[Seabury Western/Bexley Hall] At historic meetings this month, the boards of Seabury Western Theological Seminary in Chicago and Bexley Hall in Columbus unanimously voted to federate and to elect the Rev. Roger Albert Ferlo, Ph.D., D.D., as the Federation’s first president. Ferlo, who is currently the associate dean and director of the Institute of Christian Formation and Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary, where he also serves as professor of religion and culture, will take up his duties on July 1.
“As we searched for a new president, we asked ourselves what kind of leaders the Episcopal Church of the 21st century needs,” said the Rev. Gwynne Wright, chair of the Seabury Board of Trustees and co-chair of the presidential search committee. “Roger embodies that ideal, and we are eager for him to lead the formation of our next generation of students.”
Since 2007, Bexley and Seabury have worked to assess their compatibility for possible partnership in serving the Episcopal Church in the Midwest and beyond. In 2010, the boards of the two schools began to hold joint meetings. Between February 2011 and March 2012, they operated according to an interim joint partnership agreement under which their boards have met jointly. During that time, the two seminaries have begun the process of combining communications, development programs and financial services. The votes earlier this month brought the Federation into being.
“Early on, both boards recognized that we could become even stronger together,” said Cathy Bagot of Westerville, Ohio, secretary of the Bexley board and a member of the joint task force that oversaw the Federation’s creation. “We share a vision, and our Federation is born of that common strength. Our theological education is innovative and rigorous, our business model is sustainable, and our balance sheet is sound.”
Together, Seabury and Bexley offer the full spectrum of graduate level theological education and lifelong learning. Bexley offers the Master of Divinity degree in conjunction with Trinity Lutheran Seminary, while Seabury offers Doctor of Ministry degrees in partnership with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and the Association of Chicago Theological Schools, as well as a wide array of non-degree programs for church leaders.
“Roger’s rich experience in both innovative and traditional theological education makes him a perfect fit for the Federation’s broad spectrum of academic courses and programs,” said the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, bishop of West Virginia, co-chair of the Bexley Hall Board of Trustees, and co-chair of the presidential search. “With him leading the way, Bexley and Seabury are poised to realize our potential as an Episcopal educational center in the Midwest.”
Prior to working at Virginia Seminary, Ferlo, who trained for the priesthood at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, spent 19 years in parish ministry, serving in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and New York City. He has 14 years of teaching experience at the university and seminary levels; 15 years of service on the board of the National Association of Episcopal schools, including a term as President; and nine years of service on the board of trustees of his alma mater, Colgate University (’73, summa cum laude), where in 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate. Ferlo holds a Ph.D. from Yale University (’79) and has authored and edited three books and numerous published essays, sermons and reflections. He has served as a deputy from New York to General Convention and has traveled internationally for teaching and research in South Africa, Australia and Italy.
“The Federation of Seabury and Bexley offers a new model for sustaining high-quality theological education for the changing church,” said Ferlo. “I’m honored that both schools have entrusted their new venture to my leadership, and I look forward to working with their faculty and staff, and with our Lutheran and Episcopal partners, to build a strong presence for theological education in the Midwest and beyond.”