Studying with Greystone: A Student’s Experience

by Jack Franicevich

I am a seminarian, working toward my Masters of Divinity and, ultimately, pursuing ordination in the Anglican Church of North America. I encountered the Greystone Theological Institute online, through a Facebook advertisement that informed me about an intensive course on the usage of sacraments in Reformed worship. A year later, I enrolled in their online "Theological Anthropology" course and, after completing the course, immediately enrolled in "Reformed Catholicity." The first time I chose Greystone was a happy accident, and what follows are three reasons why I chose Greystone again, why I intend to complete my MDiv by taking their "elective courses" online, why I intend to pursue my ThM through Greystone, and why I would commend Greystone to others who find themselves in my shoes.

The Rich Quality and Mode of Teaching

Before beginning seminary, I studied in Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute, in which I read and discussed over 150 of the great primary texts of the Western intellectual tradition under the leadership of medieval scholars, systematic theologians, analytic philosophers, and experts in British literature. I was so intellectually spoiled during that time. During my first semester at seminary, I was underwhelmed by both the vacuum of intellectual and spiritual enthusiasm in the student community and the soft expectations of the faculty.
 
When I inquired, one faculty member explained: "Seminaries, broadly speaking, are in financial trouble. So even when we lower the academic bar for admission, we still have to aim, in pedagogy and in content, at the 'middle' of the class." What a disheartening feeling: returning to the classroom, resuming my seat three rows back on the right-hand side, knowing that I have more questions than I can ask in class and that the professor knows more than he's allowing himself to say.
 
Greystone, by contrast, is self-consciously top-tier. Both of my classes have begun with a laundry list of the definitive questions of the respective field of study, both throughout history and as they have developed in our 21st-century context. Our professor surveys the classical and contemporary scholarship on the questions, grounds them with unconventionally thorough Scriptural and catholic force, and charts a course for the weeks ahead. Each question is pursued with a view not only to the classical and contemporary literature, but to the theological, exegetical, philosophical, and historical modes of inquiry. It has been by watching my Greystone professor unmaskedly model scholarly engagement with "the questions" that I have developed a practical imagination for the vocation of theological scholarship.

The Culture of Generous Investment

In seminary so far, I have been asked to write a small handful of papers for each class, each responding to a book, a set of questions, or on one from a list of prompts. The topics and rubrics are delimited enough to make grading easy on our professors. After asking one professor if she would be willing to read my paper once before my submission, her response was: "I'm sorry, but if I did that for you, I would have to do that for all of my students, and I cannot do that."
 
Mark Garcia, who taught Greystone's "Theological Anthropology" course this past Spring, gave me an hour-long phone call, asked to hear my story, my academic interests, and how they fit together. Over the course of the semester, he called me three more times to discuss my progress in the course, delimit my research questions, and point me toward resources for my paper. When I enrolled in a second course, he wrote me an email expressing his excitement for the opportunity to continue our work together. In my student experience, Dr. Garcia is a "scribe" who has been "trained for the kingdom of heaven... like a master of a house, [bringing] out of his treasure what is new and what is old."

The Theological Approach to Pastoral Theology

I teach rhetoric and classical literature to middle- and high-school students, and my on-the-job training has given me a foundation in organizational leadership, pedagogical homiletics, and counseling. When I got to seminary, I was frustrated to learn that my degree would require coursework in "practical theology" that ran against the grain of the foundations and training I had already developed. My friends share my frustration with elementary and theologically thin practical courses. My questions were not what are the methods of "How do I teach effectively?" but "What is and is not the theological significance of congregational disparity in intellectual aptitude?" and "What are the implications of a christological and pneumatological ecclesiology on the act of preaching?"
 
In Greystone's "Theological Anthropology" course, our professor led us in a case study on dementia. In just one lecture, we explored the theology of divine and human memory, the similarities and differences between the Adamic vocation of "naming" and the medical practice of "diagnosis," and the relationship between memory, hospitality, and liturgy. After the close of the class, I am more equipped to translate our exegetical, theological, and historical work into the ecclesial and pastoral vocation in creative ways along various "practical" avenues. My training here makes me feel trusted and dignified, not condescended to.
 
It is for these reasons that I am pursuing a theological education through the Greystone Theological Institute's online offerings, and it is for these reasons that I would commend them to you as well!

(This student assessment is from the 2017 offering of the “Theological Anthropology” module which is aimed at ThM and PhD level students. To audit or register for this or other Greystone modules, visit GreystoneConnect.org or inquire at Greystone by emailing info@greystoneinstitute.org.)