The Radicalization of Anglican Seminaries

Discussion in 'The Commons' started by Ananias, Aug 15, 2022.

  1. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Article here.

    I don't know why normies (as the kids say) are surprised at how woke seminaries are these days -- they are simply following the trajectory that every other institution of higher learning has been following for the past decades. Universities have been the breeder reactors of every cultural pathology for the last century. (Maybe longer.) It's ridiculous to think that seminaries would somehow be immune to this disease. Academics as a class lean almost monolithically left, and this is no different in seminaries.

    It's also not a new trend. American seminaries have been heavily liberal for decades. (That's why it made major headlines when Al Mohler jerked the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary back to orthodoxy in the 70's...and then we watched it drift slowly back to the left again.) Episcopalian seminaries have been terrible since before most of us were born.

    Still, there is a different problem than the usual heterodox/liberal tilt of the faculties. American seminaries, like nearly all other colleges and universities, have become addicted to federal loan money. Indeed, many cannot survive without federal money. If the tap is shut off, probably more than half of the seminaries close their doors within the year. So how does a seminary keep the money rolling in? By drawing in students who pay with federal loans. How do they draw in such students? By offering the kinds of courses that the liberal Boomer administrators and the woke Millenial and Zoomer students like. Hence the current focus on wokeism. But ultimately it's about keeping the federal money flowing through the pipeline, not about any particular theology or ideology.

    Modern seminaries, for the most part, don't really teach theology so much as they teach "religion". The curriculum has become so dumbed-down to accomodate marginal students that very little rigor remains -- you can now get an MDiv at many seminaries without even taking biblical language courses. And the "scholarship" that emerges from many of these institutions is as bad as you might expect, given the situation. Seminaries have been on a declining trajectory for years now; I have a feeling that if a recession hits and federal money gets choked off, lots of them will close their doors forever. (And good riddance to them.)

    A few seminaries will survive. Those with large endowments or illustrious reputations will stagger on for a bit longer. But most of them are pointless remnants of a system that no longer serves any real purpose and where the costs far exceed any actual benefit. It's long past time for them to die out and let something better take their place.
     
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  2. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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  3. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yes. (Disclosure: I'm a GC alum.) I'm not surprised -- most of their student body is remote these days anyway, and they lost a huge chunk of their resident international students to COVID travel restrictions. Financially, it made no sense to hang on to the buildings, and it probably helps the seminary financially to just sell them off. The "virtual" campus HQ is in Charlotte, NC and they still have a pretty significant in-person presence there, and a satellite campus in Jacksonville, FL. I expect at some point they'll transition to a fully "virtual" model -- they're about 70% of the way there already.

    I've seen the same trend with other evangelical seminaries like Beeson, Wheaton, Grand Rapids, and the rest. Enrollment is falling precipitously (which means fewer guaranteed federal loan bux), and international students (who pay full freight) have dried up in the wake of COVID. Seminaries are straining to go to a digital model, but they're finding that people aren't willing to pay the same money for what amounts to several hours of Zoom meetings and YouTube videos. Tuition is either going to have to come down a lot, or the online operations are going to have to up their value-add in some way.

    The problem with the new low-cost model, of course, is that seminaries' biggest expense is staff. Like all colleges these days, they have bloated adminstrations that would have to be radically reduced, which (since there's a paycheck involved) will cause howls of protest.

    Honestly I think the whole seminary racket in the US is done for. It's just not worth the money, especially these days. Churches that require an MDiv as a prerequisite for ordination are going to be re-thinking things in the coming years.
     
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  4. Traveler

    Traveler Member

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    This is sad. Do you have any ideas about what some alternatives to an MDiv might be?

    Do you think there's any chance of an eventual hunger for traditionalism that pushes the pendulum the other way?
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2022
  5. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Most of the Continuum has moved away from residential seminary. I believe the only one still operating is St. Joseph of Arimathea, and even they have moved the summer semester to an online format. The clergy must decide whether they care about having accredited degrees. Accreditation is a limiting factor for many smaller seminaries. It's wildly expensive and not really necessary to providing quality education nor preparing candidates for ministry within a particular church. Some of the requirements for accreditation are also fairly antiquated and not relevant to the present educational environment.

    Of course, no one is going to pay $560/hr. for an unaccredited degree. Last I knew, none of the seminaries operated by Continuers are charging more than $170/hr. Many of the bishops are also no longer requiring the M. Div. for ordination. M.T.S. or S.T.L. or Th. M. are usually adequate, and many are open to ordaining candidates who have the B.T.S. In fact, I would dare to say that any bishop still requiring an M. Div. from a residential seminary is probably lacking in vision and possibly grossly incompetent.
     
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  6. Listen2Cranmer

    Listen2Cranmer New Member

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    Firstly I will put it out that I am new to both Christianity and Anglicanism.

    Instead of seminaries why not as 1 Peter 2:4-5 say, we are all priests and treat everybody that way. In martial arts they have a belt system the Anglican church could have its' own series of grades. Laity 1,2 & 3, Deacon 1, 2 & 3 etc. Each grade requires a mastery of a new skill-set / knowledge. Laity 1 might be an understanding of the service and its' liturgy.

    When I first went to an Anglo-catholic service I liked it but I didn't understand it. I did the baptism and confirmation classes, then Alpha but was left with "now what?". I started a group where we pick a topic, discuss it online then meet up to discuss it three weeks later in person.

    Instead of "now what?" what if there was this grade system where there was a natural progression from laity to bishop to replace seminaries or theological colleges. It would operate in the style of an Oxford or Cambridge tutorial with someone a grade or two above tutoring a weekly tutorial to a small group.

    I see these benefits: pathway to participation for everyone that wants to participate and a barrier to the long march through the institutions.

    Just a thought.
     
  7. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Abandoning Theological Colleges has the risk of a less educated clergy in a more educated congregation and world. I believe we need educated clergy.

    We also need clergy formation, the enculturation into the Anglican ethos, the practice of prayer and the office, Anglican language and humor (curate's egg), and learning how pastoral ministry works.

    It has got more expensive, and we have less money to pay for it.

    HOWEVER

    If we want a first class church, then we need a first class priesthood.