In tough economic times like these, some communities are looking to their local theological schools as potential sources of income. And it's easy to see why. As tax-exempt organizations, theological schools don't contribute to the local tax base in a way that can be counted easily. Charges begin to fly that a theological school uses services that it doesn't pay for.
How best to answer such bad press?
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, is in the thick of this. The seminary already makes a voluntary payment to the town for the children of on-campus residents who attend public primary and secondary schools. But the local newspaper, the Salem News, has reported that some local residents and officials want the seminary to pay more.
In response, Gordon-Conwell's executive vice president, Robert Landrebe, and its director of communications, Anne Doll, crafted a careful 1,800-word article. I think it's a model of disclosure and Christian charity. In the article, which was published in the Salem News on March 26, Landrebe and Doll express their appreciation for the local community and their commitment to its welfare. They cite an economic impact study that shows how much the seminary benefits the local economy through jobs and spending. And they explain clearly but firmly why they do not want to enter into a contractual arrangement to pay make payments "in lieu of taxes."
If your theological school is facing community pressure to "pay its own way," you would do well to read Landrebe and Doll's article.
Read the article in the Salem News here.
Read the response by Robert Landrebe and Anne Doll here.