America’s foreboding future will rouse, if not rudely unleash, monstrous challenges for both the Church and the seminary. I call the future “foreboding” because of the enormous crises that many observers see developing. The future will hurl upon us the technology crisis: the dazzling achievements of science and technology, and the resultant disintegration in spiritual and moral conditions. Overarching this is the economic crisis: America’s commitment to economic growth, and the jarring social and ecological consequences of this growth. Furthermore, America will face the justice crisis: the sizeable social costs of eliminating inequalities, and the even greater costs of continuing them. Moreover, people will begin to clamor for more fulfilling social roles in their work and leisure, but such roles will become more difficult to find; the result will be an alienation crisis. Every level of human experience will be touched by these crises.
Some financial forecasters say that America will not recover from its present economic slump for at least two years. A few claim it may take as long as a decade. If either prophecy proves true, most seminaries will experience serious (for some, ruinous) financial difficulties, even if their enrollment continues to grow. As a consequence, the greatest influence upon the course of seminary education may emanate from the treasurer’s office. Some schools will die; some will merge; a few will cooperate in theological centers. Some seminaries may become “think tanks,” more research oriented, and survive through federal funding. Most, however, will weather the economic storm alone.
In the decades ahead the churches and seminaries will be pressed to evaluate social drifts and tides, to referee the conflicts ...1
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