Theology Schools Aim High for Clergy: Fund Drive Targets `Best and Brightest'

By Witham, Larry | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 16, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Theology Schools Aim High for Clergy: Fund Drive Targets `Best and Brightest'


Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The nation's theological schools are seeking "the best and brightest" for the next generation of ministers, a push backed by millions in funding and initiatives like that at Wesley Theological Seminary in the District.

The United Methodist graduate school, which announced yesterday that it is halfway on a $20 million fund drive, said it is seeking better qualified rather than simply more clergy candidates joining its student body.

"In the 21st century we need to have the pastoral leadership of the highest quality," said G. Douglass Lewis, president of Wesley seminary. "It's going to take a change of culture in our churches and [regional] conferences."

Seminary staff and board members spoke of a "culture of call" in which college-age or second-career men and women with high academic scores, leadership skills and enthusiasm may be recruited.

The Wesley effort, which seeks to garner the next $10 million over three years, comes after a period in which theology school leaders have recognized a decline in the caliber of seminary candidates.

John M. Derrick Jr., CEO of the Potomac Electric Power Company and a lifelong United Methodist layman, said Wesley's 38 governors agree it is time to aim higher in clergy recruitment.

"I became concerned that there were too many pastors drifting," Mr. Derrick said. He said the process of calling talented youth should "have more effective screens. Not hard screens, but soft screens."

The governors put their money behind their new standard: 30 percent of the $20 million drive in the "Generation to Generation" campaign has come from the board.

This year a similar standard-raising effort has been launched among the 200 members of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

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