EDS formally agrees to join with Union and appoints new Dean

Episcopal Divinity School today formally announced  their agreement with Union Seminary of New York and appointed the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas as their new Dean .


Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) and Union Theological Seminary announced May 19 that they have signed an agreement that will allow EDS to continue as an Episcopal seminary through a collaboration with Union at its campus in New York City beginning in the fall of 2018.

“We had three goals when we began to plan this news phase in EDS’s life,” said the Rev.  Gary Hall, chair of the EDS board. “We wanted to continue providing Episcopal theological education within an accredited, degree-granting program, deepen our historic commitment to gospel-centered justice, and provide financial strength and stability for EDS’s future. Today, I am delighted to say that we have achieved all three.”

New Dean of EDS at Union appointed;

EDS appointed the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, currently the Susan D. Morgan professor of Religion at Goucher College in Maryland and Canon Theologian at Washington National Cathedral, as the first dean of EDS at Union. Douglas will also join the Union faculty as a professor. She is the author of many articles and five books, including “Stand Your Ground:  Black Bodies and the Justice of God,” which was written in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin.

“Kelly Brown Douglas is one of the most distinguished religious thinkers, teachers, ministers, and activists in the nation,” Jones said. “We are confident that Union’s longstanding commitment to both the Gospel and social justice will be strengthened and enhanced under her leadership.”

Ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1983, Douglas holds a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Union. Her academic work focuses on womanist theology, sexuality and the black church, and she is a sought-after speaker and author on issues of racial justice and theology.

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  1. Robin Bugbee

    Winderful news. Congratulations to bith institutions. It is pretty clear we need to be creative about funding the means (bith economic and academic) to provide high quality seminary education to those answering a call to faith work in the years to come. A tteee year residential program is moving out if reach for the average student and the costs involved simply unreachable by too many.

    • Nathan Erdman

      Agree that sometimes creative solutions for priestly formation for ministry are needed. However, I’d hate to lose the three year residential model. An affordable 3 year residential seminary education for the average student still exists! Seminarians entering Sewanee’s School of Theology with limited or no investment/property assets graduate with little to no seminary debt either due to tuition or living expenses. And the school’s placement rate after seminary is near 100%. Sewanee has actually been getting MORE affordable, and is the midst of a campaign, that among other things is raising MORE scholarship/aid money.

  2. Please clarify. The first paragraph says EDS has appointed Douglas as their new dean. The fourth paragraph says Morgan is the new EDS dean but then talks about Douglas “joining the Union faculty.” Who is dean of which institution?

    • As I understand it, she will in fact be Dean of EDS at Union, and a member of the Union faculty.

      • Philip B. Spivey

        Andrew: I think the task here is disambiguation of the first line of the second section. It should read: “EDS appointed the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas [who happens to be], the Susan D. Morgan professor of….”

        Thank you.

      • Ann Fontaine

        Thanks Philip.

  3. Thanks for the clarification. EDS couldn’t have made a better choice. Kelly, welcome back to New York.

  4. Philip B. Spivey

    What a bitter-sweet resolution to the critical challenges facing EDS.

    When I learned of its probable dissolution last year, I thought that TEC was on the verge of losing one of its leading lights; an institution of Christian clerical formation unafraid to proffer an unadulterated Gospel. As we see seminaries die, I feared EDS would go the way of others.

    I regret that they had to lose their New England campus, but I am overjoyed they found Room-at-the-Inn at the UTS, New York campus. Much gratitude for creativity and vision of the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones

    I can’t think of a better person to head-up this re-planting than the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas. I’ve followed the arc of her career since she left our parish in Northern Manhattan some 30 years ago. The rest, as they say, is history. Godspeed.

  5. Jeff Cox

    I am very mixed on this action. I thought that EDS should have aligned with a seminary in New England and kept the Yale model. The reality is that key national Episcopal church leadership on the Board of Directors of EDS have placed 2 Episcopal seminary presence in NYC. What does this say about national church commitments towards General Seminary? I think that this questions bears much conversation. I know that people will say that EDS is “different contextually,” but I believe that 85 percent of seminary education must be similar in a denominational context. This “we are different” only hurts the church that needs more unity than difference. This appears to be a gift to Union Seminary paying for facility and calling it EDS. I have not heard how pastoral formation in an Anglican context and regular worship will be facilitated.

    There are larger issues regarding Episcopal Theological Education that have not been discussed. How many seminaries does the ECUSA need? Why? How does this help dioceses and local parishes? How is lay persons benefited from these experiences?

  6. Not sure it makes a whole lot of difference. Many Episcopal clergy, including Dr. Douglas, have studied at Union and Union and GTS students have taken courses at both schools for generations. Not sure General has enough property left to double up with anyone.

    Years ago, arriving at Penn Station, I grabbed a cab and asked to go to GTS, Chelsea Square. The cabby immediately headed uptown to take me to Union. Knowing little more about Manhattan than that streets were numbered south to north, I soon discovered the mistake. When we arrived at GTS, the driver said he knew where Union was but had never heard of General.

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