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Monday, August 24, 2020

Students Talk About Community of Christ Seminary

In April of this year I blogged about Community of Christ Seminary, part of Graceland University. With it being associated with what was formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, one might assume that they express essentially the same outlook as that of Brigham Young University, affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not much could be farther from the truth, and I think that this school should be on the radar of people looking for a certain kind of learning experience. 

Community of Christ (they reject the definite article as part of their name) evolved along very different lines following the crisis in Nauvoo, Illinois with the death of Joseph Smith Jr in the mid-1800s. Aside from historically holding more orthodox Christian views of God, they also denounced polygamy (existing in denial about it for many decades), and continued with an open canon of Scripture in their version of the Doctrine & Covenants. From the 1970s and into the 21st century the pace of change accelerated with acceptance of women into their priesthood, a considerably more flexible understanding of the nature of revelation and scripture, a name change, acceptance of other Christians without requiring rebaptism, and most recently affirming the call of lgbtq+ folks into priesthood ministry.

It's one thing for me to say these things, and something altogether better to hear seminary students talk about their learnings and experiences within the theological school of this denomination. Below is an episode of the Project Zion podcast in which 4 such students from a single congregation of Community of Christ are interviewed. As noted in the podcast, all four are white males, and so it isn't a diverse selection of viewpoints, but what they are learning in terms of feminism, racial justice, grace, and scripture is something I found very interesting. 
Crystal Springs at Seminary
Before I decided to pursue ordained, fellowshipped ministry within the Unitarian Universalist Association I gave serious consideration to attending this seminary. It would provide just the challenge I would need to grow as a person conscientious of justice issues and committed to ministering to people. As it turns out, Community of Christ Seminary currently only offers a Master of Arts in Religion program, while ordination within UUism (and among most mainline denominations) requires a Master of Divinity. If I had continued with my plan to enter commissioned rather than ordained ministry, then I would definitely have pursued the MA with this seminary. 

If you are considering or are already engaged in ministry in a denomination that doesn't require an MDiv, or are seeking higher education for other purposes, I encourage you to investigate this possibility. It doesn't matter if you aren't a member of that denomination, as many students there have not been, and they do not engage in proselytizing. If what they offer aligns with your interests and goals, then why not go for it? And if not, there are plenty of other options out there. For me, it's about doing what will help bring out my best in how I live and work.