Recently two denominational news services have published summaries of news about their seminaries.
The Baptist Press published this report on June 25: "Seminaries Report to Louisville Messengers." The article includes reports to the Southern Baptists' annual convention from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Not surprisingly, these publicly delivered reports are full of upbeat news. But nevertheless, I'm impressed with the strong sense of mission that these Southern Baptist seminaries exhibit. Every single seminary leader who is quoted expresses a passion for reaching out, growing, and changing the world. I welcome their enthusiasm.
But I also hope that the boards of these seminaries are doing what they need to do to fulfill their fiduciary requirements. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement that visionary leaders express. But in times like these, someone also needs to be checking the financials very, very carefully.
On June 26, the news service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America published an article called "ELCA Seminaries Cope With, Challenge Economic Climate." This article takes a serious tone, explaining how Lutheran seminaries are cutting their budgets in the light of the economic recession. It's hard reading, because many schools are cutting staff positions or salaries -- or both.
Of course, the Lutherans are not alone. Some of the Baptist seminaries are also cutting their budgets in the current economic climate, and scores of other theological schools are too.
We're in the midst of a rough period for theological schools, and budgets will almost certainly get tighter next year. I hope that board members are willing to take on an additional role this summer: Make sure the president of your school has spiritual, physical, financial, and emotional help. Presidents are flagging under the strain, and they need the support that boards can give.