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Redevelopment of ATS Commission Standards and Procedures

Latest updates on the redevelopment process

The two-year redevelopment project has now completed its first year: “the year of listening, researching, and reflecting.” The Summer 2019 issue of Colloquy Online summarizes seven themes that have emerged from the membership through more than fifty focus groups, a dozen working groups, and more than a thousand member comments. The redevelopment task force is using that information, along with findings from the four-year Educational Models and Practices Project, to begin writing a new set of standards in this second year of “writing, revising, and recommending.”

Overview of the redevelopment process

Once a generation the ATS membership does a comprehensive redevelopment of its Standards and Procedures.  The last such major revision was in 1996 (the revisions in 2010-2012 were more modest), a generation after the previous redevelopment in 1972.  It seems timely then that the ATS membership voted at its June 2018 Biennial Meeting “to authorize the ATS Board of Commissioners to undertake a comprehensive redevelopment of the Standards of Accreditation and the Commission Policies and Procedures expeditiously and with a substantial participation process.”  The unanimous vote was based on a five-point rationale and was followed by a membership discussion of key questions and concerns.  The ATS Board of Commissioners appointed a 19-member Task Force to lead the redevelopment process.

Metaphor for the redevelopment process

While called a comprehensive redevelopment, the Board does not envision this process as “tearing down and rebuilding from scratch.” There is much in the current Standards (especially the opening paragraphs) that constitute—to continue the metaphor—a solid building that should remain essentially intact.  This redevelopment is viewed more as an opportunity to have serious conversations about how we might collectively strengthen our “foundation” (fundamental assumptions about accreditation and theological education) and focus on our “supporting walls” (key educational principles), while possibly eliminating other “non-supporting walls” (reducing/combining some standards) and removing some of the “furniture” (details about educational practices).

The goal is to provide “a strong structure with a few furnishings” that gives schools the freedom to “decorate their own rooms” as they see fit (e.g., various educational practices).  The Task Force envisions fewer rules and regulations, but strong framing principles that “promote the improvement and enhancement of theological schools to the benefit of communities of faith and the broader public” (ATS mission).

Membership involvement in the process

Two primary purposes for this site are to inform the membership of the Task Force’s progress and to invite the membership’s comments throughout this two-year process.  During the first year (2018-2019) “of listening, researching, and reflecting,” the Task Force engaged a wide variety of membership groups, with more than a thousand member comments.  During the second year (2019-2020) “of writing, revising, and recommending,” the Task Force has begun processing all the membership input and the findings from the Educational Models and Practices Project into writing a new set of Standards and Procedures. The first public draft will be distributed in early December 2019, and the second draft in mid-February 2020.  The second draft will be followed by a series of six regional meetings and two webinars to further inform the membership and to invite additional feedback before the Board makes its final recommendation for a revised set of Standards and Procedures in April 2020.  The revised documents will then be distributed to the membership in May 2020 for a vote at the June 2020 Biennial Meeting in Vancouver. After approval, the Board will provide a grandfathering process over the next year or two (with details to be provided before the final vote).

Contact information for the process

Anyone with suggestions, questions, or comments about the redevelopment process can email Redevelopment@ats.edu.  The Commission staff liaison for this process is Tom Tanner.  The chair of the Redevelopment Task Force is Sarah Drummond (Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School), and the vice chair is Oliver McMahan (Pentecostal Theological Seminary).


The Redevelopment Task Force held its first meeting in Denver at the conclusion of the ATS Centennial Biennial Meeting.