One of the key issues of our times is certainly the cost of seminary studies. The length of programs contributes to this issue. Eventually, today’s seminary graduates are either in debt and enter into professions that do not help pay off that debt any time soon. Or students are forced to drop out of school before completion of the program. Those who get through with no financial burdens are far and few. On the other side, many students no longer intend to go into church ministry. For many, “ministry” can mean different things, and a seminary can no longer serve only those who stand in the pulpit. So what is the answer to this dilemma? One possibility is certainly to shorten and revise the degree program. But that step has inevitable consequences on how the whole program is laid out. What exactly should be cut in order to arrive at a shorter program? What courses are necessary and what is indispensable to a seminary degree?
The School of Divinity engaged in a long-term study on “The 21st Century Minister” and arrived at interesting observations of what needs to change to adapt to the times and to serve our students better. Yet, task force committees, faculty meetings, group discussions, and an intensive plan to revise the curriculum by the Fall 2012 still leave some of the hard questions unresolved. The difficulties concern of course the tough questions that get at the core of what a seminary represents. Well, what some think it should represent, what others think it once represented, and what still others believe it can no longer represent. Take for example, the question of biblical languages. What do you think? Should Biblical Hebrew and New Testament Greek be required courses for a Master of Divinity degree? What about preaching classes? Do we really need spiritual formation courses? Can we dispense with doctrine and systematic theology courses? Do we need to know all of the history of Christianity? What about … well, you tell us. (The previous questions are really only theoretical; I am not indicating that any of them are actually discussed). What kind of courses are not needed at the new seminary? What do you find useless in your current profession, in your calling, in your field of ministry? And what kind of courses are sadly missing? How about a class on gender issues, or sexuality, or …? If you could choose, what courses should be offered at the School of Divinity in the future? This is a time where the School of Divinity redefines itself as a seminary! It’s our chance to make a difference! Let’s hear from you!