Another Seminary Hits the Skids, Firing Eight Professors

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The crest of General Theological Seminary in New York City.

I’ve been beating the drum that seminaries across the land are in a time of crisis. Here are some examples:

Now at General Theological Seminary in New York City, the flagship school of the Episcopal Church, a situation is happening that some describe as war. Eight professors, in conflict with the dean, walked out of GTS, refusing to teach, attend meetings, or participate in common worship, then they were fired. The professors wrote:

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Obituary for the Residential Seminary

There’s lots of talk around the Twin Cities about what’s going on at Luther Seminary in St. Paul. The largest seminary of the ELCA, Luther’s president and CFO resigned late last year after disclosing a $6 million shortfall in 2012 (our of a $27 million annual budget). More recently, the interim president announced big cutbacks:

  • 18 of 125 staff were laid off immediately
  • 8 of 44 faculty members will retire this year and not be replaced
  • 5 more faculty will retire next year
  • The Masters of Sacred Music degree was terminated
  • No new PhD students will be admitted for at least 3 years

 
What exactly went wrong at Luther has not been disclosed, but the trends can no longer be ignored. Inside Higher Ed reports,

The changes at Luther have been unusually swift and dramatic. But the trends driving them are the same ones that seminaries are facing across the board. Enrollments are falling. Costs have increased, while student debt has become a bigger concern. Many Christian denominations, seeing their own ranks shrink, are providing less financial support than in the past. And as Americans as a whole become less religious — almost one-fifth of adults now have no religious affiliation — seminaries face an uncertain future.

The ELCA is indeed shrinking. As The Lutheran magazine reported in January,

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Why Homeschoolers Don’t Understand “Missional”

As expected, homeschool advocates have turned out in force to defend and justify their decision to homeschool in response to my (provocatively titled) post, “Death to Homeschooling!

Therein, I argued,

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect themfrom polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

That thinking garnered comments like this one, from Wendy,

That’s a ridiculous article. I have homeschooled for 20 years (26, 24, and 13yr old girls). You DO NOT need to be in the public school to be a witness for Jesus Christ. My girls affected everyone they came into contact with in the neighborhood, township sports, etc. They unashamedly shared Jesus. If you think your kids will have a great influence IN the public schools, think again as your elementary school child has to put a condom on a banana (as the public schooled kids in our neighborhood did). Meanwhile, at home my girls were being given a Godly education – they understand God’s Word, they understand worldviews, they read GOOD books. Invaluable! If you don’t give that to your kids, you will be sorry. I have seen plenty of Christians who think like you do, and their kids are not in a good place now with the Lord. I seriously don’t think you know what you are talking about.

What Wendy and other commenters don’t seem to understand is that, when I use the term “missional,” I don’t mean “sharing Jesus.” At least, I don’t mean it like she means it. I’m not talking about evangelism.

Missional does not mean evangelism. Missional means showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation. Here are the two biblical passages that bring me to my definition of missional:

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What Seminary Education Ought To Be – A Student’s View [VIDEO]

Tony Jones and Brian McLaren Teach in the BWCAW from tony jones on Vimeo.

Tony Jones and Brian McLaren teach the doctrine of creation to a Doctor of Ministry cohort from Fuller Theological Seminary in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.

Carl Anderson is a Presbyterian pastor in Nebraska, and he’s also in the D.Min. cohort that I lead. He wrote the post below — unsolicited by me — and asked me to post it here. So I am. Enjoy.

Paradigm shift. There isnʼt another accurate description. Things are now different.

One year ago, our cohort in Christian Spirituality through Fuller Theological Seminary gathered in Pasadena to begin our journey in studying Christian Spirituality. We spent half of the week in a classroom on Fullerʼs campus and the remainder in a classroom in a monastery. But somehow, Year 2 dominated the questions and fears. “Are we really going to be camping? Outside?” “I donʼt like bugs. Or physical activity.” We were assured everything would be worth it. And so we left Year 1 with excitement and a little anxiety.

The online conversations over the past year tended to drift into the canoeing and camping. Each time, Tony assured us that the Boundary Waters would be challenging, but doable. And so, BWX provided packing lists and we dutifully prepared ourselves.

One by one, we arrived in the Twin Cities. The early folks got together at Tony and Courtneyʼs house, getting to meet Tonyʼs kids. We met the rest of our cohort at Solomonʼs Porch that night before finally being able to sit down and catch up as a cohort at the exquisite Pizzeria Lola.

We oriented at BWX the next day and it was time for the water; we set off in our canoes. Paddling, portaging, making and breaking camp, these were more than just our activities in the Boundary Waters. They became the means of prayer, the foundation of community, and declaration of solidarity. We connected with each other and creation in ways only made possible through this shared experience.

The intensity of our class time around the campfires and under the tarps was magnified as pretense was stripped away. We wrestled with the implications of Moltmannʼs theology of Creation. Tony pressed us, again and again, with the question, “Should pilgrimage to creation/nature be a requirement of Christian discipleship?”

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