Just a teaser from Dylan’s Grace Notes on theological education.  (If you want to see more after reading below, you can find it here.)  Here goes:

a radical solution re: theological education

I hear a lot of complaining about seminary education. But it’s worth noting that the complaints come mostly from a particular place. I also hear a lot of questions — from the same place — about what creative solution will solve the financial and other problems the church faces around theological education. I’ve got a radical solution, but I think it’s worth reflecting more generally for a bit first.

I get an average of 800 – 1000 emails per day Monday – Saturday (so much is from clergy that Sunday the volume goes down considerably). I’ve heard from hundreds, if not thousands of clergy in countries in the Two-Thirds World who were not able to go to a residential seminary and who would give anything to be able to go, even if it required them to be away from their families. Their families would support their going, even though the absence of the person who might be the strongest male in house makes them more vulnerable to crime and makes them work much harder in their daily lives.

The only nations in which I hear a significant number of complaints about seminary education as unnecessary and not worth funding are from the richest nations in the world, and most especially the U.S. The only nation in which I have heard anyone suggest that experience in commerce teaches anything that seminaries ought to teach is the U.S.

In much of the world (I would suspect most of it), Christians see the opportunity to engage in intensive theological education as a great honor and a wonderful opportunity. These Christians see pouring over the scriptures and reflecting on their meaning in community all day and into the night as an exciting and immeasurably rewarding experience, and their communities are willing to do serious belt-tightening so they can have a pastor who’s done that every day and not just Sunday (the whole community engaging in all-day worship and bible study on Sunday isn’t unusual in a lot of places).

In the U.S., from the playground to presidential campaigns, there’s a lot of suspicion and sometimes persecution of achievement in education. In the Episcopal Church, I hear that expressed often as suspicion of the need for any full-time theological education, the need for serious funding for it, or both. And those who still want some forms of community formation for clergy-to-be involving minds and words, if not the physical presence of, people beyond local are hoping that someone (usually someone else) will come up with a distance learning or other program that will get it all done cheaply, without real sacrifice.

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