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Fuller Theological Seminary, the largest seminary in the world by enrollment, is selling its property and moving out of the historic Pasadena location it has held since 1947. Prior to this, there had been financial problems that led to downsizing and layoffs, as well as years of declining enrollment. Full-time enrollment has dropped by 40% in the last 15 years. When a seminary with an international student body and worldwide recruiting potential are on the wane, a larger trend is underway.
Smaller seminaries struggle all the more. Claremont School of Theology is merging with Willamette University in Oregon. The Presbyterian San Francisco Theological Seminary is likely being housed in the University of Redlands. The Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond is closing in 2019. Episcopal Divinity School stopped granting degrees in 2017, the same year Andover Newton Theological School Merged with Yale Divinity. Between 2009 and 2014, the 273 schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools declined in enrollment by 5%, while the US population rose 3% in that same period. I wrote a few years ago about the decline of the Master’s of Divinity degree (M.Div.). Fuller’s foibles are only the most visible markers of the overall state of theological education in America.
Shadow - Trends - Church - Church - Attendance
This is a shadow of larger trends in the American Church. Church attendance is declining, while the average age of the clergy is rising. There’s a natural progression from fewer parishioners to fewer pastors.
Nonetheless, this also leads to some important questions about the effectiveness of seminary education. A seminary might easily justify its existence by commissioning studies to demonstrate that its graduates lead growing churches.
Seminary - Graduates - Churches - Ministry - Candidates
If a seminary could show that its graduates are, by and large, effective, churches would eagerly direct their potential ministry candidates towards the school that is most likely to prepare leaders for thriving...
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Hell sometimes looks an awful lot like an office cubicle.