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Theological Education in a Big Tent

Updated: Jun 12

What does a Big Tent Mean?

The first “Big Tent” I remember seeing was a circus tent, the Big Top.

There were many entrances to the tent, 

Everyone had a specific place in that space.

The circus tent had separate entrances for the audience, performers, and animals.

The audience was in the stands.

The clowns and other performers in the outer rings.

The trapeze was high in the top of the tent.

The animals were in the center ring.

What does a Big Tent Mean at Northwind?

There are many pathways to the degrees offered by Northwind.

Everyone had a specific place in that space.

In traditional seminaries, there are several Faculty Divisions.

  • Bible

  • Theology

  • Church History

  • Worship

  • Preaching

Each degree required a specific number of credits from each division.

Students studied with a broad cross-section of the faculty.

The Faculty has been developing a narrowing of the theological view over the past 30 years.

This results in a narrowing of the theological view of the students.

Students and Faculty are concerned about the right ‘fit’ within their learning community.

Northwind Theological Seminary is an ecumenical, online seminary serving many denominations. Biblically-based with theological roots in the Wesleyan tradition, we have a strong emphasis on Contextual Ministry, Spiritual Formation, and Discipleship. Offering accessible, affordable, quality, online theological education to local pastors, bi-vocational & and second-career clergy, and lifelong learners for faithful and creative ministry in the NeXtChurch — "A New Re-formation" & "The new thing" God is doing in the world" (Isa. 43:19)

What is the new thing that Northwind is doing?

Study with Me Approach to Theological Education

Northwind has invited Faculty who can attract students to study with them.

Students select degrees offered by a Faculty Mentor.

Students do not need to take courses from all the established divisions

This allows an Evangelical Faculty to attract evangelical students 

Or a Post-Evangelical Faculty to attract Post-Evangelical Students.

This new approach allows for a broad theological view of the faculty and students.

Our ecumenical approach means that all of our represented theological views have place and space within the Big Tent, which is our seminary construct. 

This represents an approach that celebrates a post-modern era that offers a both/and community rather than a modern-era community that requires an either/or choice to be welcomed and participate in our learning community.

To learn more about our Big Tent approach at Northwind, visit:

Stay tuned … we have a lot more to share …


Rev. Dr. Robert J. Duncan, Jr.

Founder & President of Northwind Consortia

Academic | Institute | Seminary | Press

Professor of Leadership & Specialized Ministry

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