Official Seminary Response

As a blogger, one never knows. Most posts are crickets. Sometimes, a post captures the attention of an audience and goes a bit viral. That’s what happened to last week’s post about the three major Protestant seminaries in the Twin Cities (though the traffic to that post still paled in comparison to the previous posts on Driscoll and Pannenberg).

There’s been conversation online about that post, and a fair amount of criticism of what I wrote (you can see the pros and cons in the comments to the original post). Fair enough. Many have seen my bigger point that the seminary landscape is shifting, while some have taken issue with my numbers. It’s a fair criticism. But we’re all shooting in the dark a bit, since I’m using anecdotal evidence about this fall’s matriculations, and others are referring to publicly available data from past years, from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

The only way that we could really know about this year’s numbers is from the respective schools, so I reached out to each of the three schools and invited them to write a response. United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities did not respond. Bethel Seminary wrote to tell me that my numbers were incorrect, but they did not send an official response. United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities told me they would not be submitting an official response. Luther Seminary responded. The following is from Carrie Carroll, vice president of enrollment at Luther: [Read more…]

One of the Most Sacred Encounters I’ve Ever Had

The Reverend Joy Bennett serving me communion on August 30, 2012.

It happened on August 30, 2012, and it has been recorded beautifully by Joy Bennett at A Deeper Story:

She felt the weight of this settle on her shoulders, responding quietly to each. Then he read, “Will you accept the discipline of this Church and give due respect to those in authority?

She paused. All her previous experiences with authority figures in churches rushed to her mind. The church is fallible because it’s made up of fallible people, including herself. “I’m not sure about that one.”

He smiled, said “Me either,” and moved on to the next one.

At the conclusion of the vows, Tony asked everyone to reach out to Meg as they prayed over her. Then, he handed her the bread, Carla opened the wine, and he asked “Would you share a passage of Scripture with us tonight, before you serve communion?”

She paused a few moments, thinking. She was unprepared for this moment. But then, she thought of one. “We shared this with our children each night at bedtime, and engraved it on my eldest daughter’s headstone. It’s simple and it’s all I can think of right now…”

Read the rest a A Deeper Story.

“Women In Ministry” – I’m Over It.

She seems quite happy to be in ministry.

Kudos for RHE running a week-long series on mutuality.

And to Scot McKnight for his repeated posts on this topic.

But seriously.

As I sat over my coffee this morning, reading the morning paper and smelling the garlic parmesan sourdough bread that I had in the oven, I thought about RHE’s series and wondered how I could write something that would help her convince “complementarians” to become “egalitarians.” And I’m completely stumped.

It is simply unfathomable to me that entire versions of Christianity today — be they Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist or Amish — restrict ministry to men. I grew up in a tradition that long had women preachers — beginning in 1853, with the first modern ordination of a woman, Antoinette Brown (I preached about that here, in my first (and likely my last) ordination sermon).

The fact is, as I preached in that sermon, God ordains, not man. The process of ordination is simply a human recognition of a divinely given charism. If God has ordained a woman to ministry and you deny or reject that ordination, woe betide you! For Jesus taught unequivocally that to blaspheme the work of the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin.

Let me interpret that verse for you: If the Holy Spirit has given the charism of preaching or teaching or pastoral care to a woman, and you deny the authority of that charism because of some head-in-your-ass biblical hermeneutic, you are committing an unforgivable sin.

Let me interpret it more pithily: The work of the Holy Spirit trumps your biblical interpretation.

Chew on that, Complementarians.

The Future of Seminary: Non-Residential

This post is part of a Patheos symposium on the Future of Seminary Education.

One of the hallmarks of the emerging church movement, from its earliest days, has been its call to deep community.  For some of us, that’s meant rootedness in the places we were reared.  It’s also meant that some church planters (think Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay, Dan Kimball, Tim Keel), it’s meant a long-term commitment to the churches they founded (not very Pauline of them!).

So it’s seemed odd to us that when individuals in our communities desire more theological education, the requirement is that they uproot themselves (and their families) from our churches and move somewhere else for three or four years.

Indeed, that’s what I did.  But I was a 22-year-old, fresh out of college, when I matriculated at Fuller Theological Seminary in the fall of 1990.  I wouldn’t do that today, nor would I encourage a person of that age who’s finding life and ministry opportunities in abundance at Solomon’s Porch to do so.  I would encourage them to stay put, and to get innovative at how they extend their theological education.

There are, of course, ample opportunities to study theology online, even with accredited seminaries and divinity schools.  I’ve taught a few of these courses, and I’m not a huge fan.  Learning happens, to be sure, but it’s not an ideal learning environment.

At this point, my encouragement to students of this sort — whom seminaries refer to as “non-traditional students” — is to find a seminary that suits their needs and desires, and take classes á la carte; that is, take intensives.  That’s how the D.Min. that I teach at Fuller Seminary is arranged.  However, that means you can’t attend Princeton Theological Seminary, because they don’t allow non-traditional students.

So it’s an imperfect solution, and it’s temporary.  It’s a stop-gap measure, developed by seminaries and divinity schools, and it’s fine for now.  But, as I will explore later this week, there is something better on the horizon.