Press Release from United Theological Seminary,
Dayton, Ohio, North America
January 27, 2010
Dr. Wendy Deichmann Edwards, a United Methodist elder currently serving as President of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, stated that she was shocked to learn that an agency of The United Methodist Church knowingly plans to release a seriously misleading, damaging statement regarding United Theological Seminary later today. The seminary president said the forthcoming statement is not supported by the findings of the independent financial consultant recently hired by the denomination’s own Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and it contradicts the solid affirmation of the fiscal management of the school by both regional (Higher Learning Commission) and international (Association of Theological Schools) accrediting bodies. “I find it unconscionable that brothers and sisters in Christ would knowingly promulgate inaccurate and damaging claims—this will hurt the Church and its witness as much as it will hurt the seminary,” she stated.
The agency reportedly held a meeting last week and discussed accusations concerning the seminary without inviting a representative of the seminary to be present or even informing the seminary it was a subject of debate. Then, after making this incredible decision, advised the seminary of the matter less than 48 hours before the scheduled announcement. There is no way to stop this unfortunate action once it has been approved by the denomination’s University Senate, Deichmann Edwards was told Tuesday by denominational officials. The best she or even a bishop can do is to submit a request for reconsideration within 90 days after the fact and the President confirmed her intention to file for a retraction and public apology to the seminary. More information will be provided in an Open Letter to be posted on the seminary’s website, http://www.united.edu/, later today.
When questioned why a church agency would ignore the findings of authoritative accrediting bodies and of a credible consultant of its own choosing, and act in ways that would undermine the wellbeing of the seminary and the Church, Deichmann Edwards said it is difficult not to wonder whether there is another agenda at work. In a similar way, she pointed out, for many years United was pressured by the denomination to merge with another school against the seminary’s own best judgment and against the advice of highly qualified, professional consultants hired by the Church itself. She admitted it would be hard to conclude there was no conflict of interest involved in the genesis of the harmful statement by a denominational Commission composed primarily of CEOs from institutions that stand to gain financially if United’s growing strength and good reputation is compromised. The seminary president hopes it is not too late to stem the tide of a culture of divisiveness, scarcity and decline within The United Methodist Church. “God isn’t finished with us yet,” she stated, “because the Holy Spirit is always working and there is a whole world out there waiting to hear Good News.”
United Theological Seminary, founded in 1871 by the United Brethren in Christ Church, is one of thirteen theological schools in the USA now affiliated with The United Methodist Church. In the past several years, the school has built a growing network of support among vibrant congregations both small and large, along with bishops and other church leaders who want to revitalize the Church, make disciples of Jesus Christ and change the world. Along these same lines, United has embraced an educational emphasis upon the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing the Church for the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. The school continues longstanding emphases in biblical and academic study, spiritual formation, personal and social holiness, and the use of technology in education and ministry, now most evident in the increasing number of online learning opportunities for students. United’s new enrollment and financial gift receipts have increased dramatically during the past two years, part of a remarkable institutional turnaround that offers hope for the Church and other institutions committed to spiritual growth and renewal, according to President Deichmann Edwards. “This is not about us or what we are doing,” she asserted, “it is about what God is doing to bring hope and new life to people and we are just blessed to be a part of it.”