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Seabury-Western Theological Seminary

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, and few bishops would punish those recalcitrant holdout schools by refusing to send students their way.

But even if the schools could be forced to turn over their assets, thus enabling the national church to liquidate them and pool the assets to the benefit of one or two lucky schools, I have serious doubts about whether this is the best way forward. 

Nevertheless, I welcome the discussion. Not just the Episcopalians, but every denomination -- perhaps every individual school -- needs to have a discussion about consolidation. I think there is much that may be gained when schools cooperate. Undoubtedly, there is also much that may be lost.

Read the full article in Episcopal Cafe here.


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