Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary
June 5, 2016
This month Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary marks an anniversary of sorts. On June 30, 2014, after 45 years of membership, our seminary disaffiliated from the historic consortium known as the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) of Atlanta. Why? Because the religious environment had changed. We felt called to bring a new kind of seminary into existence—one that is innovative and helps students anticipate the 21st-century reality of Christian ministry at home and abroad.
What are some of the hallmarks of the changing environment to which we were responding? Virtually every mainline Protestant seminary in the United States is seeing a decline in enrollment. Nearly half of all seminary students want to serve but are not especially interested in ordination. And those who do prepare themselves for ordained parish ministry soon discover that declines in denominational membership have resulted in fewer opportunities for traditional ministry. The situation is especially acute for African American students who would like to serve historically black churches but find that only about 50 of the approximately 400 African American Presbyterian congregations in the country can afford full-time pastoral leadership.
Meanwhile, traditional residential theological education has become increasingly expensive. Many seminary graduates today embark on their careers saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. This debt load is a hindrance to their ministries. Further, technological advances are leading to huge shifts across the board in higher education.
Our seminary’s move away from ITC sets the stage for us to become a leading institution. We are now freed to be creative and nimble in our response to the theological needs of today’s church leaders. Already, our bold move is generating energy and excitement about the seminary’s future. We invite you to take this journey with us!
Paul T. Roberts Sr., President, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
All-knowing God, as the psalmist has written, you bless us with new mercies every day. On this day, we are particularly grateful for the newness of life, for the freshness of your Spirit, and for the challenge of embracing the changing winds in your creation. Grant us faith enough to believe your Word. Grant us wisdom enough to discern your word to us. And grant us courage to stand on your promises. Amen.