One of the large orders of business is to construct a (largely on-line) Ecumenical Gnostic Seminary. While churches may seek to flesh out their own formation programs, these programs will always fall short of what a truly ecumenical program can offer. It is not so much a matter of legitimacy, though there will be that perception, but a matter of combining various perspectives and forming a true nexus for the Gnostic renaissance. The way to create an ecumenical atmosphere in the Gnostic community is to come together in a seminary. The ecumenical movement that has arisen in recent years across many protestant denominations stems from the use of joint programs. Years ago, as the denominations began to loose membership, protestant seminaries realized that they were essentially offering the same preparation, and so should pool their programs. We as Gnostics, do not have enough members to begin with, and so the current situation, wherein each organization must create its own formation program from beginning to end, is a true waste of resources. Do we each need to do all of the work, just because we are different organizations? That would truly be absurd.
The large issues will of course stem from what such a program would consist of in terms of content. There are, oddly enough, advocates for programs that consist largely of studying mainstream theology, as if modeling our content on protestant seminaries were the way to go when such programs do not prepare their own ministers for ministry. If one does a bit of research, one will find that that is precisely what many mainstream protestant ministers complain of as a shortcoming of such programs. If it is a failure for the largely intellectually oriented protestant churches, why would Gnostics seriously consider it? It would seem that is because that is all that we know of publicly to model programs on.
We must always keep in mind that such programs are formative: they are a part of a formation program, and as such help shape the form of the student's ministry. If we re-create protestant programs we will be adding a formative element that will lead those ministries towards protestant forms. After all, if I study theology for years to become ordained, isn't it extremely important if not what it is all about? This does not need to be conscious, it is merely the pragmatic valuing of one thing by making it central or very important.
For my part, I think some courses in theology would be useful. Not many, just enough to be able to understand what people using that language are talking about. Now some may disagree, but I would guess that such people equate theology with critical or philosophical thinking about issues related to religion, rather than the unique endeavor with a long history and particular perspective. However, I see critical and philosophical thinking as being a part of every aspect of such a program. And, I also see theology, like the philosophy of religion, as being concerned with truly anachronistic issues. Issues which have no bearing on the life of the soul, or on the ministries of individuals who are actually working with others directly. I may be wrong, it may be a matter of semantics, or it may simply be the glass-bead game I have always found it to be.
It comes down to what seems to be an issue of whether we really want to grow up as a Gnostic community, or merely dress-up like the “grown ups” around us. Building an ecumenical Gnostic Seminary is a large undertaking. But there are many who have had years and decades of experience both in Gnostic ministry and in running Gnostic formation programs. If we want to tap into a reserve of knowledge and wisdom, it is there. The big question is: is anyone seriously interested? This is a call for participants: those interested in building, and those interested in availing themselves of, such a program.