Because times change, seminaries do, too. They have to do that or they risk falling into irrelevance or worse.
For instance, I cannot imagine that 100 years ago (or even 50) any Christian seminary anywhere in America would have offered a doctor of ministry degree in "Children and Poverty in a Globalized Economy" or in "Global Health and Wholeness." But St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City now offers both of them.
One result of this cross-cultural doctoral education program is that pastoral students from Africa and from the United States are working and learning together in various ways.
One of the American students in the "Children and Poverty" program is the Rev. Becky Baile Crouse, senior staff chaplain at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
She believes in the American-African partnership so deeply that when she learned the seminary was faced with having to trim it back or eliminate it because of budgetary problems, she decided to do what she could to raise the approximately $150,000 required to keep current students on track through 2013 so they can finish their classes and do their research and thesis writing.
So far she and others have managed to bring in about $77,000, meaning another $73,000 still is needed. She has set up this website to inform the community and the world about the program and the financial need and to allow people to make donations. Perhaps you can help.
St. Paul's cross-cultural doctoral program has meant the world to Becky:
"I can't say enough about how it's impacted me personally because in Kansas City now as you know we have a big Somalian community and I see a lot of those families at Children's Mercy. This growing global context causes us all to be more aware of what's happening in Africa because it does affect us."
Previously Becky has spent time working both in Warsaw, Poland, teaching English as a church volunteer, and in the Dominican Republic as mission coordinators for her Church of the Brethren denomination. So working in a global context is not new to her.
At Children's Mercy, she deals a lot with Latino patients because she's fluent in Spanish.
As for the financial need to continue this ecumenical cross-cultural doctoral program at St. Paul's, Becky issues this direct plea on the Web site to which I linked you above:
"The students still have several more classes to complete the program and the seminary does not have funds to cover the costs of their study. I need your help. I am asking you to consider a donation that will enable the African students to return to Saint Paul for the remaining classes and complete their Doctor of Ministry degrees."
That page tells you how you can make a donation.
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MORE ABUSE TROUBLES FOR TRAVELING POPE
Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Mexico this week is going to be especially difficult in light of the publication of a new book that says the Vatican knew about sexual abuse and fraud in Mexico by the founder of the Legion of Christ religious order but did nothing about it. And Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was in charge of the office that should have investigated when it received complaints about this in 1998 -- though it took eight years before the Legion of Christ founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, was sanctioned. Although the church has done many things to repent of this global sexual abuse scandal, the breadth and depth of what went wrong continue to astonish the world.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.