Dissertation Defense by Tricia M. Rhodes
Date and Time
Tuesday, March 4, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, 145
San Diego, CA 92110
A TALE OF TWO SCHOOLS: THE SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT OF LEADERS IN PROTESTANT SEMINARIES
Scholars and practitioners increasingly consider the spiritual development of leaders to be essential, not only for individual well-being, but that of the culture at large. This is particularly important for clergy, a profession centered on spiritual leadership. While the institutions in which most Protestant ministers pursue training have historically privileged scholarship over spirituality, this has changed substantially since the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) added spiritual development of students to its accreditation standards in 1992. Since then, seminaries have sought to comply in various ways.
This study explored two Protestant seminaries, addressing these questions: (a) what is the process seminaries engage in as they seek to implement a model for the spiritual development of leaders? (b) What is the lived experience of leaders who are impacted by a seminary’s spiritual formation approach? (c) How do seminaries provide formational opportunities for a leader’s personal faith, emotional maturity, moral integrity, and public witness/social concern, as mandated in the ATS standards for accreditation? (d) How does the spiritual formation model of a seminary that added it to an established structure compare to that of one that incorporated it from the start?
Using qualitative methodologies, this study relied upon extensive document analysis, interviews (with alumni, students, administrators and faculty), a student focus group and on-site participant observation. The findings suggested that (a) the core values of seminary founders sets the trajectory for the institution’s spirituality emphasis (b) key leaders—high level administrators as well as faculty members—play an integral role, not only in implementing, sustaining and supporting the spiritual formation model, but in the personal development of students themselves, and (c) changes in the culture and student demographics increasingly elevate the need for a curricular approach to spiritual formation.
This study should be of interest to anyone interested in Protestant theological education. Professional schools may also gain insights into the challenges involved in seeking to integrate professional, personal, human and spiritual values into their programs. Finally, the study has heuristic value, providing impetus for future exploration into how organizations and leaders can better embody and reflect human and spiritual values.