Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Why Go To Seminary For A Denomination That Won't Exist In Ten Years?

The Gospel Coalition had an interesting look at the largest seminary programs in America, Why We Should Be Grateful for Flourishing Evangelical Seminaries. No surprise to me, the top ten list is mostly conservative and contains all six of the Southern Baptist Convention seminaries, with Southern Seminary headed by Al Mohler in the second overall spot, behind only venerable Fuller Theological Seminary. Also little surprise that the bottom of the list is a who's who of liberal and dying denominations:

Among the smallest accredited Protestant seminaries in the nation are three Episcopal seminaries: Bexley Hall Seabury-Western Theological Seminary Federation with 17 full-time students enrolled, General Theological Seminary with 34 full-time students, and Episcopal Divinity School with 35 full-time students. IRD’s Jeffrey Walton reported Episcopal Divinity School will no longer grant degrees after the coming academic school year. “A menu of recycled 1960s-era liberation theology themes garnished with radical sexuality and gender studies proved unappealing to prospective seminarians,” Walton noted. 

Meanwhile, it’s two Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-associated seminaries that reveal another interesting contrast among evangelical institutions. Unlike the chart-topping conservative SBC-affiliated seminaries, the more liberal CBF-affiliated Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond counted 42 full-time students and Baptist Seminary of Kentucky had only 31 full-time students in 2015-16.

It is not a stretch to say that the Episcopal Church here in America is on life-support, stumbling forward by sheer historical inertia and I am quite serious that ten years from now I doubt that the Episcopal Church will even exist as a meaningful organization. I would not be surprised to see them joined in the ash heap of religious history by the United Methodists (a huge group so it might take longer), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Mennonite Church - USA, not to mention many other smaller groups. Schism is already devastating the ranks of the above denominations and nothing happening currently would lead me to believe that will change. Quite the contrary, many leaders of the groups above are doubling down on embracing heterodoxy in a breakneck race to the doctrinal bottom. It turns out that when it comes to something like the nature of man, the existence of God and what eternity holds, people are more interested in being among other people who seem serious about the topics, rather than the social justice/progressive agenda dressed up in religious finery. The dying seminaries and denominations listened to the voices that said their survival was dependent on going wherever the broader worldly culture takes them and even when that has been proven disastrous,  the battle cry is still "If we only will compromise on one more doctrine, then the world will love us, our churches will fill back up and our seminaries will swell with new students!". With each new compromise these denominations lose more and more members. Will the last Episcopalian left please turn out lights?

I am glad to see the larger conservative schools, especially Southern, relatively thriving amidst a culture growing ever more hostile to the Gospel. Whatever my feelings about a religious vocational school degree being a pre-requisite for many leadership positions in the church, you can't discount the academic work being done at these schools. Conservative seminaries like Southern, Westminster Calfornia. Reformed Theological Seminary, etc. are doing a lot of the heavy lifting in theological questions and I appreciate their scholarship and dedication.

Remember kids, when someone tells you the only way to survive is to deny everything that makes you who you are, they are probably speaking nonsense.


dle said...

Conservative Episcopal leaders still exist. I know that listening to some of its younger leaders may have saved my life. Jacob Smith at Calvary St. George in NYC may be the best preacher of his generation. I don't know where all the Episcopal churches and leaders are coming from, but thank God for some of the crop that are out there now for preaching the actual Gospel.

Arthur Sido said...

Dan I think that most of the conservative Episcopalians left to join the Anglican Church In North American (anglicanchurch.net). I doubt there are many conservatives left anywhere in the ECUSA.