Statement by EDS Board Chairman Gary Hall

I want to begin by acknowledging all the feelings swirling around in the room. The extended EDS community has gone through a lot of change in recent years, and before I say anything else I want to express my deep thanks to Frank Fornaro, the administration, the faculty, and the staff and students for the ways they have come together to heal and stabilize the school.

The EDS board of trustees has been on retreat the past two days in York Harbor, Maine with the Rev. Brian Taylor as our facilitator. Our task was to receive the report of the Futures Committee and to entertain some additional proposals submitted for consideration by board members.

In a few minutes a resolution to this effect will come before you. EDS will end operations as a degree granting seminary in June 2017; and the EDS board will spend this coming academic year determining how best to fulfill EDS's unique mission in today's world. We believe there are new, bold and innovative ways for us to forward God's mission in this new day and context. We also believe that living into those new opportunities requires that we stop doing some unsustainable things now.

Coming to this decision was not easy. In an intense two days, Brian Taylor helped us deal with a lot of complicated issues. We did not come all of one mind about the future direction of EDS, and we did not leave York with a unanimous vision of how the school should go forward. But we did begin and end with a firm sense that the historic mission of EDS--theological education done in the service of justice and peace--must continue and that we should steward our resources now to enable us to pursue that work for the future. And with Brian's help we emerged with a broad agreement of how best to proceed now.

Please understand that none of us made this decision lightly, and all of us are experiencing a range of powerful feelings. Speaking personally, this decision makes me incredibly sad. I entered ETS in the fall of 1973, was involved in the work around the merger with PDS, graduated in 1976, and have stayed connected to the school ever since then. There are other alumni/ae on the board who have similar loyalties to EDS and all it represents in the church and world. I greatly value all those who have served and still serve EDS. There is no place like it.

We on the board understand that we have obligations to faculty, students, and staff, and we are committed to being as just and generous as we can be in meeting those obligations. In fact, our commitment to just compensation for all involved was a prime impetus for acting now. Today we have adequate resources for student, faculty, and staff transitions. Given current financial trajectories, five years down the road we would not. We can do it right if we do it now.

I speak for the full board when I say that there will be no layoffs during the coming academic year. We will provide for a teach-out of all continuing and incoming students. This means that we will contract with another seminary or seminaries to accept our students at full credit and we will make sure that students do not bear the expense of this transition. We will be addressing faculty and staff compensation in a just and compassionate way taking into account individual circumstances.

These are the things we plan to address. We know they are our responsibility. We will do them as promptly as possible. We will have the details of our teach-out and compensation plans completed no later than the first day of classes, September 7, 2016.

So I am sad, but I'm also hopeful. The greatest gift EDS gave me was an orientation to living creatively in changing circumstances—the ability, in the words of Bill Rankin, to "size up the situation you're in and operate effectively in it." I believe that as painful as this work will be, it is also creative, bold, and most of all faithful. Ending unsustainable spending is a matter of social justice. By doing so now, the board is adhering to EDS’s historic commitment to be on the forefront of working for justice in the church and the world. A school that has taken on racism, sexism, heterosexism, and multiple interlocking oppressions is now called to rethink the delivery of theological education and just stewardship of its resources in a new and changing world. That is hard, important work. I am proud to be part of an ongoing community that is brave and faithful enough yet again to be a leader in taking it on.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall ’76
EDS Board Meeting
July 21, 2016