More Details on the Closing of the Division of Biblical, Religious and Philosophical Studies at Trinity International University

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We reported on this story yesterday.

Today we received an announcement from TIU president Nicholas Perrin.  Notice what Perrin says about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Judson University, Gordon College, Wheaton College, and Indiana Wesleyan University.  This is the new reality for Christian colleges.

At the beginning of this fall semester at Trinity, I made some significant announcements to our faculty, staff, students, and parents. I want to share this information with you as well. This relates to personnel changes which have already been announced within our faculty, as well as staff changes which will be determined and implemented over the course of the next few weeks. 

As we discuss changes of this type, it is helpful to note that Christian higher education in recent years has been experiencing intense fiscal pressures, often resulting in various degrees of reorganization. In the fall of 2015, for example, nearby Judson University cut 34 faculty and staff; two years later, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary cut 10% of its full-time faculty. Last summer Moody Bible Institute significantly downsized their Spokane campus and reduced approximately one-third of its faculty organization-wide. This past spring Gordon College combined a number of majors, cutting 17 faculty and staff members. This summer Wheaton College announced the closure of its Department of Intercultural Studies (eliminating jobs for, arguably, some of the most long standing faculty on campus). Last week, Indiana Wesleyan University, renowned as one of the fastest-growing Christian schools in the past decade, announced that it will be cutting nine faculty members at the end of this year. These are but a few examples. Fiscal realities have recently forced almost all institutions of Christian higher education to develop new strategies in executing their mission, and those new strategies can sometimes require painful decisions.

Today, as I write you, I wish I could tell you that Trinity has been immune from the same challenges, but that would not be true. What is true, however, is that we remain resolute in our efforts to offer our students a high-quality education that is also affordable. In the midst of this disrupted landscape, we must continue to offer the quality education our students expect and deserve, while also lowering operating costs. In short, this is a stewardship issue. I am writing you today to inform you that not yet three months into my presidency, I have – in consultation with my leadership team – approached this stewardship challenge by making a difficult decision.

Early last week, we announced a plan to eliminate five faculty positions within the undergraduate (Deerfield) Department of Biblical Studies and the Department of Christian Ministries. This change – first announced to faculty and staff on August 26, and then to students the next day – will take effect beginning Fall 2020. 

The consequences of this decision are, in part, curricular in nature. In terms of current academic programming, this decision will have limited impact in the short term; in the long term, it will mean their reconfiguration within a new major taught by members of the Divinity School faculty. This does not eliminate these programs from our undergraduate offerings but changes the way we will deliver coursework in these areas. This is not a hasty decision: as I understand it, Trinity has been considering this model and its long-term benefits for years.

It might be helpful to think about this in connection with specific student populations. For those who are starting their final year of undergraduate study in a Biblical Studies or Christian Ministries major, this decision will not delay their academic progress. Deerfield undergraduates returning for the 2020-21 academic year will be able to complete their majors as indicated in the current catalog. As we look toward the 2020-21 academic year, we expect to enroll new students in a newly reconstituted Bible, Theology, and Ministry major.

Practically speaking, the more profound change bears on the issue of personnel. Beginning in Fall 2020, our undergraduate Bible, Theology, and Ministry courses will be taught and administered by our TEDS faculty. To date, roughly a dozen TEDS faculty members already have expressed an eagerness to teach undergrad students. I am grateful for this. At the same time, I have asked our deans to carefully vet those aspiring to these teaching assignments, as it is imperative that we preserve the undergraduate professionalized liberal arts identity. I well remember the thrill of pivoting from leading doctoral students through the Greek text in the morning, to an evening discussion of the equivalent English texts with college freshmen over my wife’s home-cooked spaghetti. Coming from all walks of life, these faculty members are no less excited to engage and mentor these undergraduates.

There will be certain advantages in our achieving greater verticalized integration on our Deerfield campus, breaking down the structural walls of separation currently standing between our undergraduate Bible and Ministry majors and our world-renowned MDiv and MAs. It is also true that our accreditors will be encouraged by our compliance with their request to break down Deerfield’s academic silos. But these collateral benefits will mean little, even after having realized considerable savings through these cuts, if we fail to deliver our traditional caring, student-centered, and liberal arts-oriented undergraduate education. We aim for nothing less.

The reallocation of our Bible and Ministry faculty will not be the only staffing change this fall. This past week I also invited faculty representatives to join me in reviewing operating expenses and structures in order to identify cost-saving staff reductions. Like many of our peer institutions, we have – both in the seminary and in the college – significantly smaller enrollments than we did a decade ago. Through a multi-layered, creative, and prioritized approach, my hope is for Trinity to realize a staff reduction roughly commensurate with the decrease in the student body. My stated priority is to minimize the impact on student experience.

Even so, such changes are hard. Eliminating positions at any organization is painful, but it is even more painful at Trinity, where we feel much more like a family than an institution. However, these are necessary changes which we owe to our students who, together with their parents, make great sacrifices to pay college tuition. These are also missional changes, not only because cost-savings frees up funds for new endeavors, but God has a track record of using scarcity to bring about what in retrospect turns out to be divinely orchestrated missional adjustment. Given your affiliation and support for Trinity, it was important to me to write you directly to inform you of these changes.

We have some exciting initiatives in the pipeline, positioning Trinity to meet the needs of today’s Christian students. I would love to elaborate, but for now I would ask you simply to pray for us in this hour of adjustments. Pray for those faculty who have already felt the impact of the changes recently announced. Pray also for the staff (their number yet unknown) who will be more immediately affected by the upcoming cuts. Finally, please join me also in praying for God’s continued leading of our Trinity community, that He might use Trinity more and more to fulfill his kingdom purposes in and through the lives of students.

What is Happening at Trinity International University?

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Trinity College, the undergraduate college of Trinity International University (TIU) in Deerfield, Illinois, recently announced that it is closing its Division of Biblical, Religious, and Philosophical Studies.

Here is the announcement from new TIU president Nicholas Perrin:

Dear Students, 

I am writing you with difficult news. Beginning Fall 2020, Trinity International University will be undergoing a partial restructure, involving the formal dissolution of one of Trinity College’s academic divisions, the Division of Biblical, Religious, and Philosophical Studies, and within it the Department of Biblical Studies and the Department of Christian Ministries. New and continuing students will be able to complete their programs and courses this academic year and indeed for the remainder of their undergraduate career without interruption. We expect to enroll new students in most if not all of the same courses in the 2020–21 academic year in a newly reconstituted Bible, Theology, and Ministry major, as well as in the continuing Philosophy major, which will be housed in the Division of Humanities. In other words, this change will have no material curricular impact on currently enrolled students who are guaranteed to graduate under the catalogue with which they matriculated. The fundamental implications of this decision revolve around faculty changes: beginning in Fall 2020, our undergraduate Bible, Theology, and Ministry courses will be taught and administrated by our TEDS faculty.

I am under no illusions: for many if not all of our majors, as well as a good many non-majors, this comes as impactful news. At the end of this year, Dr. Chris Firestone along with the Department of Philosophy will be moving to the Division of Humanities; the faculty lines for Dr. William Moulder, Dr. Sylvie Raquel, Dr. Greg Carlson, Dr. Michael Reynolds, and Ms. Jana Sundene will be eliminated. With years of teaching experience under their belt, these faculty have given their very best year-in and year-out to Trinity’s students. I am grateful for their incalculable contribution not only in providing high-level instruction in the classroom, but also in enriching the lives of countless students, faculty colleagues, and staff by their very presence.  

While there will be more communication about this transition in the months ahead, for now I would encourage you, if you have any immediate questions, to make an appointment with Dean Hedges, who will be glad to engage you. In due course, we will be inviting Biblical Studies and Christian Ministries majors to an open forum, where Dean Hedges and Dean Cole will be happy to share more information regarding this transition, and to answer any lingering questions you may have. In the meantime, if you have been privileged to take a class with any of these professors, and/or benefited from their mentorship outside class, I encourage you, as occasion presents itself, to express to them your gratitude for their dedicated service and their shaping influence on your lives. 

Here are the faculty who were fired as part of this restructuring:

William Moulder taught at Trinity College for more than 40 years.

Sylvie Raquel has been at Trinity College for 15 years.

Greg Carlson has been at Trinity College for 12 years.

Michael Reynolds has been at Trinity College for 13 years.

Jana Sundene has been at Trinity College for 29 years.

I don’t have any inside information about these changes, but it appears, at first glance, that Trinity is restructuring to look more like Southern Baptist seminaries.  Many of these seminaries have undergraduate divisions, but seminary professors teach the biblical studies and theology courses.  Maybe someone who knows more about this can chime-in.

In other Trinity International University news, the school’s last president, David Dockery, just joined the faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

David Dockery Named 15th President of Trinity International University

As some of you know, I have a graduate degree from this institution.  At first glance it may seem odd that a conservative Southern Baptist from Alabama would take the reigns of a northern evangelical institution with Scandinavian roots, but Dockery is actually a perfect fit.  Northern evangelicals and conservative Southern Baptists have bonded, over the last thirty years or so, around the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and, to a lesser extent, Calvinism.  I am not sure if Dockery is a Calvinist, but if he was not an inerrantist he would not have been appointed to the Trinity presidency.

When I was in seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I remember few Southern Baptist students or professors.  When Southern Baptist church historian Tom Nettles arrived during my second year at TEDS, I thought he was a strange creature from another planet.  He talked with a heavy southern accent and had us read people like Robert Lewis Dabney.  As a Jersey kid who was transplanted to Chicagoland for seminary, I don’t think I had ever met a Southern Baptist before I took Nettles’s course on Jonathan Edwards.  (When I spoke at a Southern Baptist Church in Houston last summer it was the first time I had ever set foot in such a church).

But after I graduated from TEDS in 1992, I recall that several professors left Deerfield for Southern Baptist Seminary (Nettles, Bruce Ware, and Mark Seifrid come to mind).  In addition, some of the earliest graduates of the TEDS Ph.D program started to populate the faculties of Southern Baptist seminaries and colleges (Steve Wellum, Andreas Kostenberger, and Robert Caldwell come to mind).  Meanwhile, Southern Baptists started to embrace the legacy of neo-evangelical theologians like Carl F.H. Henry, especially in the area of biblical authority.  (I took Henry’s course on American evangelicalism at TEDS).

This Southern Baptist–Northern Evangelical alliance has now been solidified with the appointment of Dockery.  I think he is the first non-Evangelical Free Church president of Trinity.

Here is a taste of the press release:

Following 18 years of transformational leadership at Union University, Trinity International University’s Board of Regents unanimously selected David S. Dockery to become its 15th president.
“We are overwhelmingly grateful to God for the invitation from the Trinity Board to serve the students, staff, faculty, and various institutional constituencies in the days ahead,” Dockery said. “We are humbled by the confidence that the Board has communicated to us in this call to guide Trinity forward in the days and years to come.”
Robert Kleinschmidt, chairman of the TIU Board of Regents, said he was excited for Dockery and his wife Lanese to join the TIU family.
“Dr. Dockery brings a great wealth of experience and knowledge about higher education from his years at Union University,” Kleinschmidt said. “I know he will be a great leader for Trinity and look forward to the tasks ahead.”
Located in Deerfield, Ill., Trinity International University consists of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, one of the most highly respected evangelical institutions in the country; Trinity College, a liberal-arts based institution; Trinity Graduate School, with programs in such fields as biomedical ethics, leadership, and education; and Trinity Law School, located in Santa Ana, Calif. Total enrollment for the university is about 2,800.
“What a joy it will be to seek to reflect the influence and leadership of 20th century evangelical giants like Kenneth Kantzer and Carl Henry, who invested so much at Trinity,” Dockery said.
“Their emphasis on serious and rigorous academics shaped and informed by the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the full truthfulness of Holy Scripture, international missions, cultural renewal and engagement, transdenominational and transcontinental evangelical cooperation and service to the global church will, we trust, continue to characterize all aspects of Trinity’s life and work.”
During Dockery’s 18-year tenure as Union University president, the institution saw 16 straight years of increasing enrollment and more than doubled in size, growing from a fall enrollment of 1,972 to 4,288 in 2013. Donors increased from 1,600 to 6,000 annually. The budget expanded from $18 million to more than $90 million per year, and the university’s net assets grew from less than $40 million to $120 million.