Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bethany Seminary trustees consider ‘core testimonies’ of Brethren.

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees gathered at the Richmond, Ind., campus for a semi-annual meeting on March 28-30. The meeting included spirited discussion and deliberation about many significant items related to the seminary’s mission and program, including discussion of the "core testimonies" of the Church of the Brethren.

Faculty and administration joined the board for an evening meal followed by a time of creative visioning about the seminary’s mission. Board chair Ted Flory described the conversation as a discussion about, "How we might refocus that mission around Church of the Brethren core testimonies in order to meet the needs of the denomination and wider church, and the world, for the 21st century." President Ruthann Johansen added, "What the Church of the Brethren core testimonies have to offer to the world as well as to the church in this time is an important element of our discernment." No decisions were made other than a consensus to continue the conversations and build on the creative energies that were ignited during the meeting.

The board approved 16 candidates for graduation on May 3, pending successful completion of their studies. The board also received a report from academic dean Stephen Breck Reid that 51 percent of seminary students in the US are women, and during the 2007-08 academic year, 57 percent of Bethany students are women. A new course titled "Women in Ministry" will added to the curriculum in the 2008-09 academic year, taught by Tara Hornbacker, associate professor of Ministry Formation.

Academic year budgets for 2008-09 were approved for Bethany operations, the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, and the Brethren Journal Association. The Bethany operations budget is $2,406,280, an approximate $186,500 increase.

The Academic Affairs committee reported that several documents are in progress to address recommendations of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (HLC), related to the seminary’s 2006 re-accreditation. An initial assessment plan will be submitted to ATS in April, a recruitment plan to HLC by Oct. 1, and a comprehensive assessment plan for review by the HLC by 2010-11.

The board heard a report on preservation of three book collections owned by the seminary: the Abraham Cassel Collection, the Huston Bible Collection, and the John Eberly Hymnal Collection. The project is funded by a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation. The collections include the theological library of 19th century Brethren leader Abraham Cassel, as well as many rare volumes on radical Pietism and early sectarian works. Custom-made protective covers are being created for each book, and the collections are stored in the climate-controlled archival section of Earlham College’s Lilly Library. Titles will be included in the Internet search engine WorldCat and on a web page maintained by the Brethren Journal Association.

In other reports, the board heard an update on the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence programs of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership, which are funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. Financial support from the endowment ends in 2009, and plans are being developed to obtain continuing funds. Steve Clapp of Christian Community is working with the academy to survey pastors about the impact of the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence programs. The board also discussed the partnership with Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center. SVMC executive director Donna Rhodes shared a history of the center. Discussion focused on procedural and programmatic issues and ways to clarify and strengthen the partnership.

The board approved the promotion of Daniel W. Ulrich to professor of New Testament Studies, and learned of three teaching and administrative appointments (see personnel notices in the April 9 Newsline). The service of Christine Larson, Delora Roop, and Jonathan Shively was recognized. Larson leaves as reference librarian for Earlham College, Earlham School of Religion, and Bethany at the end of this academic year. Roop retires this summer as receptionist and coordinator of the Office of Institutional Advancement, after 25 years of service. Shively leaves July 1 as director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership to begin as executive director of the denomination’s Congregational Life Ministries.

The board retained its current officers for 2008-09: Ted Flory of Bridgewater, Va., as chair; Ray Donadio of Greenville, Ohio, as vice chair; Frances Beam of Concord, N.C., as secretary; Carol Scheppard of Mount Crawford, Va., as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee; Elaine Gibbel of Lititz, Pa., as chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee; and Jim Dodson of Lexington, Ky., as chair of the Student and Business Affairs Committee.

--Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 4/23/2008 Newsline

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