RICHMOND, VA — On May 15, upon recommendation of its Strategic Planning Committee, the board of trustees of Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education voted unanimously to change the name of the institution to Union Presbyterian Seminary. The changeover will be completed as quickly as possible, but no later than the November 2009  trustees meeting. 

Seminary president Brian Blount outlined the reasons for the name change in a sermon. He explained that Union is “who we are, what we promise, and Presbyterian” in its spirit.  It is “who we are” because Union is “the 1812 history and heritage of the Virginia and North Carolina Synods working together in vision and faith to create a unique home for theological education.”

Blount also described the new name as “what we promise” because it represents “the union of theological and Christian education, the union of the Richmond and Charlotte campuses, the union of residential, commuter, and distance theological education, the union of classroom and technology, and the union of Presbyterian students, faculty, and staff with students, faculty and staff from every church and culture.”

Blount further noted that “Union Presbyterian” reflects the seminary’s vigorous commitment to “serve an ecumenical church and Spirit and seek to be a catalyst for the revitalization of the whole church.”

The board also approved a 2009-2010 budget that includes cuts of $2.6 million. These reductions were achieved by a combination of actions: the elimination of several staff positions, the decision to leave staff vacancies unfilled, an early retirement incentive program for faculty, the closing of Lingle and Dubose Halls on the former PSCE campus, reduction by half of library acquisitions, reduction in the scholarship budget, and an across- the-board 3-5% reduction in salaries.  

SAN ANSELMO, CA — To overcome a 33 percent decline in the value of its investments, the board of trustees of San Francisco Theological Seminary has approved a four-part strategy to achieve “financial equilibrium”:

  • the sale of off-campus property at market prices to add to the seminary’s endowment and thus support long-term operating expenses;
  • planning for a capital campaign;
  • repayment or refinancing of bank debt; and
  • a commitment to continue to provide adequate student and faculty housing.

In addition, changes in several seminary programs, including the elimination of three administrative faculty positions, will be necessary. They include the “streamlining” of the Internship Program; combining the role of seminary chaplain with the duties of other seminary faculty and staff; moving the Lloyd Counseling Center into other existing space on campus; the sale of the seminary’s Children’s Center; and a “modest” salary reduction for seminary employees making more than $50,000 per year and changed or reduced employee benefits. 

DECATUR, GA — June 22 is the application deadline for a unique spiritual renewal experience offered for mid-career pastors by Columbia Theological Seminary’s Center for Lifelong Learning. “Journey of Faith: A Pilgrimage of Discernment for Ministry”includes a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land and two short retreats — one before and one after the pilgrimage.

Participant costs for travel, accommodations, meals and materials for the pilgrimage will be paid through a grant from the CF Foundation, through its Holy Land Pastoral Renewal Program. The only cost for those selected to participate will be a registration fee of $250 and miscellaneous personal expenses. 

Travel to the Holy Land is from Oct. 28-Nov. 11, with an orientation retreat Sept. 22-24 and a follow-up retreat scheduled for Jan. 5-7, 2010. The Orientation retreat will be held at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta and the follow-up retreat will be held on the Columbia Campus.
“Journey of Faith” is open to pastors of any denomination who are between the ages of 35-55 and have 5 or more years in ordained ministry and who are currently in active service to a congregation. Enrollment is limited to 20 participants. Applicants will be notified of acceptance by July 6.

AUSTIN, TX — Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary has announced the closing of its Houston Extension Program — a non-degree, graduate level program — effective July 2010. In announcing the move, the seminary’s board of trustees cited  a need for the seminary to remain focused on its core mission of the residential formation model of theological education as it reduces the school’s annual budget.

“Austin Seminary has strong and longstanding ties to Houston, which is one of our most significant target areas, and we have been, and remain grateful for, the support and encouragement we receive from Houston churches and individuals,” said APTS President Theodore J. Wardlaw. “We are committed to remaining a theological resource for Houston.”  

APTS’s Houston Extension non-degree program was started in 1986, designed for persons interested in beginning theological study and laypersons interested in deepening their theological understanding. The Rev. James S. Currie, associate dean for the program, said “the seminary will continue to find ways to make its presence known in Houston.”

CHICAGO — At its recent meeting, the McCormick Theological Seminary Board of Trustees took a number of actions to reduce its budget by $1 million, to $8.2 million, for 2009-2010. The majority of the reduction is in faculty and staff compensation and benefits.

Faculty member Jennifer Ayres’ contract was renewed but that of Jae Won Lee was not. In addition, David Crawford, who has served as interim vice-president for administration and finance since Dec. 1, 2008, was appointed to the position, succeeding Dana Peterson, who resigned.           

One area of the 09-10 budget will remain at current levels, however, and that is student financial aid.

The board voted to begin the process of disengaging the seminary from the real estate portion of its partnership with Lutheran School of Theology-Chicago (LSTC). The two schools have shared classrooms and library facilities on the LSTC campus in Hyde Park since 1975.

McCormick constructed its own building on the campus in 2003. That building — at 5460 S. University Ave. — will be put up for sale and alternate space for offices and classrooms sought. The board has asked representatives of various McCormick constituencies, including faculty, trustees and staff to evaluate McCormick’s library needs and options for the future and to make a report to the board in October.

PRINCETON, NJ — The Hispanic Theological Initiative (HTI) at Princeton Theological Seminary has announced that David A. Sánchez, assistant professor of New Testament studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, will receive its annual book prize for 2009.

The prize, awarded for his book From Patmos to the Barrio: Subverting Imperial Myths (Fortress Press), will be presented at HTI’s 13th annual summer workshop at the seminary on  June 27 That evening, Sánchez will give a public lecture on the topic “La Virgen de East Los (Angeles): Texts, Textual Representations and the Arts of Resistance.”

A history of competing sacred images, Sánchez’s book connects three time periods and three sets of competing sacred images for imperialism and counter-imperialism, colonialism and counter-colonialism, as well as territorial domination and resistance to it. The Mexican image of the Virgin of Guadalupe becomes a resource for resisting the dominant figure of the Virgin of Guadalupe as instilled by the Spanish conquistadors. The same image is then employed to counter the conquering “Divine Destiny” myth of American expansionism, in a similar way to how she is to be found in rallies for immigrant rights in our time.

Through biblical exegesis, Sánchez ties the competition of sacred symbols to the New Testament. He provides a timely resource for dialogue in today’s immigration debates, adding layers of meaning and theological background to this often sensitive and explosive issue in contemporary U.S. dialogue.  

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is accepting applications for “Pneuma” — a two-year, ecumenical program in spiritual direction and spiritual leadership.

The program offers educational and supervised training of pastors and laity in the dynamics of the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola while engaging in Reformed, Catholic, and other diverse theological perspectives on growth in faith and the Christian life.

Participants select between two tracks: Spiritual Direction or Spiritual Leadership. Spiritual Direction emphasizes ministry with individuals and small groups while Spiritual Leadership emphasizes ministry with groups and larger institutions such as congregations, judicatories, non-profits or corporations.

Application deadline for the first Pneuma group, which begins in August, is May 29, though applications will continue to be accepted for any space available in the first group and for subsequent groups.

For more information, contact Pneuma director Martha Robbins by phone at 4121-441-3304 x2125 or by email.

LOUISVILLE — Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Professor Susan R. Garrett has been awarded a gold medal in the Indpendent Publisher Book Awards for her book No Ordinary Angel: Celestial Spirits and Christian Claims about Jesus (Yale University Press, 2008).

The 13th annual IPPY Awards, sponsored by the Jenkins Group publishing company, recognize excellence in independent publishing in 65 national categories and 20 regional categories. This year, 3,380 books were in entered in the national contest — an average of 50 contenders per category.

Released in November 2008, No Ordinary Angel looks at what recent talk about angels teaches about our culture’s deepest questions, fears, and longings.

One of Garrett’s goals for the book is to inform people about recent scholarly discussions of how ancient beliefs about angels influenced the earliest ideas about Jesus as the Christ. She also hopes to highlight and clarify some widespread developments in recent popular spirituality. She hopes that the information she offers “will also lead to enhanced understanding of and appreciation for the person and work of Jesus.”

DUBUQUE, IA — The University of Dubuque/Dubuque Theological Seminary has announced a $30 million gift from Joseph (Class of 1968) and Linda Chlapaty. This gift will be used to strengthen academic programs as well as support construction of new or renovation of existing University facilities.

“We share Dubuque's deep commitment to providing access to higher education for students who may be the first in their families to go to college as I was,” Joe Chlapaty said, “and for supporting talented students from emerging populations who may not have believed that college was a possibility for them, and for providing a chance for students whose families are recent immigrants and have come to the United States to share in the great promise of our nation.”

Specific projects to be funded by the Chlapatys' gift include endowed chairs in the university’s mathematics and science departments and in the seminary; a lead gift for a new Fine and Performing Arts, Worship, and Campus Center; and  construction of new or renovated student housing on campus.

Dubuque President Jeffrey Bullock said the gift will “have such an immensely positive impact on everyone in the University community, particularly at a time when the economy has caused many donors to significantly reduce — even curtail — their philanthropy.”  

NEW YORK CITY — Three visionary women were honored by Auburn Theological Seminary — which is in covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — with the seminary’s 2009 Lives of Commitment Awards. The presentations were made at a gala breakfast in their honor May 28.

The three honorees are philanthropist and film producer Abigail Disney; environmentalist Wendy Paulson; and Rabbi and Cantor Angela Buchdahl.  Also honored was the seminary’s 2009 Young Healer Award winner, presented in partnership with The Sister Fund, Fatima Haidara, 16, a New York City teen anti-violence activist who hails from Mali and Mauritania. 

Disney is co-founder of the Daphne Foundation, an acclaimed documentary film producer, and grand-niece of the legendary Walt Disney. Though her philanthropic work has often focused on helping those in the U.S., she recently produced  the acclaimed film Pray the Devil Back To Hell. The award-winning documentary tells the story of the Muslim and Christian women of Liberia who united over religious differences and seemingly insurmountable odds to end the bloody dictatorship and civil war there and helped elect the first woman head of state in African history. 

Paulson is an environmentalist who has made it her life’s work to overcome society’s increasing “nature deficit disorder.” “I love the fact that Auburn seeks to connect spirituality and spiritual quest with commitment, because they go hand in hand,” said Paulson, who has chaired two states’ chapters of The Nature Conservancy and works with students from the New York City School System to increase their awareness of nature. 

Buchdahl, the daughter of a Korean Buddhist mother and an Ashkenazi Jewish American father, is the first Asian-American woman to be ordained a rabbi or a cantor in any Jewish denomination. She is both.

Auburn Theological Seminary’s Lives of Commitment Awards were first presented in 1997 to recognize the unique contributions of women leaders to society and the world.  Notable past honorees include Lena Alhusseini, Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole, Dr. Jane Goodall, Blu Greenberg, Wendy Kopp, Daisy Khan, Ruth Messinger, Sr. Helen Prejean, Mary Robinson, Dr. Ruth Simmons, Alice Walker and Faye Wattleton.