The Chronicle of Higher Education: For Schools of Theology, It's Time to Bend Tradition
Much talk and energy have been devoted lately to discerning the "future of the seminary" in North America. That future is uncertain, with many theological institutions facing financial difficulties and steadily declining enrollments. The larger challenge, however, may be cultural. If seminaries hope to survive, they will have to adapt to a changing world.
Two years ago, David Sebastian, dean of the School of Theology at Anderson University, reported five trends shaping the future of theological education in North America. They are: a widening chasm between Christian churches and seminaries; increasing numbers of seminary students who have not grown up in the church; a growing awareness that seminary education is inaccessible for many potential seminary students; an increased questioning of whether seminary is really worth the financial costs; and forthcoming population shifts that will affect the ability of seminaries to prepare culturally competent leaders for the 21st century.
Those trends, in addition to declining membership in some American churches, suggest that there is a need for theological schools to rethink their role in theological training in order to remain financially self-sustaining and to train leaders for an increasingly global church. Their problem is not that they need to retain their place in the academy, but rather that they need to justify their existence to Christian churches, which are becoming more ethnically diverse. ...