Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bethany Theological Seminary Trustees hold spring meeting.

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees gathered at the Richmond, Ind., campus for its semi-annual meeting March 27-29. A focus was discussion of the strategic direction plan for the seminary. Over the past year, a revisioning of Bethany’s mission and role in the Church of the Brethren and society at large has been undertaken by the board, faculty, and staff.

Composition of a draft strategic direction plan was a directive from the board in its fall 2008 meeting, and is the first formal step of a long-range planning process for the seminary. The plan was drafted by Bethany president Ruthann Knechel Johansen, drawing from discussions with and input from trustees and all members of the Bethany campus community.

The plan presented challenges facing the seminary, goals that address the challenges, and strategies for achieving the goals. "In these challenges lie seeds of opportunity for the seminary to imagine and implement a bold vision faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and essential for the 21st century church and world," said Johansen in the plan.

The issues and their presentation in the plan were discussed by trustee committees and the full board. With a few revisions, the plan was approved, and the creation of a Strategic Planning Committee approved as a next step. The committee will be appointed by the board chair in consultation with the president.

"The Bethany Board of Trustees, together with Bethany faculty, staff, and students, engaged in a deep, stimulating, vigorous, and inspirational discussion on the strategic direction paper for several hours on Saturday, leading to the board adopting the paper on Sunday in a unanimous vote," said chair Ted Flory. "The Bethany board expresses deep appreciation to President Ruthann Johansen and the entire Bethany community for the significant work that brought us to this action."

In other business, the Student and Business Affairs Committee recommended a tightened and balanced budget for 2009-10, which was approved. Concern was expressed about economic uncertainties over the next several years. Staff are hopeful that 2008-09 will end with a balanced budget. It was noted that Bethany’s endowments put it in a better financial position than many schools.

Also approved were graduate tuition and fees for 2009-10; the 2009-10 budgets for the Brethren Academy, Sustaining Pastoral Excellence program, Brethren Journal Association, and Brethren House; the Brethren Benefit Pension Plan Resolution of the Board of Trustees; the TIAA-CREF Pension Plan Resolution of the Board of Trustees; and a Resolution Regarding Investments.

The Student and Business Affairs Committee heard an encouraging admissions report, that applications in general are at a 12-year high, and applications to the Connections distance-learning program are at an all-time high. More than 40 prospective students have visited campus through formally structured visit days, a new initiative this year.

The Institutional Advancement Committee devoted time to a survey of district executives on denominational awareness and higher education. Results were mixed, with strong support for the witness and mission of the Church of the Brethren, congregational leaders with a Brethren education, and ministry education made available in the districts. Less agreement was expressed on suitability of various ministry training programs and factors of location and cost in education.

The Academic Affairs Committee recommended and received board approval of the list of nine potential graduates for 2008-09. Also, the seminary has received final approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to operate an education program at the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) in Pennsylvania. Donna Rhodes, SVMC executive director, reported that the center has established an Hispanic Academy for Lay Leadership in collaboration with Atlantic Northeast District.

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership reported that the Training in Ministry program included 77 students this year. Nine students and supervisors participated in Education for Shared Ministry.

Trustees also heard that Bethany’s special collections archival project has been completed. Funded by an Arthur Vining Davis Foundation grant, the project involved cataloging and preserving the Abraham Harley Cassel collection, Huston Bible collection, and William Eberly hymnal collection, housed in Earlham College’s Lilly Library.

The board approved the Academic Affairs Committee recommendation to promote Scott Holland to the rank of professor of Peace Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies. Board members expressed enthusiasm for the appointment of Steven Schweitzer as associate professor and academic dean. He will begin at Bethany on July 1. Johansen recognized two Bethany employees who are leaving the seminary: Zach Erbaugh, director of seminary computing; and Rick Gardner, interim academic dean 2008-09. Gardner had held the position of dean at the seminary from 1992-2003.

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

Source: 4/22/2009 Newsline

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