Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Place, Power, and People in Twenty-First Century Theological Education

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Place, Power, and People in Twenty-First Century Theological Education

Article excerpt

Since the turn of this century, there has been a surge of scholarly energies given over to rethinking theological education in a wide range of directions. Indeed, expansions on the singular model of the residential seminary have been explored with sustained energy for a large part of the last thirty years to the degree that there is now a good body of experience to reflect upon how well satellite campuses, new degree or certificate programs, and distance learning coupled with intensive residential sessions have thrived.1 A wide range of cases have been made for ways that theological education might refocus its pedagogical attention: online instruction;2 engagement of the local church as an authentic partner in theological education;3 project-based learning;4 outcome-based pedagogies;5 and moves to incorporate more contextually applied skills into curricula such as organizational leadership, conflict resolution, and personal growth.6 Through these developments, leaders of institutions of theological education have continued to work in creative ways to balance the needs of the academy with the needs of communities of faith, and those of the public square.7

Yet, for all of this innovation it can be argued that many current institutional practices in the global north have their feet planted on two sides of history at once. On the one hand, the residential seminary and its Master of Divinity program (or its equivalents) still hold sway as the "gold standards." On the other hand, with each move made to expand the frame of reference for theological education, what has commonly been understood to constitute such an education is reinscribed. The extent to which theological education can successfully split the difference remains an open question. In this essay, I seek to probe this open question by exploring a possible realignment of theological education around three pivotal concepts: place, power, and people.

Place

Despite the considerable longevity of many institutions of theological education, it has been argued that such entities remain somewhat hidden from the landscape of public life.8 The traditional mode of Anglican formation for ordained ministry, for instance, has been the cloistered residential setting. Such settings have not been particularly effective in operating porous boundaries between the world and the institution inside the seminary walls, somewhat insulating students from the life of the world beyond. It is hardly surprising that leaders of such institutions voice concern that theological education needs to be more culturally literate in a globalized society.9 It is also unsurprising that when such a model of formation for ordained ministry is exported abroad, bodies like the Anglican Primates Working Party on Theological Education name a concern over "inadequate engagement with contemporary thinking, culture, and society" in current theological education across the Anglican Communion.10

Place matters. The kind of space for engagement with the world that future leaders of churches are formed within, matters. David Pfrimmer has made the case that theological schools need to engage a diversity of "publics" in civic life.11 Yet how might places for theological education that have developed largely in intentional isolation become spaces for commonality with wider society? And how might a culture of formation for ministry be nurtured that recognizes and values that commonality? Various answers to this challenge of opening up the space for theological education to the world beyond have been made. With regards to curriculum, the Scandinavian Academy of Leadership and Theology (SALT) project has sought to develop a maximal level of interaction between academy and congregation via an integrated curriculum, based on problem solving-styled learning and assessments wherein students are examined in their application of knowledge to one concrete congregationally-situated scenario.12 Along a similar vein, Robin Steinke has argued for a recasting of theological education to be seen as an apprenticeship that intentionally integrates study and life in the world. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.