September 27, 2016
Dear EDS Community:
What is God calling EDS to become at this point in its history? How can we most effectively impact the critical issues facing church and society? These are perhaps the most fundamental questions that I and all of us connected with EDS face at this time.
Let me introduce myself. On September 1, I was elected to serve as EDS’s interim president during this year of exploration and transition. I am a member of The Registry for College and University Presidents. As former college and university presidents, members of The Registry have often been called to serve in similar situations of uncertainty and anxiety, and yet, where thoughtful discussion and innovative thinking can produce realistic hopes and meaningful futures. As a person with academic, non-profit, and seminary experience, and a deep devotion to the church and its future, I welcome this challenge.
While these questions about EDS’s future deserve our best thinking, I want you to know that all of us—faculty and staff—on the EDS campus are committed first and foremost to serving each of our current students to the best of our abilities. We are committed to providing our students with the excellent theological and spiritual education for which EDS is noted. We are also working in a personal and caring way to ensure that all of our students can successfully pursue and complete their educational goals here at EDS or elsewhere. We are seeking to provide the same mindful approach to our faculty and staff in relation to their future professional work.
When I accepted this position of interim president, I did so with the firm belief that EDS will not disappear, but will endure in its mission as a progressive Episcopal center for study, and a voice for social justice and reconciliation in the church and world. The EDS Board of Trustees’ vote to stop awarding degrees at the end of this academic year ensures that a substantial part of the school’s endowment will be used to continue this core mission in the future. The vote also provides the EDS community with the opportunity to embrace new and innovative ways to serve church and society in the years ahead.
The Episcopal Church and other denominations are faced with major societal changes and difficult challenges related to membership, discipleship, congregational life, and service to society, locally and globally. In the months ahead, we (board, faculty, staff, students, alumni/ae, and friends) are called to work together to embrace God’s mission in this changing world and find new ways to equip God’s people, lay and clergy, to impact positively these critical issues.
We will periodically keep you up to date with our discussions and forward movement. I invite you to get in touch with me with any questions and concerns you may have about EDS’s future steps. I also invite your prayers, as we ask for God’s guidance in this process of change and renewal.
Rev. Dr. William C. Nelsen
Episcopal Divinity School