From category archives: In Trust Blog

News & Trends

Already in debt, incoming seminarians plan to work part time

In a January 20 webinar for seminary leaders, a researcher for the Association of Theological Schools highlighted sobering data gleaned from surveys of new students at the association's member institutions.

 
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One perspective on tenure

In a recent Christian Century blog post, Greg Carey provides a defense of tenure at theological institutions. He begins his post by acknowledging that in times of change and financial unrest, theological schools may be tempted to rely principally on adjunct faculty. After all, tenured faculty cost more --and some may be resistant to institutional changes. But Carey argues against the move toward adjunct faculty.

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Calvin College offers inmates a second chance

“To have this opportunity is an answer to prayer and an opportunity to fulfill my calling,” says David. He's pursuing a bachelor of arts in ministry leadership degree offered by Calvin College. He's also an inmate at Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. 

The Calvin Prison Initiative offers 20 inmates in the Michigan correctional system the chance to pursue a B.A. while incarcerated. The initiative, which accepted its first class in August, has been positively received by inmates, prison staff, and Calvin faculty alike.

 
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Celebration and transition at the In Trust Center

The board of directors of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools has announced that the Center’s president, the Rev. Dr. Richard H. Bliese, is stepping down to explore new ministry opportunities.

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Do bequests make a difference?

 

Donors make bequests to make a difference after they're gone. Mary Goodman, a New Haven laundress who bequeathed her life savings (nearly $5,000) to Yale Divinity School to provide scholarships for African Americans, was especially successful in this regard: her bequest supported the school’s first black students, and continues to support students today, nearly 144 years later.

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Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminaries announce ‘new school of theology’

 

The Lutheran seminaries in Gettysburg and Philadelphia have announced that their boards have adopted resolutions calling for “the creation of a new school of theology and leadership formation.”

 

 

 

Last week, Gettysburg Seminary and the Lutheran Philadelphia Seminary jointly announced that their boards had adopted resolutions calling for “the creation of a new school of theology and leadership formation.”

The two schools, both located in Pennsylvania and both seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), held simultaneous meetings of their boards to adopt the identical resolution. You can read more about the announcement here and here. We will keep you posted as the schools share more about this process. 

 

 

 

Last week, Gettysburg Seminary and the Lutheran Philadelphia Seminary jointly announced that their boards had adopted resolutions calling for “the creation of a new school of theology and leadership formation.”

The two schools, both located in Pennsylvania and both seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), held simultaneous meetings of their boards to adopt the identical resolution. You can read more about the announcement here and here. We will keep you posted as the schools share more about this process. 

 

 

 

Last week, Gettysburg Seminary and the Lutheran Philadelphia Seminary jointly announced that their boards had adopted resolutions calling for “the creation of a new school of theology and leadership formation.”

The two schools, both located in Pennsylvania and both seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), held simultaneous meetings of their boards to adopt the identical resolution. You can read more about the announcement here and here. We will keep you posted as the schools share more about this process. 

 

 

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Student data, shared governance, and seminary finances: Upcoming webinars

 
 

The Association of Theological Schools and the In Trust Center are presenting or co-presenting three webinars in upcoming months that will be of interest to leaders of theological schools. The webinars cover student data, shared governance, and seminary finances and are designed to educate members of the board, faculty, and administration of theological schools on these essential topics.

 

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Financial troubles? How sharing resources could be a solution

Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) recently made an interesting choice regarding its seminary library. In order to deal with financial constraints, ETS negotiated with nearby Wayne State University to share their library. To explain this creative approach to addressing their financial issues, ETS president Stephen Murray said, “My mantra is, we don’t want to make cuts just to make cuts, we want to make cuts in such a way that we position the seminary to grow and to become strong.”

 

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In Trust Center Board of Directors -- New members elected

Voting-eligible member schools of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools have recently elected four new members to serve on the In Trust Center’s board of directors. Thirty five percent of eligible member schools voted, electing four new members. A short biography of each new member follows.

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Connecting the dots between the board and the library

 
 

At most institutions, the relationship between board members and the library is mediated through the administration. In an informal survey of 35 library directors, In Trust found that most have little direct contact with board members. Twenty-four library directors said that they never have contact with their school’s board members outside their board meetings. And 19 of the 35 said they have never submitted a formal report to their board.

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All Saints Day: Gratitude and inspiration

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

I love All Saints Day. I love the exercise of reflecting back on those who have come before us and the challenges they faced and the difference they made. As I look back in my family, community, congregation, denomination, and the organizations with which I work, it becomes clear that we really are standing on the shoulders of giants -- everyday saints who made a tremendous difference for me personally and for the institutions I serve and the community in which I live.

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The long arm of history: Understanding the past helps decision-making today

When I was in seminary, I remember a professor telling a class that when new pastors arrive at a church, they are directly affected by the last 30 years of that church’s history. If the pastor of 20 years ago ran off with the organist, the current pastor needs to know about it. The congregation certainly knows about it. If there was a church split at some point, the whole town probably knows about it. In light of this, our professor strongly recommended getting as complete a history as possible early in the interview process. Pastors need to know up front what can be changed, what can be worked around, and whether they have the skills to manage that ministry. Institutions of theological education are no different. . . .

 

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For Reformation Sunday: The continued relevance of Luther's financial insights

With the approach of Reformation Sunday, celebrated by Lutherans and some other Protestants this weekend, I have been thinking again about Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, which he nailed to the doors of the Wittenberg castle church on October 31, 1517. Back in 2007, I wrote a brief post for Luther Seminary’s blog on the Theses and their relationship with finances. I think the ideas are still relevant today, so I’ve updated them below for today’s readers. 

Does anyone quote Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses today? The answer is, surprisingly, “yes.”  The real shock is discovering who is doing the quoting. Economists!

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Changing demographics at Catholic seminaries

Since the '70s, the number of priests in the United States and Canada has dramatically decreased, while the number of Catholics has grown. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reports that in 1965, 549 U.S. parishes did not have a resident priest pastor. By 2010, that number had increased to 3,496. Nevertheless, a recent story from NPR highlights some good news for U.S. Catholics.

 

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Key takeaways and resources on student debt and finances

 

The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) recently convened a meeting of the participants in the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers project (ECFFM). ECFFM is aimed at addressing student debt in theological education. Greg Henson, president of Sioux Falls Seminary, shared a presentation at the event, which he has since published on his blog.

 

 

Though Henson's presentation doesn't include sound, I gained some great insights by simply reading the presentation as it progresses. Here are the two slides that struck me as especially important.

 

 

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Selling the seminary -- statistics and all

As seminary leaders engage with donors, many find a reluctance about investing in theological education. North America’s changing religious landscape means that there are fewer people in the pews, at least in many churches. A growing number of seminaries is recruiting potential students, but the absolute number of seminarians has remained essentially flat over the last 20 years. Furthermore, the prohibitive cost of the traditional master of divinity degree can all lead potential donors to question whether their gift might be better given elsewhere.

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Is a seminary a school or a church?

A seasoned faculty member once complained to me after completing a long counseling session with a student. He lamented about how he was spending more and more of his on-campus time: “Sometimes I feel like I’m spending more time counseling my students than teaching them. This was not the case 20 years ago when I began teaching. Something has changed.”

 

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Our condition: Americans with Disabilities Act, 25 years later

Twenty-five years ago,  when I was a college freshman, my university unveiled a program to address the needs of disabled students on campus. Since this was the same year that Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I can only assume that the new law was the impetus behind the effort. 

 

 

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Faculty at accredited theological schools: By the numbers

Are you curious about how your school’s faculty compares to faculty at other theological schools? Do you know your ration of full- to part-time faculty, or how many have terminal degrees?

Answers to these questions can be found (along with mountains of other data) in the 2014-2015 Annual Data Tables from the Association of Theological School (ATS). Those of us who don’t have time to wade through this 172-page treasure trove can read a two-part summary that unpacks some of the numbers.

 

 

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The state of the industry, and how to use ATS data for decision making

 

In mid-September, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) shared a live webinar entitled 2015 State of the Industry. Daniel Aleshire (executive director of ATS) and Stephen Graham (senior director of programs and services) led a 45-minute presentation on enrollment, faculty, and finances at ATS member schools

ATS has posted the recording on their website, as well as the slides and text of the webinar and links to further resources.

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Is there a place for young people in governance?

Nonprofit Quarterly recently published an article that got me thinking about the benefits and challenges of including young people in governance structures. “Preparing the Board Leaders of Tomorrow by Involving Youth in Governance Today” explains how the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania (GSEP) have involved the girls they service into the organization's governance. As a youth development and leadership organization, the the Girl Scouts are well positioned for this. It aligns with their mission and quite frankly, makes sense. 

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Upcoming webinar from ATS: Theological Education 2015: State of the Industry

 On Friday, September 18, 2015, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) will present a free webinar entitled Theological Education 2015: State of the Industry. ATS Executive Director Dan Aleshire will “provide a broad overview of what the latest data are telling us about enrollment, financial issues, faculty, and more.”

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Resources for your board: Books from BoardSource

We love to connect our members with information and resources that encourage good leadership and effective governance. So we keep our eyes open for helpful books and articles that contribute to that goal. Some of our favorite resources are published by BoardSource. Here's a rundown of some of the best.

 

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#CharlestonSyllabus: A list of resources

Has your school considered how to engage students and other community members around the issues of race and racism?

The following are resources to help you do just that.

 

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Attorney general warns trustees of investigation

 

The attorney general’s interest is unusual in that it seems to be a pre-emptive action; the college is not in danger of closing. “I consider it my responsibility to promote and protect the nonprofit sector,” the New York attorney general told the New York Times — not only by prosecuting fraud, but by preventing mismanagement “before it starts.”

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He lost his faith, so he quit his seminary teaching post

The July 6 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education included a reflection by Brandon G. Withrow about why he left his position at Winebrenner Theological Seminary.

He left his job behind because he left his faith behind.

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Summer 2015 issue of In Trust magazine

 

Last week the Summer 2015 issue of In Trust magazine landed in the mailboxes of people affiliated with the In Trust Center's member schools. Here are some highlights.

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Seeking a say in the naming of a new president, monks sue trustees

 
 

There’s governance trouble brewing at Benedictine University in Illinois: The monks of St. Procopius Abbey, which owns the school, are suing the trustees for shutting them out of the selection of the new president. According to a recent article in Inside Higher Ed, the monks claim that the abbey’s leadership has always played a role in the selection of the president -- ever since the first nonclerical president was selected 40 years ago.

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A prayer for Emanuel and the nine

African American presidents and deans in theological education have shared the following statement and prayer in response to last week's mass murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

 


 

June 2015

As the African American presidents and deans of graduate theological education, we express our profound solidarity with the families and the faithful of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. There are not words enough to convey the emotions we feel in the aftermath of the bloodbath.

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In the news: Wisconsin's proposed changes to tenure

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is proposing changes that would weaken tenure protections in the state’s system of public universities. And faculty members are naturally outraged.

The faculty of the University of Wisconsin enjoys an unusual perk in the landscape of American higher education: their system of tenure is protected under state law. Currently, those with tenure may only be fired for just cause or in cases of financial exigency. According to the New York Times, a new proposal from Governor Scott Walker seeks to remove tenure protections from state statute, allowing instead the university’s Board of Regents to set tenure policies.

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From the In Trust archives: A typology of partnerships

A president called our Resource Consultants this week with a question:

If my school wants to explore a partnership or collaboration with another school, what are the options?

In an In Trust article that appeared a few years ago, Robert Cooley mapped out several options for partnerships. His list suggests just how creative such options can be.

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A deeper look at a new survey of nonprofit boards

The online nonprofit press is abuzz over the 2015 Survey on Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations, with headlines suggesting nothing but bad news. However, after digging into the report for myself, I’m here to dispute the board bashers. The survey results (at least as I read them) simply don’t support the sorry soundbite summaries.

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Have you read the Spring issue of In Trust magazine?

In Trust's Spring 2015 issue hit mailboxes last week. Here are some highlights from our latest issue: 

 

  • "Two patterns of good governance." Part 2 of our excerpt from the latest report on seminary governance from researcher Barbara Wheeler.

 

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How does your school stay connected to its constituents?

Campus updates, upcoming events, policy decisions, student stories: seminaries have a lot of things going on. How do you keep up to date?

Some presidents, deans, and faculties use blogs to connect with their constituencies and keep people up to date on campus life. The audiences may vary — current students, prospective students, churches, donors, alumni, friends — but the purpose is consistent: to make a connection with people who care.

Click through to learn more about what your peers are doing, and perhaps to gain inspiration for your own communication.

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What is Resource Consulting?

Resource Consulting is a method of supporting theological schools based on developmental learning models. Its goal is to strengthen the capacity of schools by helping schools to clarify issues and use resources to meet their identified needs.

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A gentle evaluation turns away anger

In the coming months I will assist with two evaluation processes – one of a seminary president’s performance, the other, a board self-assessment. When approaching such assignments, my modus operandi is to accentuate the positive before broaching the negative. To paraphrase the author of Proverbs, I've found that a gentle evaluation turns away anger, while a harsh review encourages the one(s) under scrutiny to dig in his/her/their heels.

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The closing of Sweet Briar: What are the implications for theological schools?

 

Some sad news in higher education this week: Sweet Briar College, a women’s liberal arts college in Virginia, announced that it was closing at the end of this semester because of "insurmountable financial challenges."

 

 

Sweet Briar has an endowment of more than $80 million, but its board decided to close the school nonetheless.

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Have questions about fundraising? Join us

Next week, the In Trust Center presents our new live webinar: “Inviting participation: Understanding your role in fundraising.”

Why fundraising? It's one of our most-requested webinar topics, and everyone has questions about it.

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A seminary president’s thoughts on dying

Steve Hayner, who was president of Columbia Theological Seminary until a few months ago, died last weekend of fast-moving pancreatic cancer. Diagnosed less than a year ago, he spent his last few months learning to ask new questions — not “What are my plans?” but rather “How am I going to be faithful whatever the circumstances?”

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Seminary presidents are the new burned-over district

How might a board prevent their president from burning-out?

The "Burned-over district" refers to the religious scene in the western and central regions of New York in the early 19th century, where religious revivals and Pentecostal movements of the Second Great Awakening took place. The term was coined in 1876 by Charles Finney, who argued that the area had been so heavily evangelized as to have no "fuel" left over to "burn."1

“Burned-over district” today might also describe the office of seminary president in North America.

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Social media resources

Jay Blossom, Publisher of In Trust magazine and In Trust's Vice President for Communication, recently presented a workshop entitled Social Media and Institutional Conflict at the 2015 ATS Presidential Leadership Intensive Conference. The following was created as a supplemental resource for the workshop participants.

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Seminaries honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday in the United States that honors Dr. King and his legacy of nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement.

Designated a federal holiday in 1986, it has only been officially observed in all 50 states since 2000. The campaign to create the holiday began in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Dr. King.

Many theological schools celebrate MLK Day through lectures, days of service, and special chapel celebrations. Listed below are a few of the celebrations taking place this week around the country.

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Saying goodbye to two friends

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of two longtime friends of the In Trust Center: Howard John Claussen and Dr. Harriet Tracy Schier.

 

 

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In Trust magazine -- New Year 2015 issue

In Trust's New Year 2015 issue was sent to subscribers last week. If you haven’t already received it, it should be arriving soon.

 

Meanwhile, here are some highlights:

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In Trust Center board members re-elected

Voting-eligible member schools of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools have recently re-elected two members to continue their service on the In Trust Center’s board of directors.

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Governance in the news: Avoid easy answers

Sexual assault on college campuses has been in the news a lot over the last several months. One of the latest articles to go viral is Rolling Stone’s recent piece on rape at the University of Virginia. Though the credibility of the article has been challenged recently by The Washington Post and other media, the article’s account of the September 2014 meeting of the University of Virginia board of visitors offers insight into how a board and administration address difficult issues.
 

 

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Profit for the Lord: seminaries and economic margin

 

“I fear that whenever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must of necessity produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.”

This famous speech from John Wesley points to the fascinating relationship between money and faith. There is often discomfort in the church with addressing the dynamics of money and power. Too often, we overly simplify these complex issues: Church leaders (who have the truth but not power or money) speak truth to leaders (who have power and money, but no truth). Money is evil. God’s people should hate money and have nothing to do with it.

But as we know, these issues are more complex than that. Therefore, it’s no wonder that seminaries struggle to teach “finances” to their students as they wrestle themselves with their financial futures.

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Some critics don't want religious schools accredited

Within the world of higher education, a few voices have recently been arguing that religious institutions should not be accredited. A recent example is an opinion piece published in June in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Giving thanks: A formula for success

My wife often travels for work. It’s one of the sacrifices we accept in exchange for the ability to work together from home. Trips usually take her away for no more than two or three days, but this month a huge project demanded that she be in New Hampshire for nearly two weeks.

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Dunk-worthy: How do you handle unpopular opinions?

Recently, views opined on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led to the resignation of the Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, the head of the Episcopal Church at Yale University, and the withdrawal of an offer of tenure for Steven G. Salaita, who was to teach with the American Indian studies program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Offering an opinion can be a dangerous thing in the world of higher education. In some of our seminaries, where right thinking . . .
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