Which Schools Count? or The Swedenborgians Are Coming…The Swedenborgians Are Coming pt. 2

Steven R. asks:

considering the limited interaction that the UUA has with some of their congregations, are you really surprised that they haven’t contacted students at Earlham?

The short answer is NO. The more complicated answer is Yes.

I deliberately did not mention ESR in the list of non-UU seminaries that have a sizable UU population for a reason. ESR’s UU population has skyrocketed in the past couple of years, which would make it more difficult to have a ready response. (although I think it’s fair to point out that the Swedenborgians showed up here at ESR in the last year and there has been quite a bit of contact already)  The schools that I named…..Union…..United-Twin Cities….. Iliff…have enough of a UU contingent every year that it would make sense for there to be some fairly regular contact between Boston and those schools.

The question that I’m asking is…..which seminary students matter to the UUA? Do you matter more if you go to Starr King or Meadville? (and by some extension Harvard and Andover Newton) What about the 70% of us who don’t go to SKSM or Meadville? Does choosing to go to some other seminary mean that I’m less valuable as a UU minister? These are the questions that I’m asking, and why I mentioned the Swedenborgians in the first place.

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3 thoughts on “Which Schools Count? or The Swedenborgians Are Coming…The Swedenborgians Are Coming pt. 2

  1. Actually, the current Board seems passively hostile to the traditional UU seminaries. At least it doesn’t seem to care if reducing UUA financial commitment to those institutions in favor of “letting the money follow the students” to non-denominational schools results in one or both of them closing. I frankly do have a problem with it. Although many ministers get outstanding training at other schools, none of those schools are prepared to offer the resources for in-depth study of UU history, theology, and polity to ground at least some of newest ministers in our specific tradition. Graduates of other schools may be exquisitely educated and are often well trained in pastoral skills. But their UU identity is blurry. Many recent graduates are essentially undistinguishable from liberal Protestants of any “mainstream” denomination. That is not a slur against UU Christians, but it is not all of what we are, nor is it necessarily good fit for many of our congregations.

  2. I think Patrick shows a bit of the bias against UU ministers who are educationally labeled as NUUTS (Not from a UU Theological Seminary). Too often we are judged as compromised liberal Methodists. I for one looked at Starr King and found their depths in issues of specifically UU Theology, UU History, and UU Polity to be rather thin. Currently I don’t think that they have a single faculty member who has those topics as their major fields of research.

    I attended a non-UU seminary. While I probably have a more ecumenical appreciation for my Liberal Protestant neighbors than my colleagues trained at ML or SK, and while I was considered rather Christian before I went to seminary… My time in a non-UU seminary definitely clarified how Humanistic I am, and why I would not be a good fit for any but the most progressive of mainline Liberal Protestant churches. And most importantly of all, in my non-UU seminary I had to often articulate my UU identity in settings where it was neither well understood nor always welcome.

  3. I had a rather long (for me) response which crashed, but let me mention that the “money follow the student” was the UUA response to the rejection of SK and ML to merger. Based on what I’ve read, the UUAs response was reasonable under the circumstance.
    Also the only difference that I’ve seen in UUA identity is that some of the SKML grads fall into specific types of social activist categories. Those congregations where that particular style of social activism is the main component of congregational life may very well go with those students. (this is of course, my opinion).
    I would guess that most of Kim’s specific questions would be better answered by new ministers and search committees. Anybody in those categories reading here?

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