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Nashotah House is again undergoing transition

Nashotah House is again undergoing transition
Nashotah has had 20 deans in its 175-year history

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
August 8, 2017

Nashotah House, the Anglo-Catholic Episcopal theological seminary in southern Wisconsin, is again undergoing a transition.

The 175-year-old theological seminary announced on August 7 that its current president and dean, the Very Rev. Steven Peay, was stepping aside to deal with some health issues which have been plaguing him recently and to recover from surgery.

"Fr. Peay notified the Board, late last week, that he had decided to step down as Dean and President, based upon a number of personal factors, including the need to concentrate on full recovery from a recent, non-life-threatening health issue and a desire to facilitate new leadership at The House," Nashotah's announcement said.

Concern was raised about six weeks ago when word leaked out that there was an apparent misunderstanding on disbursement of funds at the hands of Dean Peay concerning seminarians from Resurrection Episcopal Church in Sarasota, Florida.

That erroneous information was bogus but it did cause a stir and started rumors flying about misappropriation of funds.

"Redeemer gave Nashotah House a donation that was to be used for scholarships for Episcopal seminarians. Somehow that designation got lost and when we realized that we hadn't heard from any of the seminarians we were supposed to have helped, we contacted the Seminary, called it to their attention, and it was immediately rectified," explained Fr. Fred. Robinson, Redeemer's rector. "The Episcopal seminarians were given credit, and we immediately received letters of thanks."

"This is an excellent example of how a partial truth can be distorted into a very damaging accusation," the rector continued. "Someone at the seminary obviously heard something from someone and spread the rumor."

Bishop Daniel Martins (XI Springfield), who is Nashotah House chairman of the board of directors called the June dustup "scurrilous gossip."

Concerning Dean Peay's unexpected resignation Bishop Martins said, "Fr. Peay has provided extraordinary leadership to The House at a pivotal, and critical, moment in its history."

Steven Peay became Nashotah's dean and president during the fall of 2014 following the preplanned resignation of the late Bishop Edward Salmon (XIII South Carolina) who ultimately ran into trouble when in early 2014 he invited the Episcopal Presiding Bishop to preach at The House.

Katharine Jefferts Schori's invitation had immediate reaction. Bishop Jack Iker (IV Fort Worth) resigned as a Nashotah House trustee after 21 years of service and Bishop William Wantland (IV Eau Claire-retired) signaled that he "will not take part in any functions at Nashotah" nor continue "to give financial support to The House as long as the present administration [Bishop Salmon] remains."

"The timing of his (Bishop Salmon's) departure was planned from the inception of his tenure. The circumstances emanating from the visit of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to The House, while immensely unpleasant, in no way contributed to his decision to step down as Dean and return to his seat on the Board of Trustees (as it was styled at the time), Bishop Martins explained. " Fr. Peay was not hired to 'fix' any supposed damage caused by Bishop Salmon."

"He (Peay) has worked tirelessly over the course of the past two-and-a-half years to lead The House through a period of transition and institutional restructuring -- and he has done a magnificent job," Bishop Martins explained. "The Board is grateful for his ministry and service in leadership and is pleased that Fr. Peay will remain affiliated with the seminary in the days ahead."

While dean and president of The House, Fr. Peay was also Professor of Homiletics and Church History. Now he plans to stay on at Nashotah as the Research Professor of Homiletics but without the added responsibility and weight of the seminary's leadership. He finds it is time to move on and redirect his energies so he can regain his health. He feels that he has fulfilled his purpose as Nashotah dean and he leaves a list of accomplishments in his wake.

During Fr. Peay's tenure as Nashotah's president and dean he is credited "for leading The House through a critical period of restructuring and renewal." He also instituted a new institutional governance structure when the seminary switched from a trustees form of governance to a board of directors.

The out-going dean was also able to raise $7 million for the seminary's endowment fund making it the "single largest fundraising effort in the history of The House, and thus moved the institution closer to its goal of ensuring long-term financial viability."

As a traditional seminary, which trains priests for parish ministry, Nashotah House crosses denominational lines and is recognized as a theological seminary for The Episcopal Church (TEC); the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA); the Episcopal Missionary Church (EMC); and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).

Another accomplishment that Dean Peay can put under his belt is that in January the entire Nashotah House 345-acre campus was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Nashotah's Chapel of St. Mary the Virgin had already been listed on the NRHP in 1972.

Questions have been raised as to why Dean Peay was stepping down at this particular point in time. Was there anything untoward happening behind the scenes other than known health issues and a desire to lighten his load.

Bishop Martins emphatically replied, "The press release from Nashotah is the truth, and nothing but the truth. There is no falsehood in it."

"There was no conflict between him and the Board of Directors, or within the Board of Directors," he said explaining that Dean Peay's desire to step down doesn't point to any "bad guys" or "malefactors" within the seminary community nor is there is "scandal" or any "malfeasance" and "misfeasance" to be found. It is also reported that there is no animosity and rancor between Dean Peay and the board of directors.

In modern times Nashotah deans have inherently had short tenures and Dean Peay accomplished much in his short term. Reportedly the dean with the longest tenure in The House's 175 history is former Dean, Robert Munday, who was at Nashotah's helm for a decade from 2001-2011.

Stepping in as acting dean is to be Garwood P. Anderson, Ph.D. a layman who is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of New Testament Studies. He is to come on board on September 1, the week that the 2017 Fall term begins.

Dr. Anderson received his higher education from University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire in Wisconsin; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an Evangelical Free Church seminary in Illinois; and Marquette University, a Catholic Jesuit university in Milwaukee. He has been at Nashotah for 10 years joining the seminary's faculty while Dean Munday was still at The House. The incoming acting dean is also senior warden at Zion Episcopal Church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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