I may post on the seminary Dean's blog on Monday if the link to his paper is up by then. Dr. Aleshire delivered a brilliant paper on "The Future Has Arrived: Changing Theological Education in a Changed World" today at the Association of Theological Schools Biennial Meeting. He is its Executive Director. I have been thoroughly impressed by all the staff of the association.
I can also sense that the association members, some eagerly and some with regret, recognize that the Association must make certain changes to its membership standards. I tweeted several of Aleshire's more striking comments during the presentation. One had to do with the future coming so fast that it has overtaken the present, to where the sun is both rising and setting at the same time. Perhaps I will expand on Monday.
But some of the changes he suggested were of the spirit that ATS has provided the gold standard for a certain kind of theological education that worked very well in the twentieth century. Now he suggests at least four areas where ATS should expand in providing the gold standard:
1. education at undergraduate level
2. education for part-time pastors
3. education for people already in ministry
4. education for lay leaders
I've translated his words into my own. Smaller denominations have been engaging these sorts of venues for years but have been scorned by the mainline power holders. For what it's worth, in my opinion the changing reality here is as much the combined diminishment of traditional power as it is the empowerment of these alternative routes. For example, it is because there are no longer enough traditional priests and ministers that Catholics and Methodists alike have had to acknowledge these others who have always been there.
The 20,000 alternative denominations have gone and continue to go gangbusters. What has changed is that ATS is now forced to consider modes of operation that they have been using for 150 years and more.
P.S. I was delighted to be present as Northwest Nazarene's seminary was granted Associate Membership. What is delightful is that their entire MDIV degree is online!