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Task Force Planning Continues Discovery for Possible Seminary Consolidation

9/7/2007

On August 24, 2007, the Task Force met on Multnomah's campus to continue its work of discovery and analysis behind the possible consolidation of Multnomah Biblical Seminary and Western Seminary. The Task Force spent time analyzing information about both institutions, gathered by its five sub-groups to prepare for the process of affiliating the two seminaries. If successful, the affiliation could culminate in a consolidation of the two venerable, Northwest-based institutions. The task force was joined by Dr. Robert Cooley, President Emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, who serves as consultant.

That same weekend, the two trustee boards met at a trustee's home where they heard a presentation by Dr. Cooley about shared governance, interacted with questions, and spent time in prayer. Future events for relationship-building between trustees, faculty, and administrators are planned.

"Under God's leading, our two trustee boards have initiated an exciting process. Many uncertainties exist," said Dr. Daniel R. Lockwood, chair of the task force and president of Multnomah. "It will be lengthy, with both unanticipated challenges and unexpected breakthroughs. A substantial investment of time, energy, and resources will be necessary, but I believe the rewards in expanded impact for biblical education and vocational ministry and pastoral training may well be immeasurable."

The Task Force
Last April and May, the two boards of trustees authorized the Task Force to oversee a process of collaboration between the two institutions. The Task Force held its first organizational meeting in late June 2007; and, since then, it has been busy studying, planning, and implementing a strategic plan for a potential consolidation. This plan would guide the boards through the various stages of assessment, negotiation, agreement, and implementation, and provide the institutions' stakeholders with timely information and communication.

The Task Force reports directly to a steering committee made up of Drs. Lockwood, Bert Downs, Jack Dryden, and Tom Tunnicliff, the two presidents and two chairs of the trustee boards of both institutions. Dr. Robert Cooley, also serves on the steering committee.

Task Force Sub-Groups
The five sub-groups that began their work at the end of June are made up of Multnomah and Western representatives. Each subgroup represents one of the five major "zones" of institutional life. Each also has its own set of goals and objectives to achieve as part of the Task Force.

  • The Governance and Mission Fulfillment sub-group will research a decision-making system of governance for the consolidated institution that balances the board of trustees, the office of the president, and the faculty. It will also fashion a mission and vision statement for the consolidated institution. Priority tasks include proposing a name for the consolidated university, conducting a preliminary legal audit, and notifying accreditation agencies of the affiliation and consolidation plans.
  • The Enrollment Management subgroup addresses all aspects of student life outside the classroom, including financial aid, housing, graduation, placement, alumni, and recruitment. They will research consolidated student enrollment projections and assess financial aid and loan resources.
  • The Educational System subgroup seeks the effective integration of the educational system of both institutions. They will address both institutions' doctrinal and value statements, identify proprietary programs or emphases, and assess denominational identities.
  • The Resource Development sub-group will analyze fundraising and friend-raising issues involved in consolidating the two institutions, compare joint donor and fundraising goals, and contact foundations.
  • The Economic Vitality sub-group will assess the economic strength of a consolidated institution in order to design an integrated operation and finance system for long-term sustainability.

Steps Toward Affiliation
While the five subgroups continue their important work of discovery, the Task Force will begin to encourage the two seminaries to begin a process of affiliation. Affiliation involves working together without changing each institution's fundamental identity. Name, governance structures, campus location, extension sites, and budgets will remain in place. However, administrators and faculty will begin to investigate ways in which the two seminaries can increasingly share faculty, library resources, academic programs, and even information technologies. The steering committee believes that affiliation at this level will have a positive benefit whether or not consolidation ever takes place. Deepening these affiliations, however, will lay a foundation vital for future consolidation.

A Working Timeline
This fall, the processes of discovery by the task force sub-groups, and the steps of affiliation by the two seminaries, will be the focus of activity. The task force plans a meeting in October and will prepare a fuller report to the two boards before February 2008. Board authorization of the affiliation stage could occur in the spring of 2008. And, if successful, the process of institutional consolidation could begin by the fall of 2008.

For more information about the Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary and Western Seminary consolidation, go to www.multnomah.edu/consolidation or contact Multnomah's Director of Promotions and Communications Robert Leary at 503.251.6452 or rleary@multnomah.edu. To contribute to discussions regarding the latest consolidation updates, visit the blog at seminaryconsolidation.wordpress.com.