worship” and “Scripture and Faith.” Students range in age from 35 to the late 60s.

Eliza Brown of the Association of Theological Schools said the trend of distance learning at divinity schools “is definitely growing,” though there is some debate about its merits.

“Some feel you can’t be adequately formed as a church leader unless you’re engaged in a residential program that has serious face-to-face formation components,” she said. Still, 124 seminaries accredited by the organization offer some form of distance education.

Megadeth remains and the band will begin a new tour with Motorhead next week in New Jersey. Ellefson will tend to his studies during down time on the tour bus. He knows it won’t be easy.

Classes begin each Monday, though homework is posted a few days earlier. On Tuesday nights, Ellefson and eight other students sit in online for a two-hour live session with a professor teaching from a Concordia classroom. Once a week he meets with Bjorgaard to discuss the week’s work. And late in the week, he uploads homework for the professor to grade.

He has learned to keep his faith and his onstage persona separate. As for songwriting, he now tries to `stay away from darker themes.”

“Some people want to morph things together into one, but I have a hand in both worlds,” he said. “I love praise and worship music, and I love heavy metal.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com