Theological education is moving rapidly to keep pace with technological change through the use of computers, video, and online services.

But the price tag can be expensive. Asbury Theological Seminary, an evangelical interdenominational school, has spent $2.7 million to upgrade its facilities and link classrooms with state-of-the-art video, audio, and computerized resources on its Wilmore, Kentucky, campus.

"I think the sense of call and mission has been shaped and given substance by the possibilities that are now ours," says president Maxie Dunnam.

While some seminaries are increasing their investments on campus, others are moving to a "distance-learning" model, using video and the Internet to train pastors and lay leaders off campus.

TRAILBLAZING SCHOOLS: Many of the 224 members in the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) are investigating how to use new technology in educational settings, according to Nancy Merrill, director of communications.

In addition to Asbury, other technological leaders include Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California; Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts; and Westminster Theological Seminary of Philadelphia.

There is good reason for the excitement at Asbury. Its ats 2000 project wired 14 buildings over 12 acres to provide campuswide digital computer, voice, and video communications.

Among the project's array of features: an information-technology distribution center, satellite-receiving capabilities for video conferences, audio-video studio, and a library system with multiple cd-roms that are accessible from any campus classroom.

For the moment, a full-fledged distance-learning program is on hold, although it is still part of Asbury's vision, according to ...

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