Watching this issue of In Trust come together has been an unusual experience for me. For the first time since we began the magazine ten years ago, I am not flailing away in the thick of production. I have taken an observer’s—or perhaps kibitzer’s—chair while the details of production have been transferred into the capable hands of guest editor Joe Roos.
Roos, a sometime student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, is one of the founders of Sojourners magazine. After twenty-seven years with Sojourners, he left the magazine last year and now divides his time between service as executive director of the Associated Church Press and consultant to publications and nonprofit organizations. He’s now completing his guest editorship here, but you can expect to see his byline popping up in future issues of In Trust.
For your editor, this opportunity to step back for a moment and take a longer view of what In Trust is all about has provided a rich opportunity to reflect on how we got from being simply a good idea to being the major source of information about theological school governance. (It’s also allowed me time to think about where we go from here in terms of providing additional and different kinds of service to our audience, but no new initiatives are ready for announcement yet.)
To me, three elements have been key to In Trust’s flourishing:
The continuing generous support of the Lilly Endowment, which was In Trust’s only funder for our first seven years and continues a major supporter as other foundations, individuals, and theological schools themselves have joined in the financial support of In Trust’s activities.
The application of the journalistic principle that people learn most easily by reading and thinking about the stories of colleagues in situations similar to their own.
Perhaps most important, the increasing willingness of theological school leaders to share with their community information about their schools that was once thought of as private and proprietary.
On this third point, I remain grateful to this day to G. Douglass Lewis, president of Wesley Theological Seminary, for his bold decision to open his school’s books, operating policies and development strategies to In Trust’s readers. His decision led to “How Wesley Charts Its Performance” (Autumn 1992), the magazine’s first major examination of how a school handles its money.
On a few occasions In Trust allowed itself greater candor than some readers wished, perhaps most notably in its Summer 1994 account of the almost simultaneous resignations of presidents of two United Church of Christ seminaries in the midst of institutional uproar. But the interim president of one of the schools subsequently volunteered to me his opinion that his board of trustees had been well served by public examination of its handling or mishandling of the resignation.
In Trust is not a muckraking publication. Its mission is to help theological schools grow stronger and create educational programs that meet the needs of their students and potential students. But revealing unfortunate truths is sometimes a part of this process. We can indeed learn from our mistakes and those of our colleagues—if we know that mistakes have been made. But we also learn from our successes, especially if the context in which they flowered is clear and complete and the information is freely shared.
This is a hunch rising from conversations, not rigorous research, but it seems to me the world of theological education is more a sharing community than it was ten years ago. If In Trust had a part in making this happen, I am grateful.