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The Church does not need the seminaries. The seminaries need The Church.

Fr Brad, we probably agree more than we disagree. Please notice that in my remarks, the seminary was "re-defined" away from its iteration of the Western university tradition. This re-definition should not be characterized as heterodox "factories," or as a certain "curriculum." That characterization is precisely what I was arguing against -- especially the heterodox seminary model that is being forced upon American seminaries by ATS accreditation -- a prospect that frankly alarms me.

I am assuming two factors in my proposition. I assume the presence of education in the true liberal arts -- not the mishmash of cliff notes and moribund scrapbook "humanities" that serves as playtime, playing Ganymede to the iron crown of maths and sciences.

I also assume the predominance of Apostolic doctrine and the supreme value of theosis in every phase of a seminary.

If that were so, there is no way that ATS would ever accredit such a seminary (look carefully at the re-structuring such accreditation eventually demands). There is no way such a seminary would ever be mistaken for a heterodox institution of which you are rightly wary.

But it would still be a seminary, and not one of the varied options that you suggest. And there we disagree.

Father Bless!!

So much packed into this article of enlightenment!!! This is very near and dear to my heart. As a former educator in a military and then corporate setting, I am well aware that what you teach people (or don't teach people) holds severe impact.....with that said...

What do you see as the value and goals of an Orthodox Seminary today?

Value - to ENSURE proper everything for the continuity of a ONE HOLY CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC Church that was given unto the Saints...(dogmatics, Holy Tradition....)

Goal - to EQUIP!!! I took my boys to a weekend alter boy retreat at a cathedral here in the burg. Each table was assigned a priest. Our priest didn't know too much. I am blushing because that is the truth and I was embarrassed for the guy. Hubs and I just waited to answer questions (very painfully I might add) until the priest basically changed the question and answered about something completely unrelated (children are easliy railroaded). It was all very innocent on the priest's part (that is what made it is so painful to witness). He meant well, really he did. He really didn't know much. On a side note - this really surprised me - I have NEVER EVER come in contact with a priest that isn't highly affluent in spiritual things of every nature, and also ALL of the priests that I have come in contact with are highly, (albeit secularly) educated. It is almost as if they were educating themselves in 'all things Orthodox' before they went to seminary (whether they be cradle or convert), and seminary was their 'polishing'.

How do you think such a Seminary needs to change in order to accommodate cultural changes..?

It doesn't need to change. At all. It needs to ADD courses to educate priests on how to point wayard souls back (from their secularism and why an All-Holy God says they are wrong)to a living God that sent His Son and point wayward souls back to a Bride that has been preserved - our Orthodox Church!! If you are speaking of changing the Church as a whole -which would begin with changing seminaries- then - well, I would include myself a Brad Nassif fan. I think he has a great model!

...do we dare consider giving up, wholesale, all the artifacts of the humanist university, and relocate clergy-training more locally into the diocese, deanery, the parish or monastery? Do we settle for "distance-learning" and/or internet-enabled "virtual academic communities"?

OH PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, keep these ordained, called, male souls AS FAR FROM THE BISHOPS THAT YOU CAN and certain other 'upper priests' that want to rewrite Church History and God's Word - performing that task in and of itself certainly must be of the highest of virtues!!!! (Ok - taking a pause to regain my self-control and stick to the topic.)

..giving up humanistic univeristy - NO - it does have value - if for anything - that these men were educated there - now the job is to prep as to WHY what they learned is in sharp contrast to Orthodox beliefs and lifestyle.

..do we settle for distance learning?... NO!!! I implemented (and won two awards) for my part in a team of people that delivered online training to the top 2000 executives,and general managers of a fortune 100 firm in dahtahn (i was in charge of the IT end). While the training was certainly good, got its point across, and drove home every last strategic business goal as an organization as a whole - it reeked of dirty sweatsocks. One upper exec had his secretary do the training for him. It caught up with him (he was on the manufacturing end, in charge of plant production). NOTHING BEATS FACE TO FACE COMMUNICATION/TRAINING! EVER!!! EVER!! - i'll say that again - EVER! When I was sent out to all over God's handiwork of creation to gather data about effectiveness of the training - i feared losing my job because it turned out that this 'award winning' training was just a 'to-do' on someone's list. it was apparant that this training was accomplished on-line - and it stopped there. No energy to burn corporate goals into people's memories. No synergy from other capable, like-minded peers. No friendships formed. Nothing...just another task to meet a goal so the upper 2000 didn't receive a 'bad mark' when performance evaluations rolled around. They knew what they knew - the 'training' had almost no impact -except to introduce some new buzz words. All right - I'll stop - you get my point. Not a fan.

Time was when we required the learning of "old country" languages, like Church Slavonic, Byzantine Greek.....
Greek should be mandatory. It is the language of our past (our Bible, our history,etc - i could get into a long discourse here - to include language, history, culture, but I will spare you - you can stop thanking me for that (grin)) Mandarin Chinese should be mandatory. It is the language of the future. The sleeping dragon is waking.

I am quite disappointed in the Orthodox upper leadership for the past three to five years. Learn from thier mistakes (that will outrun War and Peace)....

...my two virtual cents...heck - I'll give ya' a million bucks (it is virtual 'ya know - it means something (Big Grins))....press on....


Your qualified statements are commendable and I respect them, while at the same time I feel compelled to respond to some presuppositions about them. The Eastern Orthodox Church has existed outside of the Byzantine Empire for a very long time and has become accustomed to the ongoing struggle of cohabitation with a predominant secular cultures surrounding them. It is not surprising then that the practice of theological education and vocational formation often became associated with monastery communities living the Holy Tradition, especially as the Church grew into the formation of Western Civilization. It is interesting to note the differences of perspectives and practices of the Greek and Russian Orthodox Church regarding the role that monastery communities can play with seminary institutions and vocational formation. Forcing all candidates for priestly formation into one mold is structured for failing its expectations. The secular cultural temptations to use seminaries like factories is just too strong an influence in our culture today and it is not necessary, but I concede they do still have a constructive role to play in the larger mosaic of theological education and vocational formation across parish, deanery, and diocesan auspices. The cathedral has historically always been a crossroads for theological education and vocational formation and it continues to be in our times. That is where I did my original educational and vocational formation studies and applied practice before I went to the monastery and seminary. The Eastern Orthodox Christian ethos can only be caught and directly experienced and cannot and should not be reduced to a seminary curriculum as a primary institution for priestly formation. There is a lack of honesty about the structural limitations of seminaries because that would imply that the major responsibility for theological education and vocational formation lies elsewhere, which I believe is correct. Seminaries are institutions that culturally and theologically grew out from heterodox auspices. The Eastern Orthodox Church has all of the tools and resources it needs within its Holy Tradition to formulate any kind of program it needs for any specific purpose whether it be priestly formation or for anything else. It takes a vision and a decisive will to formulate a plan for diverse programs and carry it out and effectively make it known and readily available everywhere within the Church. We have become too comfortable with seminaries and our expectations that they are the best way to provide the Church with spiritually filled priests and other vocations is sadly misguided. My appeal is to try to think and pray outside of heterodox boxes and mindsets.

In answer to Mr. Ward's question. St. Herman's is considered a diocesan institution and meant for men who want to serve in Alaska.

As relates to the main topic... I think we have configured our parishes to require many of our priests to work in jobs where a masters of any sort might help in finding a job.

Also, as relates to accreditation many students finish college with school debt. Accreditation allows these men to not make payments towards that debt while in seminary. I know more than a few men who ran into severe problems trying to keep things afloat while studying in unaccredited seminaries.

And, finally, as relates to "academicization." Some of our seminaries are preparing our priests to fight academic paper battles more than they are for pastorally guiding parishioners to the fullness of the faith. The world needs fewer treatises and more faithful, growing parish families.

In considering these posts I wonder if most seminaries (Orthodox included) offer the MDiv because most men that come for priestly preparation already have a bachelors degree. Our culture frowns upon the 'lateral move'. So perhaps the MDiv is less about what's required to be a good priest and more about accommodating our cultural assumptions about higher education.

To illustrate this point, it's curious to me why there aren't more men from outside Alaska enrolled at St. Herman's. Maybe because there's an unspoken assumption that it's the 'community college' of seminaries?

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