DOES SEMINARY HAVE A FUTURE?
An Online Symposium on the Future of Seminary Education
In recent months, we have been listening to ongoing discussions about the problems and promises of seminary education. Some of the talk is fraught with anxiety, and some of it is filled with hope, but it is all marked by a sharp awareness that seminaries must adapt to an increasingly complex world.
What challenges do seminaries face in the coming years? How are they—and the churches and communities that are the focus of their mission—preparing for those challenges? What signs of transformation can we see as we survey the horizon of theological education? What will seminary look like 10 years from now, and what purposes will it serve?
Contributors include: Daniel Aleshire, Philip Clayton, Barbara Wheeler, Ben Witherington, Anne Howard, David Buschart, Brian McLaren, Mark Roberts, Tony Jones, Cynthia Kittredge, James McDonald, Bruce Epperly, Katherine Henderson, Frederick Schmidt and many others. The Patheos blogging community will also weigh in, adding their insights and reflections on seminary education. Featured here.
Join Patheos for a special series spotlighting perspectives from more than 25 thought leaders on the future of seminary education in America. The conversation will continue with ongoing contributions through October and November.
D. Jeffrey Bingham
Evangelicalism's pragmatism inevitably leads to an educational philosophy that will secularize its institutions. I offer three doctrinal concerns from among many that need serious consideration.
Seminaries are subject to all of the social, economic, technological, and other culture-shifts to which all other institutions are subject. They're challenged, but are they failing?
Will the seminaries be ballasts, resisting and criticizing at every point? Or will we be agents of transformation, on the forefront of innovative pedagogies, online and "hybrid" programs, and praxis-based education?
Monica A. Coleman
What if theological schools were to focus on how to share Christianity with as many interested people as possible?
In an exclusive Patheos interview, the Executive Director of The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) reflects on the most significant changes coming to seminary education.
I loved my seminary education. But I'm not sure it loved me back.
Bruce G. Epperly
Seminaries need to be prudent risk-takers, constantly looking for creative and revenue positive partnerships and exploring new ways of approaching their vocation as the mind of the church.
LeAnn Snow Flesher
Institutions in decline either need to renew or plan their funeral. It's time for us to think of seminary in new ways.
Seminary training must also provide educationally relevant and theologically thoughtful resources for business people, artists, musicians, and professionals.
Tomorrow's faith leaders need supple hearts; they need the courage to allow their hearts to break open, not apart, so that they can "flex to hold tension."
Cynthia Briggs Kittredge
The complexity and plurality of the modern world calls for church leaders who are even more confidently and deeply formed in the tradition of Christian spirituality, worship, history, and scripture.
R. Todd Mangum
Professional training for soul care is as necessary as the training of physicians for healthcare.
To meet the challenges facing seminaries, more faculty need to fall back in love with preparing women and men for the real work of ministry.
What if seminaries became more like entrepreneurial boot camps than shop management schools?
It's at the edges of our knowledge, the places where we recognize and embrace what we don't yet know, that the potential for salutary learning and growth is greatest.
Seminaries have tried the clerical education paradigm for two centuries. It's time to offer another method of educating the laos to follow the way of Jesus.
Kyle A. Roberts
Sometimes women find a mix of support, apathy and downright hostility at seminaries. Perhaps the best we can do is encourage them that they're loved, valued and needed.
Mark D. Roberts
If all of God's people are called into his ministry, why shouldn't seminaries at least consider how they might help train a wider spectrum of ministers?
A new venture reimagining theological education returns to the classical vision of the imitation of Christ.
Seminaries should broaden their concept of preaching and teaching to reflect the collaborative and participatory world we live in.
Frederick W. Schmidt
If we don't have a distinctively Christian perspective from which to engage the world graciously and critically, then there is—from my point of view—no reason to "do church" at all.
How shall seminary education be improved? If the past is any guide, the impetus for constructive change is likely to come from several directions.
LeAnn Snow Flesher
If the growing majority of students desiring an MDiv today come from non-euro-centric communities, have not completed a BA, are looking for shorter and less expensive programs, and have several years of pastoral experience, then we need to redesign the degree to fit this market—or create something entirely different.
As the discussion about what and if a seminary should be and do swirls around this website, I remember a quotation I read once about good parents: "There are two things we can give our children: one is roots, the other is wings."
Our institutions of higher education emerged from colonial models of our culture, catering to an inherently privileged group. In turn, those with privilege have continued to support those institutions, so there is little impetus from the inside for them to change.
For years, he had scorned the language of a "personal relationship with Jesus"—until a fellow seminarian reminded him of why Jesus matters.
I pray that seminaries will morph into prayer tanks, places where lay and professional people can come to deepen their spirituality and hone their leadership skills. I envision a time when seminaries are better known as retreat centers for lay people than as schools for professional pastors.
I believe, and believe very strongly, that one way seminaries can improve themselves is to remember the foundational importance of obedience, to remember that we are saved by grace but called to live lives of grateful imitation.
When it comes to many seminaries, especially those from the mainline denominations, the rapid pace of change makes getting ahead of the curve difficult. I offer just a few of the culture shifts that I would focus on, you know, if I were Mayor.
Whether one agrees with their thinking or not, evangelical seminaries remain in demand because their students sense something living there, something that might make a difference. The question is whether these answers have staying power.
So far I've praised my seminary experience as basically good. Now the bad. The awful. The reason that seminary also sucks.
Jesus' invitation to his would-be disciples was "follow me," not "talk about me" or even "worship me." Seminary education could benefit strongly from a greater emphasis on following the way of Jesus.
It's seemed odd to us in the emerging church movement that individuals must uproot themselves (and their families) to aquire more theological education.
While it may be true that traditional mainline seminaries are struggling, this is more a reflection of the problem of mainline Protestantism than the future of seminary education in general.
Although I'm qualified to teach theology at a seminary, none of the majors would hire me. If seminaries are to survive, they need to find a place for non-traditional scholars like me.