As first publicly announced to the Internet Gnostic community last year, having been in the planning stages for more than six years prior to that, the Stephanus Seminary, or Ministry Preparation program, will be the lead academic program of the Gnosis Institute. It being proposed as the first educational program of the Institute for many reasons, the most important being the need for such a program.
The program takes the view that students are serious about preparation for active engaged Gnostic ministry, and are not simply seeking the fastest track to ordination. Gnostic ministry is a difficult task in the best of circumstances, one that many set out to devote their lives to, and a very few succeed in actually living out. Rather than focus on ordination, we focus on serious preparation for ministry that is academic, both broad and deep, and practice oriented. With the limitations of distance, the lack of personal contact and experience central to Gnosis, being overcome to the extent possible via residential conferences. Temporary learning communities that will allow us to grow our vital Gnostic community beyond the limitations of where we reside.
This allows for the best of both worlds, professional level preparation through an academic institution, in conjunction with formation and specific training within an ecclesiastical context. Although some may try to make this into a false dilemma, turning it into an exclusive choice, no such dualism exists.
The model followed is that of an open academic not-denominational seminary, such as Harvard Divinity School or Union Theological Seminary, but Gnostic in focus and designed to prepare for active spiritual ministry. This may be considered in contrast to the model of a seminary as a church institution for formation to the priesthood within a single denomination, like a Roman Catholic or Lutheran seminary. The strictly denominational model of seminary has been on the decline for quite some time, with most seminaries representing more than a single denomination, or being open and used by more than one. The open academic not-denominational model only represents a small percentage of seminaries, these usually having grown from denominational ones.
While they vary to a great extent, every church has a formation program. A process of becoming and learning that leads to ordination. Due to the limitations of distance, and the immediacy and inexpressibility of Gnosis, Apostolic Gnostic churches in general do not have distance formation programs, with only recent years seeing some limited occurrences. Formation has been considered something that occurs in-person. It is in this and broader contexts that the Stephanus Seminary at the Gnosis Institute is designed to operate.
The vision of the program is that of an open professional seminary that will essentially serve in the areas of formation that are academic and general. This has the additional benefit of bringing together students from different churches and traditions to be able to have a sense of going through the process together. There are few enough of us, and in any given formation program there are fewer still. These ties will continue to connect the Gnostic community long after students graduate.
The benefit to church formation programs is that they no longer need to be in the business of being a school: either trying to do it all with few resources, or doing much less; but can instead focus on the more personal aspects of formation, and aspects of practice. Additionally, the program is modular, both to adapt to the individual ministry for which it is preparation, and to adapt to the different focuses of Gnostic churches and traditions—to be able to serve all those seeking serious preparation for Gnostic ministry.
The Stephanus Seminary at the Gnosis Institute is an open professional Gnostic seminary. This will allow those seeking preparation for ministry to do so, regardless of the form of that ministry. The Gnosis Institute will be open to all, with ordination between candidate and church, as always.
Students are advised that some churches require other academic programs, ones that are contained within their organization. Students who seek ordination are advised to consult with their ecclesiatical body if they seek to use this program as a part of their formation process. However, graduates of such denominational academic programs will still want to enter this program. Benefiting from its modular nature so as to focus more on the areas that were not previously covered.
Additionally, the Gnosis Institute will offer three other allied programs: Developing Psyche & Spirit, Gnostic Studies, and Living Philosophy. More information on the educational programs of the Institute will follow.