Mission Holiness Rankings of UMC Seminaries

John and Andrew have both noticed that Claremont School of Theology has a new mission statement that they both have difficulties with: there is no mention of Jesus Christ or God or the UMC in it.

That makes me fuming angry! (HULK SMASH)
As a United Methodist Institution, should not our schools reflect the mission of the United Methodist Church: To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ? (THROWS PULPIT)
We have to be explicit with our mission statements, right? (THROWS CHALICE)
No wishy-washy nuanced academic words like Faith, Spirituality, or Religion will cut it! (CATCHES CHALICE..whew!)
Words with nuance are not expressive of the simple tenets of Christian faith! (SITS IN ASHES)

I propose that we determine who is the holiest of all UMC institutions.

Since we applied it to Claremont, let’s use this clinically-proven formula of analyzing mission statements and apply it to the variety of mission statements from the 13 United Methodist Seminaries and see how they nuance things.

We are armed with the scientifically lab-tested and proven Mission Holiness Index (MHI), which gives scores to holiness words, and subtracts for wishy-washy words. Let’s keep score!

  • 5 points for explicit mentions of Jesus Christ, God, Christian, or the United Methodist Church
  • Minus 1 point for wishy-washy academic words like faith, spirituality, religion, etc…words that indicate they are about God, but without the maracas to actually say it. Even “church” is here because they aren’t paying homage to the UMC…the true faith.

NOTE: I took what was EXPLICITLY their mission statement. Some of them are longer, but only the parts that are explicitly stated as their mission statement are included.

Boston University’s Mission: (not on website…pansies…taken from this official paper here)

The purpose of the Boston University School of Theology is to pursue knowledge of God, to cultivate leaders for communities of faith, to enrich the academy, and to seek peace with justice in a diverse and interconnected world.

As the founding school of Boston University and the oldest United Methodist seminary in North America, we are a professional school within a cosmopolitan research university that is itself committed to “learning, virtue, and piety.” Rooted in the Wesleyan traditions and drawing from the Christian traditions of the world, we strive to equip ministries and vocations whose aim is both personal and social transformation, whose orientation is diverse and global, and whose vision expands the prophetic legacy of this historic School of Theology.

5 point Words: God, UMC, Christian
Minus 1 point Words: faith, Wesleyan, ministries, prophetic, Theology,
TOTAL: 10 points

Candler’s Mission:

Candler School of Theology is grounded in the Christian faith and shaped by the Wesleyan tradition of evangelical piety, ecumenical openness, and social concern. Its mission is to educate—through scholarship, teaching, and service—faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world.

5 point Words: Christian
Minus 1 point Words: Evangelical, ecumenical, faithful, church’s, ministries, Wesleyan
TOTAL: -1 points

Claremont’s Mission, the school in question…

“An ecumenical and interfaith institution, Claremont School of Theology seeks to instill students with the ethical integrity, religious intelligence, and intercultural understanding necessary to become effective in thought and action as spiritual leaders in the increasingly diverse, multi-faith world of the 21st century.”

Scoring Words: None, nada, zip.
1 point Words: ecumenical, interfaith, religious, spiritual, multi-faith
TOTAL: -4 points

Drew’s Mission is:

The Mission of Drew Theological School Center for Continuing Education is to:

  • Equip clergy and lay leaders to effectively address emerging and ongoing issues in ministry by providing relevant leadership education programs, including courses developed in partnership with Annual Conferences and agencies of The United Methodist Church.
  • Provide advanced theological education beyond the structure of degree programs by opening some graduate courses to non-degree participants, and partnering with Annual Conferences and local churches to provide alternative educational opportunities that embrace multiple learning styles.
  • Strengthen the spiritual lives of all people through deep Christian study and reflection that is characterized by a commitment to justice, ecumenism, and respect for the integrity of creation, and is supported by theology that is responsible to the complex social realities of our interconnected world.

    Scoring Words: Christian, United Methodist Church
    Minus 1 point Words: clergy, ministry, annual conferences (x2), churches, spiritual, ecumenism, creation, theology.

  • TOTAL: 1 points

Duke’s Mission is:

Duke Divinity School’s mission is to engage in spiritually disciplined and academically rigorous education in service and witness to the Triune God in the midst of the church, the academy, and the world. We strive to cultivate a vibrant community through theological education on Scripture, engagement with the living Christian tradition, and attention to and reflection on contemporary contexts in order to form leaders for faithful Christian ministries.

5 point Words: Triune God, Christian (x2)
Minus 1 point Words: spiritually, witness, church, Scripture, ministries
TOTAL: 10 points

Gammon’s Mission is:

The mission of Gammon Theological Seminary, a historically African American institution, in partnership with The Interdenominational Theological Center, is to recruit, support, and educate pastors and leaders for The United Methodist Church.

5 point Words: UMC
Minus 1 point Words: Interdenominational, pastors
TOTAL: 3 points

Garrett-Evangelical’s Mission is:

The core purpose of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary is to know God in Christ and, through preparing spiritual leaders, to help others know God in Christ.

The seminary enacts its mission through:

  • Preparing women and men for ordained and lay ministries;
  • Preparing qualified students for seminary, church-related college, and university teaching in the theological disciplines;
  • Providing theological research and reflection for the church.

    5 point Words: God (x2), Christ (x2)
    Minus 1 point Words: spiritual, ministries, theological, church
    TOTAL: 16 points

Iliff’s Mission is:

The Iliff School of Theology is a graduate theological school of the United Methodist Church. Its central mission is the education of persons for effective ministry in Christian churches and other religious communities, for academic leadership, and for the cultivation of justice and peace in local and global contexts.

Iliff affirms its United Methodist identity and its liberal Christian heritage, grounded in scriptures and traditions, critical thinking, and openness to emerging truths, including those derived from science, experience, and other faith traditions. In a world fragmented by religious and ideological conflicts, Iliff promotes theological scholarship and dialogue to foster transformative possibilities for humanity and nature.

5 point Words: UMC (x2), Christian (x2)
Minus 1 point Words:ministry, religious, scriptures, faith, religious,
TOTAL: 15

MTSO’s Mission (well, their stated Purpose Statement) is:

Our Purpose
Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides a vibrant learning environment for the preparation of skilled, passionate transformational leaders for churches, religious institutions, emerging faith communities and the wider world. We attend to the theological, spiritual, and vocational formation of a diverse group of students involved in a wide range of pursuits. Expecting active participation in our community of learning, we maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect and openness, teaching how to engage in conversation with the past and with others so that new and faithful perspectives may emerge. Our graduates demonstrate a deep understanding of the heritage disciplines of religious study, are highly competent in areas of practical theology, and show evidence of thoughtful reflection. We take seriously our responsibility for stewardship of the intellectual life of the church and our commitment to a just and sustainable world.

5 point Words: NONE
Minus 1 point Words: churches, religious, faith, spiritual, faithful, religious, theology, church.
TOTAL: -8 points

Perkin’s Mission is:

The primary mission of Perkins School of Theology, as a community devoted to theological study and teaching in the service of the church of Jesus Christ, is to prepare women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry.

Perkins School of Theology affirms its relationships to the community of learning that is Southern Methodist University, to the universal church (inclusive, ecumenical, and global), the The United Methodist Church specifically, and to its particular geographical and cultural setting in the southwestern United States.

These relationships are sources of strength and avenues of service for the school as it pursues its twin tasks of theological reflection and theological education to the glory of God.

5 point Words: Jesus Christ, Christian, UMC, God
Minus 1 point Words: church, ministry, church, ecumenical, theological (x2)
TOTAL: 14 points

Saint Paul’s Mission is:

Rooted in the Wesleyan tradition

and committed to inspiring passion for ministry

in diverse Christian bodies,

Saint Paul School of Theology

educates leaders

to make disciples for Jesus Christ,

renew the church,
and transform the world.

5 point Words: Christian, Jesus Christ
Minus 1 point Words: Wesleyan, ministry, disciples, church
TOTAL: 6 points

United’s Mission is:

United Theological Seminary is a Christ-centered graduate school of The United Methodist Church that equips leaders for the church in a pluralistic world through the nurture of piety, the love of learning, and the pursuit of justice.

5 point Words: Christ, UMC
Minus 1 point Words: church, piety
TOTAL: 8 points

Vanderbilt’s Mission is: (dude, what’s up with no mission statements on websites? This is from their catalog)

The Divinity School seeks to fulfill the following objectives: to engage
men and women in a theological understanding of religious traditions; to
help persons, both lay and ordained, re-envision and prepare for the prac-
tice of Christian ministry in our time; to encourage individuals in their
spiritual and intellectual growth; to prepare leaders who will be agents of
social justice; and to educate future scholars and teachers of religion.

5 point Words: Christian
Minus 1 point Words: theological, religious, ordained, ministry, spiritual, religion
TOTAL: -1 point

Wesley’s Mission is:

The mission of Wesley Theological Seminary is to prepare persons for Christian ministry, to foster theological scholarship, and to provide leadership on issues facing the church and the world. Our aim is to nourish a critical understanding of Christian faith, cultivate disciplined spiritual lives, and promote a just and compassionate engagement in the mission of the church to the world.

5 point Words: Christian (x2)
Minus 1 point Words: ministry, theological, church, spiritual, church
TOTAL: 5 points

So, there you have it. Here’s the scientifically proven ranking of the UMC Seminaries:

Mission Holiness Index Rankings

  1. Garrett, 16
  2. Iliff, 15
  3. Perkins, 14
  4. Duke, 10
  5. Boston U, 10 (BU tied with Duke, but since they used “orientation” they obviously support the HomoLiberalAgenda, and thus are in 5th place)
  6. United, 8
  7. St. Paul, 6
  8. Wesley, 5
  9. Gammon, 3
  10. Drew, 1
  11. Candler, -1
  12. Vanderbilt, -1 (they tied with Candler, but since their mission is not on their website, they get negative points for making our team of monkeys work)
  13. Claremont, -4
  14. MTSO, -8

Well, we have the results, and they are unquestionable.

  • As suspected, Claremont had the second lowest Mission Holiness, and are almost least holy.
  • Surprise loser was MTSO in Ohio, with very low Holiness due to their lack of maracas to mention holy words even once in their Statement and fill it with nuanced academic fluff.
  • Garrett, Iliff, and Perkins unquestionably take the top tier of Mission Holiness and are most holy.
  • Perkins does get honorable mention for being the only school to use ALL Four of the MHI’s “Holy Words.” They get an A for Affort.
  • Incidentally, but without influencing these results, Andrew goes to Duke, and Jeremy went to BU. Since they are tied in the MHI ranking, then this MHI is fair and balanced. The fact both their schools are in the top 5 means nothing.

Oh, and for fun, let’s see where Asbury Theological Seminary (NOT A United Methodist Institution) ranks, just to ensure the MHI is accurate and fair:

Asbury Theological Seminary was founded “to prepare and send forth a well-trained, sanctified, Spirit-filled, evangelistic ministry” to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world. The contemporary form of this mission commits the Seminary to maintain a multidenominational, multicultural community which:

  • Pursues the union of sound learning and vital piety through excellence in graduate, professional and continuing studies for ordained and lay ministries and provides resources for scholarly leadership in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition;
  • Nurtures men and women called of God for parish ministry and other forms of servant leadership in the experience and practice of personal and social holiness as defined by Scripture and Wesleyan theology;
  • Encourages its members, in their teachings, scholarship and service, to live out the witness of a Spirit-filled life formed by the authority of Scripture; and
  • Prepares women and men for prophetic ministries of redemption and renewal in an increasingly urbanized and secularized world.

5 point Words: God
Minus 1 point Words: sanctified, Spirit-filled, evangelistic, ministry, scriptural, holiness, ordained, Wesleyan, ministry, holiness, Scripture, Wesleyan, theology, Spirit-filled, Scripture, prophetic, ministries
TOTAL: -12 points

It’s official. Asbury has the most negative point words. In fact, it has a 17:1 buzzword to real mission word ratio. So, out of all the schools, Asbury is the least holy and uses the most lukewarm words to real mission words.
(No wonder they aren’t United Methodist)

Conclusions

Thus, it is concluded. It follows that if you want to go to a good school, go to one of the top schools of the MHI rankings, not one of the bottom ones. They are lowest of the low in Mission Holiness, and that translates to the Holiness and Salvation Level of their students and faculty.

So, that ends our analysis for today.
Hopefully in the future, we will have more examples of the MHI Index.
Thanks, and come back again someday.

(EDIT Apr.16 @ 5:08pm EST :: edited Wesleyan to Wesley and corrected the math on Asbury’s section per comments)
(EDIT Apr 18 @ 7:45am EST :: added Vanderbilt Divinity to the results! How could I forget Vandy? Silly monkeys…)

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Comments

  1. blake Huggins says

    now, this is a great post. really, really interesting. of course, most of my stereotypes were jettisoned.

    i wonder how often institutions evaluate and rework their mission statements–and how much thought and deliberation is taken when they are created. obviously a mission statement is very important, but given quality of those you listed, i wonder if it’s actually a real priority for some.

    that bit about asbury makes my day. given the gross number of our asbury alumni, perhaps some oklahoma conference peeps ought to see this. ;)

  2. Eric Helms says

    Perhaps It is just because I am a Duke grad, but it seems “Triune God” should get extra holiness points. Perhaps 5 for Triune and 5 for God–It like saying God twice in a row without any other words in between. Did anyone else explicitly define God as triune? Fun post–thanks.

  3. Rev. J says

    Love the post…I knew my faith in the MHI would pay off someday. Although, I think Duke should have gotten an extra point for using the word Triune, but then again that would be pompous of ourselves and fit right into our stereotype.

  4. Rev. Jeremy Smith says

    Yes, Eric & Rev.J, you may be correct. Triune God is certainly a word worth about 389 points in Scrabble.

    The MHI research team of devoted scientists will ask for divine guidance and alter the MHI ranking in future appraisals. I’ll keep you updated on this very exciting topic.

    Glad you enjoyed the post. ;-)

  5. Webmaster says

    Amazing post — but I wonder why “scripture” and a few others are negative points and not worth like 2 points…

  6. Anonymous says

    This is quite a, um, methodology. Not sure how a school named “Methodist Theological School” can be the least Methodist. Do you think there are any other factors to consider besides this list of words?

  7. STH fan says

    Jeremy, how could you say such things about BU?

    “…but since they used “orientation” they obviously support the HomoLiberalAgenda, and thus are in 5th place)…”

    I never knew you had a problem with this…

  8. Rev. Jeremy Smith says

    Friends, this is satire.

    I don’t see how you can read “HULK SMASH” and “HomoLiberalAgenda” and docking people for not recognizing the UMC as “the true faith” and misinterpreting the word “orientation” as anything but general silliness.

    The point of satire is to take something to an extreme to make fun of it. I took the notion of looking for “holy words” in mission statements to an extreme characterization of the above post.

    I think we can enjoy the back-and-forth banter without taking it too seriously.

  9. Missy Ann says

    I agree that this is a pretty fantastic post! I thnk that it should be sent to GBHEM to have other potential students consider when choosing a seminary…At the very least, it would be interesting to see which potential students choose which seminary…hmm…

    I’d like to apply the MHI to church mission statements as well! Which UM churches are the most holy?

  10. Rev. Jeremy Smith says

    LOL @ Missy. Applying the MHI to church mission statements may be a future endeavor for this team of willing scientists and the monkeys they have typing their reports.

    Let’s see, my church’s is:
    Through prayer and service, First United Methodist Church seeks to reach out to all people. With willing hands, compassionate hearts and open minds, we strive to be examples of the Living Christ.

    MHI would give 5 points for Christ, but negative points for prayer and definitely for “open minds” (as being part of that vapid UMC campaign). I wouldn’t count the name of the church, as our scientists didn’t count “Methodist Theological School” as 5 points for Methodist!

    So, my church’s MHI is 3 points. At least I’m tied with Gammon University! Ha!

    If there’s a book deal from this, I’ll spot you a nickel for this suggestion.

  11. Anonymous says

    Awesome post! However, you list Wesley Seminary as “Wesleyan” and I can’t figure out if that is a typo or further satire…

  12. Rev. Jeremy Smith says

    whoops, anonymous friend, that’s a typo. Thanks for catching it, I’ve got a few that I’ll update later today hopefully. Thanks!

  13. Pastor Jon Moore says

    It’s about time somebody created a worthy tool for ministry candidates to weigh one seminary against another!
    Also glad somebody else caught the “Wesleyan” typo… either that or my diploma is spurious… I never claimed it was a “holy” document.
    A couple beefs with the point system, however:
    You gave negative points for three extremely holy words, and something (-1) tells me you should reconsider “evangelical,” “witness,,” and, of course, “scriptures” (I mean, how DARE you make “scriptures” a negative word).
    You also missed 2 glaringly negative words: “institution” (I gnash my teeth), and any form of the word “intellect” (including intellectual or any other reference to brains rather than the spirit).
    Please reconsider your the aforementioned aspects of your system before someone (-1) gets wrathful.
    “Maracas” indeed.

  14. DGH says

    Wow.. if only we could have the same scale for the professors at each of the seminaries.. because we kll know that a mission statement is most to all cases is just a bunch of words that a group of people sat around a room nitpicking each word, and not formed around the actually praxis in the Kingdom! but seriously, could we test professors (because coming from Asbury) I knew there were several different professors in the school, and if you latched on to one or the other your education and praxis would probably be a different one in the end.

  15. Anonymous says

    How many United Methodist Pastors graduate from Asbury compared to the 13 United Methodist Seminaries? I think once you took a good look you would see more United Methodist Pastors are coming out of Asbury. I would even venture to ask why?

  16. Ben H. says

    Just to respond to “anonymous” here:

    I’d venture to suggest that Asbury’s unrestricted ability to implement distance learning programs (since it isn’t regulated by the university senate), coupled with it’s high scholarship offerings because of the generous gifts of rich closed-minded frightened folks might be possible reasons for it’s relative popularity.

    That said – great post! It made me laugh quite a bit!

  17. Rev. Jeremy Smith says

    Alright kids, this isn’t a Asbury-focused discussion, even though that’s how most of the blogosphere is framing it.

    There’s been many hurt feelings among te MHI research staff of monkeys (the same monkeys that picked out the lectionary, in case you are wondering). In truth, most of the orangutans ARE Asbury grads, so claims of anti-Asbury sentiment are sorely misplaced.

    Thanks for understanding.

  18. James L says

    Anonymous (3:46), you’ve got the statistics all wrong. Last I heard, Asbury only has more UM graduates than the largest *four* UM seminaries combined; not all 13 of them. sheesh. But there’s no need to go around bragging about that. It only prompts other people to make mean-spirited comments about the school’s supporters. [As for the distance learning program, I wasn’t aware there were different standards for officially UM seminaries (such as Claremont here) and Senate approved ones (such as Asbury and, come to think of it, Vanderbilt – why weren’t they included in this scientific study given their similar level of influence?)] – wow that is a long set of brackets for a blog comment.

    I think commenters of all theological/seminarian persuasions have taken this post a bit too seriously. I’m not sure what my fellow Oklahoman at the top meant exactly, but I’m assuming he thought we’d get a good laugh out of it, which I did. I’ll add this blog to my favorites – I’m not quite advanced enough yet to “subscribe” to these blog things.

  19. blake says

    @james. rest assured, the last part of my initial comment was all in jest.

    jeremy. dude, you’re slacking big time. how could you leave out vanderbilt? it’s in located in the mecca of american methodism. better get those monkeys crunching the numbers…. ;-)

  20. Nathan Mattox says

    That right thur is funny. I love how all the Dukies immmediatly jumped in to try and up their points so they wouldn’t have to be losing to the likes of Garrett! Ha Ha Ha! And the surprise holiness of Iliff–all those pot-smoking ski-bunnies! I was impressed, and was quite sure I heard angel choirs singing quite faintly behind me to the west. (Yes, I blog to the east–does that up Claremont’s holiness points?)
    As evidently the only Claremont grad in the world who has come across this little gem, I’ll just say, “Thank God for METHESCO–and Asbury!” (Kind of like how we Arkansans are oft heard to say “thank God for Mississippi” when we come in second to last in most polls of all things good.) Keep up the good work “newbie,” you’ve won some converts!

  21. Rev. Jeremy Smith says

    Lord love a duck! How’d I forget Vanderbilt? They’ve been added to the results…but any Vandy grads may look at it, I’m not sure it’s the official mission statement. The Vandy “big university” has a different mission statement, but I don’t think you want it… ;-)

    @ nathan, by blogging to the east, your MHI won’t go up, but your PH balance will (that’s Personal Holiness, for those just now joining us).

    @ B.Stone, and here I thought you’d knock me for not giving “practical” a holy level…

  22. Anonymous says

    You shouldn’t include Vanderbilt. After all, they broke off from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, partly because they OPPOSED the holiness movement. But if they hadn’t done that, there would be no Duke, Candler, or Perkins organized to create a pincer movement to surround the South with Methodist seminaries.

  23. Anonymous says

    Wish I’d known this before coming to Duke. Please consider expanding your study by computing a PCI (Politically Correct Index) for these fine institutions. Points could be awarded for words/phrases like fairly traded, living wage, undocumented worker, organic, vegan, non-speciesist, carbon footprint, or my personal favorite, the waterless urinal.

  24. Aaron says

    As an Asbury student, You will be happy to know that I first saw this post on a link from our online community. I almost replied back, “I know that guy.” And then I read the whole post, and I was amazed that you were able to “Omega Code” our Mission Statement and reveal the unholy truth about us. I wish you would have kept it a secret though, we didn’t want others to know about it.
    All in all keep up the good work, enjoy your blog, one of these days pretty soon, I’ll get you on my blog roll.

  25. Patrick says

    I wonder how my denomination fares…

    Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

    Under the lordship of Jesus Christ (5), the mission of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is

    to be totally committed to the Bible (5?) as the Word of God (5),
    to the Great Commission (-1) as our mandate,
    and to be a servant of the churches (-1)
    of the Southern Baptist Convention (5)
    by training, educating, and preparing ministers (-1)
    of the gospel for more faithful (-1) service.

    So 11 or 16, depending on whether the Bible is explicit enough!

  26. Anonymous says

    *throwing a shoe then breathing to calm…*

    I suppose some of us should feel blessed despite what we see… *le sigh*

  27. cspogue says

    Perhaps we could use some discernment to figure out when it is time to be snarky and when it is a good time to be serious. Each of the thirteen "official" seminaries receive $1,000,000 a year from our apportionments through the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF). If a seminary is changing its mission to be more "ecumenical," a lot of people are going to feel that is a worthy subject of discussion whether you do or not.

    GBHEM recently did a survey of the new ordinands from 2008 and found that Asbury graduated 61 of the ordinands while Gammon (4), Boston U. (7), Claremont (10), Iliff (11), St. Paul (15) and Methodist Theological (17) combined for 64. Which means those six schools received $6 million a year while Asbury received $0 from the MEF. Asbury's 61 also exceeded any of the other "official" seminaries since Candler did 49 and Duke did 42.

    Even looking at the Bishops, eleven of them who have a M.Div did not get it from one of the thirteen. In fact, neither Iliff, St. Paul, nor Methodist Theological are represented on the current College of Bishops.

    I am not an Asbury "fan" or "foe" but while we are ReThinking Church, we really need to rethink how we support ministerial education.

    The comments about Asbury's distance learning are rather ironic considering that the "official" seminaries are working on that too:
    http://www.gbhem.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lsKSL3POLvF&b=4922329&ct=7541201

  28. Rev. Jeremy Smith says

    join with me: HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!

    It's humor. It's satire. It's okay to laugh. And please don't judge "discernment" when the post is 18 months old and without acknowledging the reference.

    all together now: HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!

    (whew)

  29. cspogue says

    I apologize. I thought this was a more recent post.

    Perhaps, we can make lemonade out of lemons and you could give some thought to the new information about our ordinands, our bishops and ministerial education.

  30. Anonymous says

    I implore the initiators to start a new index: Holier Than Thou Index (HTTI – a shortened version of the Hittites). Please?

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