FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Innovative collaboration would respond to changing landscape of theological education
COLUMBUS, OHIO and EVANSTON, ILLINOIS, June 8, 2010—Bexley Hall Seminary and Seabury-Western Seminary are considering forming a partnership to share fundraising, communications, financial services, and other arrangements.
“The changing landscape of theological education demands new models,” said Robert G. Bottoms, interim dean and president of Seabury-Western. “Bexley and Seabury are financially healthy and property-free, and we are considering how we can become even stronger by strengthening our partnership with each other.”
The goals of the proposed partnership, according to a briefing paper posted on the websites of both seminaries, are to increase the educational reach and impact of both schools as they design and deliver theological education for the church of the future; increase the efficiency of their operations; enable them to better steward their resources; and to offer a model of collaboration that other schools might emulate.
“Both Bexley and Seabury have strong existing partnerships,” said Robert Reber, president pro tem of Bexley Hall. “We thrive thanks to Bexley Hall’s MDiv program in Columbus in partnership with Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Seabury thrives thanks to its DMin programs in partnership with Church Divinity School of the Pacific and the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS). Seabury shares its library with Garrett Theological Seminary. It makes sense to pursue another partnership to gain even more efficiency and institutional flexibility.”
The two seminaries began discussions in 2007, facilitated by a team from Auburn Seminary’s Center for the Study of Theological Education led by former Virginia Theological Seminary President Martha Horne. After an initial 2008 report from Auburn that indicated “compelling reasons for each institution to consider a closer alliance with the other,” a group of trustees from both institutions met during 2008-2010.
In May 2010, the boards of both schools met separately, endorsed steps toward a strategic alliance recommended by the trustee group, and agreed to meet jointly in October 2010. During this summer, Reber, Bottoms, faculty, staff and consultants will explore the proposed areas for partnership more fully. The joint trustee group will also meet twice this summer.
Among the reasons cited by Auburn for exploring the alliance between Bexley and Seabury, two of the smallest seminaries in the Episcopal Church, are their spiritual and missional affinities borne of their common pioneer heritage; their historic commitment to generous Anglo-Catholicism; and their overlapping geographical territory in Province V and the Midwest.
“Commendably, each school has secured a sound financial basis for its mission,” said Auburn Senior Research Fellow Anthony Ruger. “The balance sheets are thoroughly healthy and the budgets are responsible. Despite their small size they have financial viability and a solid platform for growth.”
Citing a 2009 In Trust article, Reber has reminded trustees and staff from both schools that most potential seminary partnerships fail due to lack of trust, lack of leadership, incompatible missions, a strong ethos of autonomy, and lack of engagement with stakeholders. “Seabury and Bexley have already overcome many of those potential pitfalls through the work of the joint trustee consultation and the close work that Bob Bottoms and I have done together,” said Reber.
In addition, faculty, staff and trustees from the two institutions have worked closely to develop a series of lifelong learning programs scheduled to launch later this year.
“Our exploration of further partnership is based in the success of our existing collaboration,” said Bottoms.
Bexley Hall Seminary offers the M.Div. in partnership with Trinity Lutheran Seminary and seeks partnership with others to educate and form clergy and laity to explore the meaning of the Gospel, provide leadership for the Church, and to share in Christ's work in the world. It provides an ethos rooted in Anglican thought and life and respectful of diverse traditions in theology, liturgy and spirituality. Learn more at www.bexley.edu.
Seabury-Western is what's next in a seminary: Our theological education—from single classes to certificates and doctoral degrees—embodies generous Christianity and is open to the intellectually and spiritually curious. For church leaders, for seminarians and for seekers, Seabury’s innovative programs are rooted in the Episcopal tradition and presented with academic rigor. Find out what’s next at www.seabury.edu.