EDS@Union Board Meets For First Time in New York

2017 EDS@Union Board OfficersIn a meeting that marked a milestone in the affiliation between Episcopal Divinity School and Union Theological Seminary, the board of trustees of EDS@Union met for the first time on Union’s campus in New York City on October 26 and 27.

Over the course of two days the board elected new officers, passed a budget and learned of the hiring of a new staff member. The board also received reports on the marketing of the seminary’s former campus in Cambridge, and the placement of its books, artwork and artifacts, and archive. 

The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of EDS@Union, welcomed the board with a report on her first two months in office. “How would I describe this affiliation? The word that continues to come to me is synergy,” she said. “It has truly been a synergy—when two things come together and new things happen for both. Our institutions have shared visions, and that is creating new energy for transformative ministry.”

Affiliating with a non-denominational seminary, Douglas said, strengthens EDS’s vocation to train leaders for a worldwide church. “The Episcopal Church isn’t so diverse, but the Anglican Communion is,” Douglas said. “Union pushes us to connect more with the Anglican Communion. If we’re going to be committed to what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls the Jesus Movement, we have to be global in scope.”

Among EDS@Union’s aims, Douglas said, was to “renew the confidence of bishops” in EDS’ ability to prepare students for ministry. The seminary’s new Anglican Studies program, which is now accepting applications for students to begin in the fall 2018 term, includes clear pathways for both lay and ordained ministry, including 24 credits to prepare students for the General Ordination Exams and the challenges they will face in the contemporary church. Courses will be taught by Douglas, four Episcopal members of the Union faculty, and visiting Anglican scholars and church leaders. 

Miguel Escobar, managing program director for leadership resources and communications at the Episcopal Church Foundation, who received a master of divinity degree from Union in 2007, will join EDS@Union on November 27 as director of Anglican studies, Douglas said. “Miguel’s churchwide experience, skill in building partnerships and alliances, and deep call to the ministry of social justice make him an ideal leader for EDS@Union.”

The seminary also will need to resume fundraising, Douglas said, and has set a goal of $100,000 for an annual appeal to be conducted during the remainder of the 2018 fiscal year. “The board’s commitment becomes significant, especially at a time like this,” she said. “I invite you, as you’ve invited me, to be a part of this journey.”

The board elected Bonnie Anderson, who was previously its vice president, as president. Anderson has served the Episcopal Church in numerous roles, including as president of the  House of Deputies. The Rev. Gregory Straub, former secretary of General Convention, was elected vice president and secretary, and Dennis Stark was reelected as treasurer.

Three new trustees were elected:  the Rev. Philip Jackson, vicar of Trinity Church Wall Street; Kay Kramer, owner of Birchwood Financial Partners and a member of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Minneapolis; and Mark Miliotto, director of finance for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.

Interim President Bill Nelsen, who is managing the closure of the Cambridge campus, reported that approximately 1600 volumes on Anglican/Episcopal studies from EDS’s library in Cambridge will be given to the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, which is part of the Columbia University Library system, while a collection of books in the area of global Anglicanism will be made available to students in a reading room. Books that are duplicated in the Union and Columbia libraries have been sold or are being donated, including approximately 40,000 titles that are being donated to three seminaries in the Anglican Province of Central Africa in cooperation with the Diocese of Massachusetts. 

The board adopted a budget for fiscal year 2019 that replaced a temporary budget approved in May.

“The finances of EDS@Union are continuing to move along the trajectory that we anticipated,” Stark said, “and we enthusiastically accepted the proposal of Union to provide day-to-day accounting and reporting services. We accepted the fiscal year 2017 audit, which contained no exceptions, and adopted a budget that anticipates both ongoing expenses and extraordinary expenses for transition during 2018 and 2019.”

The board heard reports from McCall/Almy, the commercial real estate brokerage firm contracted to offer the school’s Cambridge property for sale, and its Art and Artifacts Committee chaired by trustee Warren Radtke. Mark Duffy, director of the Archives of the Episcopal Church, presented a proposal for housing and curating EDS’s institutional records and historical archives, which the board accepted unanimously.

The board also declared EDS@Union a sanctuary seminary by passing unanimously a resolution that denounced “all US federal, state, and local policies that promote draconian migration ‘walls,’ detention, and deportations of immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees,” and pledged additional support to international and immigrant students and full access to financial aid for DACA recipients and undocumented students. The resolution mirrors one passed by the Union board in April.

Straub offered a courtesy resolution in thanks for the “baker’s decade” of service by Radtke, whose eleven years on the board concluded at this meeting. Bishop John Rabb, chair of the Committee on Trusteeship, also offered a resolution in thanks for the service of the Rev. Gary Hall as the board’s president. “He led the board with attention to process and detail, grace, and a level of humor,” Rabb said. “His steady and strong leadership has the Episcopal Divinity School in a very strong position going forward. The Board of Trustees offers its deepest thanks for excellent leadership.”

“I am deeply pleased that under the board leadership of Bonnie Anderson and deanship of Kelly Brown Douglas, EDS at Union is now poised to begin a new era of theological education and social justice,” said Hall, whose term on the board continues through 2019.

“Our warm welcome to Union Theological Seminary during this meeting is just the start of the rich and productive affiliation that will further the mission of EDS for decades to come,” Anderson said. “Our finances are strong, our spirits are glad, and our commitment to providing high-quality theological education to the church’s next generation of leaders is renewed. I look forward to the year ahead.”