Declining enrollments in Protestant and Catholic seminaries are forcing some schools into new relationships.
In some cases, it includes mergers with colleges and universities, reviving an educational model that was more common in earlier centuries, reports Forum Letter (January), an independent Lutheran newsletter. In the new model, seminaries are coming under the university’s umbrella as its “theological school.” In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), two of its seminaries have made this transformation. Southern Seminary merged with Lenoir-Rhyne University last year, and Pacific Lutheran Seminary recently agreed to a merger with California Lutheran University. Mennonite Biblical Seminary has similarly merged with Fresno Pacific University; and the evangelical Michigan Theological Seminary has become part of Moody Theological Seminary (and thereby with Moody Bible Institute).
The trend also includes Catholics, seen in the merger of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley with Santa Clara University.
Forum Letter Editor Richard Johnson writes, “All of these mergers may be pointing us back to a day when much theological education went on in conjunction with universities and colleges.” Aside from the obvious financial advantages, these new arrangements may help pull some universities which had been church-related in name only back to a closer relationship with their Christian roots. But Johnson adds that “the influence could just as well go the other way, with the seminaries becoming more academic and less concerned about training pastors for the church.”
(Forum Letter, ALPB, P.O. Box 327, Delhi, NY 13753).