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Montana institute blends postmodern faith and fly-fishing


A group of church leaders in Bozeman, Montana,
is developing plans for a new graduate-level theological institute in their city, focusing on “emergent Christianity.” The institute’s first activities, held in summer and fall of 2013, were five-day immersion seminars that featured not only instruction, but also fly-fishing along Montana’s rivers and hiking . . . 

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A preview of our Autumn 2013 issue



 The Autumn 2013 issue of In Trust magazine is in the mail! Here's a preview of what you can expect:

"Pathways to Seminary: Where the Best Students Come From" by Barbara Wheeler.
In Part 1 of this series, "Sobering Figures Point to Overall Enrollment Decline," Wheeler explained the data that she and her colleagues have been analyzing: Over the last decade, overall seminary enrollment is flat or falling, but there are a few bright spots amid the negative numbers. In this issue, Wheeler shares what she has learned from interviews with the best students enrolled at theological schools across the United States and Canada. 

Two other articles . . .

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Seminary sells campus, moves to smaller space

Lexington Theological Seminary has announced that it will be moving from its 63-year-old campus to a 16,000-square-foot building near the Lexington Green Mall. Earlier this year, the school sold its real estate and buildings to the University of Kentucky for . . .

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More schools, fewer students



The Autumn 2013 issue of In Trust 
includes an article titled “More Schools, Fewer Students: What’s Your Seminary’s Position in the Changing Market of Theological Education?” Co-author Greg Henson, the VP for institutional advancement at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, has a blog that contains more . . .

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Dr. Rick Bliese named president of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools



The board of directors of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools has named Dr. Richard (Rick) Bliese as the organization’s new president. In his new role, Bliese will oversee and direct all In Trust programs and activities, including In Trust magazine, a 24-year-old quarterly periodical for seminary trustees and senior administrators, and the In Trust Governance Mentor service, which offers customized help to theological school boards. Bliese will also lead the expansion of a new In Trust signature service funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., Resource Consulting.

“The board of directors is delighted to . . .

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Signs and portents?


A small private college in Virginia has closed
; could this mean anything for your school? Well, perhaps. “The pending closure is credit negative for a small subset of the higher-education sector with similar attributes to other closed colleges: very small, private colleges with a high reliance on student charges, indistinct market positions, and limited donor support,” Moody’s analysts said. Seminaries, beware!

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Planning a new campus


With the declining number of students
hitting up seminaries for education, and the average student age rising, schools need to be even more careful about planning new campuses.

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How widely distributed within the United States is your denomination?


The 2010 U.S. Religion Census from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies reports that there are 19 religious groupings (or denominations) with at least 1 million adherents in the United States. Together, these account for 89.4 percent of all religious adherents. The next-largest 42 groupings, with between 100,000 and 1 million adherents, account for another 9.4 percent of all religious adherents.

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Schools examining costs and benefits of tenure



Earlier this month, the board of trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
brought the national debate over tenure home to Texas. By a unanimous vote, they decided to end the tenure program at Southwestern, and set in motion the process to make that happen.

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What happened to seminary enrollment?



Here’s the executive summary:
Enrollment across the Association of Theological Schools is slightly down. The population of North America is way up. And this sounds like trouble.

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Requiem for the bookstore



This month, the Cokesbury bookstore at Lancaster Theological Seminary
 closed its doors for good. In fact, this wasn't the seminary's decision -- all the Cokesbury stores are closing, if they haven't already done so. As someone who deeply appreciates what goes into building and managing a finely curated collection of books -- a difficult task when the best of your collection regularly walks out the door, never to be seen until you re-order -- hearing that another store has closed grieves me.

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One of Canada's most influential theological training centres

To begin to understand the Toronto School of Theology, one needs to understand what a consortium is and what it is not, says Martin Campbell, a Toronto lawyer who chairs the TST board. “It’s a group of people or organizations who come together for a common purpose.”

In TST’s case, “it means the seven members give up only that part of their authority and power which is necessary to accomplish the common purpose, and they retain their separate identity,” explains Campbell. “That is a critical balance for TST — they all have their own heritage and are accountable to their own denominations and traditions. It’s that delicate balance that everyone has respected for more than 40 years. And the consortium could only function if that balance is respected.”

Read and print the full article here.

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Great resources for all kinds of boards


BoardSource, a Washington-based membership organization for nonprofits, has a host of free and low-cost resources that can be downloaded or ordered from their website at www.boardsource.org. Many of BoardSource’s materials are addressed to small nonprofits, but with minor adaptations, many may be appropriate for theological schools and seminaries as well.

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Pope Benedict XVI's 1990 address to U.S. seminarians


In 1990, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
was the keynote speaker at a conference on priestly formation held at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. His remarks were published in a collection by Ignatius Press, The Catholic Priest as Moral Teacher and Guide.

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Moody’s issues glum forecast for education sector


On January 16, 2013, Moody’s Investor’s Service, the bond credit rating business, issued a “negative short-term outlook” for the entire sector of higher education. The bleak forecast for the next 12-18 months includes all forms of higher education, including community colleges and top-tier research universities.

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Does your development director want to quit?


Fundraising jobs can be hard to fill.
Staff in this area often turn over at a high rate, and chief executives frequently express frustration at a lack of growth in fundraising.

Chaos in development staffing is highlighted by a recent study by CompassPoint, which says that half of development directors expect to leave their current jobs in two years or less and a quarter of CEOs fired their last development director. But the problem may lie with the CEO or the board, not the development officer.

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Two reports reveal faculty views on digital learning


In 1998, working as a bookstore manager
 of a rather large seminary, I was surprised to discover that very few of the school's professors would respond to my e-mail. They all had accounts, of course, but when it came to actually checking the inbox, only a handful even seemed to know how -- and only of a few of that handful cared to do so. You are not surprised by this. Professors are often a considered a stodgy bunch.

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Research reveals information on "millennial" donors, volunteers



New research sheds light on the nonprofit giving habits of young people ages 20 to 35: They seek information on their smartphones (but not exclusively); they're more likely to donate if they volunteer first; they're very interested in leadership (but most haven’t been asked to lead).

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What? No grad degree in enrollment management?


The field of enrollment management -- which includes admissions and financial aid -- has traditionally been led and staffed by generalists. But new graduate programs in enrollment management are emerging to help newbies and senior leaders alike cope with the increasing sophistication of this field.

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Megadeth = good publicity

"Heavy metal rock star is Lutheran seminarian." That grabs your attention, doesn't it? On January 19, 2012, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a feature about David Ellefson, a founding member of the "thrash metal" rock band Megadeth, who is now a student in the Specific Ministry Program at Concordia Seminary. Ellefson, who is 47 and lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, is an active member of Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, where, with his pastor's encouragement, he started a new music ministry called MEGA Life. Now Ellefson is preparing for ministry through a program at Concordia that allows him to take courses mostly online. Why should I care about this? I'm not interested in heavy metal music, but I am interested in how seminaries communicate. And from what I can see, this unlikely story has been a winner for the school. On January 20, the day following the original Post-Dispatch article, Rolling Stone posted an article about the "rock star who wants to become a pastor." The Assoc ...

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Preserve the core -- all else can change

The Alban Institute recently posted a must-read essay about congregational leadership titled "When the Mission Changes." In it, author Dan Hotchkiss reflects on the critical times in a congregation's history where the mission of the community needs radical reconsideration. This involves more than reworking the verbiage in the mission statement, he says. "[W]hat if times change so much that the original mission starts to look like a mistake?" Can a theological school find itself in a similar position? Of course. And more than a few schools are already taking the radical steps of rethinking and redefining their missions for the 21st century. For example: The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology changed its name this fall from Mars Hill Graduate School, partly to distinguish itself from a church with a similar name but dissimilar theological positions. But in the major rebranding process, the school has focused its identity on progressive evangelicalism and zeroed in on what it does best: ...

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"Like" In Trust on Facebook

Are you on Facebook? Click here to visit our page! And once you're there, be sure to click the "like" button.

Once you "like" In Trust, you'll find that that posts from In Trust occasionally appear in your own Facebook feed. All our posts are about governance issues or other topics releveant to seminaries, theological schools, and other forms of theological and biblical education.

Remember, you can also comment on anything or even post whatever interests you to In Trust's wall.

Is consolidation the future of Episcopal seminaries?

A popular website called Episcopal Cafe recently ran a strongly worded article by George Clifford called "A Word on Our Seminaries: Consolidate!" Clifford notes that the Episcopalians' current network, with 11 seminaries only loosely affiliated with the national church body, has significant down sides. For one thing, he says, 11 schools are too many for a shrinking church. Moreover, the individual seminaries receive no dedicated funding from the denomination, and hence many students go into significant debt paying substantial tuition. Clifford proposes a radical solution: Force nearly all the Episcopal seminaries to turn over their assets to the national denominational body (or else disfellowship them). Then liquidate them. Use the assets to support one or two seminaries and provide free tuition for ordination-track students while charging tuition to lay-ministry students. I don't think that this plan is actually feasible -- primarily because few schools would turn over their assets to the national church ...

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The future of seminary governance

If you could look into a crystal ball at the future of theological education, what would you see? The editors at Patheos.com have been wondering the same thing, and so they've assembled essays from an impressive list of seminary presidents, deans, professors, and other interested parties on the topic "The Future of Seminary Education" (or, more specifically, "Does the Seminary Have a Future?"). The responses include a substantive and wide-ranging interview with Daniel Aleshire as well as a "just the facts" reply from Barbara Wheeler, director of the Center for the Study of Theological Education at Auburn Seminary. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge reflects on the role of seminaries in post-Christian and more diverse environments. Philip Clayton and Tony Jones write more explicitly about seminary education for the post-institutional emergent church. Gary Peluso-Verdend and Mark D. Roberts both suggest that laity should be the ultimate focus of theological education. All together, the series is l ...

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Multiple gold standards now needed, says ATS chief

The Associated Baptist Press recently published an article called "Seminaries Adapt to Changing Religious Landscape." The meat of the article is an analysis of the current state of theological education by Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools.  We've heard from Aleshire on this subject before and included an interview with him in the Autumn 2008 issue of In Trust. But the new article crisply summarizes Aleshire's metaphor of "multiple gold standards." Aleshire argues that for the past century or more, there has been a single gold standard for theological education -- a three-year post-baccalaureate program emphasizing theology, Bible, and history, and including field education and other forms of "practical" ministry. (Education for Catholic priests has varied from this form, but only slightly.) Aleshire suggests that more than a single gold standard is now needed -- particularly alternate forms of theological education for part-time clergy; on-the-job educat ...

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