Three Types of Seminaries
Most seminaries fall into one of three categories: denominational, university-based, and independent. The category you select will make a significant difference in the type of learning experience you will have.
Denominational schools exist primarily to serve the needs of a particular religious group, training their clergy and other church leaders. The theology and agenda of that denomination dominate the life of the school.
By contrast, university-related theological or divinity schools are often finely tuned with the larger culture of the institution. They exist alongside other professional schools, such as law and medicine. You’ll probably hear more about what’s being debated by the deconstructionists in the university’s English department than about what will be voted at a denominational synod or convention.
Freestanding, independent seminaries usually exist to serve a movement. Often they are founded because of dissatisfaction with both denominational and university-related schools. The largest number of such seminaries are part of the evangelical movement in American Christianity.
In selecting between the three types of schools, it’s important to keep your career pathway in mind. Certain denominations require that their candidates for ministry attend their own seminaries. Students for whom that is not a factor may benefit from the broader educational perspective that may be found at a university-based or independent school.