Jason Byassee makes the case for less than fully-embodied theological education:
Recently, a board I serve on that decides theological education matters for my United Methodist conference was asked to allow candidates for ordination to receive up to two-thirds of their seminary education requirements online. The déjà vu’ish part of the resolution was that only a year ago we were asked to allow candidates to do a third of their seminary studies online. ... Sts. Augustine and Jerome produced some of the most remarkable letters we have. They argue over Bible interpretation, theology, practice, the works. These two giants of the faith go at one another in Rowan Greer’s unforgettable image, “like two scorpions.” Such passionate interaction with such a payoff should still make all forms of Christian theological education. This is not the ad hominem heat of the blogosphere. It is the heat of a holy encounter with God. And notice: we preserve and treasure this correspondence not because it is record of face-to-face encounter. We do so because it is not.Here is a practical list of eight mistakes online students make.
In fact, as Christians, we are a sort of virtual body (this observation I owe to Graham Ward). We are members one another with those we have never met through time and now through space. We long to commune with our sisters and brothers face to face. For most we never will until the final feast. For now we preserve our ligaments by prayer, correspondence and mutual correction.
The church has not been unwilling to make do with less than fully-embodied theological exchange in the past. Why should we be less brave now?