Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Take a Look at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities

The other day I issued a warning about a particular seminary that required doctrinal purity, according to their strict definition of it, in order for people to attend as students. Not expecting many Universal Life Church ministers to fit easily into their stuffy little box, I advised steering clear, despite the ubiquity of online ads from that seminary. My suggestion was, and remains, to carefully look through the list of schools accredited* with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) if you want to take an advanced degree in theology and/or ministry. Today, though, I'll offer a suggestion of a seminary, perhaps to counterbalance the negativity of my other post on this topic. 

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (UTSTC), located in Minnesota, is ATS accredited and makes it possible for students to study entirely online, or attend in person. Online classes can either be asynchronous, meaning there are no scheduled class times and collaboration is done online through discussion groups and the like, or synchronous. This latter option entails attending classes virtually at scheduled times. For those working 9-5 jobs, synchronous coursework can be tricky. Fortunately, it's possible to do everything asynchronously if that's your reality. 

UTSTC is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, widely known as the most progressive or 'theologically liberal' denomination in the United States. At the same time, UTSTC operates largely as an interfaith seminary, offering MDiv concentrations for both their own and other Christian denominations (Lutheran StudiesMethodist StudiesPresbyterian StudiesUCC Studies), but also for other religions (UU StudiesHumanist StudiesInterreligious Chaplaincy—Islamic FocusBahá’í Pastoral Care), alongside other tracks that are independent of religious tradition (Interreligious ChaplaincySocial TransformationTheology and the ArtsChurch LeadershipLutheran StudiesSpiritual DirectionBiblical StudiesReligion and TheologyGeneral Studies).

Having spoken with current and former students, current staff, and religious leaders local to the seminary, I know this to be a very, very open-minded institution. Whatever you believe, you can find a place here. You can also evolve, changing your faith, without any hindrance with this seminary. There is no swearing allegiance to one religious tradition or ideology. Atheists, Christians, Jewish folks, Muslims, Hindus, Humanists, Baha'i, interfaith people, and really anyone else can attend and learn, so long as they are otherwise eligible.

On the application you will be asked about your religious background, but it's simply a dropdown menu with a range of options. Among them are 'interfaith' and 'other,' so if none of the other options fit, you have an 'out.' Two references are required, being from either 1) a religious leader, 2) a former professor, or 3) a professional colleague. If you've done anything at all in life that was good, you probably can find two people to be good references for you. The rest is the standard essay writing and academic history work, including sending official transcripts from any schools you've attended before. Of course, you will need an earned, accredited Bachelor's degree (any field) to be eligible to study for a graduate degree.

Hopefully this information will be of use to some ULC ministers, or really anyone looking for a quality, progressive theological education that will prepare them for a wide range of ministries. Be sure to visit the seminary website, and give it some thought. I hope to enroll later this year myself, so maybe we'll be classmates.

*A word about accreditation in theological education. ATS accreditation is important for those of us who need formal training for the types of ministry we'll carry out, such as institutional chaplains and teaching in accredited schools. It is the gold standard for anyone looking for an education that will take their ministry to the next level. To be clear, I'm by no means saying any formal education should be required for ordination. The Universal Life Church ordains anyone upon written request. Your ministry is what you make it. At the same time, some choose to deepen their skill set and knowledge with further education. In a following post I'll share about some unaccredited options for conservative Christian ULC ministers.

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