I read with interest, as always, the Summer issue of In Trust. I’ve spent the past 40 years in several roles in theological education, and the magazine seems to visit all aspects in a fine balance.
Especially I appreciated the pieces by Rod Wilson and Dan Aleshire, helping us to think more clearly about the effects of the pandemic on the future of our craft. The concept of interim time (Wilson) and the call for more focus on formation (Aleshire) are most helpful. Theological education will be richer and better if their thoughts are heeded and implemented throughout ATS. They have helped us step back and ponder the future.
May I suggest, however, that we also need to place these times and these matters in an even wider perspective: the longer trajectory of what God is doing in the world. What God may be doing through the pandemic is a segment in the story about God’s purpose to make things right again; through human agency as God most frequently does. If theological education is to serve this purpose, we need to be thinking that God is at work in what we do, how we adjust to changing times, and how we emerge from the pandemic. As God told Abram that He would bless Abram so Abram would be a blessing to others (Genesis 12), God might also say to ATS members: “I will bless you (as you puzzle through this) and so that you (by my grace) will be a blessing.”
Larry Sibley, Lecturer
Reformed Episcopal Seminary
I enjoyed your article “What makes seminaries grow?” in the Summer issue that showed seminaries that have enjoyed consistent student population growth over the past five years. I’m curious as to what part scholarships play in their growth. It does say that one school offers 50% scholarships. Does that money come from endowment dollars? Two seminaries have reduced tuition costs. Are those lessened tuition dollars offset by endowment distribution, lessened faculty expense, or increased fundraising? I suspect it’s a combination, but it would be helpful to know of those schools’ best practices regarding scholarships and their source.
Ben Lewis, Trustee
Iliff School of Theology
Editor’s note: Affordability was one of the reasons the schools noted for growth, and the author of the piece, David Sumner, Ph.D., says all the schools have tuition below the average ATS school. How they do that is different and dependent on context. For example, two schools on the list are helped by subsidies from their denominations for students from those denominations. Another school restructured its operations to be able to cut tuition prices. We’ll explore the question in more detail in the months to come.
A story in the Summer edition titled “What makes seminaries grow?” incorrectly stated that Asbury Theological Seminary is “officially United Methodist.” It is not. Asbury has been independent since its founding in 1923.
In Trust regrets the error.