Thursday, February 21, 2008

Seabury: The End is Near

AKMA, whose real name is Dr. A.K.M. Adam, is a professor at Seabury, was my advisor at Seabury, is a fairly famous blogger, and is coincidentally the only person I have ever met who goes by an acronym. That introduction aside, AKMA posted this disturbing, but by no means surprising, entry on his blog about my alma mater.

I knew Seabury had been having some financial problems since before I started there, but I thought the new Dean had righted the ship to some degree. Apparently that is not the case. In fact, according to Dr. Adam's blog entry:

"Seabury will not admit a new class of incoming students this year; Seabury will try to arrange that current students can complete their degrees at other institutions; Seabury will no longer offer a 3-year residential M.Div. (they might try to offer a different kind of M.Div, program — that’s up in the air)"

A friend of mine, a classmate ahead of me at Seabury, IM'ed me this morning to point this blog entry out to me. I had not read it, as I only skim AKMA's blog periodically these days. I have never known Father Adam to wildly exaggerate information he puts on him blog, so I take this information to be the truth.

This is quite shocking, in fact. I had figured that at some point, Seabury was probably either going to close or be absorbed by Garrett Evangelical (the Methodist seminary across the street). I figured that would be 10 to 15 years down the road.

As I understand seminaries in the Seabury model of seminary, the 3-year residential M.Div.'s are the life blood. If they cut that off, even temporarily, no bishop is going to want to send his ordinands to an institution in that much financial turmoil. In short, Seabury will hemorrhage to death. It may already be doing so, if it has come to this.

My friend, who was relaying a comment made by another person with whom he was chatting, said, "There is a certain amount of arrogance from an institution that thinks it can reform the educational system but can't even manage its own finances." Dark days indeed.

This does not surprise me in the slightest. I hated when the Seabury trustees would come to town when I was there. They would roll in, every single one of them driving at least a 30000 dollar automobile which would hog our parking spaces. The trustees would have nothing to do with the actual seminarians unless one of us had student work in the kitchen for their VIP catered dinner and we were serving them wine or something for their pre-meal cocktail party where they recalled the "good ole' days" at Seabury and that "everything was fine!"

Like the old, framed needle point artwork that the warden in Shawshank Redemption had in his office, "His judgment cometh, and that right soon..."


Jane Ellen+ said...

Two things:

1. Frank has the official memo from the dean, with all the details, here.

2. While I would agree with your assessment of a goodly number of the trustees, I would not paint them all with such a broad brush. My former bishop is at least one who made a habit of speaking to seminarians whenever he could, had no illusions about "the good ol' days," and in fact agreed to be named a trustee because of his concerns. Oh-- and last I saw, he was driving a small Toyota.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Supposedly this is because seminarians now need non-traditional education. The question is, is there going to be some attempt to meet the needs of these non-traditional seminarians, or are the powers that be just going to shut down some seminaries?

For those of us who don't live in Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, New York, or California, and who have deep roots sunk in other places, there needs to be other options.

The Archer of the Forest said...

I agree there needs to be other options if Anglican students are being asked to basically pay the entirety of their tuition costs on their own.

For instance, I remember when I was in seminary, with the exception of one other person in the case (the fact that there were two of us was an anomaly in itself) who were true blue collar background folks. And I was the only one who had ever milked a cow or lived on a farm.

Our denomination talks a good talk about social justice, but the vast majority of the people in seminary (and hence the next generation of clergy) are all from upper middle to rich family backgrounds.

So, needless to say, I am all for alternative training. I think we should follow the model of the Church of England had have 2 year seminary training. I think that would cut the cost of seminary education immensely. Really, the 3rd year of seminary is largely superfluous anyway.