Meadville Lombard announces new theological university

During Saturday morning’s plenary session, the Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, president of Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, made a special announcement: “It gives me great pleasure to tell you that last week the boards of trustees of both Meadville Lombard Theological School and Andover Newton Theological School voted to co-found a new multifaith theological university. This will be like no other university in North America.”

The Rev. Dr. Lee Barker and the Rev. Nick Carter

He explained that mainline and liberal Protestant seminaries have been struggling for decades, and that the recession had especially weakened these small institutions. (Meadville Lombard is one of two seminaries affiliated with the UUA; Andover Newton is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Church.) “Schools across the Protestant mainstream have closed, and there will be many more that close.”

“For Meadville Lombard, Andover Newton, and the seminaries of all faiths that might join us, our new theological university promises financial stability and the retention of the  unique identity, mission, and culture of each individual school,” Barker said. “Our Unitarian Universalist faculty will continue to educate Unitarian Universalist ministers.”

He said the new university, which has yet to be named, will be formally established by June 15, 2011. Meadville Lombard, which has 125 students currently enrolled, will remain in Chicago. Andover Newton, which has 58 UU students enrolled, will remain at its campus in Newton, Mass. The schools will share administrative and faculty resources; the Rev. Dr. Nick Carter, president of Andover Newton, will become the president of the new university.

Barker said the trustees of both schools project that the university will become financial sustainable within the first two years of operation.

(Read the official announcement (PDF) and coverage from the Boston Globe and the Associated Press.)

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