Taylor-Sioux Falls Partnership Creates Opportunity

A partnership agreement between Sioux Falls Seminary and Taylor Seminary, signed in June 2015, is uniting these institutions and creating groundbreaking new opportunities in theological education.

This partnership began with a focus on online education, faculty development and global theological education. Over the past two years, the partnership has deepened significantly and has resulted in the integration of some systems, operational functions and academic programming. For example, the seminaries have merged the curricular competencies and outcomes for respective Master of Divinity (MDiv) programs; the two schools share a registrar, and each school now also recognizes their campuses as educational sites of the other.

Common Vision

This partnership is centered on the shared belief that theological education should be a system in which multiple partners participate in the holistic development of individuals. During the first year of the partnership, Taylor and Sioux Falls discovered that they also shared a vision for the future of theological education. That shared vision is one in which seminaries, denominations, and local churches work together to build innovative models of theological education that are affordable, accessible, and relevant—all while remaining faithful to the unshakeable truth of God’s word and the transformational essence of theological education.

The initial decision to enter into partnership began with a commitment to work with the North American Baptist Conference and the sister seminaries in Cameroon. Since then, Taylor and Sioux Falls Seminaries have found many other ways to accomplish more together, including integration of some systems, operational functions, and academic programming.

Looking Towards the Future

Collaboration is creating opportunity as Taylor and Sioux Falls actively look for more ways to align with one another. The boards of both schools envision functioning as one seminary with two locations: one location in Edmonton, AB, and one in Sioux Falls, SD. The vision guiding the partnership is to have:

one leadership structure,
one budget,
one vision and mission,
one board,
one faculty,
one technology system,
one student services system, etc.

The board, faculty, administration, and staff of each school are playing an important role in discerning how best to bring this vision to reality.

In practice, this partnership is bringing about the opportunity to create a ‘new’ functional seminary. Perhaps a better way to articulate this would be to say that Taylor and Sioux Falls Seminaries have a shared vision for a renewed focus on theological education within the North American Baptist family. Working together will more fully meet the demands of that vision.

One of the ways the seminaries are working to renew the focus of theological education within the NAB Conference is by exploring the level of interest in a “context-based” approach to graduate theological education in Canada. As a result, faculty at Taylor Seminary are gaining a better understanding of context-based education, and the seminary is actively recruiting new students for enrollment in the context-based Kairos Project at Sioux Falls Seminary.
The history and mission of both Taylor Seminary and Sioux Falls Seminary are essential and will be preserved. The storied history of each institution will shape the next chapter of our history that is marked by service to the North American Baptist Conference, the Church, and those that God is calling to participate in his Kingdom mission.

Collaboration Q&A

Because this collaborative effort is still evolving, some answers to commonly asked questions about the partnership between Taylor and Sioux Falls Seminaries are provided below. Additional questions should be directed to Greg Henson at ghenson@sfseminary.edu  

 

  • How does acting as one “functional” seminary with integration of systems, operations, and academic programming, etc., differ from a full merger?
    o We use the term “functional” seminary because a legal merger is not possible. Being located in different countries means the institutions cannot legally become one school. The laws of each country will not allow it. Rather, a Joint Ministry Agreement could be put in place, similar to the one that describes the NAB International Office, which will govern the relationship between the two schools.

 

  • What are the benefits of working together?
    o The benefits extend into every area of mission and ministry for each school. Already, student learning has been enhanced because students now have nearly twice as many educational resources and opportunities as they did before the partnership. Working together has also resulted in better stewardship of financial resources because we can refrain from duplicating efforts. A list of the benefits is unending, and each day we discover new possibilities. 

 

  • Are there financial benefits that will result from this partnership?
    o This partnership is being driven by a clear sense of purpose and mission, not by any budgetary concerns of either school. In fact, both schools are more financially stable than they have been in the past. Nonetheless, we foresee clear financial benefits for both institutions and this partnership will help us use the resources God has blessed us with, and steward them even more effectively.

 

  • Is there an anticipated date or timeline for fully accomplishing this vision or will it continue to evolve over time?
    o As we continue to follow the leading of the Spirit, we learn more about the future God has in store for this partnership. One thing we know for sure is that it will evolve over time. After two years of work on this partnership, we have taken great steps forward. We are committed to a process of mutual discernment in which we provide space for the Spirit to guide each step forward---a process in which both Taylor Seminary and Sioux Falls Seminary boards, faculty, administration, and staff play an important role.

 

  • How will the partnership affect departments and roles at the seminaries?
    o While we do not know the full extent to which the partnership will affect departments and roles at the seminaries, some things have already been decided. For example, it has been decided that through the partnership there will be:


* A Chief Executive Officer, who will be Greg Henson, and a Chief Academic Officer, who will be Dr. David Williams. Greg and David will retain the title President of Sioux Falls Seminary and Taylor Seminary, respectively.
* One enrollment management department and system that will guide the recruitment, admissions, registration, and student services at both campuses.
* One finance department that will guide the financial operations at both campuses.
* One technological infrastructure for managing student information, financial operations, gifts, and student learning.
* The faculty at both institutions will continue to serve as faculty at their respective institutions.

Some of these items are already beginning to take shape (e.g. the schools already share a registrar), while others will continue to evolve over time. In addition, it is important to note that the list included here is not an exhaustive list. As the partnership grows, more will be added to this list.

 

  • What are some next steps?
    o The schools are actively looking for additional ways to move the partnership forward. A few steps that have been taken or that are on the horizon are:

* During David Williams’ sabbatical in fall 2017, Greg Henson will function as CEO at Taylor. He will be working closely with the President’s Advisory Council and the executive committee of the board.
* The board chairs and presidents of each school have attended and participated in board meetings of the other school.
* Plans for a shared board meeting are in the works.
* Several faculty of Sioux Falls Seminary plan to lead a course in Edmonton in January 2018 as part of the context-based Kairos Project.
* Faculty of each school have been in conversation with each other and have participated in shared faculty development initiatives.
* The deans of each school have participated in faculty planning workshops at each school.
* We are thinking about how to bring together enrollment management practices.

 

  • What do these changes mean for students?
    o Students will be better served through this new partnership. Serving students and the church well is the primary focus for this partnership. As the seminaries move toward a unified organizational structure, the distinction between “Taylor students” and “Sioux Falls students” will become less important. We are not going to be overly concerned with whose students are whose. Our vision is that when fully integrated at the functional level, all Canadian students will be designated “Taylor students” and all US students “SFS students.”

    In practice, this means students will have access to:

* Affordable, accessible, relevant and faithful theological education;
* An expanded number of resources;
* Enhanced and more diverse educational opportunities;
* New educational programs;
* Context-based theological education that doesn’t require traveling across the border;
* Theological education that continues to be rooted in the Triune God and centered on the needs of the student rather than the needs or desires of an institution.

 

  • How will collaboration affect givers, alumni, and supporters of the seminaries?
    o Givers, alumni, churches and other supporters are encouraged to remain faithful in their support of the institution they currently support or from which they graduated. Those institutions are not going away. Rather, they are being enhanced through this kingdom-minded partnership. Many people provide gifts to each school and several have graduated from both schools.

Taylor Seminary, founded in 1940 by Rev. E.P. Wahl, offers advanced degrees to those seeking theological education and ministry preparation; Taylor is located in Edmonton, AB. Sioux Falls Seminary traces its origin to 1858, when it first served students as the German Department of Rochester Theological Seminary in New York. The institution moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1949.

For more information, contact:
SFS President Greg Henson at ghenson@sfseminary.edu