Dear Ones —
I’m writing to you with an update to our ongoing New Beginnings project; it relates to a recent action taken by the Starr King Board of Trustees concerning the school’s relationship with the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). The board has voted to withdraw from the GTU effective April 1, 2022.
This decision was a difficult one; there is a deep commitment at Starr King to what Ibrahim Baba named as “organic multireligiosity.” For many years, our membership in the GTU made this commitment easy to fulfill. Yet we had to face the reality that the cost of supporting consortial membership — $311,000 in the 2020-2021 school year alone — is frankly unsustainable. In addition, as much as our students value a multi-theological education, we also had to acknowledge that only a minority of our students take courses at other GTU schools; the total number of credits taken at the other schools amounts to only 20% of total credits taken by our students. These two pieces of information were important drivers of our decision. Yet we remain committed to finding less expensive ways to provide education in a variety of religious traditions and practices, so that our graduates are fully prepared to embrace the multi-religious realities of the 21st century.
I want to offer a special word to our students: In a year full of stress and change, I imagine that our decision may be yet another shock. Some of you may feel that your educational plans have materially changed. I want to ask that you allow this news to settle in, then let us know your thoughts. Please be sure to confer with your academic advisor about specific concerns related to your course of study. We want to be of help and support as you begin to navigate these changes. Remember: for the next two years, your use of the GTU Library and your ability to cross-register for other courses remains the same.
In the midst of so many changes at the school and in our world, I want you all to know that our commitment to counter-oppressive, multi-religious theological education is unwavering. In the next two years, we expect to build opportunities for study and practice with schools and communities of many faith traditions. As those opportunities develop, we will let you know. As always, we promise to be as transparent as possible, even when the news is not always what you hope. Please take good care, especially now.
The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President
Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley CA