EDS to terminate degree granting June 2017

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UPDATE: Letter from Alumni/ae Executive Council responding to action here

News from Episcopal Divinity School:

UPDATE: The trustees have adopted the resolution to terminate degree granting in June 2017 on an 11-4 vote. The interim dean has offered his resignation as of November 19th because he disagrees with the decision.

New information from the Board of Trustees

Cambridge, MA, July 21—Episcopal Divinity School will cease to grant degrees at the end of the upcoming academic year, the seminary’s board of trustees decided today on a 11-4 vote. During the next year, the board will explore options for EDS’s future, some of which were suggested by a specially convened Futures Task Force to make plans for EDS’s future.

“A school that has taken on racism, sexism, heterosexism, and multiple interlocking oppressions is now called to rethink its delivery of theological education in a new and changing world,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall ’76, chairman of the board, in introducing the resolution. “Ending unsustainable spending is a matter of social justice.”…

No faculty or staff members will be laid off during the upcoming academic year, and all students, including EDS’s final incoming class, which arrives on campus next month, will be “taught out,” Hall said. “This means that we will contract with another seminary or seminaries to accept our students at full credit and we will make sure that students do not bear the expense of this transition.”

Bonnie Anderson, vice chair of the board and former president of the House of Deputies, characterized the vote as “a sad but hopeful moment.”

“We understand that people will grieve this decision,” said Anderson who received an honorary doctorate from EDS in 2006. “It is the end of a significant phase in the life of a significant institution that has made incredible contributions to the life of our church. But by choosing this course now, we are in a much stronger position to ensure EDS’s legacy.”

Read it all here.

 

From the News at EDS:

In February 2016, the board set out four criteria for scenarios that it will consider for the school’s future. Those criteria, as summarized by Hall are “1. No small-to-small institutional mergers. 2. No business as usual. 3. The proposal must carry forth the historic mission of EDS. 4. The proposal must be financially sustainable.”

“The task force approached its work with a willingness to explore new ideas and develop a creative synthesis, but with a firm grasp on the financial realities the seminary faces,” said the Very Rev. Francis Fornaro, EDS’s interim president and dean, who is a member of the task force. “As the task force wrote in its report to the board of trustees, we and the EDS community are eager to work together to realize the kind of adaptive, transformational change that we were charged with envisioning.”

The current planning process began in early 2015 when trustees retained AGB Institutional Strategies, a consulting arm of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, to study options for its future, and when the EDS administration retained Concord, Massachusetts-based Maguire Associates, to assess its enrollment situation.

While both studies noted that most mainline seminaries are faced with questions about how to remain sustainable, and that EDS is faced with particular challenges resulting from public perceptions stemming from recent internal conflict, the studies also suggested ways that EDS could build on its identity and its Cambridge location, and ways that the school might partner with other institutions. “All of the people at EDS will have to align themselves in a conscious way and head in one direction for the common good of this special institution,” concluded the Maguire report. “Without this alignment, EDS will have a very difficult time navigating the challenging waters it faces.”

 

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Mary Slenski
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Mary Slenski

I, too, watched the meeting via the web link and am profoundly disappointed in most of the trustees of my beloved seminary. Things must die for there to be resurrection. That's the basic of our Christian faith and so often in the Church we are so reluctant to let what has been life-giving in the past to die. I commend them for being willing to propose something as identity-shaking as discontinuing degree-granting.

I recognize Robert's Rules are the customary way of doing business but the vote says that something valued by a quarter of the trustees was being violated. I didn't recognize dialog to explore those values-maybe it happened earlier in the retreat. I didn't hear it in the words of those who were in dissent when they spoke before the vote. If there truly had been dialog, I would have expected something in the resolution that would have facilitated 'walking together.' And then to see that with the exception of one, the vote broke down on color lines followed by the resignation of the Interim Dean. I'm profoundly embarrassed and appalled.

I went to EDS because I believed in its mission to prepare tomorrow's leaders, lay and ordained, for God's mission of justice, compassion, and reconciliation. I still do.

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Rebecca Black
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Rebecca Black

Samuel Richards,
It was noted several times in the meeting that EDS was not in the dire economic straits that other seminaries have faced. No plan or proposal was presented for any option, such as a "certificate of theological study." Such a proposal is pure speculation and was not part of the meeting. It begs the question however, how is a non-degree-granting institution of higher learning more financially sustainable than one which grants degrees (degrees which are required for ordination, after all.) How is that more economically viable? And how does one recruit students to an academic institution which has just proved it can and would cut off programs abruptly?

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Curt Zimmerman
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Curt Zimmerman

Rebecca,

Although a MDiv degree has been the usual, and probable desireable, formation for ordination, I'm pretty sure it's not canonically required. The 2003 revision of ordination canons mandate that candidates for ordination my be examined in 7 canonical areas. While the EDS decision is sad, I think there are probably quite a few possibilities for its future. That's a next step.

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Samuel Richards
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Samuel Richards

Rebecca,

I watched the same meeting but reached a different conclusion. The Board of Trustees spent the last two days reviewing options before making a decision. Their decision was to end granting degrees in June 2017, not to close the school. Degree granting and existing as an institution are not the same. For instance, EDS might continue granting certificates of theological study. The question now before the EDS community is how does it serve God while not granting degrees. The school must simultaneously consider its fiscal stewardship.

Your final comments attributing decision-making to racial or other identities are not helpful. If EDS wishes to survive in some form, it will require walking together.

The trustees are not in an enviable position. Like their counter-parts at Andover, Bexley-Seabury, and GTS, they've had to make some tough decisions due to the financial realities of theological education among mainline Protestant churches.

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Rebecca Black
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Rebecca Black

I did not mean to imply that ONLY people of color voted against the resolution. Those voting against were Bob Steele, Carol Gallagher, Hall Kirkham, and Robert Griffin.

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Rebecca Black
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Rebecca Black

Just finished watching the Board of Trustees meeting via adobeconnect. Although the way the commentary is structured her on Episcopal Cafe (BOT resolution appearing above article about possible futures) makes it seem that the Board of Trustees considered the possible futures resulting from the "listening" process, the fact is that the Board of Trustees did not comment or vote on any of them. The Board took its own path of simply closing down the school, while making note that the school still has considerable resources and endowment. It does not seem that any reasonable effort has been made to consider EDS' future as an institute of learning, since no plan was offered about next steps, other than the cessation of degree-granted after June 2017. Respectful dialogue, or any dialogue at all, does not appear to have had any part in this decision. Frank Fornaro has now resigned. I daresay that the people of color on the Board, all of whom voted against this resolution, need thanks and support for their voice in opposition to the dictatorial stance of the majority of the Board.

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Leslie Marshall
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Leslie Marshall

Justice is served.

Katherine H. Ragsdale equates facilitating abortions as 'holy work' , that 'abortion is a blessing', that abortion performers are 'saints & heroes'.

But God says, 'You shall not give any of your offspring to offer to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the Name of your God.'

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Cynthia Katsarelis
Member

Thank you, Ann, for providing the actual words, which are highly nuanced, deeply compassionate, and fair to the anti-choice crowd.

Millions of women around the world die from botched abortions and poor or nonexistent follow up care. The situations of women around the world vary, child marriage, rape, poverty, etc.

If we want to reduce abortions, we would work on the factors that actually reduce them, like providing women with universal access to family planning healthcare and working on the issues of poverty that drives some of the decisions to abort. That would still leave issues of choice, but there's an immorality in imposing one's personal morality on others.

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