Why Wiccan Seminaries?

TerryRileyby Rev. Terry Riley

The definition of a seminary, theological collage or divinity school is: “an institution of secondary or post-secondary education for educating students, generally to prepare them for ordination for Clergy or other ministry. The English word is taken from the Latin, seminarium, which means “seed bed.”

In the old days of Wicca or the practices of Witchcraft the religion was propagated by Covens, which usually had memberships of 6 to 12 people. Covens within the Craft still exist and thrive today and play an important part in promoting and preserving the faith. In recent years there has risen a need for Wiccan/Pagan churches, which serve a larger congregation and meet the necessity of a growing interest in the religion. A lot of these churches, like the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, have also seen the need for a system, to train and teach qualified clergy to properly manage and operate these intuitions. This is partly due to the fact Wiccan Churches, being legal entities recognized by the government, are a lot more involved with our cultural and secular aspects of society. It is an entirely different role to be in the priesthood of a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt church than running or managing a coven.

The problem has been that in the last 40 years, there has been no way to train legal Wiccan clergy for the problems or prepare them for the pitfalls of the differing responsibilities required of running a large, legally recognized intuition. The clergy’s role within the Church structure is not limited to serving individuals. They also work to create a community of mutual caring, making individual congregants aware of the importance of serving others both within the congregation and beyond in the outside community, alerting them to the needs of others as they arise, and developing mutual aid programs. The clergy also serve as educators. This “prophetic” function involves messages to the congregation and the larger community about issues of importance to spiritual well-being. The messages conveyed generally are guided by the text and liturgy of the particular faith tradition. Therefore, in these times, the need has risen for Seminaries. The systematic training received in theology, doctrine, history, and rituals provides seminary-educated clergy with a religious capital that is distinct from that possessed by the laity or by clergy with no comparable education. This distinctive religious capital becomes a justification for professional credentialing and expertise, allowing clergy to acquire an authority of the religious culture that the laity do not hold outside of their personal ministry, in our greater society.

Marilyn S. Gamm, director of admissions at Louisville Theological Seminary, says, “When there is a lack of theological education, the church is often shortchanged in its efforts to nurture the divine-human relationship. It is shortchanged through overly simplistic, pat responses to the many and varied moral and social issues confronting contemporary congregants.” Gamm continues, “Theological education not only grounds one’s pastoral ministry on a solid foundation, but it provides resources and insights into the complexities of human life and faith beyond what the typical layperson develops from devotional and church-school materials.” This more solid grounding, adds Gamm, provides pastors with “the confidence to admit we do not and cannot always know all the answers.”  The team of responders from Dallas Seminary adds, “Without the exposure to a diverse community, the minister may lack the interactive skills and theological sophistication that a larger [seminary] community encourages.”

The religion of Wicca is growing and evolving into a new era. In this new millennium Wicca, as a religion, is rapidly moving into a time when it can stand with dignity and honor with the other major faiths of the World. In the words of Pete (Pathfinder) Davis, from the ATC Ordains, “Remember always, legal rights are most often only secured by those who stand up and demand them. We must demand what is our rightful due, no more and no less, for if we continue to be secretive and act as though we are ashamed of our beliefs, we only serve to reinforce the lies and accusations our detractors use to discredit our Gods and subjugate the Wicca.”

First image retrieved from Jon Dawson’s Flickr

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Why Wiccan Seminaries? — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: The Circle of Hearth and Kin - Why Wiccan Seminaries?

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