Episcopal Church Survey Finds Minister's Education Outdated

Diocesan Press Service. June 5, 1967 [55-4]

A major study of theological education in the Episcopal Church has brought to light "a grave situation that demands significant action," Dr. Nathan M. Pusey, president of Harvard University, said at a dinner honoring Presiding Bishop Hines in Chicago May 10.

The 18-month study, sponsored by The Episcopal Church Foundation, was conducted by a committee of theologians, educators, executives and professional men under the chairmanship of Dr. Pusey.

The report showed that a third of the clergy in the Episcopal Church have not had a complete seminary education, with only 60 per cent receiving degrees from both college or university and one of the eleven accredited seminaries of the Church.

Median Salary $6,000

"In an age when a college education is normal," Dr. Pusey said, "more than one-eighth of our ministers have not even received a college degree. One third of the congregations number less than 100 communicants and ministers receive a median salary of about $6, 000. In other words, half receive less than that amount -- not enough to attract capable young men."

Dr. Pusey reported that a six-year trend has given the church a surplus of 1,500 seminarians and new clergy who "are beginning to wonder if they will have to perform 'made' work which may not provide enough salary to feed a family."

Many of the young clergymen interviewed said their training had been too remote from the present world, that they were unprepared to practice their profession and that they needed help in interpreting the Gospel to the modern age.

'Where The Action Isn't'

Teaching methods in the seminaries are often outdated and are not abreast of the best current thought. "Also," Dr. Pusey said, "the young ministers want to be where the action is, but often that is where the Church is not. Studies are too traditional, 'too dated,' and are weak in field education and the education of laity. Field education must be expanded. To try their effectiveness, the students should move out of protected church situations and have experience in the world of business and industry, and also in jails, hospitals and slums."

Dr. Pusey's report dealt chiefly with the problems uncovered by the study. He said the committee would make its final recommendations on steps to deal with the problems in the near future.

Financing Seen Major Problem

Financing will be a major problem in seeking to improve the quality of the Church's educational system, Dr. Pusey observed. He noted that the cost of theological education has been doubling every decade, and that while general education derives about half its support from government sources, these funds are not available to theological schools.

"The money available for theological education in the Episcopal Church is inadequate even now," he said. "Far larger amounts will be needed in the near future."

The Episcopal Church Foundation, which financed the study from a special fund, is an organization of laymen dedicated to supporting the spiritual and social work of the Church. Dr. Pusey is a director of the Foundation.