Early in 2009, Lexington Theological Seminary declared financial exigency, terminated tenure, and announced plans for a new model of theological education. In May 2009, the board approved plans for a new educational model.
The Disciples of Christ institution in Kentucky plans to continue offering the M.A., M.Div., and D.Min. degrees. But after the current academic year, courses will be offered only through intensives, distance learning, and online.
In the transition, the board instructed the seminary's administration to seek court approval to use donor-restricted endowment funds. They also asked the administration to develop an operational budget of $2 million (down from $4.1 million) and to begin necessary reductions to balance this budget. During 2009, staff was reduced from 31 full-time employees (21 staff and 10 faculty) to 17 employees (12 staff and 5 faculty).
A report on the transition, written by president James P. Johnson, appeared in the seminary's Winter 2009 Bulletin, which was posted online just last week. It's reprinted here:
This academic year was a time of major transition for Lexington Theological Seminary. It began with a global economic meltdown requiring immediate action, and ended with an exciting vision for the future of LTS with the pending launch of a new curriculum that represents a new model of theological education.
THE CRISIS AND RESPONSE
At the start of academic year, the Board of Trustees recognized that substantial changes were needed to address current and future needs for the church and the Seminary. These issues included personnel, recruitment, development, relationships, diversity, scholarships and the long-term financial sustainability of LTS.
When the trustees met in October 2008 they approved a decision-making process that involved five steps: 1) complete an assessment of the church's needs and the strengths and weaknesses of LTS, 2) define the vision and mission of LTS, 3) identify alternatives and evaluate each of them, 4) prepare a new, comprehensive strategic plan, and 5) implement. The plan was to complete gathering information by February 2009, which would provide LTS the information needed to make decisions about the future of the Seminary. Unfortunately a worldwide economy recession altered those plans.
The Executive Committee met twice in special sesson in December, and the board met in early January to address the future of LTS. The trustees approved more than 20 resolutions including the following actions:
- Declared their commitment to reinvent LTS as a servant of the church preparing men and women for congregational ministry
- Asked the faculty to produce a new curriculum and model for education
- Reaffirmed their commitment to the Association of Theological Schools and the desire to remain accredited through the transition process
- Declared their commitment to restore the restricted endowment to its corpus value by 2015
- Declared LTS to be in financial exigency
- Terminated tenure and the tenure process effective February 1, 2009
- Instructed the staff to seek court permission to utilize restricted funds
- Instructed the president and staff to develop an operational budget of $2 million (from the current $4.1 million) as soon as possible and to begin the necessary reductions immediately.
At the start of 2009, LTS had a total of 31 full-time employees - 21 staff and 10 faculty. The year ended with 17 employees - five faculty and twelve staff - a reduction of 45 percent. The operational budget was reduced from $4.1 million to $2.6 million, a 37 percent reduction.
In May, the board, based on recommendations by the Transition Team, approved a new model for theological education at LTS. The new model forms students into the pastoral life in the context of congregations through a curriculum based on variable length modules and shorter electives instead of semesterlong courses and is competency-based.
It will require every student to have an accountable congregational ministry, a pastoral mentor, to be in a covenant group, and to conclude the program with a capstone project that focuses on an issue of pastoral ministry in a congregation.
The curriculum will use intensive residency courses, online classes, and other distance learning that will allow students to earn degrees and take continuing education without having to move to the Lexington area.
The new model maintains the historic focus of Lexington Theological Seminary to prepare men and women for pastoral ministry. It is based on an apprenticeship model and is focused on vocational formation into the pastoral life - spiritually, intellectually and practically.
This model will use active and retired pastors, regional and general ministers, laypersons, and seminary faculty in vocational formation of students. Implementation will begin in fall 2010 with the 2010-11 academic year being a "blended year" with current students completing their work under the old system, and new students beginning in the new model. For details and regular updates please see the LTS web site: www.lextheo.edu.
Through this transition, the Seminary will continue its current degree programs - Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, Master of Divinity, and Doctor of Ministry. It is very likely that certificate programs will also be developed. Other degree programs will be explored. The modules in the new curriculum will be utilized in all of the degree and certificate programs and available for continuing education.
See the Winter 2009 issue of the Bulletin of Lexington Theological Seminary here (PDF).
Read more about Lexington Theological Seminary's new programs here.