Lee Hinson-Hasty is coordinator for theological education and seminary relations in the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC (U.S.A.). Through his work Lee hopes to capture and share a more expansive view of theological education, of church leadership and of vocational discernment as he sees through the eyes of some exciting Presbyterians in and related to seminaries.
My teenage son, Garrison, called my attention to it, because I only glanced at the painting. He looked longer and more deeply. “Did you see that, Dad?” “What?” Pointing to one of dozens of paintings in The Civil War and American Art collection on tour from the Smithsonian at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’d seen hundreds of paintings already that day and this one did not catch my eye. “Look!” I still didn’t see what he was talking about.
Brian Blount, president and professor of New Testament at Union Presbyterian Seminary, was seven years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what has come to be known as his “I Have a Dream” speech fifty years ago this week. Blount described it as “almost biblical in its proportions.” I tend to agree. As the parent of a seven year old myself, I continue to meditate on the speech and the dream. When I hear MLK’ Jr.’s speech my mind pictures Earnest Covington.
My daughter learned the words of institution for Communion by heart by the time she was three years old because our congregation sang them. Her tea parties as a preschooler often began with her giving thanks and then offering a cup saying, “Take a drink and remember me.”
Two stories came across my desk over the last week that seek to describe the phenomenon of decline in the church in drastically different ways. One is a quote from one of two April PC(USA) Board of Pensions Regional Benefits consultations. The second is one of the first articles published on the research by Barbara Wheeler and Tony Ruger, two Presbyterians, on their extensive and decades old research on seminarians and enrollment. One seems to say seminaries are sending more graduates to the church and the other alludes to the church sending fewer students to seminary.
Both make me wonder, what is God up to and calling the Church to do?
The church and the academy each need the other. In the Office of Theological Education we often make this point saying "...for generations to come.... seminaries and churches together" or more recently, "Seminaries and churches together... for generations to come."
The recent opening of Union Presbyterian Seminary's new Charlotte, North Carolina campus on the grounds of Sharon Presbyterian Church makes this case concrete, literally!
Cooperation and partnership with the PC(USA) and among the schools is alive and well. Numerous seminary staff groups meet regularly and collaborate often. They work on projects together that are serving the church better and leading in the academy.
So I wonder when we talk about our Presbyterian Seminaries as “crown jewels” of the PC(USA), if we could consider them in the singular?
How can we connect a new generation of gifted seminary graduates we believe God is calling to serve with visionary and faithful Christian ministries? The Committee on Theological Education encourages the PC(USA) to ask: "Why not?"