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Changes at the helm

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens.”  (Luke 13:54

Looking simply at the sheer number of turnovers in leadership at Episcopal seminaries in the last three years suggests that change is in the wind. The recent debacles surfacing at General Theological Seminary and before that, at Episcopal Divinity School — centering, inter alia, on the complex interrelation of theological mission, finances, pedagogy, and collegial trust — offer a barometer reading on the pressures faced by many Episcopal seminaries across the country. At stake is nothing less than the viability of a three-year, residential seminary education.

I’m no meteorologist, but surveying the changes at the helm in Episcopal seminaries, particularly the seven new appointments in the last three years, is certainly interesting and shows, at a minimum, a certain degree of volatility and institutional soul searching. Consider, for example, the following appointments at TEC’s ten seminaries (plus Duke’s AEHS)—all of which seem recent in relation to, say, The Rev. Canon Dr. George Sumner’s tenure as Principal at Wycliffe College Toronto (since 1999).

2007

Virginia Theological Seminary: The Rev. Dr. Ian Markham

2008

TESM: The Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry

2009

Episcopal Divinity School: The Rev. Katherine Ragsdale

2010

Church Divinity School of the Pacific: The Rev. Dr. Mark Richardson

2011

Bexley Seabury: The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ferguson

2012

Sewanee School of Theology: The Rt. Rev. Dr. James Neil Alexander

Duke Anglican Episcopal House of Studies: The Rev. Dr. David Marshall (Director)

2013

Seminary of the Southwest: The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Kittredge

General Theological Seminary: The Rev. Kurt Dunkle

2014

Berkeley Divinity School at Yale: The Rev. Dr. Andrew McGowan

Nashotah House: The Rev. Dr. Steven Peay

Just what to make of this data is a matter of interpretation — and perhaps our Covenant readership may wish to weigh in. In my own view, the 2014 appointments in particular point to an exciting and promising season of renewed commitment to institutional tradition as well as creative rethinking for the future. Let us pray that (at least) a three-year residential seminary experience continues to be the standard for the raising up of Anglican clergy.

Selected List of Announcements

http://theology.sewanee.edu/news/alexander-named-dean-of-the-school-of-theology

http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2014/10/24/the-rev-steven-peay-named-dean-and-president-of-nashotah-house/

http://notesfromthequad.yale.edu/notes/2014-04-07-000000/andrew-mcgowan-appointed-dean-berkeley-divinity-school-yale

https://divinity.duke.edu/news-media/news/20121115marshall

http://www.ssw.edu/installation-dean-and-president-kittredge

http://news.gts.edu/2013/02/the-rev-kurt-h-dunkle-is-nominated-to-be-general-seminarys-next-dean-and-president/

http://www.eds.edu/news/rev-michael-battle-appointed-interim-dean-students-and-community-life-episcopal-divinity-school

The image above is “Helm aboard the USCGC Eagle: the Hand of a Coastie” (2008) by Flickr user Hammerin Man. A correction was made to this post on 11 November, removing the reference to the Rev. Michael Battle as interim Dean of Episcopal Divinity School. He is interim dean of students and community life. 

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