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.
I have a good friend whom I graduate with from Our Lady of the Lake University (RCC) who applied to the RCC seminaries and was rejected, he was under the impression, in a large part due to his Latino ethnicity and “accent.” That being said, the Seminary is in large part, a business. Unless there is a market to drive business from, I feign to imagine an established non RCC presence in San Antonio. Austin, on the other hand, seems more promising, as I’ve seen more diversity in their grad schools for certain. Interested to hear your take on it. BTW, the koine study group, is that out of the anglican seminary in Austin?
It is out of the Episcopal diocese here in SA.
Exactly, if it can’t be sustained then it can’t exist. As large as the market is here there is little demand. I noticed the same thing when I recruited in Phoenix a few years ago. It has one, smaller evangelical seminary and I don’t know what else. Although it has a huge population there is almost no market.
interesting, so not a seminary per se, but ongoing education?
Why go to seminary when you can start your own church, get a congregation of a couple of thousand,and retire a millionaire? 🙂 Interesting post for sure.
Yes, but three of them may go into graduate studies in religion next year or seminary.
True, as I’ve said before, I’m a poor entrepreneur! There are big bucks in religion. I’m so misguided! 😉
Some clarifications, as one who grew up in Texas Baptist life, and knows the lay of the land. The way you put letters together is important … there is, we could say, a lot of history embedded in the acronyms (which is why recent proposals to change the name of the Southern Baptist Convention have been shot down). So…
First, I actually attended Southwestern Bapt Theo Sem in Ft. Worth for two years. Left in 2000 at the height of the disputes there of the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM, another acronym!). Anyways, be to abbreviate it SWBTS, as SBTS refers the ‘Southern Baptist Theo Sem’ in Louisville headed by Al Mohler. The two schools continue to have pissing matches as to which is the ‘flagship’ seminary of the SBC.
Second, the Baptist General Convention of Texas should be BGCT. As there are quite a few state level ‘Baptist General Conventions’ and Texans are proud of being from Texas, that ‘T’ is important.
Third, you refer to “another SBC affiliate though the BGC[T].” I’m guessing you’re talking about the Logsdon Seminary campus of Hardin-Simmons University (main campus in Abilene) in SA. This is tricky and I understand the confusion. There’s a lot of history between the BGCT and SBC represented here. The BGCT has two seminaries (both connected to respective Texas Baptist universities) operated completely independently of the SBC, Truett Theological Sem and Logsdon Sem. While the BGCT yet still has some relations with the SBC connected to cooperative program giving and missions, Truett and Logsdon are considered soley Texas Baptist seminaries and its not accurate to call them affiliates of the SBC. They receive no funds from the SBC and in fact are considered ‘liberal’ by some SBC ultra-conservatives. BTW – I actually graduated from Logsdon (main campus) with my second masters.
Fourth, and finally, you are correct about demographics. The heavy Catholic influence has made it difficult for Baptists (of all stripes) and other evangelicals to get as strong a presence there as other parts of Texas. But there is another factor. Before a lot of schools started pursuing external campuses, my alma mater for my Bachelors and first Masters, Wayland Baptist Univeristy (main campus in Plainview) was doing external campus education connected to Air Force (primarily) and Army bases, and had maintained a SA campus for a long time, including undergrad and graduate level religion/theology courses. Back in the day, gentleman’s agreements meant that other schools like SWBTS (and even DTS) agreed not to pursue that ‘market’. That changed as relations between the SBC and BGCT grew more tense, and then as the BGCT developed its own seminaries as alternatives to SWBTS. So now we have what’s there now. In any case, in addition to seminaries/divinity schools proper you may also broaden your search to include graduate level theological education – in which case in a town like Abilene you actually find three and not just one.
This is why people joke that is a small town has seven Baptists it likely has eight Baptist Churches! Thank you for explaining these things to me. I’ll go through and update the jargon, especially the acronyms.
I did see that the University of the Incarnate Word (one of the greatest university names I’ve ever heard) does have a graduate program in religious studies. I may do a post on those as well. My focus on seminaries/divinity schools has more to do with their role in preparing ministers.
No, you’re wrong on the first part … most small towns like that will have at least ten Baptist churches! It gets even more confusing to some when they realize that churches themselves can dually (and even triply) align. Some just see the whole thing as a mess and wonder why the BGCT and SBC don’t just sever ties completely. Well, the fact is the BGCT is by far the largest of the state conventions and the SBC would cut its nose off to spite its face to do that. And folks in the BGCT, even ones who feel the SBC has essentially become fundamentalist, still have close friends and family who are missionaries and received their support from SBC mission agencies. So for many it comes down to people they love. My wife and I were ordained by a BGCT (but not SBC) affiliated church. At this point we were politely (and non-politely) asked to leave the SBC over this and I had a couple very interesting talks with churches about being their pastor, but its even still sticky in BGCT life. Even though the BGCT as a convention supports women’s ordination, a local BGCT church still may not or might not want the controversy even if its leaning that way. Some just want the ‘good ole days’ back. So, it gets tricky. In any case, this more than you wanted to know, but its why I tell people I’m Texas Baptist and not Southern Baptist (though I still value my Southern Baptist heritage and am saddened by their sharp turn towards ultra-conservatism) … but now I have to figure out the Scottish/British Baptist scene.
On the thing about preparing ministers, I know this is normally done by a seminary proper. And for Baptists it was that way too at one point. However, in Texas, because the BGCT has a such a good lineup of universities, and because many ministers didn’t want to leave their churches to go to SWBTS or SBTS or Midwestern, or Golden Gate, etc … the universities developed their own graduate level theological schools – many offering both a traditional MA and a Master of Christian Ministry or something like it. So, for instance, my alma mater, WBU, has had a huge role in preparing ministers in their own context (not just Baptists even) in west Texas and eastern New Mexico through its main campus, external campus, and online offerings. They do this same sort of thing with its eight or nine external campuses with plans I think (at least at one point) of establishing one in Colorado. They also are trying to offer and MDiv in the near future. I’ve known several also who resorted to a graduate school vs a seminary, for instance the ACU Graduate School of Theology in Abilene. So, its likely, that at least in Texas there’s more ministerial training going on than in just seminaries proper. I would say one thing that Texas (and other parts of the South) has that perhaps Portland doesn’t is LOTS of already established local denominationally owned universities (many of whom are now establishing seminaries in addition to their graduate theological schools, ie: Beeson). Its harder to track but I would suggest looking at these as well. Peace.
I find the whole thing quite fascinating. What frustrates me about the Church as a Christian intrigues me from a sociological perspective (not saying that I’m a sociologist, just that how religious groups function interests me). As I think about the universities in San Antonio—UIW, Trinity U, Our Lady of the Lake, UTSA, TA&M-SA—they are either RCC or state universities. I think Wayland houses the Logsdon satellite. Maybe there is something hidden.
SA only ranks 7th when numbers are bound by actual city limits — and due to the unique distribution of our population, the stat presents an attractive perspective when courting potential developers and investors. When the entirety of the metropolitan area is considered, SA ranks closer to 25. The two Baptist Satellites are located in powerhouse churches: SWBTS at Parkhills, and DTS at CBC, both mega-churches in their own right, surely well-thought out as strategic placement for netting potential clergy and recreational CE students alike. One slight correction, Trinity University is historically affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, but is now primarily independent (Professors may still be asked to sign a covenant agreement of ideological support, not positive (I looked that up a couple years ago when a Muslim Student complained that her diploma showed her graduation in “the 2010th year of our Lord”; seemingly unconcerned with the much larger “Trinity University”). Needless to say, the RC schools you mentioned are all reputable, and are different “ecclesiastical orders” I believe (Marian, Dominican, Franciscan, etc. – exhausting my understanding of such a topic). I think Oblate is the only RC “seminary” proper, but St. Mary’s has a good regional Law school, UIW has a good vision school, and OLLU has a good doctoral program in Religious Leadership, geared toward academic administration and parachurch leadership. I haven’t done any formal research on any of this stuff. Additionally, the Wayland Baptist satellite is a “relatively” new player here. Thus said, any of those schools will let you attend, even if you’re not RC, getting you to the point where you can transfer, or finish your denominational-type polity courses in tandem elsewhere. Austin has a couple other seminaries: Episcopalian Seminary of the Southwest (ssw.edu), Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary (austinseminary.edu), Church of Christ Graduate School of Theology (austingrad.edu), Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest (lsps.edu), and I know people studying remotely via Liberty and Fuller.. Until recently, most upwardly mobile residents left SA for their BS, many of which don’t return. Good advances at UTSA and TAMU-SA are both changing that narrative, those many still look forward to the opportunity to leave town for a while. Welcome Aboard, Br. LaPort.
Here’s are 2 local tips:
(1) drive 281, exit Hildebrand, and turn East toward Broadway. Take the second entrance into the UIW campus. Follow the drive to the right, over a culvert, and around to the furthest back-side of the Natatorium. Park against the tree-line, get out and cross a rustic-looking foot-bridge. Beneath you is a clear, gravely stream. Follow the sidewalk to the left past a sand volleyball court to what looks like a wishing well. Read the bronze plaque and feel the reverence for the place. On your way out, pass the fork and explore the rocky outcrop ahead of you and some of the other grounds. San Pedro Park is another good place to visit.
(2) next, visit the Alamo and know that it was a Catholic mission, established by Franciscan priests and monks to Christianize Texas indians. There were five other missions within a 12-mile stretch of the river. When the weather’s perfect, grab (or rent) a bike and ride the mission trail down to Concepcion, San Juan, San Jose, Espada, and the others.
(3) see the black Madona at the San Fenando Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the contiguous US, established by Canary Islanders (Portuguese) at the time of the Alamo.
(3) Painted Church Tour: The first Anglo Texicans were probably Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterians down from TN and AR, but there was a huge German land grant awarded in the 1850’s that brought hoardes of German, Polish, and Czech Catholics and Lutherans up from the Gulf through Indianola (http://www.klru.org/paintedchurches/map.html).
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