Seminaries in Jeopardy

Word has been coming to me through both public and private channels that things are in a very bad way at General Theological Seminary. As most readers know, I have a special place in my heart for General as M did her Anglican Year there; ever since then, I’ve hoped to some day return there to teach in some capacity. How long the seminary will be in operation, though, seems to be a live issue.

Between events at Seabury-Western, the unfolding events at General, and similar situations at other places, we can no longer pretend that the twentieth-century models for clergy education will remain stable and static through the twenty-first. Free-standing denominational seminaries are becoming endangered species.

The very real—and realistic—discussion that needs to happen throughout our church needs to center around clergy formation. This is related to, but is a different beast from, clergy education. There are certain academic competencies that clergy must have beyond a typical four year degree. However, I don’t believe that the core competencies that clergy require can be met solely through academic instruction. Formation rooted in our distinctive spiritual practices are essential for the production of clergy who are both effective and Episcopal.

14 thoughts on “Seminaries in Jeopardy

  1. Derek Olsen

    I’d absolutely insist on creedal orthodoxy. 39 Articles, well, as an Anglo-Catholic sort they’re not at the top of my list. I’d have to say formation in the spiritualities and practicalities of the Mass, Office, classic devotions and Confession in concert with study of the Scriptures and the Fathers are more important that Reformation-era arguments. You may disagree, of course…

  2. James

    I agree with everything above, sadly I burned my last copy of the 39 articles. In my opinion, they are too much of a Protestant innovation and do not belong to Anglo-Catholicism.

    When I finish with my B.A. it has been decided that I will attend Nashotah House. I plan on seeking admission to the Society of Catholic Priests rather than the Society of the Holy Cross like most graduates.

    I envision a parish that has a very active prayer life with a daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Daily Office, private Confessions, Healing Unction, Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and a monthly parish Requiem Mass. A parish with an outreach mission that feeds the poor, clothes the needy, provides for the sick and injured, and helps the poor bury their dead.

  3. Derek Olsen

    That sounds like my kind of parish, James! I’m quite curious to see what will happen to Nashotah House over the next few years. I can’t see them wanting to stay with TEC though I don’t know if they will be able to depart. Furthermore, I don’t know how many TEC diocesans will allow postulants to go there. They may be caught in an unenviable betwixt and between position.

  4. adhunt

    I’ve been posting a lot on this very topic. I think that Ordered Communites (I’ll refrain for your sake Derek from calling them “New Monastic Communities”) with well prepared priest teachers could provide at least one way to supplement the loss in traditional educational opportunities.

  5. Derek Olsen

    I’ll still maintain that a nuanced version of Chapter Communities is the way to go built around cathedral or decently-sized pro-cathedral-like structures.

  6. adhunt

    Well I don’t know the historical variations of ordered lives and communities in the Tradition as you do. My main point being that the life of the group should be an integrated whole flowing from the performance of the Office to a class on Hermeneutics to feeding dinner to the homeless; and as we have an overwhelming majority of our clergy married, somehow the life of that community should be flexible enough to make room for that.

    I’d like to see some in rural areas living relatively self-sustaining lives so as not to overburden an already sinking diocene budget. (psssttt…ssshhhh…also I don’t much trust my cathedral – though our new bishop seems to be a great chap so that might change)

  7. James

    Nashotah House has a few students from the catholic wing of the new Anglican Church in North America. With the current Dean, Nashotah will more than likely remain a seminray for the Episcopal Church, but will still train other anglicans I’m sure. As far as them going Western Orthodox through the OCA I doubt it. What’s going on now is more of an ecumenical dialogue and sharing of information. Nashotah could not form a western orthodox priest as that may only be done at an Orthodox seminary. Nashotah can help teach some of the aspects of western liturgies through its agreement with St. Vladimir’s.

  8. adhunt


    While current policy may dictate that an Orthodox priest must attend an Orthodox seminary don’t forget that St. Tikhon, Metropolitan of Moscow, head of the Russian church was educated at Nashotah House!

  9. The young fogey

    adhunt :
    While current policy may dictate that an Orthodox priest must attend an Orthodox seminary don’t forget that St. Tikhon, Metropolitan of Moscow, head of the Russian church was educated at Nashotah House!

    I thought he was trained in Russia as he was already a bishop when in America.

  10. adhunt

    Actually I think you may be right. I was always under the impression that his degree was not an ‘honorary’ degree but that seems to be the case. My bad.

  11. renpaul

    To be honest, I have a concern that part of the problem is that, from where I sit, much of the serious theologizing and reappropriation of what we can call catholic spirituality seems to be occurring outside the Episcopal Church’s circles. It’s really a problem when, as someone who is interested in philosophical theology, I can rely on some Reformed and Roman Catholic theologians (in the US) to offer a fresh look at our received understandings.

    I think Trevor Beeson, a former dean of an Anglican cathedral in England, hit the nail on the head when he suggested that part of the task of the chapter of canons (in his country) ought to be a “think tank” for the church and the bishop. Noting that while much academic theology in his country has verged on the obtuse (Radical Orthodoxy comes to mind), he says that there are parish clergy with solid academic training and pastoral experience who may be able to help the Bishop and the church reflect for the long term.

    In essence, bringing Beeson’s suggestion and yours together may be what might be needed to form future clergy. How to get that core of clergy that Beeson’s suggestion needs may require realigning what place the seminaries play in the Church’s scheme of things. The Roman model, with some of the most prominent theologates offering postgraduate study along basic theological formation for ministers, is good to examine, but I know the weaknesses of the “pontifical university” system may not commend itself to those who don’t like those things.

  12. Christopher

    Broadly speaking, I don’t see education and formation as separable. I think of T J Gorringe’s The Education of Desire.

    I think that part of what this means is that we need formation educators who are themselves educated broadly and not narrowly in one area. For example, Derek, you can discuss well not only NT but Medieval liturgies and Patristics and Church history/theology. Or I can discuss present and early and Reformation liturgies, Church history/theology, and Patristics. But then, if we’re honest, the collapse of seminaries is actually a symptom of a wider education-system crisis.

    Being more Reformed Patristic than Anglo-Catholic, I’m okay with the Articles coupled with a broad set of interpretations.

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