Baptist-affiliated Andover Newton Theological School and Yale Divinity School have signed a letter of intent to enter a two-phase plan toward formal affiliation beginning this fall, administrators at the two schools announced May 2.
If the first phase is successful, the plan envisions an “Andover Newton at Yale” model with a downsized Andover Newton functioning as a unit within Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. Most of Andover Newton’s 32 faculty positions would be phased out, with students in the Andover unit taking the bulk of their classes from Yale Divinity School faculty.
Andover Newton will complete sale of its campus in Andover, Mass., assessed at $43 million, to retire debt and add to endowment, helping Yale to achieve a 2022 goal of offering tuition-free education to most students. Andover Newton will remain in Massachusetts two years — the second year in temporary space — to give current students time to finish their degrees. Students have the option to transfer to Yale Divinity School through normal channels.
Founded in 1807, Andover Newton is the oldest graduate seminary in the United States and the nation’s first graduate institution of any kind. The school created the educational model used by most Protestant seminaries today, pioneering training programs for prospective clergy such as theological field education. The school has historic covenants with American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ. Adoniram Judson, a graduate of the class of 1810, was an early U.S. missionary whose work in Burma spurred the creation of ABCUSA in 1814.
Theological education was the original mission of Yale University, founded in 1701 as Yale College for the training of Congregationalist ministers in the Connecticut colony. A separate school of divinity formed in 1869. Today Yale Divinity School is interdenominational and non-sectarian, though Berkeley Divinity School, an Episcopal seminary, affiliated with Yale in 1971 and retains its Anglican identity.
Last fall Andover Newton, after years of declining enrollment, announced plans to dramatically scale back its operations and relocate, possibly merging with another school. Since then, talks with Yale intensified, leading to Monday’s announcement.
Andover Newton President Martin Copenhaver said the affiliation would benefit both institutions.
“For Andover Newton, it allows the mission of our nation’s oldest graduate institution of theological education to continue, serving our constituencies,” he said. “While we know this means we will exist in a different, smaller form, our mission will continue and, with work, thrive.”
Yale Divinity School Dean Greg Sterling said Andover Newton’s focus of preparing ministers for traditions with congregational polities “will accentuate ministerial training and serve as an ecumenical complement to Berkeley Divinity School’s formation of Episcopal and Anglican priests.”
“Many of us, including the leadership of BDS, believe that this will be healthy for all,” Sterling said.
Copenhaver said if it becomes permanent, the affiliation “will have a positive impact not only on Andover Newton, but on theological education in this country.”
“It is an opportunity for Andover Newton to be an innovative leader once again,” he said.