Virginia seminary addresses needs of Episcopal Church with focused strategic plan

November 21, 2008

The board of trustees of the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) approved a new strategic plan last week that sets the seminary on a four-year course of service to its academic constituents, The Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion.

The planning process, which began in February 2008, included consultation with alumni, friends, faculty, staff and the board "in order to answer the question of how the strongest seminary in the Anglican Communion can best serve the church and the world over the next four years," a VTS news release said.

"Our strategic plan strives to make a difference in a time when the Episcopal Church faces considerable challenges," said the Very Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of VTS. "We have focused our goals around the theme of leadership and the importance of a national and international vision."

Along with the seminary's core work of training the next generation of priests for Episcopal congregations, the strategic plan seeks to develop leaders who can respond to the needs of the Episcopal Church, namely, congregational growth and vitality, and stronger ties with the Anglican Communion.

Congregational growth will be addressed through the Second Three Years, a program offered through the seminary's Institute for Christian Formation and Leadership (ICFL) that provides mentoring and continuing education for VTS graduates in their first several years following seminary and ordination. "We revitalize congregations by getting the leadership right," said the Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo, associate dean and director of the ICFL. "Participants in the Second Three Years program are more likely to stay in ministry and work more effectively in ministry thereby developing healthier, stronger congregations."

Through the Center for Anglican Communion Studies, VTS seeks to keep the Episcopal Church connected to the wider Anglican Communion. According to the Rev. Dr. J. Barney Hawkins IV, associate dean and director of the center, "Our goal is to develop leaders who are able to work effectively and imaginatively with the diversity that is inherent in the Anglican Communion."

"Virginia seminary has been training Anglicans from around the communion for over a hundred years," noted Markham. "Through CACS, we are committed to developing partnerships around the communion that enable us to stay connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of their religious, racial, or ethnic context."

Virginia Theological Seminary, founded in 1823, is the largest of the seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women, representing all eight of the domestic provinces of the Episcopal Church, as well as students from several different provinces and countries within the Anglican Communion, for service in the church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers several professional degree programs and diplomas.