I do not think I've ever done this before on this blog, but I'd like to pose several questions.
There is no irony here, and this is not a rhetorical question, so do not worry. I am interested in your response.
What do you see as the value and goals of an Orthodox Seminary today?
How do you think such a Seminary needs to change in order to accommodate cultural changes -- which, as you may have noticed, are going on at light speed?
As some of you know, I teach at a small and faithful Orthodox Seminary, and these questions literally comprise a matter of life and death for all such institutions.
Seminaries are where we train priests -- at least, for now: 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"?
Time was when we required the learning of "old country" languages, like Church Slavonic, Byzantine Greek, or even Latin, and some facility in philosophical discourse. Nowadays, I wonder whether a seminarian wouldn't be better off learning conversational Mandarin AND Spanish, and learning how to code (i.e., web apps, etc.).
Here is a current article from WSJ that brings a few of these issues into view. Russell Moore suggests that there might be some hope for seminaries who preserve a strong, organic attachment to the ecclesial communities they serve. Usually, such an attachment is a given in Orthodoxy -- but at my old evangelical alma mater, one is hard pressed to find explicit signs of denominational distinctiveness. So I am happy about my school -- it has certainly fared better in continuity than my old protestant seminary.
But the pressures for distance-learning continue to mount. The economy for the middle to lower-middle class population -- from which most seminarians by far are derived -- has made attendance at seminary more and more difficult. Distance-learning (and/or "virtual community") appears to be a convenient fix for this problem. I, however, think that community and fellowship -- especially a fellowship so critical as a seminary, which is modeled ideally on the three-year sojourn of the apostles -- must involve the exchange of molecules, not just electrons.
Is this just me, a romantic agrarian luddite wannabe?
And this is just one area that pertains to my general question: what do you think about the future of the Orthodox Seminary?
A penny (well, at least a virtual one) for your thoughts.