The webzine, Inside Higher Ed has an extensive story on the financial difficulties facing Episcopal seminaries. The story follows up on recent announcements of adjustments at EDS, Bexley Hall and Seabury-Western, but looks at the bigger picture and relies on interviews with several in the business including the Rev. Canon John L.C. Mitman, executive director of The Society for the Increase of the Ministry, the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary, and others.
Read it all here.
[A typical seminarian starts] with $63,000 or so in average debt upon entering a profession where $45,500 is the average beginning compensation.An earlier report on the seminary consolidation and cooperation is here.
Contributing to the costs are the reality that many of the Episcopal seminaries are located in exceptionally expensive places to live: Manhattan, Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., for instance.
“There’s still the residential seminary point of view — and I have some sympathy with it because that’s what I came out of certainly, in my own background — that you lose that Christian formation piece that comes in living in community with the same people for three years,” said Reverend Mitman. With the advent of “virtual communities,” he said, “Much of the church is concerned that we’re losing a lot of the substance of theological education training and formation. But a big driver behind all of this is the whole problem of indebtedness.”
The Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary (the largest of the Episcopal seminaries), offered another combination of drivers at work. Among the challenges to the residential M.Div. model, he said, are an increasing number of individuals coming to the ministry as a second career — who face practical difficulties when it comes to relocating — and an increasing reliance on training at more ecumenical divinity schools as opposed to the 11 Episcopal seminaries. Thirdly, in many small towns with small congregations, church leaders can’t leave town for training; their town, Reverend Markham said, simply can’t spare them.