American seminaries are becoming more religiously pluralistic yet at the same time more tied in with their respective denominations, reports the Christian Century (Feb. 22).
In an interview, Daniel Aleshire of the Association of Theological Schools says that one of the biggest challenges of today’s seminary is the new pluralism they face. “It is easier to educate students for ministry when they all come from and will stay in the same denominations. It is more complex to educate mainline Protestants, black Pentecostals and Unitarians in the same [Masters] of Divinity Program.” Because seminaries are among the last institutions that many mainline denominations control (having closed or deinstutionalized publishing houses, social ministries and colleges), they are being called upon by denominations to participate in committees, provide adult education and offer services that once were shared by other groups.
“As a result, seminaries have more to do on behalf of the denominations, even though they are not as well funded by the denominations,” Aleshire says. He forecasts that the long-range trend of seminaries educating second-career, older students will likely have an effect on ministry in larger churches. The complex functioning of large congregations require pastors with at least a decade or so of experience by mid-career. By the time older graduates can gain that kind of experience, they will be close to retirement age.