Nov 30, 2011
| An interview with Carol Howard Merritt
"What would happen," asks Carol Howard Merritt of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., "if we coupled baby boomers' prophetic focus with the pragmatism of my generation? What if the church unleashed us to plant churches?"
I'm a part-time student at a denominational seminary, where I'm working (very slowly) on an academic-track masters. It's generally been a good experience, but the school's not a perfect fit. Again and again, professors and coursework assume a ministry context.
Reenvisioning Theological Education: Exploring a Missional Alternative to Current Models, by Robert Banks
Toward the end of this critique of the theory and practice of theological education Robert Banks provides his readers with an extended quotation from Karl Barth. In a speech, Barth said this of theological institutions:
Officials at the Claremont School of Theology, which has a long-term project to create a multifaith university and seminary campus, breathed a sigh of relief in late June when United Methodist Church agencies released about $350,000 in funding and reinstated the school’s standing in the church.
The notion that enrollments at theological schools rise in tough economic times did not hold true for Protestant and Catholic seminaries in North America this academic year. In fact, over the past three years, the total student population slipped about 6 percent—down to 75,500 from a three-year plateau in mid-decade when more than 80,000 students were studying theology.
Abraham haunts me. When I wrote my first Faith Matters column in 1997, I began with those three words. At that time I was in transition—moving from Maryland to North Carolina, and from a faculty position teaching undergraduates at Loyola College in Maryland to a position as dean of Duke Divinity School.
The United Methodist Church is withholding funds from two of its seminaries until they submit updated financial reports, and one campus—Claremont School of Theology in southern California—will also have to defend its proposed reconfiguration into a multireligious university.
Andover Newton in the Boston area and Colgate Rochester Crozer in upper New York State—two seminaries with American Baptist ties—have agreed to end merger talks, saying that plans fell short of being “financially viable” due to “economic realities.”
If church leaders had the chance to fashion a seminary from scratch, what would it look like? Would it have its own campus? Would it be tied to a denomination or be fully ecumenical? Would the classical academic subjects be taught and, if so, how would that learning be correlated with the work of forming spiritual leaders and training them in the practice of ministry?
When Boston area artist Paula Rendino needed fresh inspiration more than a year ago, she sought her muse in an unlikely place: seminary. Art school would have been “too boring,” Rendino explained. She yearned to bring fresh depth to her work by pondering spiritual themes.