Money Runs Out for One Salt Lake Seminary

After nearly 25 years of
ministry in a Mormon-dominated community, the only Protestant graduate
school of theology in the Intermountain West announced Tuesday that
economic realities have forced it to close.

“This has been the toughest
two weeks of my working life,” said the Rev. Jeffrey R. Silliman, Salt
Lake Theological Seminary president. “We just ran out of money, and it
wouldn’t be responsible to keep running up debts we had no possibility
of repaying.”

School officials learned in September that a large donation they expected wasn’t coming.

A month later, even many of the smaller gifts had dried up. Expenses piled up at between $50,000 and $60,000 a month.

Last week, Silliman broke the news to faculty and
administrators, laying off everyone at once. But many agreed to
continue at the current location at 699 S. Temple in Salt Lake City on
a volunteer basis so the school’s 54 students may finish the semester,
which ends Dec. 31. During the spring semester, some have agreed to
teach courses in Salt Lake Valley churches so senior students can
complete their degree requirements.

“Their determination to continue is inspirational,” Silliman said.

It would have taken another three years for Eric Lindquist to finish his master’s degree.

“It seemed like everything was going in the right direction for me. I felt like I knew the heart of the seminary.

I trust it with my faith,”
said Lindquist, a 46-year-old marketing executive in Salt Lake City who
felt called to the ministry. “I don’t know what I’ll do now. I either
have to go somewhere else or go online.”

Twelve seminary students at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sandy must find alternatives.

“The community is losing some quality education,” said the Rev.
Jeff Nellermoe, Good Shepherd’s pastor. “Remarkably, the faculty rates
with any seminary faculty in the Western region. We are losing some of
our theological intelligentsia.”

It is also a “real loss” for the ongoing discussion between
members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the
Protestant community, said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller
Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.

“I am convinced there ought to be a vital Christian
theological education in the Intermountain region,” Mouw said. “In a
culture that is so overwhelmingly dominated by Latter-day Saints, being
a traditional Christian can be a pretty lonely experience. The school
has been so important for Christians to have scholarly resources as
they try to think through their theology.”

Nellermoe wants the school to hold on to its impressive
library, which has more than 30,000 volumes, and hopes it can resume
classes someday.

“I hope we can mothball the seminary,” he said, “so when economic times are favorable we can bring it back.”

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

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