Editor's Note: This article is part of an online symposium, "Does Seminary Have a Future?" hosted at Patheos this month. Read other perspectives here.
Interest in the future of theological education appears to have reached a boiling point. Fuller Theological Seminary, where I'm currently pursuing a Doctorate in Missiology focused on precisely this topic, is rolling out the various parts of their "Seminary of the Future" project. Northern Seminary, where I serve as Associate Director of Institutional Advancement, is in a formal process of re-imagining theological education, and recently hosted a forum that brought together the insights of current students, seminary faculty, and various church leaders. The contributions to this Patheos forum on "The Future of Seminary Education" have come from a wide variety of perspectives and traditions, which seems to indicate that this is by no means an issue that is isolated to one particular community.
I have the privilege of participating in an initiative on re-imagining theological education sponsored by 3DM, a ministry that trains church planters and pastors in the areas of discipleship and mission. Led by Mike Breen—who is also the senior guardian of The Order of Mission—the work that 3DM has been doing for the last few decades in Post-Christian Europe, and now in the United States, enables them to speak from a perspective that may be missing from current conversations on the future of theological education in America. In short, they have borne first-hand witness to the demise and trappings of Christendom—a cultural inheritance that impacted not only the shape of our theology and ecclesiology, but correspondingly, our systems of theological education as well. It is from this vantage point that our initiative has emerged.
We recently launched a new site, thefutureoftheologicaleducation.com. This site not only hosts a white paper we've written on this subject and a related video we produced (embedded below), but also a resource blog and a number of discussion forums that we hope will engender, not just further conversation, but additional projects and initiatives as well. Here's how you should read that last sentence: It's way past time for us to just talk about this; we are in desperate need of people, organizations, and institutions who are prepared to make some real shifts and take some real risks.
This video should serve well as an introduction to at least one way that we believe it is important to engage this conversation, but here's the punch line. "While passionately affirming the important role that seminaries play educationally, we submit that from a Kingdom perspective, the more important 'accrediting factor' is their ability to graduate students who have increasingly taken on both the character and competency of Jesus." In the coming weeks, we will post three more articles that will outline the missiological principles that we believe ought to guide the vision of theological formation.
We look forward to the conversation both here and over at thefutureoftheologicaleducation.com.