Are Seminaries Putting Their Blue Days Behind Them?
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  • Jim Luebke

    So, has no one in any of these church hierarchies hit upon the notion of
    requiring missionary work and outreach of all of their graduates?

    The financial problems are really the least of it. Nothing could be more in line with the teachings of Christ — “Go and make disciples of all nations!”

    As long as some Christian denominations buy into the idea that one should be quiet about one’s religion — that one should treat it as “no better than anyone else’s”, that one should never speak of it in public, that one should hide the light of the Gospel under a bushel to be a “good citizen” — those Christian denominations will have trouble.

    It’s the evangelizing denominations that are thriving. Why is it so hard for mainline churches to see this?

  • Anthony

    “Christianity is going to have to be more of a mission and less of a profession in the future.” Timely insight day before Easter Sunday; also, I had not made Blue Model U.S. ecumenical comparison or connection but your analysis makes apparent similarities – thanks WRM.

  • Michelle

    Yes, indeed–we’re separating the sheep from the goats these days, aren’t we?

  • It may be that future ministers will learn the trade the way Peter learned from Jesus and Timothy from Paul: they watch the masters at work, and start their own pastoring careers under the supervision of someone they respect.

    As a seminary student (pursing an “academic” degree), such changes will be most welcome. I attend a conservative seminary, the likes of which tend to be poorer overall. Following the traditional model has led to a tuition-based model where the only way to pay the bills is to accept a wide range of students.

    Achieving this, of course, requires that the academic standards be lowered or all together waived. I love my peers as brothers in Christ, but some of them are cut out for neither ministry nor scholarship. Returning to a mentor-like relationship between students and pastors–something seminaries pay lip-service to quite regularly–will not only reduce costs, it will provide what the current academic model cannot: the all essential character growth necessary for any pastor to be more than a second-tier historian.

    On a related note, seminarians need to pursue a good literary degree for their undergraduate work, studying both ancient languages and poetry. Such studies would prepare them for pastoral work and scholarship far more than seminaries currently do, and would greatly facilitate an overhaul to a mentor-based system.

  • I remember taking some courses at Union Theological Seminary in the 1990’s to pass the time awa while undergoing radiation therapy. The things that struck me most, besides canons of political correctness, were the sexual abandon of the place (mostly homosexual) and the skimpy academics standards maintained: here were graduated students reading student anthologies composed of one and two page excerpts from the classics, a few tens of pages of total reading per week. The only sect upholding any traditional standards at all, moral and academic, turned out to be the Unitarians!

    What is the world coming to I thought to myself. (

  • As a veteran of 151 graduate and undergraduate units of online education, while working full time, there should be more innovation in the seminary. A shift to online education would precisely fit the needs of the nontraditional student. If clergy will need a trade to support a family (an argument for unmarried clergy–they are cheaper) while also serving a congregation, then the new pastors are going to have to come from those who are called later in life and are able to support themselves. Not all courses can nor should be taught online, but a certain fraction over them certainly can be–e.g., Bible, theology, history, even languages.

    As far as these nontraditional students go, I received my MA in Jewish Studies from Gratz College, a Jewish teacher’s college that trains educators for Jewish schools and also runs an online MA program in Jewish Studies, and an MBA from University of Nebraska-Lincoln; I found the nontraditional online students more committed to their education, than I experienced in brick and mortar classrooms. They also bring a maturity to the discussions that is lacking in brick-and-mortal institutions serving a younger population.

    I am taking courses now at a seminary that is partially online, as a non-degree seeking student, because I need graduate units in New Testament and Greek before starting a PhD in Biblical Studies. I’ve found the students to be highly engaged online. The student population is highly diverse, which in my book is a feature not a bug. Although the institution is Evangelical, the students range from Mormon and Catholic to Mainline Protestant to various flavors of Evangelicals. This leads to quite spirited debate at times, again theological diversity is a feature not a bug. It sharpens dogmatics and apologetics. It also improves sensitivity to difference. “Papist” hasn’t been used since the first week in class!

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