You are among the intellectual elite in the nation. I know it’s not politically correct to admit that, but that’s the way it is so get used to it. You are here to become educated persons and to learn the skills needed for life long learning as educated persons. You are not here to get a job ticket. If a job ticket is what you want or need, you can do that later in graduate school or at the local community college.
We just finished our annual clergy conference with a somewhat contentious conversation about whether seminaries are doing the right job of preparing persons for ordained ministry. Do seminaries exist to train persons in the skills necessary to perform as clergy? Do they exist to educate persons as theologians capable of assuming church leadership? Or do they exist for something else?
It reminded me of conversations I often had with Episcopalian students at the top ranked liberal arts college in our community that went something like this:
I have pretty much the same reaction to our clergy conference discussion. If we are most interested in raising up persons with the skills necessary to perform as ordained clergy, we can do that easily enough through local training, distance education, and a variety short course and seminars offered by some institution. On the other hand, if we are most interested in raising up persons who are educated as theologians capable of providing leadership and competent in forming knowledgeable disciples for the Church, we need comprehensive seminary based graduate education at a high level of academic standards. This obviously begs the question of whether that function could be accomplished just as well through university graduate schools of religion or theology, and that’s for another day.
It seems to me that the real issue is something else altogether, and that is money. Graduate education is expensive, period. On the one hand, the leadership of the Church laments that seminary graduates leave with huge debt loads that are all but impossible to pay off on a clergy salary. On the other hand, and for the most part, they do very little or nothing to invest in that education, and seem disinclined to make any moves in that direction. It seems to me that that is their problem as much or more than it is a problem of the seminaries.
I’ll close with this. Any move to convert seminaries, or university graduate schools of theology, into clergy trade schools is likely to result in the destruction of graduate level education while failing to live up to the expectations for a decent trade school.