A recent evaluation by the Swedish government threatens theological education throughout the Scandinavian country.
The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education reported in June that state-supported schools must favor religious studies over theological education. Schools that aim to train ministers for church service must shift resources toward general religious studies. This move may leave prospective pastors unprepared for church ministry.
This shift in focus means several theological schools currently training pastors fail to meet the new standards for accreditation.
These demands were not clearly stated before government inspections this past March, according to Pekka Mellergård, president of Örebro School of Theology. Should Örebro fail to placate the agency, it will lose the right to grant recognized bachelor's degrees in theology.
Örebro, which educates 200 full-time and 160 part-time students from a variety of denominations, has already halted efforts to earn accreditation for a master's degree in exegesis. Students could ultimately lose government allowances, a necessity in the Swedish system of higher education. Nor would they be able to seek advanced education in schools that recognize only accredited degrees.
"The actual report was a serious blow against all theological education in Sweden," said Stefan Gustavsson, general secretary of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance. "The underpinning perspective seems to be old-fashioned Enlightenment thinking that theology is not real science and therefore eventually should not be part of the university."
Before 1994, only state-owned universities delivered formal theological education in Sweden. That year, the government allowed three denominationally owned ...