More Students Attending Seminary, But Not Becoming Ordained

March 17, 2006

Source: The New York Times

On March 17, 2006 The New York Times reported, "Across the country, enrollment is up at Protestant seminaries, but a shrinking portion of the graduates will ascend the pulpit. These seminarians, particularly the young ones, are less interested in making a career of religion than in taking their religion into other careers. Those from mainline denominations are being drawn to a wide range of fields from academia to social service to hospital chaplaincy, said the Rev. Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Students who are evangelical Protestants, meanwhile, often end up at advocacy groups, sometimes called parachurches, which have defined the priorities and solidified the influence of conservative Christians. Only about half of those graduating with a Master in Divinity now enter parish ministry, Mr. Aleshire said. The portion has fallen sharply in a generation, he said, and declined 10 to 15 percentage points in the last five years alone... Though mainline denominations have shrunk considerably over the last 35 years, enrollment in mainline divinity schools rose 20 percent from 1990 to 2004, according to the Association of Theological Schools. Part-time study programs and interest from minority applicants and women contributed to the gains."