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Andover Newton, Yale Divinity School Announce Partnership
Two-Year Transition Begins in Fall 2016

Andover Newton Theological School and Yale Divinity School have announced on Monday, May 2, 2016, a two-phase plan to move toward a formal affiliation. The full letter to the Andover Newton community follows.

Dear Andover Newton Community,

It is with hope and faith that we announce that the Andover Newton Theological School leadership will proceed toward a formal affiliation with Yale Divinity School in a two-phase arrangement planned to begin in the 2016-17 academic year and, if negotiations continue to be successful, be complete a year later.

The arrangement will allow for relationship-building, pilot programs, and a faculty presence to begin at Yale this fall while classes continue to be offered at our Newton campus and in Greater Boston over the next two years.

We think it is important to communicate this news to you, our school community, directly and with as much detail as we can. We start to do so in this letter and will continue to communicate to you in person and in writing as events warrant.

For more than a year, we have been working with Yale Divinity School, exploring a possible affiliation between the two schools. The discussions intensified after our announcement in November that Andover Newton would be moving in a bold new direction to ensure our work and mission continue to thrive.

At the time, we told you that seismic changes taking place in the church and theological education are forcing independent theological schools to shut down, consolidate or drastically change their core work. We said then and still plan to pursue two new directions, refocusing on the School’s core mission of educating leaders for congregational (small “c”) faith communities and relocating. We shared then that we would explore becoming embedded in another institution, and those explorations have led us to conclude that our mission can be carried out more effectively in partnership with Yale Divinity School than it could were the School to continue to go it alone.

Andover Newton and Yale Divinity School have historic ties and missional affinities and our leadership approached these discussions with a shared goal of allowing Andover Newton to maintain its focus on ministerial preparation and with another shared goal of keeping ministerial education more affordable for students. This affiliation will achieve both goals. Neither institution believes that religion in North America can flourish in the absence of a learned clergy and both are committed to providing theological education that ensures the flourishing of faith communities into the future.

Our affiliation will begin with a visiting arrangement for Andover Newton at Yale Divinity School in the 2016-17 academic year. We anticipate that a small cohort of Andover Newton faculty members will be in New Haven, Connecticut, teaching students and launching pilot initiatives focused on congregational ministry education. Throughout this period, Andover Newton will continue to operate here in Massachusetts for the next two years – the first on campus and, in 2017-18, at another location to allow students to complete their degrees. Students will have the option to apply for a transfer to YDS through the normal channels.

During this visiting period, negotiations will continue. If these negotiations are successful, we would enter a second, permanent phase of affiliation. For this second phase, we envision an “Andover Newton at Yale” model that would result in a smaller Andover Newton functioning as a unit within Yale Divinity School.

This affiliation is clearly a benefit to both institutions. For Andover Newton, it allows the mission of our nation’s oldest graduate institution of theological education to continue, serving our constituencies. While we know this means we will exist in a different, smaller form, our mission will continue and, with work, thrive. Andover Newton has experienced several affiliations in its more than two hundred-year history. The leaders focused on this effort believe that this affiliation, if it becomes permanent, will have a positive impact, not only on Andover Newton, but on theological education in this country.  It is an opportunity for Andover Newton to be an innovative leader once again.

Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling, in a similar letter to the YDS community today, said there are two principal advantages in this affiliation to YDS, “The primary focus of Andover Newton has been on ministerial preparation and formation—more specifically, the development of ministers for traditions with congregational polities. We welcome a partnership that will accentuate ministerial training and serve as an ecumenical complement to Berkeley Divinity School’s formation of Episcopal and Anglican priests at YDS. Many of us, including the leadership of BDS, believe that this will be healthy for all.

“Andover Newton will also help us toward our goal of providing full-tuition scholarships for all with demonstrated full need by 2022. Like us, Andover Newton realizes the imperative to improve funding for students. We are hopeful that they will be able to help students beginning in 2018-2019 and they are eager to help us meet our goal by 2022. We welcome them as partners.”

I want to reassure our entire community that we are committed to this gradual transition with two years of academic programs that enable current students to earn their degrees at Andover Newton. For those who are unable to finish their degrees in two years, options will be made available through carefully constructed partnerships with other schools. Dean Sarah Drummond is leading the faculty in the process of building new programs while also meeting the needs of those enrolled in current programs.

As we have said, Andover Newton’s trustees, faculty, and administration remain committed to advancing the historic mission of the school and believe that embedding Andover Newton as a program within YDS holds great promise. We understand change brings concern and we remain committed to working with the community to ensure these changes result in the lowest level of stress, loss and difficulty.

We remain committed to keeping all constituencies informed of developments during this time of transition. Throughout this time we invite your prayers for the school and the future of its mission.

In faith,

Martin Copenhaver

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