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ChristoWitch87

Claremont School of Theology and Process Studies

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So I am entering my final year of M.Div studies and things have taken a turn for the strange. What I thought was going to be a fairly straight forward journey to obtaining a credential for chaplaincy has turned into writing a thesis on the search for a common theological language for dialogue between Christianity and Neopaganism. As I've worked on this topic, I've come to realize that common ground isn't to be had so much between Neopaganism and Christianity proper as between Neopaganism and process theology. The mutability of God, a panentheist view of experienced reality, and the general evolutionary/unfolding view of both humanity and God are things largely accepted in Neopaganism. My project is quickly becoming the creation of a Neopagan theology communicated in process language.

I am in the very early stages of contemplating further study, but I am curious, what are admissions like for CST? Who else does process theology? What should I do in terms of languages and coursework to prepare (An STM/Th.M is not out of the question as I have enough GI Bill left)? Are there realistic placements for this field given it appears to be small?

In terms of a topic, I would likely focus on how a process framework affects gendered concepts of divinity in religious devotion (e.g. the male architect-God of being vs. the female-mother Goddess of becoming).

Background: BA Philosophy and Math, SUNY (3.75/4), MAR Theology from YDS (N/A weird grading system), M.Div from a small ATS accredited mainline school (3.8-3.9/4).

Languages: Spanish, Persian (Long Story)

Thanks in advance.

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To process theology/philosophy broadly, I'd take a look here - http://whiteheadresearch.org/relations/graduate-programs/ The website looks up to date at quick glance.

I can only directly speak to Roland Faber (CST) and Catherine Keller (Drew). Keller took a student, I think, two years ago so she may be up for another student by the time you're applying (guessing for next Fall 2020?)

CST/CGU is a really cool and fascinating school. Unfortunately, their financial aid for PhD students is, probably without any competition, the worst in the US. I've heard through the grapevine that their acceptance rate is high but it's because they're hoping to eventually get someone to come. They do have some generous scholarships but the competition is fierce and they've been known to skip over cohorts if they feel no one deserves it. On the plus side, there's a large number of schools in the area and I've been told their students generally have multiple adjunct offers once they're post-coursework.

Does CGU still offer a joint MA/PhD? I think it's where you got the MA in Philosophy but did the PhD in Religious Studies.

If you're looking at process thought seriously, I'd aim for applying to PhD programs at this point. Undergrad in the field and two M* is, generally, more than enough for a non-biblical studies field. Given the contemporary nature of the field, you'll certainly need reading ability in French and German, depending on the school. I'd focus on German though, enough so that even if you failed the translation exam, they could look at the score and see that you've at least started.*

*I had a cohort member that was accepted that said (on their app) that they had an intermediate, almost strong reading ability in French. Their translation exam score suggested that if shown a passage in French and one in Arabic, they wouldn't be able to tell which was which. I exaggerate some but it's all the faculty could talk about for weeks. They were given 90 days to cram, they failed again, they were excused from the program. Not at all related to your situation but I still chuckle when sharing the story.

Getting a job for everyone is hard, it is what it is. If this is where you feel called, do it for that and then sort the rest out. Depending on the school, you'd be eligible for philosophy of religion in a RS department, teaching theology, or some combo of philosophy and RS at a SLAC.

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That was really thorough, thank you!

I looked through the link. It appears to be mostly Philosophy programs (which makes sense, considering Whitehead). I think at this point, two M* later I am strictly a theology guy though. Faber looks like he could be a really good match given his interest in Comparative Religion.

Your cohort story answered a question for me I've pondered before (how do you stop people from just flat out lying?). On that point though, how much value does old language coursework have? There is no way I can fit German into my schedule (full course load, thesis writing, CPE, continuing Spanish) but I took two semesters in UG and got A's. I obviously don't have any retained anymore, but will they at least see that as an indicator I am competent to pick up the languages I need?

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Yea, Faber and Keller are the only process theologians that I know, at PhD granting institutions anyway. I don't know where Keller is as far as Comparative Religion but given her work in spiritual ecology, animal studies, etc - it has to be on her radar.

If you mention you have some familiarity with German, I think you'll be fine! I did Spanish as a modern language and hadn't touched it since undergrad, which was over a decade ago. I spent last summer with a mix of self-study and a friend over in the philosophy department that helped tutor me too, tested out of it just fine. Considering what your research interests specifically play out to be, you might be able to replace a modern language with Spanish.

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FWIW, CGU has closed their philosophy department and ended the joint PhD/MA in religion/philosophy. Keller at Drew is definitely your best bet for process theology. Phillip Clayton at CST is also a process guy. It's also important to note that CST and CGU are completely different institutions even though they're technically part of the "Claremont Colleges." They have their own degree programs and faculty. That said, CST faculty are often on committees for CGU students and vice versa.

The other thing I'll say is that even thought CST and Drew are quite progressive, they're still theology programs, meaning you may not find all the resources you'd need to do the Neo-Pagan end of your project. But you're also very unlikey to find a process theology person in a "traditional" religious studies program I'd imagine. There are plenty of folks who know Whitehead, but that doesn't necessarily mean they know process theology. 

That doesn't mean you wouldn't be able to do your project in an RS program. You don't need a process expert as you advisor necessarily (or an expert in neopaganism). You just need someone at the institution who's an expert in Whitehead/process, e.g. in the philosophy department, who could be on your committee and check your process work. 

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11 hours ago, marXian said:

The other thing I'll say is that even thought CST and Drew are quite progressive, they're still theology programs, meaning you may not find all the resources you'd need to do the Neo-Pagan end of your project.

Truth be told, and my search has spanned the UK as well, the resources for "Pagan Theology" don't really exist as far as I can tell. The UK has a couple History and Sociology folks who will advise Graduate students studying Neopaganism as an emerging religion/social phenomenon. Then there are various forms of Pagan-adjacent theologians in the US who deal with topics like the Divine Feminine, Process, etc. but I've already made peace with the idea that if I go this route my dissertation topic may need to be more closely aligned with traditional Theology/RS interests and then I can add the Neopagan bent once I am hired somewhere. I am starting at a very meta place, to the point that even the project of theology itself requires justification in the Neopagan community... While I think a Philosophy program is not as plausible in my case (unless there was a strong Philosophy of Religion bent) Philosophy tends to be more highly regarded in my own religious community.

That does suck about CGU though. My research seems to indicate that CST and CGU are in the process of a divorce and the CST faculty may be moving to Willamette in Oregon. Perhaps that is part of the reason for the closure given the shared faculty.

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On 5/25/2019 at 1:47 AM, ChristoWitch87 said:

That does suck about CGU though. My research seems to indicate that CST and CGU are in the process of a divorce and the CST faculty may be moving to Willamette in Oregon. Perhaps that is part of the reason for the closure given the shared faculty.

CST is definitely moving to Oregon, but again, those institutions really only overlap in the religion department at CGU. CGU has a number of other humanities departments that don't interact with CST at all. Still if it were the case that CST's departure caused the closing of the philosophy department at CGU, the reasoning might be a bit better. Sadly, it's not. I have a good friend at CGU who just finished up his coursework. The decision is all based on the usual administrative BS about profitability, numbers, etc. 

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CST is a fantastic institution but as others have noted, the funding package is atrocious. They are moving to Salem, Oregon in 2020, so the relationship with CGU want be as strong. In my opinion, it is worthwhile apply to them and if money isn't your main concern, then definitely check it out. But don't apply expecting them to give you a stipend. They just don't have the money.

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40 minutes ago, Balagan said:

CST is a fantastic institution but as others have noted, the funding package is atrocious. They are moving to Salem, Oregon in 2020, so the relationship with CGU want be as strong. In my opinion, it is worthwhile apply to them and if money isn't your main concern, then definitely check it out. But don't apply expecting them to give you a stipend. They just don't have the money.

Scary prospect given the job market. Given that military chaplaincy is my other main alternative I may be better off waiting til I hit Major and apply for PhD programs (Army has a surprising number of programs that funds doctoral work).

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2 hours ago, ChristoWitch87 said:

Scary prospect given the job market. Given that military chaplaincy is my other main alternative I may be better off waiting til I hit Major and apply for PhD programs (Army has a surprising number of programs that funds doctoral work).

I only know three military chaplains, one did a PhD while serving and said the choices are limited. Apparently he was offered approval to seek "Leadership Studies" or Political Science. I think he was mid-50s when he did this, so 15'ish years ago. You're currently serving/recently separated if I remember correctly - far better intel on where these kind of things stand.

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1 hour ago, xypathos said:

I only know three military chaplains, one did a PhD while serving and said the choices are limited. Apparently he was offered approval to seek "Leadership Studies" or Political Science. I think he was mid-50s when he did this, so 15'ish years ago. You're currently serving/recently separated if I remember correctly - far better intel on where these kind of things stand.

Couple options right now (worked as a Chaplain Assistant about 5 years ago, so got to see the officers fretting over their career plans), you can get a Pastoral Theology or Counseling Psych Ph.D if you specialize in counseling as a field grade (MAJ/LTC/COL), there is the occasional Poli Sci type that will use his Frankenstein M.Div to Social Sci Ph.D build to advise generals, and you can (my goal) teach at West Point, which involves getting your doctorate in whatever you teach (likely philosophy or religion in my case).

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I know a military chaplain who just finished his Ph.D. in Practical Theology at CST. I can put you in touch with him if you're interested. Send me a PM if you are.

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