Two seminaries, Rochester diocese partner to create new Anglican studies program

June 3, 2008

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School (CRCDS), the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester and the General Theological Seminary (GTS) in New York City June 2 announced a collaborative educational agreement between the two schools.

"This unique program, specifically designed with the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, will offer a local educational option for Episcopal students to earn a Master of Divinity degree from CRCDS while concurrently earning a Certificate in Anglican Studies from GTS," according to a news release.

The program is effective immediately with students free to enroll for the fall 2008 semester, the release said. Both GTS and CRCDS are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada. CRCDS, founded in 1817, is a Baptist seminary that has had a presence in Rochester since 1850.

The program will receive from the diocese what the release calls "a financial commitment unprecedented in the Episcopal Church, providing both programmatic funding and student scholarship support."

Students eligible to enroll are those who are currently pursuing a master's degree in theology or in a related field, those who have completed a master's degree or those who, with the approval of GTS and CRCDS, seek to learn more of the traditions and theology particular to the Episcopal Church. For Episcopal students seeking ordination, the joint degree/certificate program will satisfy the academic and canonical ordination requirements as stipulated in the canons of the Episcopal Church, the release said.

The move follows the March announcement that the Episcopal Church-affiliated seminary Bexley Hall would close its Rochester satellite campus and concentrate its efforts in Columbus, Ohio where it already shared space with Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Bexley had been affiliated in Rochester with CRCDS between 1968 and 1998.

"This partnership between the Episcopal diocese and two premier seminaries, one ecumenical, the other Episcopal, is a creative response to the challenges confronting both theological education within the Episcopal community and in seminary education throughout the country," Jack M. McKelvey, who retired May 31 as Rochester's bishop, said in the release.

Bishop Prince G. Singh, newly ordained and consecrated as McKelvey's successor, added that "CRCDS and GTS are natural partners in this enterprise because of their strong witness to the Social Gospel, fidelity to biblical faith and legacy of serious scholarship."

Singh said that the collaboration "will yield lasting benefits for the institutions as well as the surrounding community and Church."

The Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing, GTS' dean, said in the release that "a major challenge for theological education in the 21st century has been the increasing need for many students to undertake study closer to home," noting that the new agreement "allows those preparing for ministry in the Episcopal Church to avail themselves of the quality programs at CRCDS while also experiencing the richness of the Anglican tradition -- its theology, worship, and scholarly heritage -- which has been a longstanding hallmark of General Seminary."

Colgate's president, Dr. Eugene Bay, said that "the presence of Episcopal students will add new vibrancy and insight to the already rich ecumenical instructional environment" at the school.

"The study of theology is more than mastering the ability to understand various texts or perform systematic reasoning, it is also profoundly experiential," he said in the release. "Learning within the CRCDS community -- a community that is diverse in denominational traditions, gender and ethnicity -- grounds the future minister in understanding that God is discovered in the practice of justice, compassion and tolerance."

The Rev. Dr. C. Denise Yarbrough has recently been named director of Anglican Studies at CRCDS. She is an Episcopal priest who currently serves as Rochester's director of theological education and leadership development. She also holds the position of faculty associate in interfaith studies and director of the Gene Bennett Program for Life Long Learning at Colgate.