Update – (December 13, 2018): FAQs on trustee announcement that BTSR will end daily operations on January 31, 2019.
On November 12, 2018, the Board of Trustees voted to close Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year. They also initiated a new Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation that will work in partnership with the two other schools of the Richmond Theological Consortium, the interracial, ecumenical consortium of which BTSR has been a part. You can read the official announcement here.
Below are several frequently asked questions. As more information is made available, we will add to the list. If you have any additional questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why did the BTSR trustees make this decision to close the seminary?
In recent years, there have been notable declines in church membership, seminary enrollments, and funding for theological education. Since 2010, there have been 26 ATS member schools (10% of all ATS schools) that have entered into merger-type relationships. BTSR has not been immune to these trends, and we have been under financial stress for the past decade. Efforts to increase giving and enrollments during those 10 years have not yielded the funds and students that were needed to enable BTSR to continue operating as a freestanding seminary. Projections show that we will not have sufficient cash flow to remain open beyond the end of this academic year.
Were other options considered to keep the seminary open, such as creative arrangements with other seminaries, churches, etc.?
Since 2016, a number of proposals have been put forward to stabilize our financial situation, and several were pursued. For various reasons, they simply did not come to fruition.
What is the timeframe for this action?
We plan to offer classes the rest of this year as scheduled, and the class of 2019 will be able to complete their degrees at BTSR. The school will close June 30, 2019.
Will BTSR faculty members continue to teach? Will faculty positions be available at the new Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation that the trustees have just put in place?
Faculty members’ positions at BTSR will continue through the school’s closing date of June 30. The trustees and administration are committed to finding ways to assist faculty members as their positions at BTSR come to an end. We will work with faculty members individually to determine the best ways we can assist them.
The Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation will not be a degree-granting institution. Plans do not call for it to employ teaching faculty, except on a short-term, contract basis.
What about the staff?
Like the faculty, staff members will be able to continue through June 30; we will also assist them with the resources they need to make the best transition possible.
For students not graduating in 2019, what are the options for degree completion?
BTSR is absolutely committed to helping students complete their studies, and will provide a dedicated staff member to help develop individualized plans for degree completion.
Both of our partners in the Richmond Theological Consortium have offered assistance. Union Presbyterian Seminary and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University have indicated that they are ready to welcome our students with the maximum allowable credit transfer, and we are completing official transfer agreements. In addition, several other divinity schools and seminaries have reached out to us about receiving our students, and we are drafting agreements with them. Beginning in early December, students will be scheduled for one-on-one meetings to help determine the best path forward.
If students prefer to transfer elsewhere, we will leverage our relationships in the Association of Theological Schools to help them retain as many credits as possible.
In addition to addressing students’ academic needs, we want to attend to their spiritual needs. Students will be given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a spiritual director who can accompany them as they try to sense God’s invitation to them in this time of transition.
How will students and alumni/ae get official copies of their transcripts?
Until June 2019, transcripts can still be requested on the BTSR website. After that date, the seminary is completely committed, and bound by law, to house all academic transcripts in an appropriate, easily accessible setting. We will communicate clearly with students and alumni/ae about where their transcripts are being kept and how to request copies.
What will be preserved from BTSR?
The most important legacy of BTSR has always been, and will continue to be, some 750 graduates who are serving around the world as church staff members and pastors, missionaries and social workers, military chaplains and teachers, and in a variety of other roles and settings.
What is the Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation?
The Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation will seek to honor the legacy and advance the mission of BTSR by extending the vision that began the seminary. The first BTSR board in 1989-90 envisioned a seminary that would live in a racially and ecumenically diverse setting, and the Richmond Theological Consortium was a major reason for locating in Richmond. BTSR also represented a new approach to theological education with its emphasis on spirituality, mission immersion and practical preparation for ministry. The Center likewise will be an innovative resource and convening center to help students, churches and community leaders work toward racial justice and healing. Plans call for it to work with many seminaries and congregations, offering graduate theological courses, certificate programs and shorter-term opportunities such as conferences and seminars to take theological education beyond the seminary classroom to have an impact on the larger society. The Center will be housed on the campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Why not just create the Center for Faith, Justice and Reconciliation as a secondary venture and keep the seminary open?
BTSR simply does not have sufficient resources to continue to operate as an independent, free- standing school.
Will funds from BTSR be used to start the Center?
No. The Center will be an independent venture, raising new funds for its launch and operations. While donors who have supported BTSR over the years may choose to support the Center and its initiatives once plans are established and finalized, the Center also is expected to attract support from people of many denominations and traditions who are invested in the hope of racial healing in our country.
How can I learn more?
Dr. Bridges’ door is open for all conversations. Contact John Fuller, assistant to the president, to arrange a time to sit down with her.