In 1987 the College Theology Society held its annual meeting at Loyola College in Maryland. The cicadas were then at the end of their appearance and crunched underfoot as we walked from the dorms to the sessions. That was the first annual meeting I had attended and the cicadas made a lasting impression on me. As the College Theology Society celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its annual meetings, the cicadas have come and gone again. Since the planning for the Society began, they have come four times, just four times out of their thousands of years of life. As they return to their burrows to begin a new cycle of life, CTS celebrates fifty years of life completed and looks forward another cycle of its theological life already on the horizon. When the cicadas emerge again, seventeen years from now, what will they notice about CTS that is different from today? In other words, will the trajectories of growth present in CTS in 2004 flourish and, if so, what might the returning cicadas see?
Several persons who have described the beginning of the College Theology Society have pointed out that until the middle of the nineteen fifties, theology in the liberal arts colleges consisted largely of apologetics taught by persons of intelligence and good will, often priests, who seldom possessed an earned doctorate in the field. Professors with doctorates were usually assigned to the seminaries. A group of liberal arts college professors in theology became aware that they did not enjoy the same credibility in their institutions as professors in other disciplines, in part because the criteria for teaching theology were different and lower than for other departments.