A new podcast series produced by Christian Theological Seminary is spotlighted in this article from Inside Higher Ed. The hosts of “Imagining the Future of Theological Education” invite leaders in theological education to discuss topics including student diversity, interfaith education, and changing religious affiliations of Americans. They address the changing job market for ministerial positions, the increase in Black and Latinx enrollment, and the need for institutions to rethink how and what they teach in response to these developments.
The podcasts are the outgrowth of a 2017 Henry Luce Foundation grant—led by hosts David M. Mellott, president of Christian Theological Seminary, and Deborah Mullen, professor emerita at Columbia Theological Seminary—which funded the convening of a three-year study group focused on future directions of theological education.
To hear David M. Mellott tell it, the field of theological education is in a period of "tremendous change."
The student population is becoming more diverse, with more Black and Latinx students enrolling. Fewer students are enrolling in master of divinity degree programs in favor of shorter (and less expensive) master of arts degrees. The job market for graduates is changing, with more ministerial positions being part-time. Support from many denominations for students to complete the M.Div. is declining.
“Everybody is challenged when you think about the fact we’re going to ask somebody to do a degree that could take them anywhere from three to six years to complete, come out with some student debt, maybe a lot of student debt, and then go into a ministerial assignment that is part-time,” said Mellott, president of Christian Theological Seminary in Indiana.
What's more, the seminaries have been facing their own challenges, many of them financial. At least 32 theological schools have merged and 11 have closed since the Great Recession of 2008-09, according to the Association of Theological Schools, a membership organization and accreditor.
A new podcast series produced by Christian Theological Seminary is exploring the impact of these demographic and economic trends on theological institutions.