chimes.sum2013.web0729 - page 2

Dear Friends,
T
he Trustees met on campus early in May. The
meeting was pivotal to the future of the semi-
nary. Without a dissenting vote, they passed
the strategic plan that’s been a year in the making.
The plan emphasizes innovation, flexibility, increas-
ing access to programs, and a strong, vital connection
with the Church.
We seek to become part of God’s new life in Christ
and serve the Church of the 21st century. The chang-
es ahead are daunting. We have to innovate—in our
teaching, in our use of technology, in our course of-
ferings, in the variety of our educational offerings, and
in the extracurricular activities that occur on campus.
We have to grow our enrollment, not only in our de-
gree programs, but also by expanding the range of of-
ferings to new audiences and possible constituencies.
We are talking about a culture change. SFTS will
become open to a broader spectrum of experience and
perspectives, vocational aspirations and choices. We
are serious about serving the Church and about help-
ing the Church engage hopefully and constructively
with the world. We want to serve the new Church in
new ways.
At the heart of the plan is our proposal for the
Center for Innovation in Ministry. This Center will
be a place for both scholars and practitioners. They
will be able to assess, share, and spread new models
and methods of effective, relevant ministry in today’s
world. It signals our commitment to a forward-look-
ing, innovative ministry. This is essential to building
a vibrant Church for the 21st century.
I rejoice that Professor Jana Childers will once again
become Dean of the Seminary and Vice President of
Academic Affairs on July 1. Both the Faculty and
Trustees unanimously approved Jana’s return to this
key leadership role. We all give hearty applause and
thanks to Beth Liebert, who has served ably as Dean
for the past four years. Beth will have a well-deserved
sabbatical this next year.
One of the innovations that excites the seminary
community is a new position called Director of Voca-
tions. Rev. Elizabeth McCord (SFTS M.Div. 2006),
who headed our enrollment efforts for the past two
years, will lead this new focus within the administra-
tion.
Enrollment is getting people to sign-up for a de-
gree program. But actually, seminaries are principally
about vocation – God’s call and claim upon our lives.
We want to recognize this in the way we interact with
the people who come to SFTS.
Discerning and living out one’s vocation is a life-
long process. When a prospective student contacts
SFTS, we are invited to interact with that person’s dis-
cernment process. It’s a sacred trust and we want to
honor it – not just when a person enrolls but through-
out her or his life.
Elizabeth and her team are going to revamp our
effort to start and stay in conversation with people
about their vocation—from the first point of contact
through the completion of their degrees, and through-
out their lives and ministries. That’s what seminaries
are supposed to do. That is our dedication at SFTS.
That means that SFTS alumni are going to be better
served as well, because we are committing ourselves
to serving the continuing process of vocational dis-
cernment. We want to see SFTS alumni as lifelong
partners in ministry. That’s a big shift, and an im-
portant one.
I’m grateful for the support you’ve given the semi-
nary over the years. I hope you’ll continue to pray
for the seminary and stay in touch as we live into the
vision God has given us. The coming year could very
well be one of the most important in our history.
May God’s Spirit that poured out at Pentecost as-
tound and amaze you.
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Dr. James L. McDonald
President and Professor of Faith and Public Life
FROM THE PRESIDENT
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