(February 2023) – “In addition to our work with the town,” said Gordon-Conwell Board Chair Bishop Claude Alexander, “we have been working very closely with all of the seminary’s stakeholders to determine what our physical needs are as a theological seminary in the twenty-first century. We reaffirm our commitment to a greater role in the City of Boston that complements the good work our Campus for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME) has engaged in for decades. We also confirm our commitment to residential theological education and the newly developed Life Together model.”
Hamilton Planning Board Open Meetings
Gordon-Conwell Updates Plans for the Seminary
Invitation to Second Community Workshop with the Town
President’s Blog: Pivot Ponderings
Letter to the Editor: Public Outreach Key to Plans for Campus
Update on the Sale of the Hamilton Apartments
Joy Li to Support Gordon-Conwell’s Pivot as Assistant Project Manager
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.
Awakened by finances, our pivot toward the future has become an awakening to the nature of our institution’s soul and the mission of our calling. This decision is aimed at reconnecting with our historic roots and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As of September 2022, each member will serve as the chairperson of an ad hoc committee.
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.
Learn more about this process here.
New students are welcome and encouraged to move onto campus to experience residential education! Full-time students who begin a degree program in Hamilton are guaranteed to be able to finish their degree in Hamilton regardless of the Pivot.
In the future, where students live may change, but more scholarship money will be available, and tuition will be kept down.
Summary: The sale of Buildings A and B will not happen fall/winter of 2022. Be assured that any future agreements will also keep housing stable for campus residents.
In March 2021, over a year before our decision to Pivot, we announced that we entered into an agreement to sell part or all of the Hamilton apartments because our property is underutilized. Since then, the developer has been in negotiations with the Town of Hamilton about change of use and zoning variances. In October 2022, it was decided that the developer would withdraw their appeal and that the Town and seminary would together secure real estate consultants to provide a cost-benefit analysis and strategy for our 130 Essex St. property.
Therefore, the sale of Buildings A and B will not happen fall/winter of 2022. Be assured that any future agreements will also keep housing stable for campus residents.
It will be a few months before we have updates regarding the assessment and the sale of part or all of the Hamilton campus.
No, the seminary is not preparing to go entirely remote. Even as we increase our reach, there will always be a role and a home at Gordon-Conwell for in-person instruction and embodied community life. A new and unique emphasis on community and discipleship called Life Together that is beginning on the Hamilton campus is central to this Pivot and renewal. We deeply value community life and spiritual formation in our residential, urban, and networked models. All three models are core to our identity.
(Read more in “Will communal residential options still be available?”)
In proceeding with plans to sell part or all of 130 Essex St. and in honoring our founders’ commitment to biblically orthodox theological education in New England, the Board of Trustees affirms a desire to maintain a model of residential theological education in the pattern of Life Together.
Current student housing will be unaffected for at least the next few years and any future agreements will also keep housing stable for on-campus residents. Furthermore, all full-time students who enroll in a Hamilton-based degree will be able to complete their degree in Hamilton.
(Read more in “Are there changes to the sale of the apartments?” and “Will Gordon-Conwell still be moving to Metro Boston?”)
At the same time the Board affirms our commitment to a residential model in New England, it also affirms a commitment to increase our presence in the City of Boston in a way that also extends the ministry of CUME. We have ceased discussions with a particular property in the heart of Boston after extensive analysis, but we remain committed to our historic urban roots and call. More information on how we will live into this commitment will be shared as it becomes available.
From the beginning of the Pivot, we have intended to keep many operations local to Hamilton/Wenham. Our desire is to continue to have communities in which we work and study together, especially as we uphold a model of residential theological education in the pattern of Life Together.
No. Gordon-Conwell will always be committed to small towns, urban communities, and people around the globe.
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. CUME will continue to be CUME and offer contextualized urban theological education.
Selling a residential campus comes at the cost of embodied fellowship.
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
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.
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
This is an important time for our entire community. Let’s connect you to the right people to answer your questions.
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