Seminary IV

Tony SigThere seems to be a growing interest in several internet circles with discussing the ills currently besetting the place of the Humanities in the University (not even to mention the ills in those).  For my part I’ll continue my theoretical and hopefully “unsettling” proposals concerning seminaries.

I think that most seminaries could and should go without accreditation.

This by no means, again, that we will be giving half-assed educations to clergy.  The goal should be affordable education, but certainly not poor education; these are proposals to enable us to do both.

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7 Comments

  1. I appreciated your last post on seminaries and I hope you continue. This has been a dilemma for me, and I think you’re right to separate concerns of the seminary from the university more broadly (accreditation, etc.).

    I originally went to college assuming I would become a pastor, and made a shift to academic work later. Since then I have tended, for better or worse, to draw a strict line of separation between the two vocations. I think I do this for my own sanity as I sort things out as much as for any other reason. My concern is that people often unhelpfully mesh the mission of the church with that of the academy, and that this disturbs the good work of both. I think you’re exactly right to point out here that seminaries should not necessarily be concerned with the same sorts of issues that other institutions are.

    During this season in my life, at least, I’ve tried to step away a bit from being an “ecclesial theologian”, mostly out of fear that I might inadvertently hurt the mission of the church, rather than out of any sort of academic snobbery that thinks proper theology needs to be done apart from the Church.

    Sorry, this has become a little bit autobiographical… all that’s to say, I resonate with your concern for the work of seminaries and I worry that this doesn’t always come out when I blog on other topics. I think that you’ve made some great proposals here, and I look forward to future ones.

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  2. Tony,

    One of the reasons that the Episcopal/Anglican church has been attractive to me is that it validates the vocation of teaching priests. I think the discussion we are having is important as well. However, I think I am on the opposite end of the spectrum from you (just a different perspective, though, not a different outcome). While I have concern for how the Church trains its ministers, I hope to continue to see a line of delineation between the vocations of pastor and teacher, though they may both be called by God to serve the Church in other, more general sacerdotal duties. The struggle I have been having is, perhaps, just one of taxonomy. Where does the teaching vocation fit into all of this? Should we be educated by Seminaries or Universities? For now, at least, I lean heavily toward teaching vocations being developed in the universities.

    As far as Seminaries maintaining accreditation is concerned, this would be a bold move indeed. The seminary would not be able to offer Title IV financial aid to students. Do you think, then, that Church bodies would be subsidizing tuition for students and salaries for professors?

    While I may have a lot of misgivings and questions about the whole thing, I do know that by the time I finish a PhD I’ll have school loan debt commensurate to an M.D. – but nowhere near the salary.

    (I’m sorry if this isn’t coherent, I’m on a lot of cold medication right now)

    Reply

    1. Re: Title IV – So we should put plenty of money into the school for accreditation, which means hiking tuition to pay for it-in order to qualify for money to sooth high tuition costs?

      Evan,

      I originally went to Bible College to be a pastor before “realizing” that I should also incorporate academia into my sacradotal calling. So now I’m at a Public University to get the training to eventually teach seminarians!

      I actually don’t think there is such a sharp difference between vocations…in all cases. I don’t think there should necessarily be any more pressure on a Christian academic to bring h/er work into the stream of the Church than a plumber their work; but I do think that there are plenty of academics, and especially theology, whose work should be directed toward the “direct” building up of the Church.

      I hope that some of the details we are discussing can come out in fresh ways as I write more posts on this.

      Shawn,

      I agree that for the most part there is a difference between teaching and the more general duties of the priesthood and diaconate. I myself hope to be a teaching priest. But what does our current seminary system tell us about our priorities as a church? How connected is it to the rampant liberalism of a generation ago? Following the money and the titles can be embarrassing but as Evan reminded us, with schools closing and joining left and right, we don’t have many “options.”

      Sam,

      You beat me to some punches. I will soon be discussing options like a renewal in monasticism, rural, urban, new and old as well as teaching Parishes and Cathedrals. Great Catholic minds think alike methinks.

      Reply

  3. “As far as Seminaries maintaining accreditation is concerned, this would be a bold move indeed. The seminary would not be able to offer Title IV financial aid to students. Do you think, then, that Church bodies would be subsidizing tuition for students and salaries for professors?”

    I thought of this as well, and I wonder if the solution would also require some major reforms in the cost of seminaries. We’ve seen a lot of closures and proposed mergers lately anyway, so I think this financial necessity is already front and center. I think that, if seminaries are going to go this sort of route, they are going to need to reevaluate more broadly their infrastructure and how they use their money. What might end up occurring is a fragmentation of seminaries that are more localized and more connected to the local church. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, either. We could probably learn a bit from the congregationalist bodies that start their own seminaries from scratch, from and for their own needs.

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  4. I think I agree with Shawn. I don’t see how to avoid accreditation.

    But there could be a lot more thought on the idea of “teaching parishes,” or parish involvement with seminary. By that I mean large, institutionally sound parishes that can efficiently train ordinands both pastorally and theologically without the costs of seminary — effectively this means returning to a more “apprenticeship” model. (Church of the Incarnation in Dallas is possibly a good example of where this kind of thing might look like.)

    On the other hand I think there’s a lot to be said for a more monastic setting — whether urban or rural. Nashotah is sort of like this, but not exactly. What if they took the monastic ideal even more seriously and sought to be more self-sufficient? What happened to the days when seminarians had to tend the livestock and the fields?

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  5. “I actually don’t think there is such a sharp difference between vocations…in all cases. “

    I would certainly agree with this… in my case I often make the separation as a tentative practice, and for fear of screwing up the union rather than for reason of any kind of underlying objection to it.

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  6. Tony said, “Re: Title IV – So we should put plenty of money into the school for accreditation, which means hiking tuition to pay for it-in order to qualify for money to sooth high tuition costs?”

    Like all vicious cycles it has to stop somewhere and with someone.

    Practically speaking, though, where are you going to find an entire divinity faculty that are respected in their fields for being the kinds of teachers/mentors you want them to be and will work for a pittance compared to their counterparts in the universities? And (if) when you find such a faculty, how will you duplicate it?

    Perhaps this can be the retirement calling of professors that hold endowed positions? Perhaps we should try the first one in Florida or Arizona and call it a retirement community for tenured professors where they can enjoy the “life of leisure” and still impact students? For the record, I am only being mildly facetious – maybe it could work.

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