Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bethany trustees address seminary’s role in church leadership.

During a semiannual meeting on Oct. 28-30, the Bethany Theological Seminary board of trustees devoted time for thoughtful consideration and discussion of Bethany’s role in leadership for the Church of the Brethren. The board strongly reaffirmed Bethany’s mission and vision to “equip intellectual and spiritual leaders with an Incarnational education for ministering, proclaiming, and living out God’s shalom and Christ’s peace in the church and world.”

Consensus formed around the desire for Bethany to serve as a place for the study of and dialogue about theological, cultural, and individual diversity. Additional key themes included how to communicate this call effectively to the church and society through word and deed and the importance of proactively responding to opportunities that arise from challenges.

The board expressed appreciation for Bethany's efforts to embrace intellectual and spiritual hospitality for individuals of various backgrounds and theological viewpoints, both in the classroom and in campus community life. They affirmed Bethany's actions to foster respectful conversation on difficult and controversial questions, seeking the mind of Christ together as directed by Standing Committee of district delegates to Annual Conference. The April 2012 Presidential Forum at the seminary, “Joy and Suffering in the Body: Turning toward Each Other,” was named as an exemplary step toward this goal.

In other business, four new trustees were welcomed: D. Miller Davis of Westminster, Md., representing laity; Gregory Geisert of Keezletown, Va., at large; Dave McFadden of N. Manchester, Ind., at large; and Katherine Melhorn of Wichita, Kan., representing laity.

Guest presenter Mary Jo Flory-Steury, associate general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, spoke with the board and individual committees about the current draft of the Ministerial Leadership paper, to be brought to Annual Conference in 2013.

Updates were made to the board policy manual and updates to the by-laws were also reviewed in executive session.

Steve Schweitzer, academic dean, reported to the Academic Affairs committee on how changes enacted by accrediting agencies are affecting the seminary. Bethany is currently accredited by both the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission. Due to increasing differences in standards between the two agencies and evidence that ATS is better able to appropriately evaluate a seminary of Bethany’s size and nature, maintaining accreditation with HLC is under review by Bethany’s administration. A complete review of all curriculum is on track to be implemented in fall 2013. The faculty also approved a formation seminar for first-year MA students beginning in fall 2012 as a parallel to the Ministry Formation track for MDiv students. MA students will be able to choose between writing a thesis or a combination of developing a portfolio and taking exams.

The Student and Business Affairs committee recognized Elizabeth Keller, outgoing director of admissions, and received a report that residential student enrollment is trending downward as more students opt for distance education, and a more intentional student development program for these students is being planned. Bethany closed the 2011 fiscal year with a surplus, for which Brenda Reish, treasurer, and staff received appreciation. It was reported that Bethany will discontinue with the Perkins loan program and that the increasing amount of debt held by incoming students is a concern.

Lowell Flory, executive director for institutional advancement and gift planning, reported that Bethany’s total gift income for fiscal year 2011 was higher than in 2010, due to a large estate gift. Although giving to the annual fund was 92.7 percent of goal, this percentage is in keeping with a seven-year average. Congregational giving has continued to decline. The Reimagining Ministries campaign was launched at Annual Conference with the benchmark 47 percent of the total $5.9 million goal having been met. Since then, staff and National Leadership Committee members have been planning and hosting a series of cottage meetings to garner campaign contributions.

Board members, faculty, and staff joined special guest Ruth Aukerman to dedicate her gift of a handcrafted stained glass window titled “I Will Make You Fishers of Men.”

-- Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations at Bethany Seminary.

Source:11/16/2011 Newsline

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