'Pi' asks, 'What is truth?': 11-23-12
Lifting children's dreams: 11-26-12

A seminary changes course: 11-24/25-12

As the world of religion changes, so does the part of that world that educates people to be members of the clergy.

SaintPaulLogoNToday, for instance, a lot of people are taking online courses -- something the founders of seminaries never imagined possible. And most, if not all, of the growth in the seminary student population in the last is accounted for by racial minorities and women.

Such changes have affected the several seminaries (United Methodist, Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Nazarene, Unity and Community of Christ) found in the Kansas City area. The most recent -- and arguably one of the most interesting -- is a newly approved collaboration between St. Paul School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary in Kansas City, and the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in surburban Leawood, Kan.

Under this new arrangement, SPST will move to COR next year. For the Nov. 2 Kansas City Star story describing this upcoming change, click here.

The move has raised many questions, especially about what will happen to the existing SPTS campus, located on Truman Road on the east side of Kansas City, part of the urban core. Beyond that, it has raised questions about the evolving relationship between seminaries and the congregations and denominations they serve.

I asked Myron McCoy, the SPST president, three questions about all of this. Here they are, with his responses:

* St. Paul, though United Methodist, has been pretty ecumenical in the students
it draws in and even the faculty it hires. Do you think that aspect of SPST will
change with this new move?

Saint Paul will continue to be very much ecumenical in terms of staff,
faculty, students, and focus. Ecumenicity is in the DNA of United
Methodists.
 * I know you've expressed a desire not to abandon the core of Kansas City, but
it frankly looks as if that's what's happening. Are there any in-the-works solid
plans for re-use of the current campus in a way that won't create a hole in the
urban landscape?
We presently have a Truman Road Campus Committee and we are
seeking to diligently facilitate a future for this site. We feel a need
to leave as well as we go, as the grounds are most sacred to us.
* In some ways this looks like a new future of seminaries connected to and
learning from the churches rather than the reverse. Is that a proper reading?
And what do you think it means for both seminaries and churches?

      I think it is fair to say that many of us see a need to walk with the church as a vital collaborator while recognizing the giftedness of each in educating persons for leadership in the church.

ResurrectionI also asked the Rev. Adam Hamilton, founding (and senior) pastor of COR and, until recently, SPST board chairman, to tell me about how all of this may be a new model for the relationship between seminaries and churches.

Adam's response:

. . .the model the board was looking at was the medical
school-teaching hospital model where students are trained
in rigorous academic work, and then head to the hospital room
to both watch practitioners at work and to engage in the
practice of medicine themselves. The greatest criticism of theological schools across the country,
from the lay people served by their graduates, is that they wish
their pastors had better practical training for ministry. We're
hoping that this model strengthens the work of the seminary.

(By the way, Adam has posted several lengthy pieces on the "Save Saint Paul School of Theology" Facebook page. If this link doesn't work to get there, though it should, just search on the "Save Saint..." name on FB.)

Well, there is much more to think about not only with regard to the relationship between seminaries and denominations but also what will happen to the current SPST grounds that Myron McCoy calls "most sacred to us" and the future look of the seminary's student body and faculty.

So stay tuned.

* * *

AT HIS BECK AND CALL

With broadcaster Glenn Beck, it's not the fiscal cliff that worries me but, rather, another sort of cliff, over which I think Beck finally may have leaped. Now he's blaming God for developments that have led to Hurricane Sandy, Mitt Romney's defeat and other things, and he plans to march in protest against God in Oklahoma City. Is OK City God's corporate HQ these days? I've lost track.

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