Letter from Former Deans Harvey Guthrie and Bill Rankin

To: The EDS Community
From: Former EDS Deans Harvey Guthrie and Bill Rankin

The two of us keep in touch as friends, and our exchanges often turn to EDS. That has been particularly true since the trustees’ July 21 announcement that the school will cease to be a degree-granting institution as of the end of the 2016/2017 academic year. Given our stake in EDS and the questions that have come to both of us, we decided to write down our thoughts for whatever they may be worth.

The school community—faculty, staff, students, alums—have been very much in our thoughts and prayers. Your sense of loss and abandonment and perplexity and insecurity must be painful indeed. We share it, but not at the depths those of you immediately affected by the action must.

As were many, we were surprised and shocked when the cessation of the awarding of degrees was the lead-off and substantial thing in the announcement of the board’s action. We have wondered if better preparation for it might not have been in order.

That said, we do believe the board has done the right thing. We have studied the report and projections of Anthony Ruger, a recognized expert in these things, with regard to the school’s fiscal future. That report makes it clear that, impressive as the resources are and in spite of EDS’s being second wealthiest of the Episcopal seminaries, the use of capital endowment to balance budgets will lead to dire consequences five or so years ahead. The arrangement we have made with Lesley College (or that General Seminary has made by turning buildings into a hotel and a condominium) is, projections show, a stop-gap measure, not a long term solution. The costs involved in continuing as an accredited, degree-granting institution would fairly quickly devour the resources.

The school at this point has the resources—as it would not five or so years out if it continued as is—to do responsible and humane planning with regard to present faculty and staff, and to develop new institutional and programmatic arrangements that continue EDS traditions. That is why the board’s action makes sense to us. It recognizes where we are and what we must do. It closes the door on what, left alone or subjected to incremental band aiding, would very soon fail. It compels us to take what EDS has been and is into a new era for the church and its ministry.

Back in the 1970s the merger of PDS and ETS did involve community-wide, participatory planning for the new EDS. But that followed trustee action shutting down ETS and PDS. That action was the point of shock and pain and complaint. We went on from there to deal as humanely as we could with faculty and staff and student and alumni/ae disruption—and to plan and create new structures and a new curriculum and a new community.

Though the situation is different, what is happening—and can happen—now is analogous. Trustee action in both instances removed planning for the future from the abstract to dealing with a new reality.

For more articles about EDS’s transition and future, visit eds.edu/news/transition.