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Beyond Profession
The Next Future of Theological Education
PAPERBACK; Published: 3/18/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7875-5
Price: $ 19.99
157 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.5
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Series: Theological Education between the Times

What should theological education become? 

Theological education has long been successful in the United States because of its ability to engage with contemporary cultural realities. Likewise, despite the existential threats facing it today, theological education can continue to thrive if it is once again reinvented to fit with the needs of current times. 

Daniel Aleshire, the longtime executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, offers a brief account of how theological education has changed in the past and how it might change going forward. He begins by reflecting on his own extensive experience with theological education and then turns to reviewing its history, dating back to the seventeenth century. Amid this historical survey, he uncovers an older model of the field that he believes must become dominant once again—what he calls formational theological education—and explores educational practices that this model would require.

The future of theological education described here by Aleshire would return seminaries to their original role as places where a “deep, abiding, resilient, generative identity as Christian human beings” is fostered within emerging Christian leaders. This, he argues, more than professional preparation, is what theological education must be most essentially about.

Table of Contents

1. Time and Change, Church and Theological Education
2. Diverse Histories, Common Influences
3. Formational Theological Education and Its Goals
4. Formational Theological Education and Its Educational Practices

“From his unique position, Daniel Aleshire knows the fascinating history, the changeable present, and the hopeful future of American theological education like few others. In this rich and arresting volume he addresses the enduring evolution of ministerial training with insightful analyses of what lies ahead. A masterful study.”
— Bill J. Leonard
founding dean and professor of divinity emeritus at Wake Forest University School of Divinity
“This book is the fruit of many years of visiting and mentoring theological schools and seminaries, but it is also the product of a man who has an equal grasp of and sympathy for both the academic and the formational parts of theological education. Daniel Aleshire is one of the most respected voices in theological education today, across all denominational lines. He has a richness to share.”
— Ronald Rolheiser
president emeritus of Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, Texas
“This book-length essay distills half a century of sensitive engagement and thoughtful reflection on theological education. It provides a masterful summary of the history of theological education and a vision for the future that calls us back to ancient values for ministry. Limpid in style, incisive but not judgmental in views, and serious but not ponderous in content, this book should be read by all who care about theological education today.”
— Gregory E. Sterling
dean and professor of New Testament at Yale Divinity School
Beyond Profession is a realistic, thoughtful, and carefully reasoned way forward for theological education in the coming decades. If anyone would know where the educational strands are that need to be pulled together, it would be Dan Aleshire. And in fact he does a remarkable job pulling the very diverse threads from the many Christian traditions in North America together to plead a case, not only for theological education, but for the church in North America. The driving concept is a very important Christian concept that must be a central concern for our seminaries: formational theological education. I believe there is hope for our seminaries and thus our churches as outlined in this volume. Seminary faculty and boards should take time to read this together. We will.”
— Scott W. Sunquist
president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
“This book is a valuable contribution to current conversations about the present and future of theological education. Aleshire’s experience provides a unique vantage point from which to share significant wisdom.”
Religious Studies Review
“Aleshire successfully orients both novice and expert readers to the past and present of theological education and presents a promising vision for what is on the horizon of this ever-changing field.”