Picking a Seminary

by on September 29, 2009

brick_buildingI am a second year student at Campbell University Divinity School. Campbell is embedded deep within the Baptist denomination. It is affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, the Baptist World Alliance, and is also a partnering institution with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).

Too bad I’m not Baptist.

‘Why then are you going to Campbell?’ you might ask. Good question. Let me share some reasons that were not a part of my decision to continue my education here and at the same time share some reasons that did influence this decision.

First, I did not come to Campbell because of its Baptist heritage, or, more accurately, their specific theology. If I had to choose a denomination (which I’m not opposed to doing—I have not had to come down in a camp yet), I would probably appreciate and feel most comfortable in the Anglican tradition. This does not mean, however, that I do not appreciate certain elements of Baptist tradition. If I could stand none, I would not be able to cope in this context (believe me!), nor be able to serve in a Baptist church.

Campbell is generally considered as fairly moderate, both theologically and I would imagine politically. I would consider myself theologically moderate. I was not attracted to a more ‘liberal’ or more ‘conservative’ seminary. My thoughts are that in a ‘liberal’ context, conversation and beliefs are more often too subjective—boundaries can be lost. In a ‘conservative’ context, conversation and beliefs are too objective—boundaries are tight and perspectives are unnecessarily limited. I have found good, productive conversation among those who, like has been mentioned in a recent article here, are okay with tension; ones who are not purely subjective or overly objective.

On a different note, I did not come to Campbell because of its name. Being only ten years old, Campbell does not have a reputation like that of, say, Duke Divinity, or Fuller Theological Seminary, or Dallas Theological Seminary. I am confidant that this is developing, however.

Having grown up in a part of the country with four distinct seasons (Fort Wayne, Indiana), the appeal of warmer year-round weather played a piece in the decision process.

Even though the weather is great, the city that Campbell is located in would probably not be known at all if the university was not located in it. This is another consideration that did not factor into my decision. Buies Creek has one stoplight; it’s the one on campus. The largest cities closest to Campbell are Fayetteville or Raleigh (although Dunn has a Wal-Mart).

One of the biggest confirmations that led to me attending Campbell Divinity was the support of my wife. By nature (or nurture, rather), my wife analyzes every decision to the smallest iota. When she expressed being on-board to move out of our recently-bought home in Fort Wayne, depart from family and friends, and leave everything familiar to her in order to relocate to North Carolina, I was sure this was the place to pursue. I had been considering other schools, of which my wife shot down; but, she liked the sound of North Carolina.

Along these same lines, when my wife and I came to visit Campbell (May 2008), one of the things we attempted to accomplish was to see about a possible job for her with the university. In the two and a half days we were in town, she received an offer for a position with Campbell’s School of Pharmacy as an Admission’s Counselor. Another significant contribution to us making this move.

Another factor that was not weighed in making this decision were the professors. I knew nothing about them. Since I have been in class and have had some of them, I have appreciated many things about what they do and who they seem to be as people of faith. Oh, and yes, I have learned some great things from them as well.

An obvious reason that did contribute in this decision was simply being accepted. At the time, I had another application in at a local school, although the school was not a seminary. I was not admitted into that program, but through the series of interviews with Campbell Divinity staff and faculty, I had received an admittance. I looked no further at that point.

As I was applying for Campbell Divinity School, two of my closest friends in Fort Wayne were doing the same. The plan was for us three (taking along our respected immediate family as well) to attend school together (which was probably one of the most significant elements of the decision making process). Unfortunately this idea never came to fruition as we had planned.

Some of these things may sound familiar to you as you considered, or are considering, picking a seminary. If I had to be honest, I probably did not do the kind of research that one may think to do before pulling the trigger on making such a move. At the same time, it would seem to be an unrealistic expectation that there is a seminary out there that would be ‘perfect.’

I am completely confidant and entirely at peace knowing that I am in a good place. Having a confirmation from my wife and close friends would have been enough, so all of the logistical details that God worked out was more than convincing—it was exciting. I know me being at Campbell is cool with God, and is indeed assisting in my education as student of God’s word, my development as a disciple of Jesus, and my training as a minister of the gospel of God.

Comments

As I get really moving on my fourth year in seminary while also working full-time, I just want to comment on one point you made. The fact that your wife was completely on-board is huge. If your wife is not completely committed to seminary it will be very difficult to get through.

Jason,
Just wanted to let you know, I resonate with your situation. I am 45 years old and finally beginning my dream of “going” to seminary (Southern Seminary, Louisville, Ky) while driving a tractor trailer full time. Trying to write paper on a computer in the sleepr of a semi, was not exactly the picture I had in mind, but until the house sells, its where Providence has placed me.
Mike Settle

Mike,

Thanks for the note. I do pray that you would keep pressing on in faith. It definitely takes some endurance, but I have found that the Lord does provide it.

Blessings,
Jason