Press Release

May 16, 2022

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary to Explore Relocating to Diverse Locations in Metro Boston

Move aimed at preserving ability to serve future students, institution’s New England heritage

Media Contact: Brit O’ Neil | [email protected] | 609-289-5990

In a renewed effort to focus on its roots, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, an evangelical seminary of more than 1,400 global students, announced today its intention to leverage the economic value of its main campus. This staged process includes selling significant portions, or all, of its 100+ acre Hamilton campus and exploring facilities in the Metro Boston area.

FAQs

When is this happening?

This staged process will take place over the course of about two to three years. The timing will be advised by a transition project manager, the Cabinet, the president, and the Board of Trustees. 

Why is Gordon-Conwell doing this?

This decision is aimed at ensuring the long-term fiscal health of Gordon-Conwell as we steward our resources well, which you can read more about here. The seminary’s budget is increasingly focused on the maintenance of its Hamilton campus despite more students than ever utilizing other campuses and remote options in lieu of the residential, Hamilton campus experience. This mirrors a shift seen across higher education. Selling part or all of the campus allows us to avert financial trends while funding a new generation of programs, faculty, and scholarships, and connecting us to our urban roots and communities in Boston. This will strengthen our institution. 

Why this pivot?

Under the presidency of Dr. Sunquist, issues of long-term fiscal viability have been a consistent concern and the institution made several adjustments in the last 3 years. A task force of administrators, board members, and consultants was established in early 2022 to determine how Gordon-Conwell can institute a model of theological education with long-term viability. The result of their research determined that small adjustments would not be enough. A major pivot is necessary and the board and administration have established the model described in this announcement. 

Is Gordon-Conwell preparing to close?

No. We made this decision from a strong financial position that allows us to maximize our effectiveness as an institution. This decision places the seminary on a stronger financial footing, creates new opportunities for growth and student development, and ensures the long-term future of Gordon-Conwell. 

Does this represent a fundamental change in the character of Gordon-Conwell?

While Gordon-Conwell’s fundamental mission has never changed, the seminary has renewed itself many times throughout its history, and it will continue to adapt to proclaim the good news of Christ in the decades to come. Theological integrity and Christ-centered community remain the distinctives of our faculty and students as we prepare Christian leaders. That community and that focus on Christ’s mission will remain no matter where our campuses are physically located. 

Is the seminary preparing to go entirely remote?

No. There will always be a role and a home at Gordon-Conwell for in-person instruction and rich community life. Indeed, this move represents fantastic new opportunities for students who join us on our distributed Boston campus; we are excited at the possibility to work and pray with churches throughout the city. A new and unique emphasis on community and discipleship is central to this pivot and renewal. 

Will communal residential options be available in Boston?

Current student housing will be unaffected for at least the next few years (read more in “Are there changes to the sale of the apartments?”). We are also exploring housing options for future students in the Metro-Boston area.

Who will be making these decisions?

The Gordon-Conwell Board of Trustees has oversight for improving and leveraging the economic value of the campus. A transition committee will discern the next steps. The committee consists of a project manager, faculty, and staff—including alumni.  

  • Project Manager: Kenneth Barnes (MAOT ’89), Mockler-Phillips Professor of Workplace Theology and Business Ethics
  • Autumn Ridenour, Mockler Associate Professor of Christian Ethics
  • Quonekuia Day (MDiv ’04, ThM ’07), Instructor in Old Testament
  • Jana Holiday, Dean of Students and Adjunct Professor of Practical Theology
  • Johnny Ching, Director of Operations for Academic Affairs
  • Nicole Rim (MACS ’20), Art Director
  • Brian Gardner, Vice President of Advancement
  • Alex Koh, Vice President of Strategy and Chief Information Officer

The president will make a recommendation to the board once the transition committee and the Cabinet have done their due diligence in discerning the next steps.

Feedback from the Gordon-Conwell community is important in this process. Our students, staff, and faculty will receive updates on progress and decisions during our internal town hall meetings. Alumni and friends of the seminary will also receive updates. Check this webpage during this process for the most up-to-date information. 

Where in Metro Boston will Gordon-Conwell be moving?

We are exploring opportunities for the seminary in Metro Boston. While we do not have exact locations, we plan to have a “nerve center” for students and faculty and also be in a few neighborhoods throughout the city. It is important to us that our homes in Boston provide us with a connection to the cultural and ecclesial diversity of the city’s many unique neighborhoods, in addition to allowing us to maintain a vibrant community life together.

What about faculty and staff at the Hamilton campus?

We intend to keep many operations local to Hamilton/Wenham, and we count on accessible transportation into Boston. Our desire is to continue to have communities in which we work and study together. We will make every effort to assist faculty and staff in making the transition to our Boston facilities as those locations become known. In cases where such a transition is impossible, we will make every effort to assist staff in finding the next step in their career. 

Will Gordon-Conwell only be training students for urban ministry?

No. Gordon-Conwell will always be committed to small towns, urban communities, and people around the globe. 

Are there changes to the sale of the apartments?

As you know, the seminary previously announced the sale of all or part of our apartments, and this plan continues. We believe that two of our six apartments (Buildings A and B) will sell this fall/winter, with others in following years. Students will not lose their housing—we have designed the sale of the apartments to ensure this. 

How will this affect future students?

Where future students live may change, but more scholarship money will be available, and tuition will be kept down. 

Is the seminary selling its CUME campus in Roxbury?

No. Our CUME property in Roxbury—and the faculty and staff serving there—will become an even more integral part of Gordon-Conwell’s mission in Boston, nationally, and internationally. 

Vision & Reflection

A conversation between President Scott W. Sunquist and Rev. Bishop Claude Alexander, Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Blog posts by President Scott W. Sunquist

June 21, 2022

Attentiveness: It is Only Things

[Things] are used for people, so that we will know the love and faithfulness of God . . . I look forward with hope to what new things [God] will use to show us his faithfulness and love.

June 7, 2022

Attentiveness: Lament and Thanksgiving in the Pivot

Our community is experiencing a liminal time–that in-between time filled with feelings of both loss and yet-undefined hope; of death and the joy of new possibilities.

May 24, 2022

Attentiveness: Partnership in the Pivot

The Big Pivot which we are entering into has come about through collaboration in research, strategy, and planning.

News

May 17, 2022 • Christianity Today

How Seminary Downsizing Cuts into Community

Selling a residential campus comes at the cost of embodied fellowship.

Response from Dr. Brad Howell

Some thoughts on pivot, community, and the future:

Dr. Sanders has brought up an important issue for the future of theological education in the West. At Gordon-Conwell, we refer to that as being attentive.

Trends in technology, inflation, culture and even demographics are shaping education. But in all fairness, these elements are shaping more than education. Even grabbing a cup coffee with a friend may require a kiosk or an app! But if we are not attentive to one another, we may end up only with coffee … not the friend.

And perhaps that is the concern. Without attentiveness, “online,” “hybrid,” and digitally “networked” educational models are a challenge to embodied community in the pattern of Jesus and His disciples.

A pivot, though, keeps one foot rooted in place. It is an intentional decision to not chase fads but leverage resources to build communities of learners. A commitment to being attentive to the student, attentive to what God is doing in the student’s life, and attentive to what God is doing among a community of students learning together.

Yet, this is not the answer to our future; it is our desire in our current reality. In both our digitally networked model of education AND our in-person courses, spending time before class, fostering learning communities and intentionally making space to meet with students, are all important moments to hold on to.

As we pivot from the countryside to the city, the school faces challenges that are similar to those facing churches, families, and every relational community in a digital world. If we do not make space to be with one another, we will lose each other.

This is the invitation at Gordon-Conwell. We are committed to making the space. We will continue with digital networks AND in-person education.

That is our pivot.

Our invitation is to come, to join with us in shaping the way seminary life is done…together.

Dr. Brad Howell

Vice President of Graduate Programs

May 17, 2022 • Christianity Today

Gordon-Conwell to Sell Main Campus, Move to Boston

After a decade of enrollment decline, leaders began to see the seminary’s biggest financial asset as a liability. They hope relocation could be the big change they need.

Response to CT from Dr. Sunquist

Purpose More than Property:

Gordon-Conwell’s Relocation and Renewal

I want to thank Daniel Silliman for taking the time to ask a diverse range of questions about Gordon-Conwell’s recent decision to steward our property for our future and for our people (“Gordon-Conwell to Sell Main Campus, Move to Boston,” May 17). Driving this decision were two factors: finances (which the article identified clearly), but also our strategic planning process which was completed just six months ago.

This process began by identifying the soul of our institution—our institutional identity and mission. These stem from Gordon-Conwell’s three beginnings: Conwell’s “school” in Philadelphia that endeavored to provide education for those who could not afford it, A.J. Gordon’s Institute in Boston that had a special concern to train future missionaries for Asia and Africa, and our 1969 relocation out of Boston and to our current Hamilton campus. From these roots, we came to better understand our unitive and diverse nature as an Evangelical seminary.

Rather than revising our mission statement or purpose statement in our strategic planning discussions, we focused on vision. We set our sights on the vision of John recorded in Revelation 7. We have summarized this as “Many Languages, One Lamb and No Tears.” These three phrases describe missionary work and racial reconciliation (many languages), the centrality of Jesus Christ (one lamb), and our calling to compassion and justice (no tears). Our relocation back to Boston is meant to enable our faculty and students to better fulfil the vision outlined in these words.

Thus, while this big pivot to Boston was in part necessitated by finances, it has also been directed by vision. The city has always been in Gordon-Conwell, but now Gordon-Conwell will return to the city.

Scott W. Sunquist

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