Jay Blossom's Articles

Beyond the pandemic: Articles from the Summer 2020 issue of In Trust magazine (8/21/20)

A list of articles from Beyond the Pandemic and a featured article from the Summer 2020 issue.

Updated partial list of theological schools' fall semester plans

List of theological schools that have posted their fall academic plans online.

Anti-racism resources for schools, organizations, and individuals

Many schools, organizations, and individuals are now seeking to address systemic racism. To spur hard conversations and to help institutions to address the work of justice and inclusion, the In Trust Center has been curating resources from peer organizations.

ATS publishes information about proposed accrediting standards

The Association of Theological Schools and Commission on Accrediting have published information about proposed accrediting standards in the May 2020 issue of the ATS monthly newsletter. Members of the Commission will vote on the proposed standards at the organization’s Biennial Meeting on June 24-25, 2020.

What should you do about the fall semester?

It’s the big question school decision makers are asking: What to do about reopening school in the fall? Some theological schools have already made a decision, while others are waiting for more information.

To help school leaders and faculty make sense of the complex issues surrounding the decision, Inside Higher Ed has published an article by Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim, “15 Fall Scenarios,” that lays out many of the options. 

Is higher education returning to normal this fall?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has been asking individual schools to submit their fall education plans, and the periodical is compiling a list indicating which schools are returning to face-to-face learning. As of the end of April, most schools on the list are planning to return to face-to-face learning in time for the fall semester, but some are delaying the decision until May or June.

Evidence of the struggle

For employed academics — especially with those who have school-age children — working from home can be hard. Here are two items that came across my desk this week.

New COVID-19 resources

The In Trust Center continues to collect resources that may be helpful to the administrators and boards of theological schools during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some that have come across our desks in recent weeks.

Curated resources for the COVID-19 pandemic

The staff of the In Trust Center has been collecting resources, and directories of resources, to help theological schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a curated list of what we have discovered.

 

Principles for our new reality

A list of “Principles” written by Professor Brandon Bayne of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has begun circulating online over the last few weeks. The In Trust Center reached out directly to Professor Bayne for permission to share his principles more broadly. His “Principles,” though written for university students, can apply equally well to staff, faculty, and even boards of theological institutions.

Resources for moving classes online

In light of the coronavirus outbreak, many seminaries, colleges, and universities have decided to switch from in-person classes to online instruction.

Here are some online resources that may be helpful.

 

Two seminaries to close

Two seminaries will close this spring.

Earlier this month, the board of trustees of Christ the King Seminary in Buffalo, New York, and members of the seminary corporation voted to close the school at the end of the current academic year.

Also this month, the board of trustees of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, voted to close Logsdon Seminary, which offers the school’s graduate programs in theology.

Continuing education: Advance your mission

Dr. Helen Blier, director of continuing education at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, recently led a webinar on what continuing education is, why institutions should offer it, and how schools can dive in.

College-age population expected to decline dramatically

 

The number of college-age young people is predicted to fall by more than 15 percent within the next decade. The potential effects on theological education are obvious — and daunting.

The value of interim presidents

The Autumn 2018 issue of In Trust magazine includes an interview with William Crothers, interim president at Ashland Theological Seminary. Crothers has served as an interim CEO five times since he retired in 2002 as ninth president of Roberts Wesleyan College. He was happy to share with In Trust readers some of the wisdom that he’s gleaned over the years.

Help with the Carver Model of governance

Most authors, researchers, and support organizations agree that no one-size-fits-all template dictates how boards should function. Rather, governance gurus urge boards to shape the way they work to the contours of their specific organizations.

An American icon that fell victim to the “competency trap”

The New York Times has run an obituary of sorts for Xerox, the American corporation that is merging with Japanese behemoth Fujifilm Holdings. The company prospered and innovated for decades, but then they began to fall behind. What lessons could we in theological education learn from their example? 

Small religious colleges are struggling

A recent Religion News Service article chronicles the struggles of small religious colleges, saying that lacking substantial endowments, many are teetering on a financial cliff.

 

A good example of a presidential search update letter

When a school is looking for a new president, rumors fly and questions abound. The search process takes many months, and often confidentiality is paramount.

 

Survey reveals shared concerns of college presidents

Earlier this year, the Gallup Organization and Inside Higher Ed teamed up to survey 2,890 college and university presidents about a host of topics. Although the survey sample did not include Bible colleges, seminaries, or institutions with fewer than 500 students, several of the questions asked relate to issues that theological schools are facing as well.

Where did the phrase “Mission fulfillment with economic vitality” come from?

We recently asked consultant Rebekah Burch Basinger about the origins of the phrase "Mission fulfillment with economic vitality." She explained that it's a summary statement about economic equilibrium.

 

 

Reaching seminarians and communities alike through congregational partnerships

The challenges for modern theological schools and the needs of seminarians are great and ever-changing. Among these include the rising costs of obtaining seminary degrees and many seminarians’ desire to remain close to their homes and families. In a February article in The Christian Century, Jason Byassee and Ross Lockhart highlight how some schools are meeting these challenges by partnering with flourishing megachurches.

 

 

New members of the board of directors

Voting-eligible member schools of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools recently elected three new members and re-elected two members to serve on the In Trust Center’s board of directors. The new and re-elected members include (above, from left) Marsha Foster Boyd, Charisse L. Gillett, Kathryn Glover, David Jennings, and Msgr. Roger E. McGrath.

What people are saying about the In Trust Center's new president

"The In Trust Center is in the best possible hands with the leadership of Amy Kardash!  In my experience, she brings a profound professionalism and integrity to her every endeavor."

 

Amy L. Kardash named president of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools

The board of directors of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools has named Amy L. Kardash as the organization’s new president. 

In her new role, Kardash will oversee and direct all the In Trust Center’s work in resourcing seminaries and theological colleges. These programs include Resource Consulting, a service that connects the leaders of theological schools to resources that enable them to make transformative changes within their institutions; In Trust magazine, periodical for seminary trustees, administrators, and faculty members published since 1988; and the In Trust Center’s webinars and other educational programs.

The role of faculty in shared governance



 
Sarah Drummond Israel Galindo Joretta Marshall Rebecca Slough

No one disputes the central role of faculty in the classroom. But what role do faculty members have in the boardroom? In Trust wanted to know, so we asked Nadine Pence, executive director of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, to recommend a few conversation partners. Pence suggested four respected academic leaders, each representing a different seminary, and In Trust invited them to discuss how shared governance plays out on their campuses. 

Colgate Rochester Crozer is moving

Things are looking beautiful at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS), the oldest Baptist seminary in the United States, which occupies a tree-filled campus on a hill overlooking Rochester, New York. The school is the product of a merger of Colgate (founded 1817) and Rochester (founded 1850) seminaries, which came together in 1928. A theological institute for women, the Baptist Missionary Training School, joined the institution in 1961, and a fourth school, Crozer Theological Seminary (the alma mater of Martin Luther King Jr.), joined in 1970.

In Trust wins awards at Associated Church Press meeting

 
 

In Trust won three awards at the annual meeting of the Associated Church Press, held April 22, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. 

The association, which is made up of church-related and independent religious periodicals, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and has held an annual meeting since 1920. In Trust publisher Jay Blossom serves on the board of directors.

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.

The Strategic Information Report: What you need to know

Because the SIR has been completely revamped, the Association of Theological Schools has provided an overview article that explains how presidents and board members can use it. “Why the Strategic Information Report is an essential tool in every school’s toolbox,” by Chris Meinzer, explores ways to use the SIR as a tool in assessing their institution's overall health.

 

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Theodore Hesburgh, influential university president, dies

Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987, has died at age 97. Widely acknowledged as the most influential college president of his generation, Hesburgh was also a founding member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and served as Vatican representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Shared governance: Resources for your board

Shared governance is one of the most challenging issues at many seminaries and theological colleges. And it works differently at freestanding seminaries and embedded divinity schools. If shared governance continues to be a challenge at your school, you may want to consider some of these resources.

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?”

Nine keys for a healthy board-president leadership team

The Autumn 2011 issue of In Trust magazine included an article that addressed that all-important relationship between a school's board and its president. Author Wendy L. Fletcher, then the principal and dean of Vancouver School of Theology, offered nine essential keys for a healthy board-president relationship.

Though a few years old, the article is as applicable as ever. The full article can be found here in the In Trust magazine archives.

Personality types and problem board members

Recently, the Nonprofit Quarterly posted a classic article on how personality types affect boards. The article lists six “desirable qualities” in a board member, including “commitment,” “common sense and good judgment,” “respect for group process,” “centeredness,” “openness,” and “sense of humor.” But there’s also a helpful list of five kinds of board members who can derail the board’s work. They get nicknames: “Johnny One-Note” . . .

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.

Shared governance is flawed but fixable

Few people appear happy with the state of shared governance at American colleges and universities.”

 

 

That’s how Brian Rosenberg, president of Macalester College, begins a thoughtful essay on how to reform shared governance in higher education.

Latest news from the Association of Theological Schools

This spring, the Association of Theological Schools issued its latest Colloquy newsletter online. Below are two items from that newsletter that are of interest to theological school board members.

Accrediting processes simplifiedAt its February 2014 meeting, the ATS Board of Commissioners approved changes to its policies and practices.

Continuing education for faculty: Five strategies that won't break the bank. Today, faculty must not only be masters of their disciplines; they must also master instructional design, educational technology, and more.

Seminaries are launching pads

Barrett Owen works in the admissions office at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. He’s 29 years old, has two master’s degrees, and has been working as a bivocational pastor for six years. If you know anything about today’s seminarian, you know that Barrett is not alone. Thousands of theological school students are like him.

News on demographics, essential skills, and more

Last year, In Trust published a report by Barbara Wheeler titled “Sobering Figures Point to Overall Enrollment Decline.” That article’s influence continues to grow. Most recently, it was cited in “Seminaries Continue to Attract Older Students,” an article that award-winning journalist Yonat Shimron wrote for the website Insights into Religion.

Maintain the mission while firing the faculty?

According to Inside Higher Ed, Iowa Wesleyan College is cutting 22 of its 52 faculty positions and 16 of its 31 academic programs, saving the school $3 million per year out of its $20 million budget. After the cuts, there will be two faculty members in the English department, and none in math. Naturally, people are distraught, but I’m not inclined to criticize the radical pruning. This is a college with . . .

 

New In Trust Center board members elected

Voting-eligible member schools of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools have recently elected five members to serve on the In Trust Center’s board of directors. Fifty percent of member schools voted, electing three new members and re-electing two continuing members. Click on "Read the Rest of Entry" to see their brief biographies.

On a C. S. Lewis anniversary, honoring theological educators

One of my favorite characters in the C. S. Lewis canon is the Anglican bishop in The Great Divorce. Along with the other characters in this parable, the bishop has taken a bus from a vast purgatorial city to the very gates of paradise. Once at the gate, he can accompany his appointed guide into heaven if he simply lays down his burdens and follows. Easy! But the bishop waffles. 

Knowledge is power

Anecdotal “evidence” has its place, but to make sound decisions, your board and administration alike need sound data. You need to hear not just the success story of one star alumna, but the trends among all your graduates. You need to hear not just an assertion that your school is providing the best seminary education in your denomination, but you need some facts about how you are performing with respect to your peer schools.

Much of this data is readily available —

Seminarians need spiritual support too

Seminary board members give a lot — their time, their money, their expertise. But one thing they don’t expect to be asked for is spiritual support. 

Why not? 

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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