I am grateful that Frank Yamada (“Under pressure,” Summer 2023) explored some of the reasons for the accelerating executive turnover in theological schools. When key leadership departs, there is a tremor in an organization as faculty, staff, board and students adjust to a new Dean or President, who will take time to acclimate. Some of this churn over the last three years has to do with COVID-19, and the article rightly notes great creativity in altering modes of educational delivery. Yet, I think the pandemic only exacerbated the challenge of finding a sustainable business model, which vexes many an executive. In my study of ATS CEOs, I observed that fund development ranked as the most daunting challenge, and few new presidents felt adequate for that essential role. Burnout and loneliness stalk presidents and deans: There is always more to do than seems possible. Perceptively, Dr. Yamada accents the key skills of adaptability and continuous learning. If there is not clarity about the “core why” (Chris Meinzer’s words) an institution exists, leaders will flounder, as will their schools.
Molly T. Marshall, Ph.D.
President, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities
A paradigm shift is needed for theological schools to live into their collective mission of leadership formation. Preparing leaders for ministry isn’t enough; we should support ongoing learning and formation to sustain their call. Expanding to new markets of lifelong learning is a strategic shift, and a “doubling down” on our mission to equip leaders for service. The Christian call to discipleship and the specific call to vocational ministry compel us to engage in a process of lifelong learning and formation.
Aaron Einfeld, Ph.D.
Director of Lifelong Learning and Partnerships/Director of Certificates, Calvin Theological Seminary
As Dean of Earlham School of Religion (ESR), an embedded seminary of Earlham College, I have embraced the work of strengthening relationships with the college and articulating distinctives of the seminary. MaryKate Morse (“Shifting perspectives,” Summer 2023) makes the point that most people tend to think of a seminary as “just another graduate school.” At ESR, our mission statement says, in part, that we “prepare theologically diverse students for a pluralistic world.” That is very different from going to graduate school in a field that prepares people for a particular career.
Seminary itself is distinctive, which our college administrators need to hear – often. I participate fully in the Cabinet of Earlham and in the Board of Trustees meetings. It takes a lot of my time, and to my seminary colleagues I maintain that the time is well-spent. Morse confirmed this.
ESR is affiliated with and serves our Quaker denomination. In this way, we strengthen the tie between our parent school and the denomination. People are often drawn to Earlham and ESR because of the activist and mystical reputation Quakers enjoy. Our seminary presence is vital to the identity of our College.
Dean, Earlham School of Religion
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