More on Garwood Anderson
His recent three-part series on the future of theological education, on Covenant
Read an extensive 2022 TLC interview.
By Kirk Petersen
The layman who has guided Nashotah House Theological Seminary through a remarkable period of growth announced September 28 that he will step down as dean at the end of the current academic year. Next year, he’ll be teaching about the New Testament.
Garwood Anderson, Ph.D., joined the Wisconsin seminary in 2007, and was named dean in 2017. Since then — bucking the national trend for seminaries — Nashotah’s full-time equivalent enrollment has more than doubled, from 52 to 119. During that same period:
- General Theological Seminary, the oldest Episcopal seminary, was essentially acquired in 2022 by Virginia Theological Seminary, and discontinued its residential program.
- Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the only Episcopal seminary on the West Coast, was essentially acquired in 2019 by Trinity Church Wall Street in Manhattan. Early this year, CDSP announced the end of its residential program.
- Episcopal Divinity School decamped from its Cambridge campus in 2017 and became essentially the Episcopal track at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. The two institutions parted ways in early 2023, and EDS is no longer a degree-granting institution.
“I’m looking forward to a final season of my working career, being back in the classroom doing scholarship. mentoring students at a closer distance, and letting somebody else … with more energy to keep the foot on the gas administratively,” the 62-year-old Anderson told TLC.
Anderson attributes the recent growth in part to a methodical program of visiting church leaders around the country and persuading them to take a fresh look at Nashotah. Since early 2022, he has visited 47 cities. He has reconnected with hundreds of alumni, and unrestricted giving to the annual fund has more than doubled during his tenure as dean. The seminary has recently run deficits of 10 to 15 percent on a $4 million budget, although Anderson said the deficit has been “further closed by growing fund-raising success and budget austerity.”
In a news release, Nashotah cited key faculty additions during Anderson’s tenure, including Hans Boersma, Greg Peters, Elisabeth Rain Kincaid, Geoffrey Williams, and Paul Wheatley. “When I came here, it was said that most people don’t choose to come to Nashotah House because of the faculty that teach here. And I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think we actually have faculty that people want to come and study with,” Anderson said.
On a spectrum of Episcopal seminaries, in simplistic terms, Nashotah has always been on the conservative edge of an increasingly liberal denomination. The seminary actively recruits from both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in North America, and the current mix of seminarians is about 45 percent TEC, 45 percent ACNA, and 10 percent Continuing Anglicans and other denominations. Continuing Anglicans is an umbrella term for churches that worship in the Anglican tradition but which, like the ACNA, are not part of the Anglican Communion.
“There’ve been seasons where Nashotah House has been better known for the boundaries that it established rather than the invitations that it offered,” Anderson said in an extensive interview with TLC in 2022. He focused on changing that.
“Theologically, you might see yourself to the left of Nashotah House on any given issue. Well, you’d be welcome to be a student here. We’re not looking for folks to sign some sort of statement of agreement. We’re looking for folks who want to come with an open mind and learn from what we have to offer,” he said.
Anderson has a research project in mind after he steps down as dean. He said his 2016 book, Paul’s New Perspective: Charting a Soteriological Journey, is crying out for a sequel. But mostly, he just wants to spend more time in the classroom.
“My call to theological education has always been first as a teacher,” Anderson said. “Stepping out of the classroom and serving in an administrative role these past six years has been a labor of love for the sake of the House’s mission. Returning to the classroom and research for the remaining years of my career puts me in even closer proximity to that mission by working directly with the next generation of leaders for the Church.”
The Rev. Matthew S.C. Olver, executive director and publisher of the Living Church Foundation, is an affiliate professor at Nashotah.