Adapted from a joint announcement
The Diocese of Minnesota and the Bexley Seabury Theological Seminary Federation have formed a partnership that will focus on Christian formation and leadership development in numerous Minnesota communities.
Bexley Seabury will work with the diocese’s formation and leadership development initiatives among the Ojibwe and Dakota communities, and provide several scholarships to the Bexley Seabury Leadership Institute, a three-day summer program.
A cooperative “incubator initiative” will gather young adults to visit emergent congregations in the Episcopal Church and bring the best wisdom from those faith communities back to Minnesota.
The diocese is “committed to assisting every faith community to acquire the resources they need to engage God’s mission in their context,” said the Rt. Rev. Brian N. Prior, Bishop of Minnesota. “This emerging partnership with Bexley Seabury has the potential of offering significant faith formation opportunities.”
The Rev. Roger A. Ferlo, president of Bexley Seabury, said the diocese and the seminary federation are well matched.
“Episcopalians in Minnesota have understood since the days of Bishop Henry Whipple in the mid-19th century that it is essential to root theological education in the context and culture of local communities of faith,” he said. “Bexley Seabury shares this historic willingness to work collaboratively, to try new approaches, and to find ways to ensure that the best in Christian formation and training are available to people and communities that are sometimes overlooked.
“My hope is that this joint commitment to excellence in contextual formation will become a model for the church at a time when such models are keenly needed.”
The diocese and Bexley Seabury share some history relevant to their new partnership. Bishop Whipple founded Seabury Divinity School, one of the forerunners of Bexley Seabury, in Faribault, Minnesota in 1858. Enmegahbowh, the first Native American ordained to the Episcopal priesthood, was closely associated with Seabury from the start.
The new partnership between ECMN and Bexley Seabury will be made possible by income from an endowment, known as the Bishop Seabury Mission Fund, begun in 1933 when Seabury Divinity School and Western Theological Seminary merged.
The Rev. Susan Daughtry, the diocese’s missioner for formation, said she hopes that “the development of a strong relationship between ECMN and Bexley Seabury will allow the experiments and learning that blossom from the partnership to be a gift to the wider church.”
She added: “As the Episcopal Church leans back toward local formation and innovative networks, this partnership can be an icon of good news — that seminaries can work in partnership with the specific needs of local communities, and that the wisdom of those local communities can shape and inspire our seminaries.”