An educated ministry was an indispensable requirement for the Protestant churches of Europe. The clergy were not there simply to perform rituals but to teach God's word, and to teach it well they must be educated. The Reformers had achieved much by the early seventeenth century. By 1600 only a quarter of the pastors in Mecklenburg had no academic training while in England three-quarters of the clergy in most areas were graduates by the 1640s. The figures were higher in more solidly Calvinist areas. By 1619, 94 per cent of ministers in the Palatinate had a formal education in theology, while in the Netherlands a mere 1 per cent were not suitably qualified by 1630. The ideal was, however, prone to lapse in periods of civil strife, no more so than in England during the 1640s and 1650s. In the Canterbury diocese, 87 per cent of the clergy were graduates in 1637, but the proportion fell to only 66 per cent by 1662. Thereafter, the educational attainments of the Church of England clergy improved, and most English and Welsh dioceses required evidence of a university education prior to ordination. This did not mean that all ordinands had to be graduates and in more remote areas a graduate ministry could be rare; for example, only 5.9 per cent of the clergy resident in the diocese of St David's in Wales between 1750 and 1800 held degrees. Amongst non-established Protestant denominations, the ideal of an educated ministry was maintained with arguably more enthusiasm though possibly with less effect in some cases. One of the most successful examples was the Synod of Ulster, founded in 1690. Followingthe practice in Presbyterian Scotland, the Synod from the last decade of the seventeenth century demanded that their candidates for the ministry be graduates and in 1702 it was resolved that no man be entered for trials unless he had studied divinity for four years after he had graduated.
Unsurprisingly, the clergy of the state churches studied in the universities of their homeland. In central Europe, fifteen of the twenty-nine territorial universities were Lutheran, and this was repeated in Scandinavia and the Baltic region with such foundations as Copenhagen, Uppsala and Dorpat. Theology students also comprised the largest grouping within the student body and the church continued to exercise a significant influence upon the lives of ministerial students. Tübingen in south-west Germany had twice as many theology students as any other faculty and no less than a third of these
Was this article helpful?