>Seabury-Western Seminary

>I have been involved in theological education for the past 30 years, 20 of them spent teaching Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary. Northern Baptist Seminary is part of a consortium known as ACTS, or The Association of Chicago Theological Schools. ACTS was organized in 1984 by twelve theological schools located in the Chicago area “to provide means for cooperation among the member institutions in the areas of student cross-registration, library access and acquisitions, interchange among faculty members in the disciplines of theological education, and communications between the schools” (ACTS Web page).

One of the theological schools that is part of ACTS is Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary is a seminary of the Episcopal Church whose mission is to prepare ministers to serve churches in Anglican traditions and in other Christian denominations. On February 20, 2008, the administration of Seabury-Western Seminary made the following announcement:

The Board of Trustees of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary spent two days at its regular February meeting in discussion of the immediate opportunities and challenges before the seminary. There are, first, enormously creative opportunities facing seminaries today. Many areas of the church are developing new ways both of doing and preparing for ministry. And multiple church groups continue to call for a new range of educational services from our institutions of theological education: continuing education for clergy, lay education, distance learning, and consulting services for congregations and dioceses.

At the same time, all the seminaries of the Episcopal Church face real economic and missional challenges. The stand-alone residential model developed in the nineteenth century is becoming unsustainable for most of our institutions. Bishops, congregations, and seminarians have fewer resources to allot to the education of seminarians. And the cost of theological education has resulted in an unprecedented level of student debt.

Like many other Episcopal Church institutions, over the past two decades Seabury has both confronted and thought hard about how it can adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the present moment. 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. We are committed to Seabury’s historic and ongoing ministry as a vital center of theological education, reflection, and congregational study. We are enthusiastic about the prospect of doing this in a new and, we hope, more economically feasible and pedagogically innovative way. At its heart, Seabury will always be a school in service of the mission of God as proclaimed and enacted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Board of Trustees also made the following decisions:

The Executive Committee affirms that Seabury will no longer offer the M.Div. as a freestanding 3-year residential program. This does not preclude offering the M.Div. in other formats.

The Executive Committee accepts the 3 following recommendations of the Planning Committee:

1. That Seabury will immediately suspend recruitment and admissions to all degree and certificate programs in this time of discernment.

2. That Seabury will enable all current D.Min. students to complete their programs.

3. That Seabury will assist all current M.Div., MTS, MA, and certificate students to find alternative arrangements for the completion of their programs as may be required.

It is sad that Seabury-Western had to make such a decision. The Episcopal Church in the USA is going through a very difficult time, a time of challenge that will demand the best decisions from those who are in the leadership of the denomination.

I found this information about Seabury-Western at Blue Cord, a blog written by Kevin Wilson. Kevin is an Episcopalian scholar who teaches at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

Those of us who are involved in theological education feel the deep pain of the people at Seabury-Western. We should keep Seabury-Western’s administration, staff, faculty, and students in our thoughts and prayers.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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2 Responses to >Seabury-Western Seminary

  1. Anonymous says:

    >This looks to me like it may be God’s way of purging the church of theological institutions that no longer hold to the authority of Holy Scripture. In the early 90’s I took a course at S-W and was shocked at how far the faculty had moved from traditional orthodox teachings. Perhaps S-W’s demise will be Northern’s gain. After all if Northern doesn’t quickly change its paradigm, raise additional funds and secure new students, my understanding is that it could be next!


  2. >Dear friend,Thank you for your comment. Many seminaries like Seabury-Western are facing challenges that are forcing them to make difficult decisions. Even schools that are faithful to the Word of God are encountering the same problems.Northern Baptist Seminary is committed to the Bible as the Word of God. Northern is facing several challenges but we believe that the God who created this seminary to be a school of the church is also the same God who will provide an open door that will help this institution face the future with confidence.I believe in the future of Northern Seminary because I believe this school honors God. Notwithstanding what people may say or do, it is God who will provide for the future of this institution.Claude Mariottini


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