Emerging: Negotiating identity in a 21 st century American seminary
Shafer, Peter W.
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Emerging: Negotiating Identity in a 21 st Century American Seminary is an ethnographic investigation involving a diverse group of students as they experience their first year of graduate-level theological education at a Protestant seminary in the United States. The study analyzes the observations and student interviews that form the core of the study’s data by drawing on the scholarly tradition associated with the sociology of education. This is done with particular reference to the work of Philip Wexler, who sees the possibility for a “socio-educational critique” arising in educational settings and, more broadly, for a re-igniting of the sacred in post-modern society. Students in the study were found to be engaged in a process of self re-invention, a process that tended to lead them to question settled notions of what pastoral ministry means and what a seminary education is for. This, in turn, was found to be part of a larger context in which the students—and the seminary as an institution—were re-imagining American Christianity. Elements of this re-imagining were found to be consistent with what some scholars have observed in so-called “Emerging Christianity.” The study concludes with a consideration of the implications of these findings for religion, politics, education and religious leadership in 21 st century America.