Northern Seminary Redesigns the Way It Provides Theological Education

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Northern Seminary is on the move -- both literally and figuratively. The 95-year-old Lombard-based seminary is re-engineering itself to be more nimble, delivering theological education to students via satellite campuses and expanding its online course offerings. Affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA denomination, Northern Seminary plans to move its administrative offices to Elgin, IL, near Judson University this fall.

We're willing to explore and even to take risks. God will guide, and I believe he'll bring good from all these new ventures. These are not alternative directions, for they're all on the route Northern is travelling, and each will help us deliver the mission of quality training for a 21st-century generation.

Northern Seminary is on the move -- both literally and figuratively.

The 95-year-old Lombard-based seminary is re-engineering itself to be more nimble, delivering theological education to students via satellite campuses and expanding its online course offerings. Affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA denomination, Northern Seminary plans to move its administrative offices to Elgin, IL, near Judson University this fall.

The move to Elgin, IL, comes on the heels of the Board of Trustees selection of the school's tenth president, Reverend Dr. Alistair Brown, who will take office in September 2008. A Scotland native, Dr. Brown was previously the General Director of the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) at its World Mission headquarters in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Joining what he calls "a leadership team not frightened to let go of the past...(and) embrace future landscapes that may look a bit different," Dr. Brown will lead Northern Seminary in designing an innovative model for providing theological education.

Innovation is vital to meet the needs of the 21st-century seminary student. Increasingly, seminaries are comprised of commuter students, striving to balance the loads of school, work, and personal life. Northern Seminary will engage this demographic by providing more educational options -- what some call an education "on the go." This will include development of additional online courses and numerous satellite campuses spanning the Chicago-land area.

Exciting and promising to some, yet shocking to others, change is never entirely seamless. According to incoming president, Dr. Brown, "There's always uncertainty, usually some fear, and occasionally wrong directions are taken. But eventually -- with God's help -- there are new ways that bring health, vitality, relevance, and impact. All of that is ahead for Northern."

As part of the new strategy, Northern Seminary's main Lombard-based campus is slated to be sold. Capital freed up from the sale will be reinvested in the new model, which includes additional satellite campuses and online course offerings. Northern Seminary's new direction underscores its commitment to meet more students where they are -- geographically, technologically, and financially.

According to Brown, "We're willing to explore and even to take risks. God will guide, and I believe he'll bring good from all these new ventures. These are not alternative directions, for they're all on the route Northern is travelling, and each will help us deliver the mission of quality training for a 21st-century generation."

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Melissa Parks