Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As I write, we are at the very end of 2011 and so at the threshold of our bicentennial year. It will be a momentous year and there is so much to look forward to and so much for which we should give profound thanks to God.
Photo by Kristen Joy Watt
Let me begin by referring to my distinguished predecessor, Tom Gillespie, who died after a short illness on November 5th. Many of you knew Tom much better than I. He truly expanded the Seminary’s vision and reach. He loved the Seminary and under his leadership it blossomed beyond its roots in Princeton and became an articulate and respected voice wherever one went in the Christian world. In all that time of expansion and growth, Tom never lost his own roots in his identity as the husband of his beloved Barbara, as a preacher and pastor-scholar, as a committed visionary who served his God and the Presbyterian Church. And so we thank God for his life and witness. You can read my tribute to Tom on the Seminary’s web site.
The new Charlotte Rachel Wilson campus will open to students in early January 2012. For the last year, I have watched it grow. Now it will become a home to the next generation, and will help to preserve those benefits of communal learning, friendship, and personal growth that we value so highly. As I write, the new library has changed shape again. All summer we watched the steel frame being constructed and now it is closed in with blocks, a real building though anonymously grey, ready to be transformed by honey-colored stone in the spring. Interest and expectation mounts, led by a wonderful group of pastors on our campaign committee.
Please join us during our bicentennial year. There will be a huge range of events and opportunities for worship. Many people have poured imagination into planning the year. Much that is unexpected will take place: early in 2012 we will be joined for a concert by Paul Mealor, who composed the setting of Ubi caritas for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Jim Moorhead’s excellent bicentennial history will come out in the late summer. Please look out for QR (Quick Response) codes, as they are wonderful ways of giving you updates and taking you to links on the web.
As some of you know, after a good deal of heart searching, I decided to retire at the end of December 2012. I had always said that I believed that something inside a decade would be right for my kind of vocation at PTS. I was invited to come by the Board specifically to bring about change, to add momentum to our accreditation process, and to galvanize the big projects that are now being completed. And we had the downturn to weather.
Dr. Thomas W. Gillespie
It may seem that we are going through many transitions this year. And we are, but we are blessed with a particularly strong and extraordinarily generous Board of Trustees. They have made it clear that they have a range of further tasks they would like to see completed by the end of 2012. Dan Aleshire is the executive director of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and one of the wisest people I have met in the U.S. In May he told our Board that while the church is changing quickly, often seminaries change v e r y slowly. Wryly, he added that some seminaries have enormous heat shields that they can use to protect themselves against the friction of change. Our Board wants us to prepare pastors for the third millennium, not for the ’80s or ’90s. That will require a measure of realignment with the diverse, changing, missional church of today. In ATS schools all across America, today only 29 percent of students are from the “Mainline” and 71 percent are designated “evangelical.” At the heart of our new thinking is a realization that we are not called to impart an abstract or timeless body of learning, no matter how excellent, but to engage in a process of formation, which begins at the Seminary and continues all through life.
PTS is called to play its part in that. And this will impact who we admit and how we teach them. It will impact the different gravitational pulls between the M.Div. and the Ph.D. It will embed the resources of our information technology and new library, and it will affect our allocation of resources and stewardship. I see these alignments as a sustained act of faithfulness to the churches we serve. These developments will lead the Seminary to be the same but younger as it enters its third century!
May God bless all of you.
Iain R. Torrance