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♦ President Ferlo on the Council of Deans meeting Jan. 11-13, 2015 ♦

Last week I had the privilege of hosting the Council of Deans of our Episcopal seminaries at Bexley House in Columbus. It was a time of renewed friendship and striking cordiality, considering our doctrinal and institutional differences. It is good to have such colleagues, especially in times of change and stress. The press and blogosphere thrive on institutional crisis. But in spite of recent difficulties, our Episcopal seminaries remain strongly committed to fulfilling our historic purposes. We are about Christian lives formed, Christian leadership shaped, and theological inquiry boldly encouraged, with God’s mission of love and reconciliation in Jesus Christ as our compass. At a time when graduate-level theological study for lay and clergy leaders is dismissed in some quarters as an unnecessary luxury, and when our seminaries are caricatured as out of touch with and unaccountable to the real church, it is all the more important that our true story be told, a story in which our own “seminary beyond walls” at Bexley Seabury continues to play an essential part.

Here is the communiqué we drafted as we reflected on our time together:

Communiqué from the Council of Episcopal Seminary Deans
January 14, 2015

The Council of Deans met in its annual meeting at the Bexley Seabury campus in Columbus, Ohio Sunday, January 11 to Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

All 10 seminary deans were present at the meeting, joined by their academic deans, as well as the dean and president of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in the Philippines. Across a range of theological viewpoints, there was a shared commitment to theological education and formation as well as mutual recognition of the distinctive gifts of each school.

CouncilofDeansMtg Jan2015

All 11 signatories of January 14, 2015 Communiqué issued by the Episcopal Seminaries Council of Deans

The Council of Deans recognized the many opportunities and challenges facing theological education in the United States. There was an appreciation of the sheer variety of programs that, collectively, Episcopal seminaries are providing in response to our changing world and church. In addition to the three-year residential MDiv, the MDiv can be taken in hybrid, distance, and part-time forms. Theological studies can be as short as a summer or a January term, to a quarter, to a semester, to a full year or more. Training is provided in Spanish language and Latino/a culture, and different tracks are offered in missional leadership; hospital, school, and military chaplaincy; and community organizing. MA and other degrees are offered in counseling, Christian formation, ministry, and all the major academic disciplines. There is a plethora of certificate and short-residency courses for lay and ordained leaders.

In recent years, three seminaries have completed or are in the process of completing capital campaigns. In all, over $40 million has been raised thus far. The demographics of Episcopal seminary student bodies are increasingly young and diverse. Placement rates are high, with many seminaries reporting over 90% of graduates placed within six months. This confirms the data from the Church Pension Fund that established the high placement rate and subsequent vocational progress made possible by an Episcopal seminary education. Several seminaries are engaged in thoughtful restructuring and reorganization that will ensure long-term sustainability and relevance.

The Council of Deans will seek conversation with diocesan leadership to recruit gifted candidates for leadership in the church. Discussion began about sharing opportunities for cross-cultural immersion among the 10 seminaries, as well as exploring cross-registration among our programs.

The Council of Deans concluded its meeting by affirming its commitment to continue to serve the church both domestically and globally. The Council welcomes conversations with all parties in the Episcopal Church about the future needs of the church.

  • The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, Dean of the School of Theology of the University of the South
  • The Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, Dean and President, General Theological Seminary
  • The Rev. Roger Ferlo, President, Bexley Hall Seabury Western Theological Seminary Federation
  • The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Dean and President, Seminary of the Southwest
  • The Very Rev. Ian Markham, Dean and President, Virginia Theological Seminary
  • The Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, Dean and President, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale
  • The Very Rev. Gloria Lita D. Mapangdol, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary, Quezon City, Philippines
  • The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, Dean and President, Episcopal Divinity School
  • The Very Rev. Mark Richardson, Dean and President, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
  • The Rt. Rev. Edward Salmon, Dean and President, Nashotah House
  • The Very Rev. Justyn Terry, Dean and President, Trinity School for Ministry