Episcopal Seminary That Stopped Giving Degrees Amid $7.9M Asset Loss to Join Union Theological Seminary

Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge, Massachusetts. | (Photo: Episcopal Divinity School)

An influential Episcopal Church seminary that last year announced they were no longer granting degrees will become part of the New York-based Union Theological Seminary.

Episcopal Divinity School of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a theologically liberal seminary founded in 1974, will move its personnel to Union's campus.

EDS spokesman Jim Naughton directed The Christian Post to a May 19 statement that noted the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas will be the first dean of what is being called "EDS at Union."

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In comments that were part of the statement, Douglas explained that she was "excited for the challenge" and that "this isn't the typical bad news of a small seminary closing."

"This is the news that this place believed enough in its mission that it went out and found a way to carry that mission forward in a viable fashion, and found a way for the mission to grow," stated Rev. Douglas.

"EDS is going to continue. The EDS community has found the platform to do that, and they have found a partner in Union that shares their mission. I feel privileged to be a part of this next chapter in EDS' life."

As part of the transition, EDS will sell its Cambridge property and move into a facility at Union's campus. EDS at Union is scheduled to begin operating in the fall of 2018.

Last year, Episcopal Divinity School announced that they were no longer granting degrees to students starting in 2017 and that they reported a net loss of $7.9 million in assets since 2015.

"At our meeting, we also accepted the 2016 audit report which contained the sobering news that EDS' net assets decreased by $7.9 million (11 percent) in the last fiscal year. This follows a decrease of nearly $6.5 million (8.5 percent) in 2015," noted a 2016 announcement from EDS.

"As the fiduciary stewards of EDS' assets and mission, we are obviously dismayed at the size of EDS' losses, but the news has redoubled our commitment to finding a more sustainable and prudent future for the seminary by the end of fiscal year 2017."

As with other Mainline Protestant seminaries, EDS had been experiencing years-long financial troubles, with Inside Higher Ed reporting back in 2008 that EDS had sold many of their campus buildings to the non-sectarian Lesley University.

When asked by CP if the affiliation with Union meant that EDS was going to start granting degrees again, Naughton responded that this will technically not be the case.

"EDS won't technically be granting the degrees, Union will. But a degree from EDS at Union will satisfy academic ordination requirements in the Episcopal Church," said Naughton.

"I think this is similar to what happens at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University, another Episcopal seminary."

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