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Andover Newton Seminary seeks to make big changes

Andover Newton Seminary seeks to make big changes

Andover Newton, the oldest independent Protestant seminary in the US has just announced its planning to make some big changes in its future.

from their website:

Today, Andover Newton leadership and trustees shared with the community its plans to move in a bold new direction to ensure the school’s 208-year commitment to our work and mission continue to thrive. This plan will include either significantly narrowing the school’s focus or embedding with a similar institution such as Yale Divinity School. While discussions are ongoing, we believe these options offer Andover Newton the best opportunity to fulfill its mission in new, creative ways.

The two options were described this way in a letter sent to stakeholders;

Therefore, the Trustees are exploring two new directions that have the potential of fulfilling Andover Newton’s mission in creative new ways while greatly reducing student debt.

Narrow the Focus of the School: In pursuing this option, Andover Newton would offer fewer programs to fewer students. The focal program would be a cooperative Master of Divinity along with some complementary programs. Andover Newton would frame its mission more narrowly on preparation for authorized Christian and Unitarian Universalist ministry in an increasingly religiously diverse world.

Become Embedded in Another Institution of Higher Learning: Andover Newton will seriously consider becoming embedded in another school — that is, retaining some independence as a school within a school — if such an affiliation would enable Andover Newton to pursue its historic mission, and if the missions of the two schools were symbiotic.

Regarding this potential option, Andover Newton has had preliminary conversations with Yale Divinity School, a school with both historic ties and missional affinities with Andover Newton

It is no secret that schools of theological education are needing to change to remain viable.  This marks two seminaries this week making announcements of their plans to maintain their mission by making bold changes and letting go of important pieces of their past to forge a more relevant future.


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Philip B. Spivey

The survivors of 21st Century realities will enlist courage, imagination and a Spirit of adventure. God will take care of the rest.

Michael Hartney BDS/Yale 1974

One of the issues that faced Berkeley Divinity School in 1970 head-on was what to do with physical facilities and property while maintaining a rigorous academic and pastoral education for the church. After a thorough study, and some very difficult decisions, BDS affiliated with Yale Divinity School. The affiliation immediately brought an ecumenical presence to the YDS campus that included Episcopalians. BDS gave up nothing of its endowment, retained its own Dean and Trustees, and continues as an accredited seminary of The Episcopal Church. That was 45 years ago – and it has proven to be the right decision as Berkeley Divinity School at Yale now graduates exemplary students to be Episcopal clergy (including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry).

Ann Fontaine

The Episcopal Church does have Theological Education Sunday that is supposed to gather offerings for seminaries. Not sure that people want to spend their money on what are mostly dying institutions.

Jay Croft

There was also a General Convention resolution that churches give 1% of their budget to seminaries, usually the institution that their clergy graduated from.

I think that’s lost in the shuffle now.

Michael Hartney BDS/Yale 1974

The 1% Theological Education Offering was passed at the 1982 General Convention in New Orleans. Since then I have made sure to include that in the budget of congregations that I have served. The resolution is still the action of General Convention.

Prof Christopher Seitz

This is the start of serious hard-knocks thinking.

As one TEC Dean noted, his #1 competitor is a non TEC school. All theological education is devolving to local training at whatever school is most adept at attracting students.

And now we see the old Mainline schools facing the same music. Gerhard Forde, Bernhard Anderson, William Holladay all once taught at Andover Newton.

ATS is aware of the new reality and simply tries to do its own adjusting in the light of it. As the number of schools shrink, the ones that survive pick up some of the traffic. Look at VTS in TEC and Wycliffe in the ACoC.

Emily Knox

I do wish we would support theological education through General Convention along the same lines as the Methodists do.

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