Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

VirtueOnline - Episcopal Seminaries Under Stress

Episcopal Seminaries Under Stress

By Elizabeth Redden
March 11, 2008

VOL Note: Noticeably missing from this story is any mention of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA or Nashotah House in Wisconsin both of which are thriving.

Of the 11 Episcopal seminaries in the United States, one recently announced it would end its main residential program, another is shutting down one of its campuses, and a third is selling a good portion of its campus. The changes reflect not only each institution's own financial or enrollment straits but also changes that are coming in Episcopal seminary education, which has historically played a key role in American theological life. Among them are an embrace of distance education and new, more flexible alternatives to the traditional residential seminary model thus far sustained for centuries, and ever-increasing numbers of collaborations involving other seminaries, Episcopal and non, and non-sectarian colleges, as tiny institutions struggle to survive.

Among the developments:

Episcopal Divinity School (EDS), in Cambridge, Mass., sold seven buildings on its eight-acre campus to Lesley University, a non-sectarian institution, for $33.5 million. Under the terms of the sale, announced Thursday, EDS will maintain ownership of 13 buildings. As part of the agreement, Lesley, which has already housed undergraduates on the seminary's campus under a leasing arrangement for about three years, will now own residence halls and a dining facility on EDS' grounds. The two institutions will share a library.

Bexley Hall Seminary, which in 1998 began a gradual move from Rochester to its native state of Ohio to affiliate with Trinity Lutheran Seminary, is completely closing its Rochester satellite, prompted by concerns about re-accreditation of a very small branch campus and limited prospects for future growth.

And, most dramatically, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, in Evanston, Ill., recently said it would shut down its three-year residential master of divinity (M.Div.) program, the traditional backbone of a seminary's offerings. Seabury-Western has scaled back its course offerings significantly for the coming year -- suspending recruitment and admissions for all programs, pledging to help masters' and certificate students "find alternative arrangements for the completion of their programs" as needed, and negotiating the terms of a teach-out with a Methodist seminary located across the street. All those who graduate through 2009 will receive Seabury-Western degrees. Beyond that, officials say, details are still to be determined.

Seabury-Western insists, however, that it is not closing -- instead entering a period, as officials put it, of "discernment," or "transition" to a new model of theological education.

"We have come to the realization that we cannot continue to operate as we have in the past and that there is both loss and good news in that. We believe that the church does not need Seabury in its present form; there are a number of other schools who do what we have traditionally done as well as we do. But we also believe that the church very much needs a seminary animated by and organized around a new vision of theological education -- one that is centered in a vision of Baptism and its implications for the whole church, one which is flexible and adaptive and collaborative in nature," reads a statement from Seabury-Western's dean and Board of Trustees.

In each of the three cases, of course, the story is different. Seabury-Western, which is partly based on land on long-term lease from Northwestern University, had a projected budget shortfall of half a million for this fiscal year, $3 million in debt, and an $11 million endowment (seen as too small to support the costly residential program).

Bexley foresaw future problems with re-accreditation of its 13-student Rochester branch campus. "We were accredited by virtue of affiliation with the Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Incrementally that affiliation had really ceased to exist," Bexley's dean and president, The Very Rev. John R. Kevern, said in an interview. Told that their operation in Rochester was likely going to be "too skinny" for re-accreditation in 2012, Bexley opted to focus instead on continuing to build its Columbus, Ohio, campus, which has grown to about 25 students.

EDS, meanwhile, had identified the heavy costs of maintaining century-old (or more) buildings as a drain on its financial resources.

"Back in 2003," said Nancy Davidge, an EDS spokeswoman, "our trustees recognized that our current operating patterns and spending patterns were, if you're looking out 25, 50, 100 years, unsustainable. At that time, they made the decision to begin to actively look at what options were out there to help us firm up our financial foundation so that we would be able to continue to offer theological education for the next 25, 50, 100 years."

For more, see:
VirtueOnline - News - News - Episcopal Seminaries Under Stress

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