I put out some posts a short while ago regarding theological seminaries and the requirements for Biblical eldership. Particularly, I was discussing the question of why Evangelicalism has remained largely white and middle class and its leadership remains similarly homogenous despite real fruit amongst working class and BME people.
Here is what they picked up and wrote:
Stephen Kneale is the pastor of Oldham Bethel Church, an FIEC church in the Greater Manchester area which is also affiliated to the North West Partnership. Last week he wrote a couple of forthright pieces on his blog which came to the attention of Affinity Director Graham Nicholls.
In the first, Stephen suggested that theological colleges are failing to serve churches in more working-class, ethnically-diverse areas because the sort of leaders they produce are not likely to be those best able to work in such places:
“The issue is that our churches reflect the middle class, educated people that run them. They, in turn, send people to colleges run by middle class educated people like them. They, likewise, churn out middle class educated people like them and set requirements that are often only met by middle class educated people like them. Working class people then enter the church and quickly learn this place is not for people like me, leadership is not for people like me and theological training is not for people like me.
Clearly, this was not Jesus’ view. He was quite happy to welcome, and commission, uneducated fishermen and those who would not meet the entrance requirements for the average theological college…”
His second piece, developed the question further by asking why, when working-class and ethnic minorities are coming to faith in Christ more readily than middle-class white people, they are so under-represented in our churches and even more so in their leadership:
“We have created a largely middle class movement that insists on academic degrees for its leaders, run by white middle class academics, which entrenches a largely white middle class leadership that begets people exactly like themselves.
What solutions are available to us? First, we have to be clear that scripture does not demand academic qualifications for those who would be leaders in the church. We must rediscover the primary Biblical criteria for church leaders; namely, godly character. Second, we must recognise that assessing ministry ability is not always best fulfilled through academic criteria. That is, perhaps exams and writing papers is not the best way to determine whether someone is suited to ministry (irrespective of whether those things tell us something worthwhile about an individual or not). Most importantly, we need to make it clear that working class and BME people are just as appropriate for ministry as anyone else…”
Stephen goes on to suggest some ways of addressing these concerns, and in two subsequent posts has written more on the subject.
What do you think? Is this is real problem? And if so, what should we be doing about it? Your comments are invited.