Like other Episcopal seminaries in recent decades, Episcopal Divinity School has announced plans to affiliate with a cross-denominational seminary. EDS announced Friday that it will pursue affiliation with Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan.
Like EDS, Union emphasizes various themes of liberation theology. James H. Cone, author of A Black Theology of Liberation (1970) and The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011), has taught at Union since 1969.
Graduates of Union include Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Marcus Borg, Malcolm Boyd, Frederick Buechner, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, the Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff, and Walter Wink.
The two seminaries will begin negotiations immediately in the hope that their boards will vote on an agreement when they meet in May, before the final EDS commencement at its Cambridge campus.
“I am optimistic that this proposed affiliation will provide great benefits for both parties,” said Bonnie Anderson, vice chair of the EDS board. “An Episcopal entity at Union would be positioned to leverage resources for mission and attract new partners in New York City and beyond.”
Spurred by financial challenges that were the depleting EDS endowment, its board voted last July to stop granting degrees at the seminary’s Cambridge location after the 2017 commencement in May, and to explore new ways of providing post-secondary theological education that emphasized the centrality of justice in the Christian tradition.
The board’s New Directions Committee reviewed proposals from nine seminaries and divinity schools and selected three finalists. After making site visits with the Rev. William C. Nelsen, interim president of EDS, and Anthony Ruger, an expert on financial sustainability in theological schools, the committee recommended exploring an agreement to affiliate with Union.
“The quality and creativity of the proposals we received was gratifying,” said the Rev. Anne Howard, chair of the committee. “After extensive research, we became clear that Union offers the best fit for EDS’s mission and historic commitment to justice.”
Union has a strong Episcopal presence. Four of its 22 faculty members are Episcopal priests and five members of its board of trustees are Episcopalians, including the board chair, Wolcott Dunham.