Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Central Seminary, Saddled with Debt, Plans Move to Smaller Digs
I wonder if really lousy theology has anything to do with it...
Posted on Tue, Feb. 21, 2006
Baptist seminary planning to move
By BILL TAMMEUS
The Kansas City Star
To save money, Central Baptist Theological Seminary plans to move — probably this summer — from the campus it has occupied since 1923 at 31st Street and Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.
The seminary will relocate in smaller facilities somewhere in the metropolitan area, though an exact location has yet to be announced.
“We must put our resources into quality educational instruction rather than deferred maintenance,” said Molly T. Marshall, president of the 105-year-old American Baptist seminary. She called the current 90-acre campus “a draining burden for us.”
The seminary is facing nearly $5 million in deferred maintenance costs, she said. The move, she said, should save the seminary about $400,000 a year.
“While we hate to depart our home for 82 years, we want the mission of Central to continue,” Marshall said. Central is marketing the campus, and Marshall said church groups and schools have expressed interest, though no sale agreement has been reached.
In recent years the seminary has been seeking to confront financial problems by expanding its online course offerings and cutting several staff positions. It has also closed some buildings on campus and now uses just four of its 11 structures.
Central has created course offerings in Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Neb., and Murfreesboro, Tenn. When students at those locations are counted, the seminary now serves 130 students.
Those moves, said Marshall, are “an expeditious way to serve adult learners whose life commitments make the old delivery systems for theological education somewhat obsolete.”
The seminary offers three theological degrees and is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. To accommodate its many students who work full time, it has moved many of its classes to evenings and weekends.
The future of Central seminary “has been at risk for several years,” Marshall said. “In the summer of 2003 we were very near having to close.”
Now, however, Marshall said: “I believe we have a sustainable future, but not if we carry the encumbrance of this campus. I love the place. I love the people, and I’m willing to do some heavy lifting for the sake of the school.”
Originally named the Kansas City Baptist Theological Seminary, Central was the first Baptist seminary west of the Mississippi River. Today it draws students from many Protestant traditions. The American Baptist denomination has about 1.5 million members in 5,800 churches. By comparison, the Southern Baptist Convention has about 16 million members in 48,000 churches.
Molly Marshall is the darling of the theo-left in the ABC: a feminist, an ex-pat from the SBC and a theology prof. She is also a champion of a theology that is bizarre in its density and complexity, but rejects the Trinity, the uniqueness of Christ and the authority of Scriptures.
What someone should really ask is why Central is going down the tubes while Northern, with its clear evangelical renewal, is thriving?