Multifaith seminary to create new model for theological education
Written by Staff and Wire Reports
June 24, 2010
Andover Newton Theological School of Newton Centre, Mass., and Meadville
Lombard Theological School of Chicago have agreed in principle to form a new
interreligious university-style theological institution that seeks to become
an innovative center for educating religious leaders for service in a
The as-yet unnamed institution will be
established during the next year by the two institutions. Other seminaries
will be sought as partners in a design that allows participating schools to
keep their historic names and sustain distinct faith traditions while
gaining significant financial and administrative advantage through a single
In separate meetings late last week the Trustees of the two schools agreed
in principle to undertake a program of actions to bring the new "theological
university" into existence by June 15, 2011.
"Across the country seminaries are searching to capture the opportunities of
this new era in the life of the church, respond to the growing complexities
of a multi-faith society, and yet meet the ever-present challenges of
financial sustainability. This vision has the potential to offer innovative
answers to these questions, and do so not only in the curriculum but in the
design of the corporation as well," said the Rev.
Nick Carter, president of Andover Newton and incoming president of the new
"It's a good fit," added Carter. "As
institutions, we are socially and politically aligned on many issues."
The Rev. Lee C. Barker, president of Meadville Lombard, who will become a
senior executive in the new entity, said, "This new interreligious
'theological university' is designed to serve seminarians of all religions,
and seeks to strengthen their faiths and identities - not water them down.
It is in valuing each other's distinctions that we find the ground for the
greatest learning. We hope other like-minded seminaries will join us because
they share our mission to train leaders who are prepared to serve in a
religiously diverse world and want to do so in a model that can offer a
financially sound footing."
The two founding schools, one Christian and the other Unitarian
Universalist, will retain their historic names under the corporate umbrella
of the new entity.
Andover Newton, America's oldest graduate seminary and the nation's first
graduate institution of any kind, traces its establishment to 1807. It is
affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist
Meadville Lombard, also among the nation's oldest seminaries, was founded in
1844 and identifies with the Unitarian Universalist Association of
The new institution will be based on the Andover Newton campus although the
Meadville Lombard academic operations will remain largely based in Chicago,
primarily engaging in "TouchPoint," its distance-learning program.
Meadville Lombard is in the process of selling its four-building campus in
the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. The sale will liquidate the school's
real estate assets and terminate needs for ongoing maintenance, freeing up
assets for better use in the educational mission of the new school.
Interreligious collaboration isn't a new concept for Andover Newton. Hebrew
College Rabbinical School purchased eight acres of land from the seminary 10
years ago to establish its campus. In 2008, the two institutions founded the
Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership (CIRCLE).
Its mission is to help cultivate relationships among the students, staff and
faculty of the two schools through formal and informal programming.
Previously, it was reported that Andover Newton Theological School had been
in discussions with Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School concerning a
possible merger. Carter confirmed that these talks ended with a mutual
agreement that the partnership would not proceed.