“Reverend Professor,” or A Look at Clergy Who Teach


An increasing number of ordained clergy are turning to collegiate teaching as either a supplement to their ministry or as an alternative to parish service.  Given the rise in the “adjunct” professorial phenomenon in America – nearly 70% of all U.S. college faculty now hold non-tenure track status (chronicle.com) – owing to financial constraints, universities and colleges are turning to part-time faculty to fulfill their teaching staff needs.  Given their graduate training in the cognate fields in the humanities as well as the social and behavioral sciences and, to be honest, in view of the flexibility of their daily schedule, clergy are finding that this situation makes them readily available for, and often interested in, an intellectual diversion to parish drudgery and routine by teaching a course or two at the local college.  Happily, college deans are finding them a great resource as well.

There was a time in America when the old saying, “publish or perish” was new and the pressure on young academics was great to write the book or publish the article.  Then, after a while, there was a shift in the old adage to “publish or parish,” indicating the two-option phenomenon of either taking a university teaching post or a parish assignment.  Today, however, with the rise in economic and political pressures being felt by colleges and universities, great and small, there is a new and rising phenomenon called “adjunct” faculty, those who both publish and perish owing to the absence of full-time tenure-track teaching positions.  Not only is the phenomenon here to stay, but, according to authorities, it is growing by leaps and bounds.

However and alas, there may be a category of scholars in the land who stand to actually benefit from this apparently depressing phenomenon.  Where the tenured and secured scholar-in-residence character of the fulltime faculty person may be in decline, the well-qualified scholar in the form of the local parish pastor is ready and available to fill the void.  These persons, scholarly clergy if you will, may actually provide a resource of talent heretofore overlooked or ignored by the collegiate powers that be.  These persons, clergy trained in the various fields of philosophy, history, psychology, sociology, and the musical arts, hold within themselves years of graduate education just waiting to be set loose within the academy.

Too often, though, unadvisedly, stifled with sermon preparations and parish bulletins, the clergy understandably pine for those blissful seminary days when pondering the verities of life through intellectual discussion filled their days.  Now, it seems, the time is right for both the university and the ministry, with the former tapping the resources available in their local churches and with the latter given an opportunity to hold onto the livelihood of the parish while engaging with the university curricula demands.  To preach and teach is the dream for the intellectual clergy whose love spans both the congregation and the academy.  The freedom of the ministry provides ample opportunity for clergy scholars to hone their talents within the university setting by teaching a course or two, while continuing to fulfill their duty to church and parish.  Churches benefit from seeing their clergy challenged and stimulated by scholarly pursuits while the universities and colleges benefit from having highly qualified adjunct faculty at their immediate disposal without the expense of full-time tenure-track appointments.  Both seem to win from this development.

(Note:  Our alumni hold or have held teaching posts at over 200 educational institutions worldwide (see our Alumni Careers page for a listing).  Our faculty and alumni have published over 150 books in their fields of expertise (see our Alumni and Faculty Publications page for titles).)


About Dr. Morgan

Dr. John H. Morgan is Karl Mannheim Professor of the History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences at the GTF.  In 2010, he was appointed a Visiting Scholar in the Centre for Near Eastern Studies at New York University. Most recently, Dr. Morgan has been named Visiting Scholar at Harvard University for the second time in his career.  (Read more.)

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