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Episcopal Divinity School Pursues Union Merger - Juicy Ecumenism: "Two progressive seminaries are on the road to merging following a financial shortfall and dropping enrollment at a historic Boston-area institution affiliated with the Episcopal Church.
The Board of Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) today voted to pursue an affiliation with Union Theological Seminary. According to an announcement from EDS, such a merger would create an EDS entity to provide Episcopal theological education at Union’s New York City campus. The merger would entail the closure of the EDS campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and its programs.
A corresponding vote was cast by Union trustees in support of the move.
One of ten seminaries educating students for ministry in the Episcopal Church, EDS announced in July that it will cease granting degrees at the conclusion of the current academic year, citing “unsustainable” levels of spending. At the same time, the school’s dean tendered his resignation. In November, trustees from the school released a letter revealing staggering financial losses at the troubled progressive seminary.
According to the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, EDS has four full-time faculty and 35 full-time enrolled students. EDS investments are currently valued at approximately $53 million plus the real estate value of its campus, which is adjacent to Harvard University. More than half of the endowment is restricted. In a statement made available by the school, Board Treasurer Dennis Stark stated, “We are spending six million a year from our endowment, and 30 percent of that is above a reasonable amount.”
Union was one of three finalists considered by a committee tasked with reviewing proposals for EDS’s future. Both schools emphasize progressive political advocacy. EDS describes itself as “leaders in educational programs that are enlivened by theologies of liberation, especially the many voices of feminist, congregational, ecumenical, and global studies.”
UPDATE [4:30 p.m.]: Union President Serene Jones has released a letter about the proposed merger.
“EDS will exist inside Union in such a manner as to deepen Anglican studies and to allow our Episcopal students to get their Union degree from a seminary recognized by the Anglican tradition. This is great news for our already large contingent of Episcopal students and our many Anglican alumni/ae who made their way through Union without this incredible level of support. It is even better news for future generations of Episcopal students who will enter a fully formed program. There are also enormous gifts that EDS and the global Anglican Communion promise to bring to Union as a whole; the programs designed in Anglican studies and ministerial and spiritual formation will enrich the education of every student here, including those of us who are not Anglican and those who are not Christian. Moreover, the significant funds EDS will bring to Union will allow us also to strengthen scholarship aid and to deepen faculty support and infrastructure capacity.”
Jones also specifically notes the closing of EDS’s programs and campus, which was not mentioned in the EDS announcement.
The EDS statement is below:
Episcopal Divinity School Votes to Pursue Affiliation with Union Theological Seminary in New York
Cambridge, MA – February 24, 2017 – The Board of Trustees of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) today voted to pursue an affiliation with Union Theological Seminary that would create an EDS entity to provide Episcopal theological education and other programs at Union’s campus in New York."
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