At Northern Pastors Matter, Churches Matter

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 4.00.50 PMThere is a trend — let’s give it a positive spin — in seminaries that seminary education is not so much any more about educating pastors or providing education for future pastors. In fact, the trend is otherwise, but I am proud to say Northern Seminary is still focused on churches, on church ministries, and pastors.

I am the director of a Master’s in New Testament in Context program that focuses on helping pastors or future pastors be better teachers and preachers.

Here are some clips from Ian Lovett’s new article:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The entire faculty at Episcopal Divinity School has been laid off this summer. The remaining students are transferring to other seminaries.

After 150 years, the school is putting its campus, with its 19th Century stone chapel, up for sale and closing its doors.

“We’re going to see a bunch of seminaries close in the next 50 years,” said Gary Hall, the chair of EDS’s board of trustees. “The church is shrinking. The need for clergy is shrinking. And the institutional support is shrinking.”

Mainline Protestant seminaries are facing an existential crisis after a decade of mounting red ink.

Enrollment has fallen by nearly 25% over the past decade, according to the Association of Theological Schools, an accrediting agency….

Mainline churches, where membership has been falling for decades, can support fewer full-time pastors than in the past. Denominations are pulling back their financial support for seminaries, while the cost of educating students is still going up.

As a result, some of the oldest and most celebrated seminaries in the country—institutions that helped shape both Christianity and higher education in the U.S.—are on the brink of financial collapse….

Still, Mr. Aleshire didn’t see this as the end-times for theological higher education, but as an evolution of its mission. “Theological education is starting to look more like an executive M.B.A., not a degree required for initial practice in ministry,” he said. ….

Skye Jethani, an evangelical Christian pastor and author, said falling seminary attendance is a symptom of a growing “consumerism” in American Christianity.

“Fewer churches have the expectation that pastors have gone to seminary,” Mr. Jethani said. “In popular evangelicalism, they don’t really care about your theology. What they care about is, are you an entertaining speaker, or can you run a complicated business like a megachurch?”

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