Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release
July 21, 2016
Contact: Jeff Walton Office: 202-682-4131, Cell: 202-413-5639, E-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org
“A menu of recycled 1960s-era liberation theology themes garnished with radical sexuality and gender studies proved unappealing to prospective seminarians.”
— IRD Anglican Program Director Jeff Walton
Washington, DC—A historic seminary of the Episcopal Church announced today that it will cease granting degrees at the conclusion of the upcoming academic year, and the dean has tendered his resignation.
Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) of Cambridge, Massachusetts 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.”
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.”
Several Mainline Protestant seminaries have been under financial stress in recent years, with American Baptist Churches USA (ABC) and United Church of Christ (UCC)-affiliated Andover-Newton Theological School – the oldest graduate theological institution in the United States – announcing in 2015 intent to sell its campus and end its residential study program. In January, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia announced that they would each close and re-launch as a single institution.
IRD Anglican Program Director Jeff Walton commented:
“Several seminaries that educate aspiring Episcopal Church clergy have found their own fate linked to the decline of their denomination. In the coming decade, possibly half of these 10 seminaries will either merge with other institutions or close their doors entirely.
“The Episcopal Church has dropped from 3.6 million to 1.8 million members in a generation; this historic decline will have continued consequences for institutions that seek to serve the denomination.
“The financial pressures of graduate level theological education are not limited to any one group of churches, but Mainline Protestants have been hit especially hard. Even in a theologically progressive denomination, the wildly liberal EDS failed to attract more than a dozen students to its incoming classes.
“A menu of recycled 1960s-era liberation theology themes garnished with radical sexuality and gender studies proved unappealing to prospective seminarians. If a seminary is to survive, it has to provide something the secular culture isn’t already promoting – in this case, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”