Clipper Staff Writer
SALT LAKE CITY -- The effects of the Salt Lake Theological Seminary's current financial crisis stretch into Davis County, where faculty, staff, board members and students will suffer if the seminary closes.
"We have significant support from Davis County," said Dr. David Rowe, a Centerville resident who serves the seminary as an assistant professor of mission, ministry and Christian formation and dean of spiritual life. Not only are several faculty and board members Davis County residents, but a number of the seminary's students belong to Davis County congregations.
On Sunday, the seminary announced that if $500,000 isn't raised before the semester ends on May 12, "the future of the school may be in jeopardy," according to Dr. Don McCullough, the seminary's president.
While fundraising efforts are already underway, the formal announcement came during a press conference at the seminary, 699 E. South Temple, where speakers mentioned the unique mission of the only theological seminary in the area. Prior to the seminary, those wanting an advanced theological degree had to go to Denver, California or Phoenix.
"The seminary pulls from Davis, Weber and Utah counties in addition to Salt Lake County," said Christine Humphrey, a Layton resident, who serves as the board's treasurer.
During the press conference, McCullough said seminary officials signed the papers for the building on Sept. 10, 2001, "and we all know what happened on Sept. 11."
From that point, charitable giving dropped, especially at a foundation level. "It never has rebounded and we now find ourselves in a financial crisis," McCullough said.
The school has accumulated a debt of $300,000 and faces a $20,000 monthly shortfall. That is even with some faculty and staff deferring their wages. So, on March 22, the seminary launched the special campaign to relieve its debt.
Since that kick-off the fundraising campaign has raised $80,000.
McCullough said the fact the faculty and staff have gone without pay, "is a sign of commitment on their part. I'm deeply moved by their sacrificial spirit."
McCullough called SLTS "a real rarity for a community like ours." Not only is it the only Protestant seminary in the state -- "no small thing to establish on the small population base of Utah," it also promotes a religious diversity, with a number of denominations working and learning together. Speaking at the press conference, community advocate Pamela Atkinson called the seminary, "a jewel in the community."
Students come not only from Protestant backgrounds, but Catholic and Orthodox as well.
Religious and community leaders lending their support include Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Dan John, the diocesan director of religious education for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the Rev. Michael Imperiale, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City, the Most Rev. George Niederauer, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, Dr. Clifton Sanders, dean of the school of science, engineering and mathematics at Salt Lake Community College, the Rev. France Davis, pastor of Salt Lake City's Calvary Baptist Church and others.
The seminary not only trains clergy, but lay leaders and those who seek a deeper spiritual life.
While McCullough said that raising tuition is always an option, tuition pays only about 20 percent of the cost of an education. The rest comes from donations.
SLTS opened in 1984 as the Utah Institute for Biblical Studies. The school achieved seminary status in 1998.