Charlatan: Noun –
Jory Micah, for those who don’t know, is something of a viral phenomenon sweeping the internet by storm. She is a rabid egalitarian who considers herself to be something of a prophetess heralding the Church to include women in every aspect of Church leadership, including —and perhaps most of all— ordained office.
On her website, Breaking the Glass Steeple, she says the following
My top mission is to help women shake off the chains of limitation and the shackles of oppression that the Christian Church has wrapped around them in the name of incorrect biblical interpretation and stale religion.
According to her website, she has an earned Associate of Arts in Practical Theology from Christ for the Nations Bible Institute (CFNI), a Bachelor of Science in Church Ministries from Southwestern AG University (SAGU). She also earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (and this is important, with an emphasis on Christian Doctrine and History) from Regent University (RU).
Something that gives Jory an air of credibility is her curriculum vitae, although no formal CV is available. So, having recently encountered someone who pointed to her education as a reason why she should have a hearing, I decided to dig a little.
In this first post, I want to take a look at her degree programs.
While I want to make it clear that I don’t think that unaccredited programs are not valuable, nor do I think that accreditation is a litmus test for the validity of an educational program, I do think that a lack of accreditation or a questionable accreditation status represents a problem.
Christ for the Nation Institute
It is hard to find information regarding the formal accreditation status of CFNI, their website did not have a statement that I could find regarding accreditation. Some sources state that they hold accreditation under the International Christian Accrediting Association (ICAA). However, the ICAA website does not list them as a member school. Furthermore, an archived version of their website states
After considerable prayer and consideration, the Board of Directors of Christ For The Nations has made the decision not to pursue accreditation of the academic programs at CFNI.
Given the absence of other evidence, I am forced to the conclusion that CFNI held no accredited status at the time of Jory’s program. Regarding her course of study, I do not know what year she graduated, but the current APT (Associate of Practical Theology) course requirements are incredibly vague.
The current program is 78 credit hours. 8 of these are “Student Ministry” hours, which are simply credits given for serving at a local church. An additional 8 are “Tuesday Night Encounter” which is described as follows
This Tuesday evening chapel service offers guest speakers an opportunity to teach on contemporary theological issues offering insight and practical application within the church.
There are 16 credits in “Lectures in Practical Theology” which the school describes as follows
One of the dynamic programs offered at CFNI, guest speakers come from around the globe come to teach on contemporary theological issues within the church. Each speaker teaches a one-week module – daily lectures in specific areas of contemporary theology.
There are 6 credits in a summer outreach or internship (i.e., a short-term missions project).
There are also 20 credits in “Required Foundational Courses,” but no description of what those are. The remaining courses are 20 credits in electives in the area of Bible, Theology, and Practical Ministry.
If I’m doing my math correct, which I may not be… math is not my strong suit, nearly a third of that program is spent on internships or chapel. There is nothing wrong with internships, but they do not provide an academic basis for further studies. They are intended to give you practical skills, not an intellectual foundation. Unfortunately, nothing is available from what I could find regarding what other courses were required, but there does appear to be an array of the kinds of courses one would expect (Intro to Bible, various courses on specific books, Church History Survey, etc.a large). A significant portion of the degree (about a 5th) was a rotation of guest speakers. Guest speakers are not necessarily bad, but the question must be asked as to what kind of consistency and academic foundation can be set in that context. From where I sit, the answer is “not much.” Simply put, one of the reasons that an established faculty is part of any accreditation process is because a foundation which is not shifting is part of what makes an education successful. Knowing that, relatively speaking, the set of professors that are teaching this year’s class are the same set of professors teaching next years class allows a school to have lasting and consistent standards. CFNI has, as part of its intentional structure, a shifting foundation.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University
In lieu of accreditation, CFNI has an articulation agreement with various schools in the region. Among these schools is SAGU, where Jory went to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Church Ministries. All of the schools which CFNI has partnerships with through this articulation agreement are accredited and seem to have a similar kind of small Bible School feel. What is important about this, however, is that Jory was not able to choose any other schools. That is the difficulty with an unaccredited institution.
I was unable to find anything specific about what this program requires, and the SAGU website does not appear to have a BS in Church Ministry program any longer. However, their catalog seems to indicate that their BS programs are around 125 credit hours.
It is important to note that the Regent University which Jory attended is not the Regent College (and Divinity School) in Vancouver. Regent University is a school located in Virginia Beach. Regent has an archive of academic catalogs, and given that she submitted her thesis in 2010, I am referring to the 2010/2011 catalog.
According to that catalog, graduates of Jory’s program should be able to do the following
- Explain historical and cultural backgrounds of the biblical books and how the leading biblical themes relate to each other in the unfolding of salvation history.
- Apply sound interpretive and hermeneutical methods to the Bible including the proper use of resources such as lexicons, concordances, dictionaries and commentaries in the broader context of spiritual development, preaching and teaching.
- Articulate major doctrines, historical perspectives and theological issues, including those related to spiritual renewal as these bear on Christian life and mission.
- Understand and respond to contemporary issues, particularly in relation to how, with a global perspective, the Church is able to influence societies with a Christian worldview.
- Express a breadth of knowledge of biblical and theological issues in ways supported by informed scholarship and sound reasoning.
These outcomes will become important in a future post when we take a look at some troubling features of her thesis.
Regent University is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, an accrediting organization that has certified many schools, including Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (my alma mater), Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary California, and Reformed Theological Seminary.
The point of this post is not so much to try to undercut the programs or institutions from which she graduated. There are all sorts of purposes for educational institutions, and these different purposes lend themselves to different arrangements and educational standards. However, remember that one of the ways that she propagates her teaching is by acting as though she is an academic. As we will see next time when we take a look at her thesis, she believes that she has a solid historical and theological basis for what she teaches, and this basis is grounded in the fact that she has studied these subjects.