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A New Way to Fund Theological Education?

A New Way to Fund Theological Education?

It is a fairly well-known fact that embarking on a traditional, residential seminary program is an expensive proposition. In a 2013 report on the state of the seminaries, Church Pension Group noted that the average tuition at an Episcopal seminary was about $14,500. Once things like books, health insurance, and living expenses are added, that number grows substantially. For example, Virginia Seminary lists its total cost of attendance for full-time Master of Divinity students between $24,500 and $35,000; and a year at Yale-Berkeley adds up to over $46,000.

The challenge of funding seminary education is not unique to the Episcopal Church. One Roman Catholic diocese in South Dakota has come up with a unique solution to help with it: a car show.

“When you think of a parking lot party with a pig roast and fast cars, you probably don’t think of the Catholic Diocese. And that’s not the only surprising thing you’ll find at the Holy Smoke Car Show at O’Gorman this weekend.

“’The Seminarians will be doing a trike race, that’s called the chase for the challis. So they got their part to play for their education,’ said Father Shaun Haggerty, St Lambert’s Pastor/ Vocational Minister for Diocese of Sioux Falls. 

“… This is the third year for the Holy Smoke Car Show. They raised $38,000 last year, and hope to get over $50,000 this weekend.”

 This editor wonders: What would be a uniquely Episcopal way of accomplishing the same task?


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Philip B. Spivey

With all due respect to the Roman Catholic diocese of South Dakota, I don’t believe we can entrust the future of clerical formation in TEC to the charity of others. More precisely, to the interest of individual diocesans in any given diocese, on any given day, in any given year.

Persons who are willing to deny themselves more financially lucrative vocational opportunities should be rewarded for this sacrifice; here on earth. .

For generations economics, and the old boy network, have been barriers for the working class and the poor. If we are ever going to truly be a Church of inclusiveness, we will have to do more to remove the economic stumbling blocks.

The Church should consider seminary education not only a necessary and didactic forum for its survival. It must consider clergy formation a ministry and a mission. “Seminary Education” deserves its own line in TEC Mission budget. I can think of no worthier mission. How to accomplish this? That’s when the fun begins.

Franklin Billebeck

This listed cost of seminary is inaccurate. It does not include lost income ( assume $30,000 a year (times 3 years is $90,000), now we need to add the cost of lost retirement and the cost of relocation. If one is married, the spouse may or may not be able to make the same income where the residential seminary is located. Factor this in to get a true estimate of the actual “cost” of Seminary. There are three great unknowns: will be ordained? If not ordained, will it be possible to return to one’s previous job (same goes for one’s spouse)? If one is ordained, is it realistic to expect a full-time salary?

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