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“New beginning” for struggling Canadian theological college

Posted on: June 28, 2016 2:00 PM
The chance to provide theological education in the local context of the prairies is a big part of what attracted him to the position of Emmanuel & St Chad principal, says Dean Iain Luke.
Photo Credit: Anglican Journal
Related Categories: Canada, cuac, Saskatchewan

[Anglican Journal, by Tali Folkins] A small, struggling theological college in Saskatchewan, central west Canada, is hoping that a new plan and a new principal will help set it back on track.

This spring, the College of Emmanuel & St Chad, which almost ceased operating in 2013, announced it had hired a new principal – the first person to take on the position on a permanent basis since it was eliminated, also in 2013, as a cost-cutting measure.

Effective 1 August, Dean Iain Luke, former assistant professor of theology and director of the Institute for Anglican Ministry at St John’s College, Winnipeg, will be Emmanuel & St Chad’s new principal.

“We may not have closed Emmanuel & St Chad but we came close, so it certainly marks a new beginning,” Michael Hawkins, bishop of the diocese of Saskatchewan and president of the college’s council, says of the appointment.

The college’s origins go back to 1879, and it has been the officially- accredited theological college for the ecclesiastical province of Rupert's Land since 1967. In recent years, however, Emmanuel & St Chad has been, like many theological colleges across North America, facing the twin difficulties of dwindling finances and declining enrolment, Hawkins says. There has also been growing competition from dioceses with their own schools of ministry or alternative programs for training and discernment.

In 2006, the college sold its buildings to the University of Saskatchewan, but even this didn’t solve all its financial problems, Hawkins says. In 2012, its council announced the college would suspend operations the following year, while it would work to come up with a three-year restructuring plan.

In 2013, however, the council said it would continue operating for the time being, by working with its partner schools in the Saskatoon Theological Union (STU) – St Andrew’s College (United Church of Canada) and the Lutheran Theological Seminary.

By this time, the principal’s position had been eliminated, and the faculty was down to a single professor.

Things are now looking more hopeful for the college, Hawkins says. Since 2014, it has been working on a plan to offer its licentiate of theology (LTh) mostly remotely, online, with the support of locally-based mentors and tutors – an offering intended, he says, as training for diaconal ministry or for locally-raised priests.

“It’s a shift of the focus away . . . from the residential emphasis, to a more online or distance education – but also to being responsive to the particular needs of dioceses throughout the province,” Hawkins says. “Some of Iain’s work will be teaching, but the majority of it will be trying to get this program organised.”

Read Tali Folkins’ full in-depth report on the Anglican Journal website.