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Ever a Vision: A Brief History of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 1959-2009.

Ever a Vision: A Brief History of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 1959-2009. By Donald K. McKim. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009. xiii + 252 pp. $28.00 cloth.

Although there are many reasons to avoid institutional histories, savvy readers will make exceptions. Students of theological education should do so with Donald McKim's history of Pittsburgh Seminary. Its limitations typify the genre, such as a reliance on uninspiring official documents and a top-down focus on institutional leadership. But McKim also takes pains to situate the seminary within the larger history of Protestant theological education and the changing social and educational context of the last fifty years. This context includes social unrest in the 1960s, evolving gender and racial dynamics, theological conflict between conservatives and liberals, persistent financial challenges, and increasingly influential accrediting agencies. This being a "brief history," there is less attention to context than one might wish. But the focus on a single institution illuminates effectively the way that context shaped theological education.

Avoiding the common temptation to whitewash the story, McKim candidly explores recurrent tensions over curriculum (core courses vs. electives), governance (centralized vs. shared), and the purpose of theological education (ministerial vs. academic). To some degree, all three challenged Presidents Donald Miller, William Kadel, and Carnegie Samuel Calian. Calian, in particular, encouraged movement toward Reformed theological centrism and left the school on a sounder financial footing. McKim, in turn, has left us a sounder understanding of Protestant theological education in North America.

doi: 10.1017/S0009640711000497

James W. Lewis

Louisville Institute

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Author:Lewis, James W.
Publication:Church History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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