San Antonio, TX (click image for source)
San Antonio, TX (click image for source)

I am a resident of San Antonio, TX—the seventh largest city in the United States and one of the fastest growing too. When I moved here from Portland, OR, about a year ago I was under the impression that there would be several seminaries and/or divinity schools representing a variety of denominations. Portland has a reputation for being irreligious, yet it is the home to three evangelical seminaries (George Fox Evangelical Seminary, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, and Western Seminary) despite being only the twenty-eighth largest city in the United States. My understanding of Texas was shaped by what little I knew of Dallas—the stereotypical Texan city for outsiders. It is considered to be part of the Bible Belt. The ethos of the city has allowed for institutions like Dallas Theological Seminary to thrive. I wrongly assumed that all of Texas would be similar. Houston is like Dallas in that it appears to have a strong evangelical presence. Yet unlike these two Texas metropolises San Antonio has a far narrower culture of religion.

The religious demographics for Bexar County (within which San Antonio is the largest city) indicate that 65.1% of people have some sort of affiliation, but it isn’t evangelical for the most part. Instead, Bexar County’s religious citizens are 63% Roman Catholic (RCC). The other 37% consist 13% Southern Baptist and 24% everything else!

When you search for seminaries and/or divinity schools in San Antonio you’ll find the following:

Assumption Seminary (RCC)

Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS, Dispensationalist/Evangelical, but only a satellite campus)

Logsdon Seminary (Baptist General Convention of Texas, or BGCT, but only a satellite campus)

Oblate School of Theology (RCC)

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS, Southern Baptist Convention, or SBC, but only a satellite campus)

As far as I can tell that is the extent of it (if you know of others tell me via comment). Notably missing is the presence of either progressive evangelical institutions or mainline ones. We have two RCC seminaries, one SBC, another BGCT, and an independent Evangelical seminary with an Dispensationalist heritage. Of these five options only two are normal campuses, not satellites.

The RCC demographic is strengthened by our city’s large Latino presence. Latinos who are not affiliated with the RCC tend to find themselves in Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches, many being non-affiliated. If one was to project San Antonio’s future as regards religious affiliation these would be the two groups most poised to continue expansion. Since many of the Pentecostal Churches are non-affiliated it is unlikely that they’d be able to put together the resources necessary to establish a graduate institute or house a satellite campus.

When I moved here I wondered if a school like Fuller Theological Seminary might consider planting a satellite campus in San Antonio (there is one in Houston), but I am not convinced that there would be a market for it. If DTS and SBTS can’t establish more than a limited satellite option it is unlikely that other institutions whose administrations are less informed about Texan cultures will have more success. That said, this is a huge market and one that promises to expand. Maybe an entrepreneurial mind can envision a way to bring more graduate options to this region (though while 79.8% of San Antonio’s residents have a high school degree or equivalent diploma only 23.9% have a BA or higher, which is another obstacle for establishing a graduate institution here).

In a future post I will take a look at Austin, TX, which is also one of the largest cities as well as one of the fastest growing. By way of seminary/divinity school options it appears slightly better than San Antonio, but not that much better, which interestingly enough makes the greater Austin-San Antonio region of Texas one of the largest markets for religious education that may not be as promising as the population demographics suggest.