Churchmen are expressing new concern over the shortage of ministerial recruits.
Distress deepened with release of figures last month showing a five per cent drop in the total enrollment of member institutions of the American Association of Theological Schools, accrediting agency for U.S. and Canadian seminaries.
The decline, most marked in recent years, will be felt more intensely in view of expanding churches and increased church membership.
Denominational educators will keep eager watch on enrollment prospects for next fall. Unless a recovery materializes, there may be a clamor for emergency measures, especially if church membership continues to climb.
Enrollment in 122 accredited or associate member schools of the AATS during the autumn quarter was 20,032. A year ago it was 21,088. The new figure is the lowest in five years.
Dr. Charles L. Taylor, executive director of the AATS, said there is “no simple answer” to explain the decline. Among factors involved, he suggested, are the appeal of science careers, weak recruitment programs, increasing costs of seminary training, the end of veteran education grants, and growth of Bible schools offering a “short cut” to ordination.
(Dr. S. A. Witmer, executive director of the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges, reports that 11,299 students are enrolled in its 48 member schools for 1960–61, a seven per cent increase over the 1959–60 total, an all-time high.)
The AATS and its member schools are “very much” concerned about both the quantity and quality of ministerial students, Taylor said.
He declared that to counteract the decline scholars are working “very hard” on scholarship aid, recruitment, and adequate housing for the growing number of married students.
In contrast to the trend, ...1
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