Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Northwestern Buys Seabury's Land, Buildings

Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., has agreed to sell its buildings and land to Northwestern University for an undisclosed sum. The agreement also includes a five-year lease which will allow the seminary to remain at its current location while a task force studies other, more permanent options.

“With this agreement we are doing several important things,” said the Very Rev. Gary Hall, the seminary’s president and dean. “This sale has allowed us to eliminate our debt, balance our 2010 budget, and double our endowment so that we will enter our new life with adequate resources to fund our ministries.”

As part of the agreement, Seabury will lease back the first floor of the main seminary building. This area includes the chapel, administrative offices, and the area which formerly contained the seminary library. The library has been combined with Northwestern’s theological library collection and the area that formerly contained the library will be used for classrooms, said Ronald Fox, executive assistant to the dean.

Dean Hall said the property sale and lease back was part of an ongoing effort to position Seabury for a “new mission as the people’s seminary, meeting the demands of a changing world and church.”

The new mission includes new programs and faculty, Mr. Fox said. Recently the seminary announced a joint D. Min. program in congregational development with Church Divinity School of the Pacific and a joint D. Min. in preaching in partnership with other Chicago area seminaries. Last month the seminary announced the hiring of the Rev. M. Susan Harlow, an experienced theological educator and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, as the director of congregational development and professor of practical theology. Seabury is also developing other course work, some of which will be individualized either through short-term residencies or online learning, said the Rev. Ellen K. Wondra, academic dean.

“Seabury is finding new and exciting ways to deliver [theological] education to a wider group than ever before,” said the Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago. “Seabury now has the potential to respond to the current and future needs of the church with unparalleled openness and flexibility. And their forward thinking and courage deserve our support.”

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