Guest Blogger — Amy Hutchinson, Theology Student

When I saw Talbot’s post contrasting seminaries and schools of theology/divinity schools, I had to jump on it. My name is Amy, and I am a first year Master of Divinity student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University and a proud member of Good Shepherd UMC. I asked Talbot if I could be allowed to respond to his post as someone who picked the other type of school.

My version of the difference between schools of theology and seminaries is that a school of theology allows for a wide range of theologies (from universalist to fundamentalist) while a seminary provides a more focused theology. During orientation, one of our professors stated (paraphrased), “It is not our intent to make you change your beliefs, it is our intent to make sure you have truly investigated and backed up why you have them.” All of the sudden in a School of Theology, you find yourself thrown into a situation where you are surrounded by students with a wide variety of beliefs who still call themselves Christian (and some that don’t even do that), and now your beliefs are turned upside down and you can no longer turn to solely the Bible for justification, but must now turn to academics as well.

I appreciate a school that puts me to the test with the defense of my beliefs, because I know that in my chosen ministry path–reaching out to unreached college students–I may come in contact with students that are choosing not to believe because for them, it just doesn’t make sense. I hope that my frustrations towards not being able to state, “Because it’s in the Bible” now will lead me to less frustrations down the line as I am trying to explain, with reason, the case for believing in Jesus to a student that has been so hurt by the church that they have turned to academics to disprove it. In fact, I’m tingling a bit in excitement now just thinking of it.

But as someone at a school that allows multiple theologies, this often leads us to disagreements as to what the church should look like. On the one side, you have people who believe churches should be inviting to all to bring them in the doors as a step to conversion, on the other side you have people who believe in the transformative power of a rich church tradition. And what I have found in these debates is that what I can typically win both sides over with is, “Well, what my church in Charlotte does is…”

I am not sure how many people reading this blog appreciate this. Sure, you like the church, you like Talbot, or you’re still young enough that your parents are still making you go, but I am not sure I ever truly appreciated Good Shepherd until I got caught in these debates. Having a relevant, seeker-friendly, mission-focused, multi-cultural church that doesn’t lose theological depth is a rarity in our modern church tradition. And yet, Good Shepherd is.

I appreciate Talbot’s reasoning and love for his seminary. I also appreciate my reasoning and love for mine. These differences are simply iron sharpening iron. At least, that’s what the Bible tells me.