This book offers a close-up look at theological education in the U.S. today. The authors' goal is to understand the way in which institutional culture affects the outcome of the educational process. To that end, they undertake ethnographic studies of two seminaries-one evangelical and one mainline Protestant. These studies, written in a lively journalistic style, make up the first part of the book and offer fascinating portraits of two very different intellectual, religious, and social worlds.
The authors go on to analyze these disparate environments, and suggest how in each case corporate culture acts as an agent of educational change. They find two major consequences stemming from the culture of each school. First, each culture gives expression to a normative goal that aims at shaping the way students understand themselves and from issues of ministry practice. Second, each provides a "cultural tool kit" of knowledge, practices, and skills that students use to construct strategies of action for the various problems and issues that will confront them as pastors or in other forms of ministry. In the concluding chapters, the authors explore the implications of their findings for theories of institutional culture and professional socialization and for interpreting the state of religion in America. They identify some of the practical dilemmas that theological and other professional schools currently face, and reflect on how their findings might contribute to their solution. This accessible, thought-provoking study will not only illuminate the structure and process by which culture educates and forms, but also provide invaluable insights into important dynamics of American religious life.
Jackson W. Carroll is Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. Professor of Religion and Society and Director of the J.M. Ormond Center for Research, Planning and Development at the Duke University Divinity School. Barbara G. Wheeler is President of the Auburn Theological Seminary. Daniel O. Aleshire is Associate Director of the Association of Theological Schools, and Penny Long Marler is Associate Professor of Religion at Samford University.
"The book ultimately presents a compelling analysis of each school's culture and its relationship to student formation. This book will interest sociologists of culture, religion, organizations, and education."--American Journal of Sociology
"By introducing the notion of institutional culture, and applying the ethnographic method to the arena of the religious academy, Being There
prepares the way for such a thoroughgoing self-examination on the part of educational institutions, theological and secular alike."--Union Seminary Quarterly Review
"[This] superb study...will serve as a model for other studies of theological education in America and, conceivably, for other types of higher education as well....We have here what could easily become a paradigmatic scholarly approach to the synchronic interpretation of institutions of higher education."--Conrad Cherry, Indiana University
is an extensive empirical study in the sociology of education with theological education as a case in point...The authors of Being There
have painted vivid pictures of theological education, taking us well beyond impressions, nostalgia, and theory."--Christian Century