Trustees Focus on New Strategic Plan

During their spring meeting held March 23-26, the Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees took action in the formulation of a new strategic plan for the Seminary. As a major item of business, the board was presented with a narrative framework from which goals and implementation steps of the strategic plan will be defined. The framework was approved, and the Seminary’s president was charged with developing the plan.

With the name Extending Our Witness, Enlarging Our Impact, the strategic planning process reflects themes of growth, innovation, and diversity. As the seminary of the Church of the Brethren, Bethany will continue its witness to Anabaptist-Pietist tradition and values in preparing students for traditional ministry and others with wider vocational interests. New engagement with those of diverse backgrounds and faith traditions, including international students, is a priority, whether through technology or onsite in new settings. New partnerships with educational institutions and other agencies can help build the student body and expand the academic program. In all facets of the strategic plan, Bethany will maintain the combination of scholarship and practical application as a hallmark of its educational program.

“The framework of the new strategic plan brings into focus the future of the Seminary while honoring and addressing the heritage of Bethany,” said Lynn Myers, chair of the board. “As the implementation plan is fashioned, the mission of Bethany will reflect a widening footprint as a larger domestic and international constituent base is created. At the same time, the plan will guide Bethany to continue to be the place where students join together to increase their skill, knowledge, and understanding.”

The approved framework is the result of a year’s work by the Strategic Planning Oversight Committee. Input from Bethany faculty and staff was gathered on the nature of theological education to be offered, the recipients of that education, and sustainability of the Seminary. From several scenarios, the committee distilled the best combination of characteristics and goals that could be achieved. Ted Long, a member of the Association of Governing Boards, is serving as consultant for the strategic planning process.

Bethany’s curriculum review beginning in fall 2017 will be shaped by the strategic planning process. President Jeff Carter also notes that Bethany is already moving into the vision expressed in the strategic framework. Classes in the new partnership with Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria are expected to begin in 2017-18, and a January 2017 intensive travel course will focus on urban ministry in Atlanta. “It is an exciting time as the Seminary extends its witness and enlarges its impact. Committed to biblical studies, theological studies, and ministry formation and creating a community of faith and scholarship, Bethany is removing every barrier to ministry, deepening partnerships at home and abroad, and looking to inspire a church and world as we seek God’s call and Christ’s way.”

In other business, the board heard reports from Academic Services, Institutional Advancement, Business Services, and the new Admissions and Student Services department, reflecting the Seminary’s increased emphasis on recruitment. The Seminary’s recent successful ten-year reaccreditation was highlighted as were new connections in the Richmond community and with the World Council of Churches, through Jeff Carter’s participation as the Church of the Brethren representative.

Among Investment Committee items, it was reported that Bethany’s investment advisors, Concord Advisory Group, had affirmed the performance of the Seminary’s five investment fund managers. The proposed 2017-18 budgets from the Business Affairs Committee for Bethany, the Brethren Academy of Ministerial Leadership, and the Brethren Journal Association were approved by the trustees. From the Institutional Advancement Committee, the board heard of good progress in acquiring support for construction of the new technology center in Nigeria for the EYN educational partnership. Efforts and results of solicitations for the current year’s annual fund and proposed ways to increase the donor base were also reported.

The Academic Services Committee discussed the implications of Bethany’s reaccreditation report, noting documentation of program assessment and increasing diversity at the Seminary as major points. The faculty is currently conducting a diversity audit of the curriculum. The committee presented the board with a list of potential 2017 Seminary graduates, which was approved. At its first meeting, the Student Affairs Committee also reviewed the reaccreditation findings. Discussion of the new Pillars and Pathways Residency Scholarship and the challenges of recruiting in areas new to Bethany were noted for the board.

Board secretary Marty Farahat was recognized for her service as she concluded her second five-year term. The trustees approved Michele Firebaugh and Christina Bucher to begin new terms as at-large trustees in 2017-18 pending confirmation at Annual Conference this summer. Firebaugh has previously served two consecutive terms; Bucher would begin her second consecutive term.

The trustees approved the following board leadership to continue in their respective positions for 2017-18: Lynn Myers as chair, David Witkovsky as vice chair, Celia Cook-Huffman as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, Miller Davis as chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee, and Phil Stover as chair of the Business Services Committee. New approvals included Cathy Huffman as board secretary, Eric Bishop as chair of the Student Affairs Committee, Karen O. Crim as chair of the Audit Committee, and Paul Brubaker as chair of the Investment Committee.