It was when I started travelling around the church that I got to visit the seminaries that I started to discover how they functioned and what they perceived their role to be. Also, for a decade I happened to be officed in a seminaries so could see what happened there first hand. Gradually it dawned on me that my understanding of the nature of theological education was not what was going on in most of these places. There was little laying a firm foundation in Scripture, classic theology, philosophy, church history, and so forth, thereby equipping the next generation of ordained leaders for pastoral and missional ministry, but was more about propagandising the student body into seeing life, ministry, and God in a particular culturally-conditioned kind of way.
In these seminary settings some students rebel, a few are capable of cutting their theological and intellectual teeth in a constructive manner, but significant numbers swallowed the bait hook, line, and sinker, and in the process often seemed to lose their first rich passionate love of the Lord Jesus Christ. A significant element of this prevailing seminary process is that it is predicated upon a hermeneutic of suspicion when handling the Scriptures, coupled with a sense of disdain for the wisdom of those who have journeyed the Christian way before us, and the notion that we now know better. When coupled with the desperate shortcomings of the Commission on Ministry system in most dioceses it is not difficult to see why leaders cannot lead, and the faith is not growing and blossoming as it ought.
I cannot agree with him about the following, as I explain elsewhere:
I have also become much more sacramental. I was formed to believe in the power of the Word, so wouldn’t have minded if we had had Communion just once a month. I am now grateful that the norm is to gather around both Word and Table each Sunday, the one preparing for the other, and the other reinforcing the one. Some years ago I went to be with a former Southern Baptist on his first Sunday in his Episcopal parish. I was looking forward to sitting at his feet as he opened Scripture – and to this day I remember the text: Romans chapter 7! However, it was not his preaching that left the most indelible impression that morning, but the humble reverence with which he presided at the Eucharist. The pre-America me would never have been able to admit such a thing.
May God bless him as he departs Tennessee and returns to the land of the Molly Dancers. In some ways, he has found out what Cecil Sharp did: to recover the British heritage, you must come to these parts first.