I hope that I’m not sounding too much like an anti-intellectual, but there are definitely times where I am reminded about the frustrating gap between certain academic conversations and the real needs of the Church, as well as the indulgent curriculum offered at some seminaries reflecting more the desires of professors than the recognition of appropriate classes for pastoral training. (See these two articles to really fill this out more – here and here).
My father makes an annual trip to India to evangelize and work with local pastors. A significant number of these country pastors, as it happens, cannot even read. Not a Bible, not a hymnal. When he told me this I remember wondering to myself how they could even perform their pastoral duties.
Now, I am in total support of educated clergy, indeed that is why this tidbit of information really got my imagination going, once again, as it is prone so to do, about seminary education. If one were to teach these pastors, just what might be an appropriate “core” to enable and empower them? And by thinking about this, it began to prompt thoughts on our own seminary education here in the States.
It seems to me that apart from needing first to teach them to read, and considering it is totally impractical to expect these pastors to attend a residential seminary, an appropriate “core” would ideally revolve around four books: The Bible, a Prayer Book, a hymnal and a catechism.
At first I questioned this – surely this is a peculiarly Anglican way of looking at things? But inasmuch as there could be developed a Pentecostal (Pentecostal because my father is an Assemblies of God minister) “Prayer Book, hymnal and catechism” it began to strike me as far more appropriate than I would’ve thought at first. Precisely because these clergy have a “blank slate” when it comes to the Faith, and precisely because they couldn’t be expected to leave their responsibilities for too long, by teaching them to read and giving them these elementary tools, what they lacked in “full training” they made up in practice by really getting to know these books.
What it seems the A/G might need, then, is a Book of Common Prayer -of sorts! – appropriate to their tradition, for the training of clergy where otherwise training is unavailable. And as for us, perhaps our own core should revolve around these rather than having so many electives open for “Feminist readings in Daniel” or whatever.