October 19, 2012

An Update from the Third Century Committee Chair Rev. Gary DeLong

New School, Same Resilience

At the October 12, 2012 meeting, the Third Century Committee presented a preliminary report to the Board of Trustees. Even as the grief of the ending Bangor Theological Seminary as a graduate degree-granting institution in June 2013 continues to ebb and flow, there was an accompanying mood of excitement and hope, resolution and resilience, as the Board focused on a different but faithful future.

Encouraged by the words of Isaiah, "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?", the Board heard the results of eight months of listening, reading and reflecting by the seven member Committee it appointed last March. The Committee shared details of what it had learned from 275 stakeholders, heard in face-to-face focus groups and surveys, representing clergy, laity, faculty, denominational executives, institutional partners and scholars.

The Committee heard the following compelling themes expressed by stakeholders in a series of six focus groups, two open forums, and an online survey: a) a strong need for programs and activities to help clergy and lay leaders develop new perspectives, competencies, and skills to respond to the changing and uncertain times facing mainline North American churches; b) a need to foster connection and continue building a supportive ecumenical community of faith leaders; and c) an interest in creating a variety of learning communities for clergy (under and over 40) and faithful and committed laity that experiment with the use of technology and face-to-face instruction.

The Committee painted a compelling picture of a new "Center for 21st Century Ministry", where new tools and new technology would be gathered, taught, experienced and implemented. The goal is to be attentive to the changing landscape, continually adapting faithful and effective methods for doing the transformative work of Christ and Christ's church. The Committee's proposal to the Board would continue the historic purposes of BTS as a non-profit charitable and religious organization. At the heart of the proposal is the passion to equip and support clergy and laity for theologically grounded and effective 21st century ministries.

In a spirit of unanimous approval and with gratitude, the Board charged the Committee to undertake some additional work in areas such as assessment of the "market demand" for specific aspects of proposed programming, along with more detail in areas such as creative collaborations, program content and an expanded expense and revenue budget and business model. The Committee was asked to report back with a more detailed proposal to the Board at its meeting on November 16.


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