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A New School Year Starts, and Many Seminarians Are Staying Put

More students are choosing schools for geographical convenience rather than theological affinity, says seminary president.
A New School Year Starts, and Many Seminarians Are Staying Put
Image: Courtesy of George Fox Evangelical Seminary

Seminary students have a reputation for taking theology seriously. But would they relocate from, say, New York City to Mississippi for a better doctrinal fit?

“Seminarians are not relocating to go to seminary,” said Ligon Duncan, president of the Jackson, Mississippi–based Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). “Many are choosing to attend regional institutions with which they have less theological affinity in order to stay in the same city.”

That’s one key reason why RTS has formed a new partnership with Redeemer City to City, a church-planting network founded in 2001 by Tim Keller. Now RTS students based in New York won’t have to choose between a local school and a Reformed one. (It also has six other extension campuses.)

For some, the choice not to move is financially driven, said Duncan, given that student loans and the collapsed housing market “have made it impossible for many students to relocate.”

But that’s not the only motivation driving the trend. “I see in the younger generation a strong desire to be more connected to the local church and not to uproot from a church in which they’re planted,” he said.

Such was the case for Ken Patterson, a second-year RTS student and pastor at Grace International Church in Baltimore. After several years in ministry, Patterson realized he needed seminary education. But he couldn’t find a good fit in Baltimore and didn’t want to move. After learning about the RTS campus in Washington, D.C., a 90-minute commute from his home, he visited a class there.

“I learned more in that three-hour class than I had ever known about the apostle Paul,” he said.

Other schools still report ...

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