A Statement from the Leadership of Seabury Western Seminary

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….

After consultation with the faculty, students, and staff, the Planning Committee met on Tuesday, February 19, 2008. The Planning Committee asked the board’s Executive Committee to clarify its understanding of the long-range educational mission of Seabury, and it proposed two resolutions which the Executive Committee passed in the following form on Wednesday, February 20, 2008:

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.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Episcopal Church (TEC), Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

29 comments on “A Statement from the Leadership of Seabury Western Seminary

  1. Hoskyns says:

    Buy it! Make an offer they can’t refuse. Great buildings, great location – secure it for the future of orthodox Anglican theology and ministerial training in the US and Canada, in collaboration with a rich diversity of top evangelical and Catholic institutions in the Chicago area. Surely this is a no-brainer.

  2. azusa says:

    NOOOOOOO!!!!! Individuals may leave Tec but seminaries cannot!

  3. Albany* says:

    As Tradition dies on all levels of TEC, so her institutions must “adjust” — and always for the worse.

    815 — anyone home? You’re killing the patient.

  4. BCP28 says:

    What the Sam Hill?!

    Are things really that desperate in Evanston?

  5. RazorbackPadre says:

    I have had several priests who trained at SW. If those priests are any indication of what Seabury was teaching and promoting then it is only inevitable that it should die. Pretty buildings, good real estate, and a long history don’t justify the deadly and ungodly clergy which that institution foisted on me and my family.

  6. Grant LeMarquand says:

    Just a quick word:
    (#1) buying Seabury is not as easy as it sounds – the land (I believe) actually belongs to Northwestern U.
    (#3) conservatives should not be quick to gloat – Nashotah has pulled out of a very precarious position in the last few years due in part to the excellent leadership of their Dean President . Trinity is doing very well, but money is tighter than ever and many prospective conservative ordinands are choosing to stay at home and study at local seminaries and do some “Anglican Studies” on the side. There are more than 30 Anglican Studies programs at non-Anglican seminaries, so Trinity is hurting for students. Obviously there are other reasons why Trinity is hurting for students, including the sad state of the church, the happy resurgence of Nashotah House, etc. But simply being an orthodox anglican place will not ensure a healthy future. All of which is to say – send us your students, send us your money, keep us in prayer!!

    Grant LeMarquand
    Academic Dean, Trinity School for Ministry

  7. Br_er Rabbit says:

    Christianity on the North American Continent is dying.
    [size=2][color=red][url=http://resurrectioncommunitypersonal.blogspot.com/]The Rabbit[/url][/color][color=gray].[/color][/size]

  8. libraryjim says:

    I don’t think it’s a dire as that. Liturgical Christianity may be (and I wouldn’t be too sure of that, either), but there is a thriving Chrisitan population in the US who worship at believing churches where the Word is preached boldly.

  9. Br_er Rabbit says:

    Libraryjim, take a look at the big picture:
    Total participation in the Christian life is down, down, down,
    This has been going on for decades on end.
    Quick fixes like that of Bill Hybels’ have failed.
    Something new is needed.
    We need a restart: not hospice care nor a defibrillator;
    We need truly committed disciples.
    Disciples who make disciples.
    The Churches aren’t making them.
    The Seminaries aren’t making them.
    We need a resurrection.

    [size=2][color=red](…more at the [url=http://resurrectioncommunitypersonal.blogspot.com/]rabbit warren[/url][/color][color=gray].)[/color][/size]

  10. Townsend Waddill+ says:

    #6 said “send us your students, send us your money, keep us in prayer!!” and he is absolutely right!

    Some of you know that I am a senior at Nashotah House and a deacon in the Diocese of Quincy. I had to go into debt in order to leave my job and attend seminary full time. Both the Diocese of Quincy and my home parish in Florida have been wonderful in helping to support me, but it was not quite enough. I probably could have found a way to continue working as a CPA, done a distance learning program, and been ordained. But, if I had it to do over again, I would do it exactly the same way. There is a lot to be said for the formation that goes on in a full-time seminary. I am glad that I have been able to separate somewhat from the secular world in order to receive the education and formation that I need. It has been extremely meaningful and helpful to my formation to be on a campus that has Offices and Eucharist everyday.

    It is my hope for the church that, rather than cutting full-time residential programs, the parishes and dioceses that are not contributing to seminaries will listen to the wake up call and put money in their budgets for the seminaries of our church. Raising up and forming leaders is vital to the stability of our church. I hope that all of us will take the opportunity to support Trinity and Nashotah House. They are both raising up leaders in the Church from two different traditions, and the church needs them both.

  11. Townsend Waddill+ says:

    P.S. I will miss the “Lavabo Bowl” football game between Nashotah House and Seabury-Western.

  12. BCP28 says:

    If Northwestern owns the property, I am quite sure they can find a use for it. Its a thriving university.

    My first priest was from SW. A serious and profound anglo-catholic; too liberal for most of you, but a great priest none the less.

    It is sad that things have come to this.

  13. Vincent Lerins says:

    Personally, I think seminaries should be phased out. They aren’t practical, nor are they relevant and they are leaving people in debt. Each diocese should train their future leaders “in-house.” The norm should be when a need for presbyters and deacons arises; the local church should select a qualified member for the position from within the congregation. Someone who has been active in teaching, lay preaching, meeting the needs of the congregation, assisting in the liturgy, etc. The pastor of the congregation along with the bishop of the diocese and other presbyters should do most of the training. The bishops could meet in a synod to develop a practical three year program and ordination standards.


  14. libraryjim says:

    I stand by my statement. Look at the growth of MegaChurches. At St. Peter’s we have standing room only for most of our morning services and are looking to build a 900 person capacity building; the Latin Church is thriving, across denominational lines; etc.

    I think perhaps you are too selective in your statistics? Christianity is not dying in North America, but a revival couldn’t hurt. I pray for revival all the time, in fact.

    By the way, you are right in that quick fixes NEVER work. what we need is more discipleship in the Church rather than limited sunday school Christian ed.

  15. John Wilkins says:

    This is a wise and brave choice for the seminary. It has little to do with theology, but everything to do with macroeconomic issues that it has no control over.

  16. Will B says:

    Years ago I heard a prediction from one of the Philadelphia 11, of all people, that three seminaries would survive the crisis she predicted was coming and, as evidenced by SWTS, is here. She said that Nashotah, Trinity and EDS would survive because they are so clearly defined for the population they serve: Nashotah, Anglo-Catholic; Trinity, Evangelical; EDS, liberal, left,liberationist. Take it for what it’s worth. The fact is that our seminaries are in deep trouble. They are not financially supported by the denomination. Traditional Theo. ed. offerings are a joke. And people wishing to make heavy endowments tend to look to the bigger named places–Yale Div, Duke, Vanderbilt, U of Chicago. Seabury, General, CDSP? “What are these few among so many?” There is the overhead issue. It is expensive to operate an institution like a seminary, much more than the current population can bear. Given the age of the average seminarian, few are in the position to pull up stakes and go to a three year institution meaning that many if not most of the seminarians in TEC are going to commuter campuses, part time programs, etc. Our seminaries cannot offer competitive salaries, competitive either to parishes or other theological insitutions, eg a position still listed for a faculty member at Seabury offers compensation of 40K plus housing. Most people cannot live on that, especially if they are paying off those student loans incurred while getting a PhD. Then deal with salaries and benies for staff and administration, buildings and grounds etc. The list goes on and on… The fact is that the traditional model of three year residential seminary education (at 11 accredited seminaries) may not be sustainable in TEC, especially when increasing numbers od dioceses make it clear that there is no guarantee of a job. Back in the late 60’s and 70’s seminaries faced this too and any number joined into consortia of various kinds, eg Yale Div or the GTU. The crunch is not just on TEC however. Theological schools will always be the poor step sister in academia, especially in a culture that grows more secular by the second! SWTS is just the beginning. But do not think we’re alone. The RC church has already had to close and consolidate seminaries and other churches are close behind them and us.

  17. Br_er Rabbit says:

    If we selectively look at (all) Evangelical institutions, they seem to have a modest growth. Will they disciple the nation? At the rate we’re going, I think not. Islam is growing faster.
    [blockquote] what we need is more discipleship in the Church [/blockquote]
    Amen to that. Pulpit ministry does not make disciples.
    [size=2][color=red][url=http://resurrectioncommunitypersonal.blogspot.com/]The Rabbit[/url][/color][color=gray].[/color][/size]

  18. Little Cabbage says:

    Will B: Excellent analysis. However, I think that Philly 11 ‘prophet’ erred in omitting Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. Why? It is setting on a heap of money, and its location is superb for continued growth.

    For generations VTS has been the largest seminary (in number of students), therefore received more alum and congregational gifts. Through steady investment policies, good luck, and continued connections with ‘Old Virginia and Southern’ familes of old wealth (the upper 5% who have benefited from current tax policies), it has reaped money beyond its founders’ wildest dreams.

    VTS facilities and resources are tremendously impressive. Anyone who has visited their pristine campus filled with new buildings will see that the place reflects wealth, privilege and good taste. They cannily maintain their connections with Third-World Anglicans, particularly African bishops (it doesn’t hurt that they are located near Washington, DC; and they have enough money for scholarships for African leaders). Geography is also on their side. There are many, many wealthy TEC congregations surrounding VTS. Therefore, the school draws an educated, wealthy laity as students for the non-ordination track, Christian Education events, night school, and contributions, etc., etc.

    My confident prediction is that as other TEC seminaries close (and they will, for all the reasons cited by others above), VTS will continue to grow in wealth and wordly prestige. Which makes it doubly heart-breaking to see how this school, which educated generations for the cause of Christ, has lost its way in recent years!

  19. New Reformation Advocate says:

    The troubles of Seabury Western are indeed just the tip of the iceberg, as several commenters above have noted, not least Prof. LeMarquand of Trinity. As the new orthodox province emerges in North America, we are going to have to undertake a comprehensive and hard look at the whole matter of how best to train ordained and well-informed lay leaders who can lead us in this New Reformation. Just because we are conservative theologically, doesn’t mean we have to stay stuck in old-fashioned modes of theological education and priestly formation that are no longer suited to the times.

    Something no one else has yet brought up on this thread is that the orthodox wing of the ELCA is really in deep trouble, because they have no seminariess really equivalent to Trinity and Nashotah House. This suggests to me that there ought to be some real possibilities of pursuing partnerships with orthodox ELCA students and congregations or districts. Trinity and Nashotah need students; the Lutherans need a safe, orthodox place to train future leaders. Sounds very promising to me.

    David Handy+

  20. yohanelejos says:

    Little Cabbage, you are on the money — just as VTS has scads of money to work with. That’s right, no particular “churchmanship” advantage, just scads of dough.

  21. Scott K says:

    Even if NU doesn’t currently own the land, if Seabury closes, they will buy it. It’s right in the middle of campus. I was an undergrad at NU minoring in religious studies, and it sure was nice having the Seabury-Western and Garrett (the Methodist seminary across the street) libraries so readily available.

  22. Br_er Rabbit says:

    In the end, it would seem that some sort of residency program is required, at least for a year or more. It must not be assumed that a seminary student is already a disciple. Discipling must take place, and it must take place in one-on-one contact.

    [size=2][color=red](…from the [url=http://resurrectioncommunitypersonal.blogspot.com/2008/02/death-of-christianity.html]Rabbit Warren[/url][/color][color=gray].)[/color][/size]

  23. yohanelejos says:

    But isn’t the issue whether today’s Episcopal seminary will offer
    discipling, or indoctrination into another spirituality?

  24. Brian from T19 says:

    Christianity on the North American Continent is dying.

    Actually, It is dying in Europe as well. Which is as it should be. Movements go through periods of death and rebirth all the time. Traditional Christianity can not continue to thrive in a First World environment. Of course there will always ne those who hold on to the myths, but as our information changes our understanding must grow or die.

  25. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Contrary to Brian from T19 in #24 above,

    I am far more optimistic in my reading of the empirical date. Rodney Stark, the iconoclastic sociologist of religion, argues powerfully that orthodox Christianity has been on a rather persistent rise throughout American history, with some minor fluctuations. It’s just certain denominations that have tanked, including the Big Three from Colonial days (the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and us Episcopalians). For example, although in colonial times, people were much more biblically literate and theologically informed than the general culture is today, it’s thought that only 10% of the population actually bothered to attend church.

    That’s why I’m always careful to speak of the cultural crisis we face as the demise of “Christendom,” not of Christianity itself. It is the old marriage of church and state, or in America of Christianity and the popular culture, that has come to an end. But authentic Christianity is probably flourishing as never before in the U.S. To live in a “post-Christendom” society does NOT equate to living in a post-Christian one. Not at all. Rather, what we are seeing if the radical polarization of our culture, with the Christian part becoming more and more Christian, and the secular, neo-pagan part getting more and more hostile. I see that as a very promising development. After all, the pre-Constantinian church did quite well in a similarly hostile, syncretistic, pluralistic social environment. We can too, by the grace of God, IF and only IF, we are willing to make the drastic adjustments that becoming a vibrant post-Constantinian, post-Christendom church will require.

    David Handy+
    Passionate Advocate of High Commitment, Post-Christendom style Anglicanism of a decidely Christ AGAINST culture sort

  26. Rudy says:

    Northwestern University does own the land the buildings are on. Seabury-Western pays NU $1 per year for its use of the land. Western Theological Seminary came to Evanston in the 1920s at the invitation of Northwestern and Garrett Biblical Institute. Western built the original Evanston buildings, and then in 1933 Seabury Divinity School merged with Western. The first class of SWTS graduated in 1934.

  27. BCP28 says:

    Elves: Slightly off-topic. Sorry. You may want to consider posting, though.

    I was looking at the SW website. On the front page there is a link to an article concerning a discussion at Seabury regarding Communion without Baptism. It is here:


    Its worth the read, if for nothing more than the positively bizarre position of Dr. Ruth Meyers on the topic.

    Randall Stewart

    [i]Randall, I’m pretty sure something about that article has already been posted. I’ll look for the link. — elfgirl[/i]

    [i]Follow-up: I was wrong. The story you link hasn’t been posted, and I’ve forwarded the link to Kendall. I was thinking of a background story re: Seabury Western and Open Communion which was posted last summer.

  28. Dale Rye says:

    I think #13 illustrates a part of the problem. Many folks, reasserter or reappraiser alike, see the function of a theological education to be training in the practical skills of ministry. However, as my law school faculty used to say, any fool can practice law (or ministry) after a short internship; it takes a law school education to get someone to think like a lawyer (or theologically). The hard part isn’t knowing what to do, but when and why to do it. The best preaching and pastoral care skills in the world are useless without some intellectual grounding on the content of the Christian message.

    It’s like speaking a foreign language; the only way to do it well is to develop the ability to think in that language, and that is best done by total immersion in the culture. Seminaries, like law schools, are intentionally designed to remove the student from his previous life and ways of thinking and place him in a culture that demands other patterns of thought. Unlike law schools, seminaries should also function as worshipping communities where learning goes on in immediate proximity to the daily offices, Word, and sacraments. The problem with our existing seminaries is not that they do not offer practical training, but that they too often offer nothing else.

    Practicing law can’t be done competently by a layman looking up answers in a book, and theology (at least in our tradition) can’t be done that way either, even if the book is the Bible. For Anglicans, the interpretation of the Bible isn’t a private skill; it must be done within the Christian community under the guidance of the Christian tradition. Because the quality of adult Christian formation in the Episcopal Church (and the American churches generally) is so appallingly low, it takes most of three years full time just to do the remedial education necessary to get someone thinking with the Fathers. The Jesuits—who are starting with men who generally have a more solid foundation than most incoming Episcopal seminarians—figure it takes about ten years (and $330,000) to form each of their priests.

    Thinking theologically isn’t just a matter of “preaching the Word boldly,” but also of doing so in continuity with 2000 years of Christian tradition. I don’t know how you learn that in a short practical program offered to part-time students.

  29. Rudy says:

    In reference to #13, it might be helpful to remember that Seabury Divinity School and Western Theological Seminary were diocesan institutions, owned by the dioceses of Minnesota and Chicago respectively. For many years the chairman of the board of trustees was either the Bishop of Chicago or the Bishop of Minnesota. So SWTS began life as two diocesan seminaries.