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Trustees Hold Spring Meeting

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The Bethany Seminary Board of Trustees held its spring meeting on the Bethany campus March 21-23, 2013. In addition to hearing reports on department activities and new initiatives, the trustees addressed a number of action items. A highlight of the weekend was a retirement dinner for Ruthann Knechel Johansen, whose presidency of Bethany concludes on June 30, 2013.

"One of the most important tasks for a board during a transition time in the life of an institution is to preserve the fertility of the educational soil by attending to fundamental faith and institutional values that make thoughtful continuity possible,” said Johansen in her opening remarks. “You will do that by keeping the institutional mission and vision clearly in mind and being guided by the strategic plan."

Trustee officers for the 2013-14 year were approved as follows: Lynn Myers, chair; David Witkovsky, vice-chair; Marty Farahat, secretary; Jonathan Frye, chair of the Academic Affairs Committee; John Miller, chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee; and Greg Geisert, chair of the Student and Business Affairs Committee and the Audit Committee. Nate Polzin will serve as the board representative to the Council of District Executives as he begins his second five-year term on the board. Appreciation was expressed to Phil Stone Jr. as he concludes his ten-year tenure on the board, having served as chair of the Student and Business Committee and of the Investment Committee for the past two years.

A major board action was the approval of a proposed pilot project entitled Seminary Associates. Developed to address a named priority in Bethany’s strategic plan as well as a goal of the Reimagining Ministries campaign, this project is intended to further extend Bethany’s presence and resources to those at a distance. In this first phase, Bethany will initiate conversations with persons connected with selected Brethren colleges, exploring ways to strengthen Bethany’s relationship with the colleges and their extended regional communities.

Following up on an initiative from the October 2012 board meeting, trustees received a report from the Task Force on the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults. They approved recommendations to continue the position of coordinator of outreach programs and to form a Review and Vision Committee, which will complete a review of the Exploring Your Call program and develop a vision for the Institute.

Trustees also approved new demographic benchmarks as part of Bethany’s revised institutional-student profile. Projected for 2013-2016, these measurable goals are based on the diverse demographics and the academic, curricular, and vocational profiles of the current student body. They include increased enrollment; desired percentages of ecumenical, male, female, and international students; a stronger focus on recruiting recent college graduates; and more intentional preparation for bivocational ministry.

Led by Tara Hornbacker, professor of Ministry Formation, a faculty task team shared their progress in the first phase of Bethany’s Ministry Formation assessment and refinement project. The project is funded by a $20,000 grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion.* The team is conducting church visits over a year’s time to learn about varieties in ministry, changes in congregational life and ministry, and what is needed for excellence in ministry. They have been met with appreciation for their initiative and have engaged in sincere, constructive dialog. The information will help Bethany structure its ministry training for the realities of current congregational life.

Academic Affairs
Schweitzer gave a thorough overview of Bethany’s new curriculum, calling it a “long process but a worthwhile process. Our faculty and curriculum will be in a better place.” To be implemented in fall 2013, the new structure was developed over an eighteen-month period by the teaching faculty and has a flexibility that will appeal to prospective students. MDiv students will be able to select a ministry studies focus area, and all students will have the opportunity to combine their elective courses for a named emphasis. MA students now have a first-year formation course, and new requirements in history, intercultural, and intergenerational studies were added.

The board approved the promotion of Russell Haitch to professor of Christian education and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults. Thirteen seniors were also approved for graduation upon their completion of all courses.

Updates on the new faculty searches included a projected announcement for the Brethren studies position in the next few weeks. Candidates for the reconciliation studies position will be on campus in late April. Schweitzer commended the board for approving these positions, which will strengthen the academic programs and the faculty.

The Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership report included a potential new cohort in the Spanish language ministry training program (SeBAH-COB) and plans for the new Sustaining Ministerial Excellence program, to succeed Sustaining Pastoral Excellence. Donna Rhodes, executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center, reported on course and program offerings. The board also heard that the Brethren Journal Association has updated its articles of organization regarding hiring and employee review and will be reviewing its partnership with the Seminary this year.

Institutional Advancement
The Reimagining Ministries campaign has reached nearly 80 percent of its $5.9 million goal with fifteen months remaining in the public phase. While successful and educational, campaign meetings are drawing fewer new people and increases in giving than was hoped. Fiscal 2012-2013 giving to date is lower than in 2011-12, but close to that of the three previous years.

Lowell Flory, executive director of institutional advancement, noted characteristics of younger generations’ approach to philanthropy, particularly their support of specific causes and more indifference to general institutional support. The packaging and delivery of Bethany’s message to new generations of constituents needs to reflect changing values and forms of communication. The Advancement Office is also working on publicity materials for a speakers bureau, publicizing lecture and workshop topics that faculty are able to present.

Student and Business Services
The Compensation Committee, named at the previous board meeting, recommended updated policies for compensating Bethany employees, which were approved. Comparative data was gathered from peer institutions for these proposed benefits and teaching faculty salary ranges. Determining compensation for administrative faculty is more challenging as position titles and responsibilities vary widely among schools. This research will continue, allowing for flexibility in meeting Bethany’s particular staffing needs and values.

The board passed the proposed 2013-14 budget of $2,638,640. This represents a 10.8 percent increase and slightly higher endowment draw than in 2012-13 due to new positions and program expansion. The administration also proposed a series of benchmarks to be met over the next three years if the new expenditures are to be maintained.

The SBS Committee also reported progress on plans to use the Mullen House property adjacent to the Bethany campus. Offices for the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership will be moved to the first floor of the house, while the second floor will remain as an apartment. Relocation of offices within the Bethany Center will also take place.

Recognition Celebration
On Friday, March 22, more than 120 faculty, staff, students, colleagues, and friends gathered for “A Community Called to Shalom,” honoring Ruthann Knechel Johansen with festive fellowship, laughter, and memories. Tributes to her personal and presidential contributions were given by Ted Flory, former Bethany board chair; Stan Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren; and Jay Marshall, dean of the Earlham School of Religion. Poetry, musical selections, readings, and a video entitled “Images of the Journey” filled the evening. In closing, Lynn Myers announced that the board had named Johansen president emerita upon her retirement. In addition, he revealed to Johansen that the new, fully funded Ruthann Knechel Johansen Endowment for Theology in Literature, recognizing her personal and professional passion, would cultivate the relationship of literature and theology within the Bethany community for years to come.

*The Wabash Center is located on the campus of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Its programs are funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.

John Smith
(MDiv Connections)

classMy wife Barbara and I first visited Bethany in June 2009. After spending two days meeting with faculty and staff I returned home even more uncertain. Did I really want to devote the time this program required? Was I willing to learn computer skills that didn't even exist when I finished college in 1972? Was I willing to make the eight-hour drive that would occasionally be necessary? Was this really what God was calling me to do at this time in my life? From the very beginning, I came as I am, but went not as I came. Little did I know how this Bethany tag line would time and time again ring true for my educational experience.