Mission: Coalition of Independent Christian Seminaries
As a integral component of the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, the coalition is tasked with forming understandings with independent church organizations, to create and maintain common standards for seminary training, at a cost conducive to practicing non-stipend clergy.
Share seminary training and resources to facilitate a more credible formation and training environment of our respective clergy
Create a seminary environment that is on par with the standards of the secular accredited 'university' seminaries, and little or no cost to the postulants
Concentrate training on the needs of practicing clergy, and not theologians. Core training must stress biblical, divine, ethics and 'apprenticeship' style hands on of day to day tasks
Disenfranchise the coalition from the secular, business and financial practices of the traditional 'university' style seminary, practices
that may impede the free exercise of religion
Independent Church Organizations
Take a Stance
Through 1800-1900 years of Christian History traditional clergy training was in a monastic environment or by apprenticeship with existing practicing clergy. It was not the purview of precting priests to enter 'university' for their training and formation. The purview of 'university' seminary was for theologians; those individuals that desired research, debate and translation of biblical text and contemplation of divinity.
One example of this was the priesthood of Martin Luther. In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Jerome Schultz. Luther did not earn his bachelor's degree in biblical studies until March 9, 1508.1
Hence, he was a practicing priest long before he held a religious degree. Once he achieved higher degrees, he then became a professor of ‘biblia’. The previous statement is of great consequence, Luther was a priest BEFORE entering seminary for 'theological' training.
Accreditation for our current university seminaries is strictly a 'secular' concept. Accreditation is designed to secure government loans, government grants, monitor administrative duties, accessibility and track finances.
The soaring costs of seminary is a deterrent to all clergy, mainstream or independent. With the shrinking assistance for scholarships or any church assistance, massive debt is laid upon clergy where initial pay is too low to sustain the enormous monthly loan payments.
In the United States, accreditation was not mandated for any university, and certainly not seminaries, until the G.I Bill was enacted in 1945. The only reason for the initial push for accreditation was to secure Federal loans and grants. The accreditation has little to do with 'curriculum'.
By the law in 28 states in the United States, seminaries may be registered as a valid and licit non-for-profit religious organization and be 'exempt' from certification or accreditation. This is reflected in constitutional law:
Two clauses in the First Amendment guarantee freedom of religion. The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. It enforces the "separation of church and state." However, some governmental activity related to religion has been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. For example, providing bus transportation for parochial school students and the enforcement of “blue laws" is not prohibited. The Free Exercise Clause prohibits the government, in most instances, from interfering with a person's practice of their religion.
Taking this is simple context, you may extrapolate that by requiring “oversight” of religious training of clergy is an exercise that may impede the free exercise of religion.
The picture painted by Gregg, Kjejcir and the Murdock Trust is not flattering regarding the operation of 'accredited' university style seminaries. This includes but not limited to corruption, embezzlement, sexual harassment, nepotism (Members sitting on the board and accrediting themselves), tax law violations and much more.
From the 'curriculum' perspective, according to the Murdock Trust: In the pastors forums those who were seminary graduates reported that they found 70% to 80% of their seminary education did not apply to the duties they were expected to perform in the churches they served as ministers.
The independent church organizations must do it better, for the right, and righteous reasons.
1. Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther. New York: Penguin, 1995, 44–45.
Helping the Independent Organizations
The coalition is seeking those who desire not only to run an Independent Organization, operate with clergy who have a true calling, desire to be non-stipend and not operate as a secular 'business'.
The coalition is fully voluntary. Whereas most Independent Organizations operate with no tangible assets flowing upwards or downward within a diocese, we seek a peer-to-peer relationship to operate our mutual training in the same manner. Most mainstream churches require a masters degree, approximately 5.5 years plus formation, with no tangible employment. And as per the Murdock Report, scholarships and grants have dropped to between 10-19%, and with 5+ years of seminary training ranging from $100,000 to $160,000 to achieve a bachelors and masters. With an average starting salary of a mere $35,000 to $50,000 fully 1/3 of the income goes to paying off the loan. It is ludicrous to believe a non-stipend clergy will indebt themselves to that level.
It is claimed that non-accredited seminaries are SCAMS. This is far from the truth. First, in the menu go the the ISSUES page to read the information regarding the failings of the 'accredited' university style seminaries.
For 1800-1900 years most clergy were trained monastically of by apprenticeship. For our coalition, in the 28 states in the United States that allow it, we seek to form peer-to-peer accredited programs TO SERVE OUR REQUIREMENTS, and be exempt by LAW from accreditation or certification.