If that sleepyhead Southern baptist Rip (Bubba) Van Winkle dozed off around 1980 and was just now rousing himself from his slumber, he would be surprised at the situation of our beloved denomination’s six seminaries.
Here are a few items from the book of reports this year.
Total SBC Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) both funded and unfunded
1. Southern 2294
2. New Orleans. 1309
3. Southeastern. 1278
4. Southwestern. 1249
5. Midwestern. 931
6. Gateway. 490
Southwestern, which used to be the world’s largest seminary is now the SBC’s fourth largest, but there are different ways to measure all this.
A few other notes:
- There are more undergraduate degrees given now than graduate degrees (although I don’t think PhDs are included in this number). Seminaries with their undergrad programs have long competed with state convention schools, to the latter’s chagrin. Now, many state schools offer MDiv’s in competition with seminaries. The whole system runs on enrollment numbers and concomitant tuition and funding rather that any basis that would eliminate duplication and enhance efficiencies.
- Southern and Midwestern have grown in recent years. The other four have declined. Measure revenue and you get a different look. Southwestern has an enormous amount of private funding.
- Overall student count is down a bit for the six combined. Still, I assume we don’t have enough viable churches for all the folks we are educating.
While this is interesting (at least to one retired pastor in the Baptist hinterlands), one probably shouldn’t look for much change. The SBC seminary system is the most politically untouchable of all our entities. Imagine the rancor created over proposing the merging of some or trying to create efficiencies between states and the seminaries. Circle the wagons.
Like most legacy organizations, if you designed it today it wouldn’t look like what we have. Institutional inertia reigneth forever and forever…or at least until money dries up. But, we have a good system, though imperfect, for putting educated clergy in our churches.