Jim Naughton’s post in The Lead on the presiding bishop’s recent remarks on new models for the formation of leaders generated considerable comment. It struck us that we ought to encourage a continuation of that conversation.
Here’s just a bit of what the presiding bishop said:
As old models become unsustainable in some contexts, dioceses are finding new ways to form leaders – like the Bishop Kemper School for Ministry in Topeka that serves students from four neighboring dioceses. Theological education is much in the news, with active conflict in several places, a result of deep anxiety over looming changes. We have excellent resources for theological education, yet they need to be redistributed to form and train leaders more effectively for new and changing contexts.
Extracts of some of the comments are reproduced beneath the fold.
She is spot on. Most of our seminaries are training priests for a church that no longer exists…and hasn’t for decades.
I agree with much of the PB’s remarks, but I think we also need to realize it is not only diocesan formation programs that are innovating. CDSP has a fully online MTS degree and low residency options for the MDiv. Nashotah has as many students in its low residency programs as in its residential programs. Bexley Hall and Seabury Western federated to share resources and have built relationships with lots of non-Episcopal seminaries. And that’s not an exhaustive list. We need to be wary of extrapolating situations at GTS and EDS as indicative of a failure of theological education as a whole.
Ruth Meyers, Dean of Academic Affairs, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
I think it’s important to consider the benefits of a church-wide seminary. Local formation programs may offer some equivalence to the basic theological education and practical training that are part of a Master of Divinity program. But they’re local, drawing people from the same region. A different kind of learning happens when people from many different contexts come together in the same classroom, whether virtual or face-to-face. In CDSP’s low-residence Certificate of Anglican Studies (students spend 2 weeks in residence, for 2 summers, and take 4 more courses online; the equivalent of one year of residential seminary education), we’ve had several students who were locally trained, and all of them have found the time with students from different contexts to open new horizons for them. …
Educators, leaders and ministry developers have been saying this for several decades. In fact the church has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars studying these issues (most recently the PEALL task force). Thankfully dioceses and regional partnerships have sprung up as alternatives. We know what needs to be done but seem simply to lack the will. How exciting it would be if we really returned to the concept of the total ministry of the church and equipping the saints more locally. [PEALL is Proclaiming Education for All, a taskforce formed by General Convention. One of its reports is here. – ed.]
This extended conversation on theological education and formation of leadership in the church of the 21st century is much needed. I have been a seminary professor for 35 years, including serving time as academic dean, and have been a younger contemporary and supporter of the visionaries and leaders of “total ministry.” …
…Any proposal for theological education for a next generation of leaders for communities of faith in the missionary context of post-Christendom must understand and offer resources in light of the larger history and critique of what Aidan Kavanagh called “the omnivorous presbyterate.” Otherwise, seminaries are rightfully critiqued as being ideological, pressing forward their interests for an educated clergy in ways that fail to honor the distinctive, indigenous communities of faith that are spread throughout the world…
… The need is not tearing down old institutions and building up new ones but how to develop collaboration from the bottom up that creates networks which, like social media, will be creative, flexible, and informed. Some of this is happening and more will happen, even while there is flailing and death of some institutions. Such is our faith and life as marked in the inseparability of cross and resurrection.
[These extracts only give a taste of his comment. – ed.]