Embracing Change and Long-Term Social Impact at Auburn Theological Seminary
A Letter from Auburn’s President: Summer 20203
I am reaching out to you as Auburn Theological Seminary’s trusted partners, supporters, and friends to share about the work we have begun in order to tend to Auburn’s organizational health and mission vitality.
We are leaning forward into a 30-year vision for Auburn as we resource leaders and communities to live together and thrive. To achieve that, we are doing the internal work to transform Auburn into a generative and sustainable organization, built to engage in long-term social change.As we adopt a long-term view for social change and engage new generations of leaders who are working to shape a future that belongs to them, we reaffirm that the whole of our investment as a seminary remains in the deepest expression of our mission: to identify leaders – from the pulpit to the public square—to build communities, bridge divides, pursue justice, and heal the world.
We find hope and inspiration in Auburn’s history and are reaffirming the choices we made that are now foundational to our work.
- Historically, we chose to fight against Christian fundamentalisms and to fight for religious freedom, and we will continue, especially now, as religious narratives and frameworks intensify threats to the separation of church and state.
- Historically, we chose to create programs and resources for those who were not typically included in theological and leadership education, particularly women and LGBTQ+ people, and we will continue, especially now, as these voices are silenced and their lives and bodies are under attack.
- Historically, and for the past decade in particular, we chose to organize and stand for justice with multifaith and moral leaders, and we will continue, especially now as our already fragile democracy is threatened by religious extremism.
As a non-degree-granting institution, we have a wide berth to reimagine support for a new generation of faith and justice leaders. Additionally, our nontraditional charter is an encouragement to the vision of engaging leaders from all walks of life—whether in curated leadership cohorts, open-call courses, workshops, or public education offerings—for support and formation toward a healing future.
This fall, you can anticipate the launch of a reimagined, nonpartisan Center for Research to help us probe questions at the intersection of religions and culture as we birth new leadership communities. You can also anticipate additions to our capacities for media training with the launch of a new Center for Storytelling and Narrative Change as a resource to equip leaders and communities to tell the stories that heal us all.
We are also working to build and strengthen our Board of Directors. Our governance structure reflects historic Christian roots as well as our commitment to prepare leaders to live in a multifaith world. Auburn’s Board is structured so that Presbyterians are 30% of the governing body. We are working to ensure that the remainder of the Board’s makeup includes leaders from other faith and moral traditions.
As we prepare Auburn to engage in long-term social change, we are excited that our Board is growing to govern the organization that we are becoming. I am excited to introduce three new leaders that we have welcomed to Auburn’s Board of Directors:
- Jennifer Jones Austin, Esq. is President and CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) and is one of New York’s most inspiring justice leaders whose work has enabled New York City to amend its governing Charter to include measures that foster racial equity including a values statement, an office, plan, and commission on racial equity, and a commitment to measuring the true cost of living.
- George Suttles is the executive director of the Commonfund whose work centers on endowments, foundations, and philanthropic organizations. He brings important experience in nonprofit governance, including fiduciary duty and stewardship, philanthropy, investment governance, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and values-aligned investing.
- Eric Ward is the executive vice president of Race Forward and a nationally recognized expert on the relationship between authoritarian movements, hate violence, and preserving inclusive democracy. He brings over three decades of leadership in community organizing and philanthropy, having worked with leaders from government, law enforcement, business, and civil rights groups to advance civil rights work.
I am grateful for the early conversations with many of you where you expressed such a deep love, respect, and hope for Auburn’s future. You asked the kinds of questions that required thoughtful re-engagement of our theory of change and re-imagining Auburn’s contributions to the long haul for a just world. I treasure all of those conversations. Thank you!
I hope that you will reach out to me with questions, suggestions, and connections; your continued partnership in Auburn’s work is essential!
Sending summertime peace and hope,
Rev. Dr. Emma Jordan-Simpson