I want to express my thanks for all the comments thus far (from the last post).
Please continue to think and contribute to this discussion. Your offerings are more than helpful. I like the wide array of thoughts that are represented in these comments. They are all at variance, and some are opposed to each other -- a state of affairs I find attractive.
I offer these points of my own -- please affirm, redact or oppose them as you wish.
I think the idea of the "seminary" -- at least in its Orthodox manifestation -- is limited essentially to priestly formation. Its historic association with the humanist university institution is, by now, more the product of Western Enlightenment than of Byzantine or Russian influences, or of the New Testament.
That said, I would not want a seminary to become an Orthodox version of the evangelical/fundamentalist "Bible School." Yes, some of those biblical studies (Scripture interpreted by Scripture, supposedly) can be very good. But the Fathers -- including some of the Apostles, especially St Paul -- engaged fundamental philosophical questions in current cultural idioms.
This engagement requires what we used to call a decent liberal arts education. In the good old days, a “BA” meant that the degree-holder had been involved in such decency. Unfortunately, the liberal arts seems to be in very low demand.
On the other hand, such engagement does not require "academicization." Indeed, it might even be hampered by such scholarly specialization.
Is there a need for advanced scholarly study in the Orthodox American context? Certainly. But here is the particular question: is an advanced degree, like a real "masters" level, necessary for priestly formation?
I do not think so.
I do think that at advanced Orthodox academic studies, clergy and non-clergy should be in attendance. But at seminaries, there should only be those who want to be ordained as priests -- and this mainly is because that is all a seminary degree should be good for, no more and no less.
Under this rather restricted re-definition of "seminary," then any theological/religious education outside of priestly preparation can proceed in regionally-appropriate universities for advanced academics, and in parochial extension programs (like deanery-organized continuing education series) and even "webinars."
But (and here you may disagree) I think that for a man to become a priest, he needs to pack up and move from his familiar surroundings, embark upon a relatively impoverished lifestyle, and enter a demanding community that requires an almost "Chalcedonian" union of study and fellowship, of hard learning and hard lessons in patience and forgiveness.
I have seen more than one superior academician fall to pieces when it came down to doing the dishes and feeding the bishop's cat. Likewise, I have seen more than one mediocre scholar who showed intimations of saintliness when it came to ministry to the weak and downhearted.
This sort of exercise in bratija (i.e., brotherhood) and koinonia cannot really be expected of a university. And its academic demands of study in Bible, Patristics, and contemporary culture really are not modeled by a monastery, or a "bible school." Each of these models -- i.e., university, monastery and bible school -- are seriously deficient in providing a design for the Orthodox seminary.
Moreover, I do not think it is possible for a local setting to preside over priestly formation: surely you will tell me, as one friend already has, about the old Byzantine practice of recognizing a vocation in a parishioner, then training him right there on the spot and ordaining him for his native or neighboring parish.
The difficulty with that old practice is that we do not live in any such Byzantine culture -- we are far, far removed from such a traditional atmosphere that is essential for such local formation. I think this difficultly is insurmountable. Because of the toxic, hyper-passionate and anti-Christological culture we find ourselves increasingly in, I believe all the more in the necessity of removal to such a theological seedbed.
Thinking about the Orthodox seminary requires thinking about “priestly formation.” How do you prepare a man for the priesthood?
We have some familiarity with this subject already. We know enough to say that he needs to get ready for a lifetime of working with people, a lifetime of prayer, a lifetime of liturgizing, a lifetime of Biblical and Patristic study.
I suspect that we have, unwittingly, admitted a lot of implicitly protestant values and definitions into our understanding of formation -- but I will leave that for another discussion.
Apart from these familiar preparations is something that may be more fundamental: priestly formation is first and foremost a matter of deification. That, of course, is the working of Divine Grace -- a grace that always “fills that which is lacking.” But we priests who remember those words from our ordination cannot interpret them as license for nonchalance on our part. Our efforts will always end up being deficient or “lacking.” But our efforts are required, and necessary, all the same.
The reason why I bring this up is that I know, from personal experience, that a “calling” is necessary, but it is not sufficient. A man who is called to the Orthodox priesthood can be deified by God’s grace -- but he must work fervently to mortify his own passions, to practice the virtues, and to establish his thinking in the ways of Apostolic dogma.
A seminary must indoctrinate successfully men who would be priests into the mindset and ethos of its particular Orthodox community. Key to this success is a bishop who leads the seminary, and who participates -- as an exemplar -- in deifying grace ... who can say, like St Paul, "imitate me as I imitate Christ" ... who reveals, in his own person just like the Theotokos (whom he bears on his chest), the stigmata of all the Beatitudes.
I think that we have assumed too readily the idea that the American Orthodox community will develop, inexorably, into a single monolithic community.
I do not think so.
Indeed, I think the opposite is even more likely. Accordingly, I think there will then be even more seminaries, smaller, cheaper and humbler, hopefully where Homer and Macbeth are discussed, along with Maximos, Irenaeus, Moses and Paul, and the practices of the fast are rehearsed with winsomeness and grace (instead of the dire sternness that we assume Orthodoxy must involve).