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News from the Hill December 26, 2009 | back to index

Andover Newton, Meadville Lombard Joint Statement

December 22, 2009

The presidents of Meadville Lombard Theological School and Andover Newton Theological School met recently to begin exploring the feasibility of forming a partnership between the two progressive seminaries.

The meeting was the first face-to-face meeting between leaders of the two institutions since the Trustees of each school authorized the preliminary conversations.

President Lee Barker and President Nick Carter described their initial conversations as “frank and wide-ranging.” They covered issues related to seminary education generally and many details about their respective schools. The two presidents agreed that the future of identity based formation requires innovation in academic and institutional models. These new models must take into account the changing needs for religious leadership, the challenges unique to independent seminaries, and, in particular, the critical need for a financially sustainable business model.

“While this was just a preliminary discussion,” said Carter, “we found enough common ground to agree to continue the explorations.” He went on to say, “Andover Newton has been in discussion with several schools that are searching for new models and the innovative curriculum design at Meadville Lombard presents some intriguing possibilities.”

Barker said, “Andover Newton has already joined with Hebrew College to create the Center for Interreligious and Communal Leadership Education (CIRCLE).  In doing so it has served as a pioneer of interfaith formation.”

Each school has agreed that additional meetings are essential before determining if it would be fruitful to enter into a process of negotiation.

Meadville Lombard is one of two Unitarian Universalist-identified seminaries in the country. It has been located in Chicago for about half of its 165-year history.

Andover Newton is the oldest graduate theological school in the US. It is covenanted with both the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches USA. It is also a significant center for formation of Unitarian Universalist ministers.