The editors of the Christian Century have published an editorial on economic pressures at theological seminaries. The Century is often considered the mouthpiece of mainline Protestant Christianity in America.
The editorial quotes data from the Association of Theological Schools:
The Association of Theological Schools reports that of the member schools that responded to a survey last April, 53 percent saw their endowments drop from 21 to 30 percent between June 2008 and March 2009; another 15 percent experienced an even deeper drop. Seminaries that were living on the edge financially before the recession were forced to cut faculty and staff, freeze or reduce wages and benefits, defer maintenance and reduce other spending, especially on libraries.
Aleshire suggests that seminaries need to rethink their economic models. But the editorial goes further:
Seminaries and their constituencies should use this moment to consider new pedagogical models as well. . . . Curricular discussions have focused on how to help students integrate the practical and theoretical aspects of study, but most efforts end up maintaining the division and placing the burden of integration on the students more than on than the curriculum and the faculty. Is it time to organize courses around the life and mission of the church?
In Trust is committed to helping theological school boards rethink both their economic and pedagogical models, and we help schools one-on-one through our Governance Mentor service.
In my experience, theological school leaders -- including presidents and board members -- are well aware of the need to rethink and retool. But to be fair, many are already doing so. Changing an institution's finances is extremely difficult -- perhaps more difficult than changing its curriculum.
Read the unsigned editorial here.