News Archives

United Theological Seminary to start campus in New York

9/3/1998 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

by United Methodist News Service

United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, is expanding into a two-campus institution by establishing a New York presence.

An extension of the United Methodist-related seminary already exists with United's In-Context Master of Divinity Program in Buffalo, N.Y., but by the summer of 1999, the foundation will be laid to expand into a full-service seminary.

The expansion announcement was made during the summer session of the Western New York Annual Conference, when United's president, the Rev. Michael Nickerson, gave a progress report on the 26 students enrolled in the master's program at the Buffalo site, located on the West Seneca campus of Houghton College, according to The Communicator, the conference newspaper.

The In-Context Master of Divinity Degree was designed for clergy and those preparing to enter ordained, full-time ministry but who were not located near the main seminary. United offers the same degree program on the campus of the University of Charleston, W. Va.

The Buffalo program began in 1996, after Western New York Conference officials approached the seminary about the possibility of having a United Methodist seminary in their area, Nickerson said.

In theological education today, Nickerson said, students have less geographic mobility; are older or entering a second career; and have families and large financial responsibilities. Because of job situations, he said, more and more students attend regional seminaries regardless of denominational affiliation.

United wants to make "high quality" theological education more geographically accessible, Nickerson said. Such an education promotes ministerial formation in three ways: a high academic level; a high level of faith encounters and experience; and the actual practice of ministry.

Unique to United's second campus, Nickerson said, is its "cohort model" design. "One of the problems with off-site campuses is that students never build the community necessary for theological learning," he said. "We think we've overcome that because we will have a large enough group for interchange and diversity for enhancement of ministerial formation."

The second campus is to be housed at the current Buffalo site, with the only difference being the need for full-time faculty, he said. The master's program already uses the library, classroom and faculty resources of Houghton College, along with United personnel and adjunct faculty from other institutions.

Supporting United's expansion is a $120,000 grant from the Fred and Floy Willmott Foundation of Rochester, N.Y. The money will be used to increase the Buffalo site's library resources, hire a part-time director of contextual education and provide continuing education for area clergy and laity. A search for a full-time director of the Buffalo campus is under way, and students are being recruited for fall 1999. As the program expands, more faculty will be hired.

To promote the expansion and to demonstrate United's commitment to the clergy and churches in the Western New York Annual Conference, the Buffalo site will offer a convocation and a series of regional workshops this fall and winter.

The Sept. 26 convocation at First United Methodist Church, Batavia, N.Y., will help clergy and lay members gain a perspective of the Wesleyan heritage of the United Methodist Church and understand how the tenets of the denomination have been reshaped to address the needs of the contemporary church and world. Issues of ministry for the next century also will be addressed.

The regional workshops begin Oct. 17 at Christ United Methodist Church, Olean, N.Y. and will be centered around the theme of the "Advent Year." The workshops are designed for those who are exploring the call to ministry and also to help potential students prepare for their seminary experience. Other workshops will be held at Gateway Foster Care Center, North Syracuse, N.Y., on Nov. 7, and at Gateway Conference Center, Williamsville, N.Y., on March 20.

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