The could-have-been Southern seminary

With the building sales at Meadville Lombard, the leadership crisis at Starr King, the closure of Bangor and the God-knows-what at General (Episcopal) (one, two)… well, it’s easy to have misgiving about the future of seminaries, and with it the future of ministerial formation.

When I looked back to the 1927 Universalist Year Book, I’m reminded that the future is contingent. Affairs needn’t have turned out the way they did. For instance, did you know there was a ministerial training program in Chattanooga, Tennessee? I didn’t, and I wonder if it was the premature death of the Harriman, Tennessee parish — Tennessee Universalism was far from strong; these were the only two churches in the state and thus they had no convention of their own — that caused this to end, too.


The School of Evangelism, Chattanooga, Tenn.

A school for the special training for the ministry for those unable to attend the regular theological schools of the Universalist Church.

Organized 1917. Has the use of the Q. H. Shinn Memorial Church for study purposes.

Board of Management: Manager, The Minister of the Q. H. Shinn Memorial Church; Vice-Manager, the Chairman of the Educational Committee of the Board of Trustees of the General Convention; Sec.-Treas., Rev. W. H. McGlauflin, D.D.; Mrs. J. W. Vallentyne, Rev. Francis B. Bishop, D.D., M. O. Hill, and Mrs. J. G. McGowin.

The minister was a B. H. Clark, of whom I know nothing. The education committee didn’t exist, but if the scholarship committee was intended, then that was Lee McCollester, of Tufts. We already met Dr. McGlauflin in a sad episode about thirty years prior.

I’ll keep my eyes open for more details.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

  1. As a grateful 1986 graduate of the late, lamented Bangor Theological Seminary (along with a number of other UUs) I have a fellow feeling for seminaries that “didn’t make it” or were perhaps still-born as is the case here. BTS lives on as a small, study institute in the religious leadership field, with an as yet uncertain future. Much learning and inspiration were born in these schools that are now but names; much good ministry was done by their graduates. That ministry is the best tribute to these modest places of prayer, learning, fellowship and, at least in my case, lots of earnest conversation over many cups of coffee.

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