Dear MTS Alumni, Friends, and Students,
MTS has been a free-standing school throughout its history in Memphis. This means the seminary is not part of a larger academic institution or university system. Therefore, the seminary has to shoulder all operational expenses by itself instead of sharing those expenses as part of a larger entity. Since 2004, enrollment has been declining significantly among most seminaries throughout North America. As a result, free-standing seminaries are no longer thriving without large endowments. I have been transparent with our seminary community about these enrollment and operational challenges throughout my presidency.
The day before our October 6, 2023, board meeting, we invited a strategic planning coach to facilitate conversations with our faculty, staff, and trustees. The following day, during the trustee meeting, the Board of Trustees appointed a five-person committee to begin talking with potential partner institutions about embedding or merging. As an institution of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, their General Assembly will have the ultimate say in any changes moving forward. So, we are beginning the work now to present options to the General Assembly in June 2024.
While much has happened rapidly at the beginning of this journey, I want to reassure you that any decisions we make will be part of a long and careful process. Even if we had already identified an institutional partner, we would not be able to implement a new model of operations by the Fall 2024 academic term. We are not rushing into anything.
The seminary has operated in the black for the last five years. We have a solid endowment and a strong line of credit. These factors equate to our current financial status being secure which gives us time to respond to our challenges in a proactive instead of reactionary manner. It’s for the sake of preserving and advancing the mission of MTS that the board has made the brave decision to begin talks with potential partner institutions.
While these are not easy times, they are not hopeless times. God’s grace has sustained our mission for almost 60 years in Memphis, and I believe that our Lord’s favor is still shining upon our mission. I recently said to our faculty, staff, and trustees, “Now is not the time to let up with our focus. Instead, now is a time to do with enthusiasm that which we are called and gifted to do. So, let’s keep recruiting students, educating with excellence, raising financial support from donors, and telling the incredible story of Memphis Theological Seminary.”
I am pleased to share with you that the MTS community enthusiastically embraced these words, and they have expressed their deep commitment to furthering the mission of our seminary. Please remain prayerful with us about this discernment process and don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to discuss further.
May God bless you and the mission of MTS,
Rev. Dr. Jody Hill
Memphis Theological Seminary