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In an earlier era, moderate baptist seminarians could pursue seminary education at one of the six seminaries supported by the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the post-takeover era, a number of moderate seminaries and divinity schools have arisen, and most are associated with a Baptist university that provides support. Even with this support, these schools must rely on donor generosity and student tuition income, and trends on numerous levels across theological education suggest that the current situation cannot be sustained, as

  • donors tire of seeing significant portions of their gifts go into operating budgets; 
  • seminary students, working long hours at secular jobs to avoid debt, do not have time to engage fully in their studies; 
  • seminary graduates, struggling to repay student debt on an associate minister’s salary, leave ministry after only a few years; 
  • potential seminarians recognize their prospects and opt to forego theological education altogether.

The structure of Sophia Farms and Sophia Theological Seminary and of their interrelationship intends to address each aspect of this knotty problem. Proceeds from the farming effort will fund the operating budget of the Seminary. In exchange for free tuition and housing, students, along with faculty and staff, provide the labor force for the Farm. 

Additionally, each student will (a) covenant to preserve time for serious study and (b) work as a ministerial intern with one of the Seminary’s Covenant Partners. These integrated structures will enable students to establish and maintain healthy rhythms of studying, working, and resting.

Donors to Sophia Farms and Sophia Theological Seminary can have confidence that:

  • their gifts will not go out of the bank account as quickly as they come in. Sophia Farms’ Articles of Incorporation specify that it exists solely to support the Seminary and that, should the Seminary cease operations, the Farms’ trustees can choose either to continue operation in support of another 501(c)3 organization(s) whose purposes conform to the Core Values of the Farms or to liquidate and contribute the proceeds to such organization(s).
  • after a brief start-up period of probably three years, the Farms will be producing sufficient income to sustain the operations of both the Farms and the Seminary. Thereafter, although occasional needs for modest capital (a new tractor, say) will likely arise, Sophia will not be in a continual and continuous state of major development campaigns.
  • the operation of the Farms will concentrate on stewardship of God’s creation, responsibility to the broader community (food justice, partnerships), sustainability, and respect for all the persons involved in the endeavor.

Covenant Partners

STS seeks to forge relationships with churches and other organizations who share our commitments. We envision these partnerships as enabling the Seminary’s principles of integrated learning, including across perceived delineations between “church” and “academy”. Thus, the relationship between STS and CPs will flow in both, if not multiple, directions. Each CP commits to employing a student for their three years at STS, nurturing and forming them as ministers. Ministers and leaders of CPs are then asked to participate in planning and convening STS seminars, contributing their contextual perspective as part of the integrated curriculum.

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” – James 3:17-18

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Sophia Theological Seminary is a religious institution exempt from state regulation and oversight in the Commonwealth of Virginia. 

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