“As mainline seminaries grapple with issues of supposed "decline," they might avoid the trap of collective lament by attending to traditions of pastoral formation in Jewish and Catholic communities. ”
This project is an experiment in attentive listening to patterns of theological and pastoral formation beyond customary sources that Protestants rely upon. It takes seriously the oft-cited statistics of declining seminary enrollment and religious affiliation among mainline Protestants in the United States. But instead of sensing these trends as cause for collective lament, it argues that these realities might provide renewed opportunities for learning from other religious communities and their distinctive practices of theological and pastoral formation. The heart of the project involves time spent in residence at four theological institutions and interviews with faculty and administrators about the curricular and co-curricular elements that contribute to theological formation and pastoral identity. Two of these institutions will be Jewish seminaries in the United States, where models of rabbinic formation inculcate a strong sense of identity in dialogue with the surrounding non-Jewish culture; two will be Catholic Institutions in Austria, where streams of dis-establishment and pluralism are more advanced than in the United States. By listening and learning from these other traditions, I will offer suggestions for how mainline Protestant seminaries might renew their own practices of theological formation and nurturing pastoral identity in an increasingly diverse culture.