I went to the Claremont School of Theology. And I'm glad I did. Yes, there were things about it that drove me bonkers. There were some pretty significant areas in which CST did not prepare me for pastoral ministry, but they at least prepared me to be unprepared, if that makes sense. I made lifelong friendships, and I certainly loved many of my professors. Quite a few have moved on, but Philip Clayton is still there. I only was able to take one class with him - Pneumatology - but it was among my all-time favorite educational experiences of my life.1 The work he's doing through the Transforming Theology project is really exciting, and addresses some of what drove me bonkers about CST. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make it to their big Theology after Google conference in March, but I would highly recommend it to anyone in the So-Cal area who does have a couple days to spend with emergent and progressive theologians who are interested in relevant ways of doing theology.
CST was having a seriously tough time when I graduated. The new president, Jerry Campbell, has done a fantastic job of pulling the school out of financial crisis and directing it toward an innovative era through the Claremont University Project. But last week the University Senate of the United Methodist Church recommended that disciplinary action be taken against the school, partially due to a financial report that hadn't been completed yet (but was on schedule and projected to be balanced), and partially due to the fact that the UMC apparently doesn't like CST's plan. The school's response is available here. The recommendation places an embargo on funds allocated to the school. It's so disappointing. And honestly kind of chilling. I'm no Methodist, but I do care deeply about the future of the UMC and other mainline denominations. I don't think now is a good time to hinder faithfully-discerned innovation. My seminary pal Susan has set up a FB page and blog to protest the decision. She's passing out the publicly-listed email addresses of the University Senate members... certainly, this is worth sending off a politely worded missive of protest.
1. I sort of threw that line out without thinking about it, and it made me want to think about it. My all-time favorite educational experiences also include AP English with Mrs. Johnson, Shakespeare with Simon Morgan-Russell, creative writing class with Maj, teaching-poetry-in-the-schools class with David Hassler, Systematic Theology with Professor Helmer, and Peacemaking/Christian Ethics with Ellen. (I prefer to standardize names, but this time it feels more appropriate to name them by how I think of them in my head.)