Seabury-Western Theological Seminary has been training ministers for the Episcopal Church for 150 years. It has stopped admitting students for this coming academic year. The Evanston seminary told tenured faculty that their jobs will end next year, although officials insist the school isn’t closing. Officials at the Illinois, campus acknowledge a deep financial crisis is forcing the seminary to overhaul its approach to preparing priests for the church. Leaders are exploring more affordable models for candidates to earn degrees, such as distance-learning and short-term residential stints.
This is clearly “damage control” language and positive spin if there ever was such in theological education. The facts bear out the truth of the situation. Seabury-Western is an Episcopal Church (ECUSA)
seminary that has a long history of very liberal theology in the 20th Century. It also serves a diocese that is extremely liberal that is in serious decline, like most of the Episcopal Church in Canada and America. Leaders put all kinds of spin on these developments, even arguing that evangelical churches grow faster because evangelicals still produce more children than non-evangelicals. Duh! When every action you take is anti-family and anti-mission what do you expect?
Episcopal seminaries will not all die at once. One reason is that they have huge endowments to support them, at least for a season. But the picture is indeed quite grim. No one should really be all that surprised. Meanwhile the lone seminary in North America that is training priests for the Episcopal Church, and for other communions for that matter, that is very healthy and has been growing rather positively for two-plus decades is Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (TESM) in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.
At TESM the influence of Anglican evangelical leaders like J. I. Packer and John R. W. Stott is still highly regarded. Given the way ECUSA has responded to the worldwide Anglican Communion I do not expect much to change in the foreseeable future. If anything Episcopal seminaries will decline even more over the next ten years. Other mainline seminaries ought to take serious note but so far they do not seem to be lining up to learn the hard lessons of what an anti-supernatural and anti-orthodox perspective does to real Christian ministry.