By Douglas LeBlanc
The Rev. Roger A. Ferlo compares his new calling as the first president of two federated Episcopal seminaries to helping an internet startup firm. Ferlo, Virginia Theological Seminary’s associate dean and director of its Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership, will become president of Bexley Hall and Seabury-Western seminaries beginning July 1.
“It’s kind of like venture capital,” he said. “I’m 60 years old. This is fabulous. I feel like it’s the culmination of my ministry to take these two seminaries and move them to a new place” of ministry.
The boards of trustees for both seminaries announced March 27 that they had approved the federation in unanimous votes. They will share one budget, one president and one board, but continue in their two locations: Seabury-Western in a building shared with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s national office in suburban Chicago and Bexley in its cooperative ministry with Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.
“I would like to teach at both places once a year,” said Ferlo, who will be based in Chicago. “Because it’s now federated we’ve got the full spectrum of a seminary education.”
“Roger embodies our ideal, and we are eager for him to lead the formation of our next generation of students,” said a joint letter by the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer of Bexley Hall’s board and the Rev. Gwynne Wright of Seabury-Western board.
“His rich experience in both innovative and traditional theological education makes him a superlative fit for the Federation’s broad spectrum of academic courses and programs, including Bexley’s Master of Divinity degree in conjunction with Trinity Lutheran Seminary; Seabury’s Doctor of Ministry degrees in partnership with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and the Association of Chicago Theological Schools; and many non-degree programs for church leaders.”
Ferlo leaves Virginia Theological Seminary on a note of good will. “I’ve had a wonderful job at Virginia, I’ve learned a lot at Virginia, and people have been very supportive of me here,” he said.
“Dr. Ferlo has served Virginia Theological Seminary with distinction,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary. “While his gifted teaching, wisdom, and insight will be missed, we are sure that the gifts he has shared with us will be put to good use in building up the Federation. We wish him all the best in this important endeavor.”
Ferlo expects that the federated seminaries will work with the VTS Center for the Ministry of Teaching.
“We’ve really moved into postgraduate mentorship” at VTS, he said. “We call it the Second Three Years Program.
“For those who have left the ministry mid-career, the reasons they cited usually were related to the first three years of ministry.”
Ferlo said the Seabury-Western campus has a strong program in lay ministry and he will build on a program with the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
Ferlo also expects the federation will help dioceses with fewer resources to support residential seminarians. “Our hope is to be an important part of their local training programs.”
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