Questions and Answers about Andover Newton and Meadville Lombard's "New Model for Theological Education"

This “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) has been prepared to address areas of interest and concern that may arise as the new theological institution is being designed. These answers reflect the commitments of the founding schools and are highly likely to describe the final design. However, until the schools formally adopt the design next June what is described here may evolve and change. For more on Andover Newton's plans for the future and on its on-going interfaith programs, please click here.

What is this?

This is a new theological corporate entity that will be created by Andover Newton, Meadville Lombard, and other founding schools, probably in June 2011. Andover Newton will join the new entity, just as the other founding schools.

Who are the other founding schools?

Meadville Lombard Theological School (MLTS) has committed to create this new entity with us. MLTS is one of the leading Unitarian Universalist seminaries; they are based in Chicago. We are in active discussions with other schools to become founders, but as of this moment none has made the formal commitment.

What do you mean by a “university-style” school?

The concept of a “university” best captures what we are trying to do; although there is no guarantee that word will be used in the new name. The idea points to the fact that university will be a single non-profit educational corporation, but each of the constituting schools will keep its traditional name and its mission statement. Thus, in the future we will be the Andover Newton Theological School of [the new entity’s name]. Similarly, Meadville Lombard and any other partners will keep their name under the umbrella of the new entity. Diplomas will have each school’s historic name prominently displayed.

What does the multi-faith dimension of this mean?

There is probably no greater challenge of the times in which we live than that of dealing with religious difference. In an increasingly pluralistic and global society effective ministry and faith witness must have the ability to talk with, work with and minister to and with people who look, think, speak and worship differently. Andover Newton has learned many important lessons in our work with Hebrew College and Rabbinical School over the last 7-8 years. One of the most valuable has been the insights our faculty and students have gained from studying with those of another faith tradition. We are turning out better Christian ministers and they are turning out better rabbis because they have been forced to deal with each other in a context that neither had before. The new “university” is designed to bring together schools of different faith traditions, so that each one can benefit from and learn from the insights and practices of the other.

Is this a merger? Is one school taking over another?

No. We are trying to create a new entity of which we will all be equal partners.

Is Andover Newton still going to be a Christian school?

Yes. The most critical insight of multi-faith theological education begins with the absolute necessity of emphasizing one’s own faith identity. We need every student to be strong in his or her own faith tradition and we must have a setting where that can be nurtured without exception or apology. That’s why, for instance, the new university model will permit each member school to have its own clearly articulated mission statement, so long as that statement does not conflict with the purposes of the larger entity.

Wasn’t Andover was founded in an effort to emphasize its Calvinist roots over against Unitarianism? Isn’t this a betrayal of that history?

No. We are actually honoring it, but being responsive to the context in which we find ourselves 200+ years later. We are not proposing to merge Christians and Unitarian Universalists into one theology. We are eager for each school to be unique and honest about our differences. We will both fail our missions if we do anything less.

Will Jews, Muslims and Buddhists be a part of this new school?

We hope so. While there are no other schools committed as founding partners yet, we are eagerly pursuing them. Of course, in some cases, as within the Muslim community, there is no existing Muslim “seminary,” so the work there is even more complex.

Will the restricted funds that were given for one school now be used for the other schools?

No. Funds that are restricted for one school or one faith tradition will not be used for another. Donors can still make gifts that are restricted to a particular purpose. Of course, we hope that there will be some donors who will be excited about the larger vision and make gifts that support the entire “university” project.

Can students of one school take courses at the other school? Will there be joint courses?

Yes. It will be seamless for the students. The only impact on students is that they will have more choices to fulfill their respective degree requirements. There will be some jointly offered courses.

Can UU students still attend the Andover Newton school in the “university”?

Yes. The school at which a student takes at least 50% of his or her courses will be the school whose name is on their diploma. There are 35 denominations currently at Andover Newton (from UCC, ABC and UU to Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God and Quaker) – all have been welcome and will continue to be so.

Since Meadville Lombard is selling their campus in Chicago, will there be a lot of Meadville Lombard students and faculty moving to Newton?

No and yes. Meadville Lombard will maintain a Chicago presence, even though they are selling their current campus. MLTS faculty will still be largely based in the Chicago area. MLTS has a unique (nationally recognized) distance educational model where most of their students are not residential, but come to campus a few times a year for “intensives.” They will still be able to do that in the new model, although on occasion an intensive gathering might be held in Newton. We hope that at least one of the MLTS faculty will be based in Newton, but that has yet to be determined. It is also possible that a few Meadville Lombard students will choose to be in residence on the Andover Newton campus.

Will the boards of Trustees be merged into one giant board?

No. While the governance design is still being developed, the founding schools are committed to a national board of no more than 20. Each founding school will participate in creating that board and will include some new people who are not now on either board. Each participating school will also have a subsidiary board that is dedicated to its own school’s mission and program.

Where will the administrative offices be?

Newton. The current Andover Newton campus will become the administrative hub of the new entity, although there will be some administrative staff in Chicago as well.

Who will be the president of the new theological university?

ANTS current president, Nick Carter will be the first president.

Will there be one Academic Dean?

Each participating school will have its own academic dean.

Does this make financial sense?

Yes. The ANTS Board of Trustees made this one of the “bottom line” criteria for moving forward. The economies of scale and the combining of assets create a larger and more efficient operation. For instance, we will be able to have the largest endowment in our history and the lowest percentage draw rate in 40 years. Additionally, the multi-faith design puts us in a unique branding position which helps in recruitment and fund raising.

morebutton For more about plans for the future of interfaith education and on-going interfaith programs and Andover Newton, please click on the red square.

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