Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That New Theological University

One of the things I should probably be paying more attention to is the continuing development of the "Theological University" proposed by the Andover-Newton and Meadville/Lombard seminaries.  I have the honor of working with two ANTS graduates at my church.  I graduated from M/L with an M.Div about ten years ago.  I serve a UCC/UU congregation.  You get the idea.  I should be all excited, I guess.

However, much of the communication (mostly from M/L) seems to be geared toward alleviating concerns.  As a natural constituent and as someone who serves an ecumenical (or interfaith) institution myself, I am not all that worried.  Now, there will be things that I miss.  For the record, I will miss the campus.  I had some good times there.  That having been said, it is clear that the way things were is pretty much unsustainable in the future.  Ah well.  The seminary where I received my DMin, Chicago Theological Seminary is also moving out of their old building.  Granted, they are building a new one across the Midway on land either on or near the old Ryder Divinity School site.  Ryder was the seminary of Lombard College so it all comes full circle doesn't it?  It is a hard time for seminaries all around.

My only major concern is the name.  Even with just two seminaries merging we see a wide variety of traditions that can be broken down in any number of ways.  There are American Baptists and the historically-Baptist Universalists, for example.  In addition, we have the Unitarians and the Congregationalists.  However, only the most out-of-touch ML alum would think that Congregationalism is all there is to the UCC.  There are, for example, the Christians, who are spiritual descendants of the people who helped the Unitarians found Meadville Theological School.  They eventually left and founded Antioch, I believe.  Then there are the Germans: the Evangelical Synod and the German Reformed. 

All of these traditions have rich histories with their own heroes and legends.  Naturally this would be very fertile ground for seminary names.  If we wanted to go the way of people names we could think Niebuhr or Tillich.  Perhaps Ballou, Hedge or (please no) Emerson?  Beecher University, maybe?  There are some fabulous place-names as well.  You get the idea. 

The problem, of course, is that all sides would have to agree...and I hear they have hired a consultant.  Consultants like eighties business names apparently.  M/L, for example, calls its education model "TouchPoint".  That sounds like a vaguely creepy cellphone name to me.  It is a consultant name.  So if I were a betting man, I would probably put my money on something like "PassageWays" or "FaithPartners" for the new school.  I can't wait for the color scheme on the team uniforms.  Paging Crockett and Tubbs?  Expect a school seal involving hands clasping flames, branches, birds, and/or each other. 

In fact, if it is going to be this way, why not just pay me now?  Feel free to make other recommendations.  The last time M/L tried to merge with somebody I suggested it take the name of William Howard Taft.  Fortunately, no one thought I was serious...

For the UU's I am posting a link to the UCC Tribute Song.  It rocks in a goofy sort of way.  All my kids can sing sing it.  Try not to get too upset when they mention pre-twentieth century people who are (gasp!) also claimed by UU's.  The truth is most of them were both...or neither.  


Adams Theological University?


  1. I was a newspaper reporter in Rochester, NY, in the early 1980s. The local seminary was the product of the merger of three institutions and had preserved all three of its ancestral names in its new name. A first reference in a news story must have taken up about three lines of type.

    So Meadville/Lombard/Andover-Newton Seminary would have a precedent.

    Although I don't suppose there are as many jokes in that as there were in figuring out the name of the newly merged Daily Beast and Newsweek.

  2. They would have taken you more seriously if you'd spelled it WilliamHowardTaft.