A Proposal for Traditional Anglican Theological Education and Formation for the Clergy

by
The Rev. Charles Nalls, SSM
The Rev. Mr. Jason Dechenne, SSM
and The Rev. Richard Sutter, SSM

 

The Anglican Church in America

April 3, 2008

 

ABSTRACT

From the beginning of the traditional or “continuing” movement, the question of a qualified, educated and well-formed clergy has been most problematic. Untrained, poorly trained and/or poorly formed deacons, priests and elect have caused difficulties in evangelization and, indeed, simply maintaining existing parishes. A proliferation of unaccredited or specious seminaries, as well as the willingness of men to “train” in these entities, has cast the movement into further disrepute.  Even in instances in which continuing Anglican bodies have attempted organic seminaries, results have been inconsistent and the popular image is one of the “diploma mill.”

This paper proffers some suggestions for remedying the formation-education crisis in a cost and time effective manner, using existing, accredited educational sources. 

 

The Issues

From the outset of the continuing Anglican movement, there has been a recognized need for sound theological education amongst the clergy.  As noted in Article V (Principles of Actions) of the Affirmation of St. Louis, the third paragraph, entitled “Need for Sound Theological Education”: 

“Re-establishment of spiritual, orthodox and scholarly theological education under Episcopal supervision is imperative, and should be encouraged and promoted by all in authority; and learned and godly bishops, other clergy and lay people should undertake and carry on that work without delay.”[1]

Despite best intentions, the creation of a body of “learned” clergy never has been fully realized.  Indeed, the educational, vocational, and formative backgrounds of clergy in traditional Anglicanism are checkered, to say the least.

            Thus, there is an ongoing and increasing need for a well-educated, fully-formed group of men called by God to a serve as ministers of the Word and Sacrament in our churches.  While mere public perception should not drive a program of education and formation, there is a serious question as to whether continuing church clergy are professionally qualified, at least from an educational perspective. 

            From an objective standpoint and the perspective of the worshipping public, in order to be perceived as meeting a professional level, an educational institution must meet certain standards, primarily accreditation.  According to the U.S. Department of Education “the goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.”[2] 

At the outset, we should be clear on the fact that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Post-Secondary Education does not actually accredit programs in the United States.  Instead, DOE and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have delegated this authority to several institutions that function, either based upon a specific form of education (i.e. theology) or based upon location (i.e. regional).  Concerning theological education, the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) is the primary nationally recognized accrediting body for such schools.

“The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) is a membership organization of more than 250 graduate schools that conduct post-baccalaureate professional and academic degree programs to educate persons for the practice of ministry and for teaching and research in the theological disciplines. The Commission on Accrediting of ATS accredits the schools and approves the degree programs they offer.”[3]

            In addition to ATS, DOE currently recognizes several other institutional institutions to accredit post-secondary institutions in the United States.  The following list is not exhaustive, but forms the major programs that accredit Christian educational institutions and educational institutions based upon regional accreditation.[4]  For purposes of this paper, we have examined only those institutions which are either ATS or regionally accredited.

  • Association for Higher Biblical Education
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Transnational Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Colleges and Schools

Untrained and/or Unformed Clergy

Priestly formation begins in the seminary.  The priest grows into priesthood through cooperation with divine grace, which culminates in the sacramental grace of ordination.  This is the result of both academic study and life in the formative community.  Space is created for God’s grace to expand into all aspects of the seminarian’s being through study, intellectual discourse, theological reflection, personal prayer, celebration of the Eucharist, prayerful reading of Holy Scripture, and fidelity to daily praying of the Offices.

On the one hand, the fact that traditional Anglicanism continues to rely on “worker clergy” has been used to excuse many from pursuing their vocation in a residential program of study.  On the other hand, it appears that little, or at best inconsistent attention, is paid to the initial spiritual formation of clergy or, for that matter, continuing formation for those in Holy Orders.  The result has been a checkerboard pattern of devotional, spiritual and liturgical practice among traditional Anglican clergy.  Worse, lack of proper formation and proper understanding of the pastoral leadership can lead to misconduct of various sorts, even including criminal misconduct.  At best, this is a grave disservice to the laos, the people of God, and must be addressed at a national level.

Unaccredited Educational Entities

Particularly over the last thirty years, unaccredited educational entities in the United States have proliferated.  These unaccredited entities run the gamut from solid educational programs awaiting/seeking accreditation, to what are often termed “diploma mills”, entities that simply send a “degree” in exchange for meeting minimal standards (or no standards) and paying certain fees.  In particular, diploma mills have drawn often national attention and have faced prosecution in federal courts.  The following is a recent example:

A leader of a Spokane-based diploma mill pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud . . . used their string of fictional online universities to sell college degrees and transcripts to more than 8,200 customers, including foreigners and U.S. government employees around the world. . . Authorities say the bogus degrees could be used to circumvent U.S. immigration laws and to help the degree holders win promotions and pay raises in government jobs. . . Hundreds of government employees are among the people who paid thousands of dollars for phony diplomas, which used names such as St. Regis University, James Monroe University and Robertstown University, lawyers have said. . . The Liberian “Board of Education” offered accreditation for the diploma mills in exchange for the bribes, according to court filings[5].

            In the same fashion that individuals employees used these phony degrees to attain pay raises and promotions; there is a growing number of persons who are establishing questionable new “Anglican Church” jurisdictions and relying on degrees from similarly specious religious education institutions to further their enterprise.  For example, one small group formed its own church and then its own seminary recognized and “accredited” by the same church.  Their website purports that the “need is critical for clergy in the continuing and traditional Anglican Churches in the United States and around the world” and that individuals can “earn” variously: a Bachelor of Arts, a Licentiate in Theology, a Master of Arts, a Master of Divinity, a Doctorate of Ministry, or a Doctorate of Divinity. 

            It is important for legitimate Anglican bodies to recognize that “perception is reality”, and that these seminary programs operated out of someone’s home or even a parish, draw the perception that there are minimal standards for clergy and an utter lack of content and oversight.

Even with respect to legitimate seminary programs such as the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, currently an ATS associate and participating in the accreditation process, there are also drawbacks.  First, these programs are still unaccredited and therefore preclude students who are attending them from receiving federal scholarships or loan money.  Additionally, graduates from these institutions generally are unable to serve in a number of capacities such as military and hospital chaplains without “jumping through extra hoops”, and may be precluded from serving in teaching posts at other educational institutions or from pursuing further educational work.

In this paper, we also do not recommend and have not included non-accredited residential programs, even those claiming an Anglican grounding.  While the authors are aware of well-trained clergy who have attended such schools, results have been very mixed, graduation standards irregular, waived or non-existent.  As well, these institutions’ lack of accreditation of any sort immediately calls the legitimacy of their degrees into question by the worshipping public.

The Normative Standard

We submit that the normative educational requirement for members of clergy is that imposed upon clergy wishing to serve as a chaplain in an institutional capacity or to enter into doctoral work:

  • They hold a bachelors degree from an accredited institution of not less than 120 semester hours.
  • They hold a post-bachelors, graduate degree, which includes not less than 72 semester hours of graduate-level course work in religion and theological studies. At least one-half (i.e., 36) of these hours must include topics in general religion, theology, religious philosophy, ethics, and/or the foundational writings from one’s religious tradition. This degree must be from an accredited institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Residential Solutions

The most desirable form of religions education and formation is residential pursuit of the Masters of Divinity degree (M.Div.).  The M.Div. is generally the degree of choice for those seeking ordination and full-time ministry.  Programs range from 72-120+ semester hours and cover courses in scripture, theology, church history, pastoral care, spiritual formation, etc.  ATS currently requires that a student attending an ATS accredited program must spend at least one-third of their degree program in residence (i.e. 30 credits out of a 90 credits program).

Residential Alternatives

The following is a list of various Roman Catholic and Anglican residential degree programs.  None of these programs require greater than nine semester credits of undergraduate prerequisites, though all require an undergraduate degree (with minor exceptions).  While there are other highly desirable residential seminaries, for example the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., Oblate School of Theology, in San Antonio, TX (Fr. Jerry Sherbourne’s alma mater),  Franciscan School of Theology, Berkley, CA., or Weston Jesuit School of Theology, in Boston, MA or Catholic University of America, also in Washington, D.C., the prerequisites in philosophy and metaphysics may make admission problematic for many.  As well, we have not included institutions which restrict their classes only to those preparing for Holy Orders in the Roman Catholic Church.

School

City

State

Credits

Pre-Req

Exam

Tuition

Aquinas Institute of Theology

St. Louis

MO

90

0

MAT / GRE

 $592.00

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

MDiv 90

0

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

MDiv+MA 96

0

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Catholic Theological Union

Chicago

IL

73

9

N/A

 $557.00

Christ The King Seminary

East Aurora

NY

90

0

N/A

 $305.00

Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

Berkley

CA

81

9

GRE

 $565.00

Nashotah House Theological Seminary

Nashotah

WI

96

0

GRE/MAT 

 $363.00

Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry

Seattle

WA

117

6

MAT

 $535.00

St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry

Rochester

NY

98

0

N/A

 $449.00

St. John’s University School of Theology

Collegeville

MN

78

0

MAT

 $365.00

St John Vianney Theological Seminary

Denver

CO

MDiv 96

12

CAAP

$394.00

 

Beacon University offers an Anglican Studies program that meets the six canonical areas of study the ACA canons require.  Residence in Columbus is both affordable and spousal employment easy to find.  Residence in Columbus also affords the formation necessary by location at a traditional Anglican parish.  Beacon additionally offers a combination M.Div. and M.A. in Counseling Ministry, a combination M.Div. and M.A. in Biblical Studies, a combination M.Div. and M.A. in Pastoral Ministry, and a combination M.Div. and M.A. in Military Chaplaincy.  These combination programs are 96 credit hours in length rather than 90.

Nashotah House offers a unique program that includes both a full three year full-time course and a program termed “a degree completion program” or the “1 Year M.Div.”  This latter course of study allows a student to attend an ATS accredited seminary close to their current location or online. Following  completion of sixty credits and a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, the student may transfer to Nashotah House for his final year and receive his diploma from Nashotah.  This program is designed to provide the “Anglo-Catholic” portion that is assumed to be missing in other theological schools and covers topics such as liturgy, historical and ascetical theology, and church music.  This one year program is equivalent to Nashotah’s  Anglican Studies program which is designed for those who already possess a M.Div. from a non-Anglican school.

Drawbacks to Residential Alternatives

There are several drawbacks to residential programs.  They can be expensive,  often require the student and his family to relocate, and most often there are few full-time ministry opportunities available in the continuing Anglican churches that could support a new priest with a sufficient stipend with which to repay educational loans, much less provide a living.

Non-Residential Solutions

Non-residential solutions offer a variety of options ranging from hybrid programs where a student spend either several days or weeks on campus for seminars and classroom time to programs that are fully online programs.  As stated above, ATS requires that one-third of a degree be completed “:in residence” meaning either modular courses or normal on-campus courses.  Frequently, these distance programs are a Masters of Arts, Masters of Pastoral Ministry/Theology, or Masters of Theology.  The TRACS and SACS accrediting agencies permit distance education for a Master of Divinity provided strict requirements for equivalence to in-class interaction and difficulty levels of academic work are maintained.  The only school offering a Master of Divinity strictly through distance learning (i.e. 100% distance) is Beacon University.  At this time, the only schools offering an actual Master of Divinity through a combination of distance learning and modular classes are Beacon University and Regent University.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs are a combination of online learning and modular courses, in which a student comes to the campus for several days or weeks in order to meet the residential requirements for the degree program.  For example, Regent University offers its Masters of Divinity (Practical Theology) through such a program.  In addition, Regent University permits up to twenty-two semester hours of transfer credit into the M.Div. program, allowing a student to take courses through another institution  in order to obtain courses that are more Anglican or Catholic in nature.  Hybrid programs include:

 

School

City

State

Credits

Degree

Exam

Tuition

Aquinas Institute of Theology

St. Louis

MO

44

MAPM

MAT / GRE

 $592.00

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

90

MDiv

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

96

MDiv + MA

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

42

MA

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Franciscan University of Steubenville

Steubenville

OH

36

MAT

MAT

$600.00

Loyola University Chicago

Chicago

IL

36

MAPS

N/A

$655.00

Loyola University New Orleans for Ministry

New Orleans

LA

36

MPS

N/A

$252.00

Mount Marty College

Yankton

SD

36

MAPM

N/A

$530.00

Nashotah House Theological Seminary

Nashotah

WI

48

M.A.Min.

 GRE/MAT

 $363.00

Regent University

VA Beach

VA

90

M.Div.

N/A

 $425.00

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Saint Mary

IN

36

MAPT

 

$422.00
               

Online Programs

There are accredited programs that are offered 100% online.  As mentioned above,  Beacon University offers the Master of Divinity with the possibility of completing all the requirements by distance education.  Other Masters degrees are offered by other schools, and of these, the course of study offered by St. Joseph’s College of Maine is probably the most well balanced, with a Masters of Pastoral Theology program that covers scripture, theology, and pastoral care.  The following table provides several alternatives:

School

City

State

Credits

Degree

Exam

Tuition

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

90

MDiv

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

96

MDiv + MA

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Beacon University Cottle Theological Seminary

Columbus

GA

42

MA

MAT/GRE

$256.00

Catholic Distance University

Hamilton

VA

39

MA(TH)

N/A

$369.00

Chaminade University of Honolulu

Honolulu

HI

30

MAPT

GRE

$420.00

Ganon University

Erie

PA

36

MAPS

N/A

$725.00

Holy Apostles College

Cromwell

CT

36

MA(TH)

GRE

$265.00

Saint Joseph’s College of Maine

Standish

ME

36

MAPT

N/A

$300.00

St. Ambrose University

Davenport

IA

37

MATh

N/A

 

St. Mary’s University of MN

Winona

MN

30

MA

 

$310.00

University of Dallas

Dallas

TX

36

MTS

N/A

$600.00

Drawbacks to Non-Residential Programs

There are several primary drawbacks to these programs.  First, all except for Beacon’s Master of Divinity are Masters of Theology or Pastoral Ministry courses, which often do not strike a balance between the study of scripture and theology with that of pastoral care. Further, these programs, particularly those at Catholic institutions, are not designed for the preparation for ordained ministry, but instead are geared towards the permanent diaconate (i.e. Aquinas Institute of Theology’s program) or in some form of lay ministry. 

Thirdly, programs with no residential portion do not adequately support the spiritual formation of the student.  This critical aspect of theological education is then left to the student and their local parish priest, who may not himself be adequately prepared or have the availability to devote to the formation of a seminarian.

Fourthly, degrees less than a Master of Divinity are not sufficient to meet the standards for ordination required for military chaplains, for example, and which we seek to uphold.

Conclusions and Recommendations

In order to defend the faith, it is necessary to have well-informed, educated, and well-formed clergy.

Based upon the programs evaluated the following options stand out as the best viable alternatives for the education and formation of our current and future clergy.  In alphabetical order there are:

Residential

Beacon University-A non-denominational Christian liberal arts university, has already added courses to their catalogue focusing on both the needs of traditional Anglicans and  the desires for certain additional types of study.  Spiritual and practical formation in the Anglo-Catholic tradition is accomplished by Daily Office/Mass and parochial ministry opportunities in cooperation with a conveniently located Anglican Church in America parish.

Nashotah House – As an “Anglo-Catholic” seminary,  it will provide students with a sound theological education and through the participation in the Daily Offices and Mass provide for their spiritual formation as well.  In addition this program has a large enough faculty to provide for the academic and spiritual formation of the students, and has a long tradition of forming Anglican priests in the Catholic tradition. 

Hybrid

Beacon University-By combining Beacon’s unique online opportunities with residential courses offered as intensive sessions and summer sessions, seminarians can tailor the offerings to their respective individual schedule needs with a minimum of disruption to the personal lifestyle of the seminarian and family, although such disruption may be a necessary cost associated with a proper seminary education. 

Nashotah House – Nashotah’s Master of Arts in Ministry Program is designed to meet the needs of those students who do not desire to complete a normal seminary program by combining online learning with on campus intensives that occur about every three months.  In addition the program covers seven key areas as they pertain to ordained ministry in the Anglican tradition.  The format of their program permits a student to attend either the full three years or in their final year as part of the degree completion program.  This allows the student to attend a local seminary and then attend for their final year for an immersion in the Anglo-Catholic expression of the faith.  Based upon their semester schedule, this would only result in student being separated from family for approximately eight months if he chose not to relocate.  In fact, this eight months would be divided into two four month blocks, with a six week winter break between them, if the student did not require January term courses.

Regent University – While Regent University is a primarily an Evangelical school, they are one of the only seminaries to offer a hybrid Masters in Divinity program.  In addition they offer a Master of Arts (Practical Theology) and a Masters of Arts (Chaplaincy) program.  These programs permit between 18 and 22 credits of transfer credit from another ATS school and also allow up to two-thirds of the program to be taken online.  Courses are offered each semester in a modular format that only requires one week per semester on campus.  The ability to transfer courses from other institutions would allow a student to take classes that would round out their education in a more Anglican and Catholic fashion (i.e. through Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry or St. Joseph’s College of Maine).

Online

Beacon University-again the only Master of Divinity program available 100% online.

St. Joseph‘s College of Maine – Of the various online offerings of lesser Master degrees, this program is overall the most balanced between a theological education and a pastoral one.  Also it is relatively inexpensive in its tuition rates, in comparison to other online programs and has absolutely no residential requirements.  In addition each course is on a rolling basis, that permits a student to start a course on the 1st or 15th of any month as need be, offering a great amount of flexibility.

WORKS CITED

The Association Of Theological Schools In The United States And Canada. “Home Page.” http://www.ats.edu// (accessed April 3, 2008).

The Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen. The Affirmation of St. Louis. St. Louis: 1977.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Post-secondary Education. “Accreditation.” http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation// (accessed April 3, 2008).

 


[1] The Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, The Affirmation of St. Louis (St. Louis:, 1977), Art. V.

[2] U.S. Department of Education, office Of Post-secondary Education, “Accreditation,” http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation// (accessed April 3, 2008).

[3] The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, “Home Page,” http://www.ats.edu// (accessed April 3, 2008).

[4] This is a list of Institutional Accrediting Agencies as listed on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Post-Secondary Education (http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.asp)

[5] The Associated Press, “Woman pleads guilty in Spokane WA diploma mill case,” The Olympian, March 26 2008, sec. NW.

This entry was posted in Theology and tagged , on by .

About Fr. C.

I am an Anglo-catholic priest in the Anglican Catholic Church, former military chaplain, sometime ecclesiastical lawyer and occasional theologian. I serve the Church of the Epiphany in Amherst, Virginia, and have care of several theological institutes and the chapel of St. Hilda at Edgewood.

7 thoughts on “A Proposal for Traditional Anglican Theological Education and Formation for the Clergy

  1. Fr. Charles Warner SSM

    Well Done! I think it is always best to have a well thought out PROPOSAL, with Recommendations, and this delivers.

    Proposing this to the Bishops and those who make the decisions regarding education and formation in the ACA would be incredibably helpful to the “Continuing” Church.

    Fr. Charles Warner SSM
    MTS ’05 St. Andrew’s College (ATS)
    DMIN ’09, Acadia Divinity College (ATS)

    Reply
  2. pluspdw

    Rev’d Fathers,

    There already is an approved TAC Seminary in the Anglican Cathoic Church of Canada — St Bede’s Anglican Catholic Theological College. Visit it on the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada website.

    Reply
  3. Fr. Charles Warner SSM

    Thank you Bishop Wilkinson for pointing this out.

    If this paper is directed at “Traditional Anglican Theological Education and Formation worldwide”, then I think it falls short because it does not look for solutions outside of the United States.

    I did not see it mentioned in the Paper and I assumed that it’s authors were either unfamiliar with St. Bede’s or wanted to look at proposing an American education model for the ACA, and nobody else.

    If this is a proposal for the ACA House of Bishops to consider, then I think that this is a well done “white paper” on the subject.

    However, if this paper is meant for the TAC (including the ACA) then models outside of the US should also be investigated.

    Fr. Charles

    Reply
  4. Fr Richard Sutter SSM

    Beacon University has announced its closing for financial reasons – I would suppose that it should have been charging as much as other schools – so the reader is advised to disregard Beacon and look at the next recommended options instead.

    Reply
  5. Fr Richard Sutter SSM

    I notice that a “St Bede’s” was mentioned above. In keeping with the standards set by this article, that organization doesn’t qualify for consideration, as it is not accredited by either the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) or any other accrediting body.

    One would do well to consider the options as given in the white paper.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s