Admissions suspension proposal passed

Faculty of Arts and Science approves plan to suspend admissions to three programs for three-year period

The proposal to suspend admissions to the Theology program has been passed, and is in effect as of Jan. 1.

The proposal, which was put forward in October, called to suspend admissions to the Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies and Bachelor of Theology, due to a steady decrease in applications.

Susan Mumm, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, agreed to approve the proposal.

Only one student enrolled in the programs this year. Current students will be allowed to graduate by August 2015.

“The program is focused mostly on Christian theology, and mostly on people who wanted to train for professional ministry in Christian churches,” said Pamela Dickey Young, a professor in the School of Religion.

Young said that specificity of the program has made recruitment difficult. “It’s not that people aren’t interested in studying about Christian topics, but this particular program requires … usually a commitment or interest in being a leader in a religious group,” she said.

The Theology program has existed at Queen’s since 1841, as the school was founded by a Presbyterian church primarily to educate ministers, Young said.

She said that the lack of interest reflects a change within larger society.

“Society-wide, fewer people are affiliating with churches, meaning fewer are wanting to be leaders,” Young said. “A number of mainline churches and seminaries in the United States have had to close due to declining enrolment. It’s a North American issue.” Regardless of this, suspending the program is a loss to Queen’s historically, she said.

Natalie Istead, graduating with a Master of Divinity this August, said that even with the decline in church attendance, the need for ministers is still there.

“There actually is a big need at least in the United Church for ministers, because we have ministers retiring and we need those people,” Istead said.

Istead said that education is necessary for those who want to be ministers.

“I hope those [new ministers] come with a lot of training., because I know I would have been a terrible minister without my education,” she said.

After completing a three-year degree in French literature, Istead said she felt called to the ministry. Within her denomination, she requires a Master of Divinity to become a minister.

She said she is saddened by the suspension of the program.

“I think [the suspension] is a loss to the school, to the church, and to society in general,” she said. “The theological school … is a place where faith and education just come together.” Istead’s peer Jana Miller shared similar sentiments about the school.

“It’s sad to know this won’t be an opportunity for other theology students; it feels like we’re losing a big part of history,” she said.

After growing up in a Baptist household, Miller pursued a BA in Environmental Studies before coming to Queen’s to pursue a Master of Divinity.

She said that the Theology program must deal with the changing realities of society.

“As we move into a post-modern world, in many ways [change] is a good thing. It’s exciting to see what the churches of tomorrow will be like,” she said.

Miller added that even if the Theology program doesn’t continue, an interest in religion is still strong among students.

“I think we really want to look backwards, but at the same time the religious studies program seems to be thriving. It’s a kind of change in interest,” she said.

“It’s hard because you’re losing [the program] but at the same time I think we’re gaining something.”

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