Non-profit

Auburn Seminary

Auburn Theological Seminary logo (link)
Website:

auburnseminary.org/

Location:

NEW YORK, NY

Tax ID:

15-0532053

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $6,504,733
Expenses: $7,288,129
Assets: $27,757,567

Auburn Seminary is a nondenominational religious seminary that is affiliated with the theologically liberal Presbyterian Church USA. It is tied to left-wing religious movements and left-of-center social justice advocacy. The seminary, unlike most other seminaries, does not offer undergraduate degrees or train pastors to minister to their flocks. Instead, it offers post-graduate education and training to promote left-of-center views. [1] One of the major initiatives is pushing restrictions political speech through support of more campaign finance laws and justifying them through religious arguments. [2]

The seminary has a senior fellows program that trains and provides support for left-wing commentators of numerous religious faiths. Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour, who departed the Women’s March amid controversy over suspected antisemitism, has been a senior fellow of Auburn Seminary. [3] The seminary has also used the senior fellows program to try and build a network of the “religious left” to counter conservative faith leaders and initiatives. Many senior fellows spoke at the first Women’s March in 2017. [4]

Among the left-of-center foundations that fund the seminary are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation. [5][6]

Overview

Auburn Seminary was founded in Auburn, New York in 1818. The seminary left the town of Auburn and relocated to the campus of Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1939. By 1950, Auburn had its own building on the Union Theological Seminary campus. The seminary is still affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA. [7]

The seminary is not a traditional seminary. It no longer confers divinity undergraduate degrees or any degrees of any kind. Instead, the seminary is more like a think tank in its operations in that it trains students on how to address issues of importance to the “religious left” such as student debt, inequality, social justice activism, inequality, and other left-of-center issues. [8] Among the left-of-center issues that the seminary supports is state recognition of same-sex marriages. [9]

In 2017, the seminary announced a partnership with the Hartley Film Foundation creating the Hartley Media Impact Initiative to promote films promoting “religious left” themes. [10]

In 2021, the seminary developed a report with the left-of-center think tank Center for American Progress that touched on the growth of the “religious left” movement. The report found that the “religious left” leaders were focused on issues such as civil rights. It found that these groups and leaders were involved in get out the vote (GOTV) efforts and voter registration drives. [11]

Campaigns Against Political Speech

In 2012, the seminary worked with the left-of-center group Free Speech for People on engaging faith leaders to support a constitutional amendment to restrict political speech. [12]

In 2014, the seminary hosted a discussion in its Applied Theology Series called “Lo$ing Faith In Democracy.” The discussion called for more restrictions on political speech through new campaign finance laws. The discussion was financed by the left-of-center Nathan Cummings Foundation, which has a history of supporting restrictions on political speech. [13]

In 2014, the seminary released a track also called “Lo$ing Faith In Democracy” which advocated for more restrictions on political speech. It criticized the current campaign finance system because it “does not take into account the needs of the poor.” [14]

Opposition to the Trump Administration

In 2017, many of the senior fellows program participants spoke at the Women’s March. The Women’s March was co-founded by Linda Sarsour, who was a senior fellow. [15] Also in 2017, the seminary reported an increase in donations and interests in activism. Other “religious left” organizations saw a similar increase in activism and donations. [16]

In 2020, the left-of-center gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign organized a letter that denounced the Trump administration for its use of religious symbols. The letter also denounced the Trump administration’s views on civil rights and racism, accusing the Trump administration of not doing enough to end violence against black people. The letter also accused then President Donald Trump of supporting white supremacy. Auburn Seminary leadership and some of its senior fellows signed the letter. [17]

Senior Fellows Program

The foundation of Auburn Seminary’s senior fellows program was first laid in 2012. The seminary created “FaithSource” which brought into the mainstream media left-of-center faith leaders. The program was designed to counter “religious right” leaders. [18]

The senior fellows program was launched in 2015 as a way to teach left-of-center leaders with executive coaching, media access and training, digital tools for storytelling, and the ability to network and collaborate with other fellows. [19]

The fellowship was funded by numerous individual and foundation donors with the largest donor being the Henry Luce Foundation. [20]

The original fellows were Rabbi Sharon Brous, Bishop Minerva Carcano, Sister Simone Campbell, Dr. Sharon Groves, Rev. Peter Heltzel, Valarie Kaur, Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, Jacqueline Lewis, Rev. Michael-Ray Matthews, Brian McLaren, Otis Moss III, Gene Robinson, and Linda Sarsour. [21]

One of the first examples of the senior fellows program members working together was when Sister Simone Campbell’s “Nuns on the Bus” campaign drove to protest the Republican National Convention in 2016, other senior fellows took part in the protest. [22]

The networking of the senior fellows program bore fruit when Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour needed speakers to speak onstage at the first Women’s March in 2017. Sarsour recruited several of the fellows to speak for her march. [23]

Among the current senior fellows are journalist Wajahat Ali, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), William Barber II, and Father James Martin. Most of the original fellows remain fellows with the seminary. [24]

Leadership

Katherine Henderson is the president of the seminary. She was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and as a child she marched in the civil rights marches. She earned her master’s degree at Union Theological Seminary and her doctorate from Columbia University. She is an ordained Presbyterian minister. She is the author of the book God’s Troublemakers: How Women of Faith Are Changing the World. [25]

Keisha E. McKenzie is the senior vice president for programs, which she has held since 2019. Previously, she was the director of digital strategy and managed the Groundswell Movement organizing community. Previously, she was the director of Believe Out Loud. [26]

Finances

According to the 2018 tax return, the seminary raised $7.8 million and spent $8.7 million. It has $27.8 million in assets. [27]

Its president Katherine Henderson made $240,582 in compensation for 35 hours of work a week. [28]

Among the grants that the seminary awarded was a $10,000 grant to Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is pastored by senior fellow and Democratic politician Raphael Warnock. The rest of the grants awarded went to churches. [29]

The seminary has had support from numerous foundations. Among the foundations that support the seminary are the Ford Foundation which awarded a $300,000 grant in 2015. [30] The Blaustein Philanthropic Group awarded a $50,000 grant in 2020. [31] The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $346,635 in 2020. [32] The Righteous Persons Foundation awarded $100,000 in 2020. [33] The Compton Foundation awarded $240,000 in 2020 and $275,000 in 2021. [34] The Nathan Cummings Foundation awarded $500,000 in 2020. [35]

References

  1.    Rossman, Ed. 2015. “Rossmann: What Does The Auburn Theological Seminary In New York City Do?”. Auburn Citizen. https://auburnpub.com/lifestyles/rossmann-what-does-the-auburn-theological-seminary-in-new-york-city-do/article_71f735ab-cfb9-5d11-b7e1-e16b3b2adc06.html. ^
  2.   Walker, Bruce. 2014. “‘Theological Study’ Masks Progressive Roots”. Acton Institute Powerblog. https://blog.acton.org/archives/70430-theological-study-masks-progressive-roots.html. ^
  3. Zauzmer, Julie. 2017. “People Are Looking For A ‘Religious Left.’ This Little-Known Network Of Clergy Has Been Organizing It”. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/04/26/people-are-looking-for-a-religious-left-this-little-known-network-of-clergy-has-been-organizing-it/. ^
  4. Zauzmer, Julie. 2017. “People Are Looking For A ‘Religious Left.’ This Little-Known Network Of Clergy Has Been Organizing It”. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/04/26/people-are-looking-for-a-religious-left-this-little-known-network-of-clergy-has-been-organizing-it/. ^
  5.   “Auburn Seminary”. 2021. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accessed June 7. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/committed-grants/2020/11/inv023889. ^
  6. Braun, Ken. 2018. “Ford Abandons Detroit: Forgetting Its Roots”. Capital Research Center. https://capitalresearch.org/article/ford-abandons-detroit-part-2/. ^
  7. Rossman, Ed. 2015. “Rossmann: What Does The Auburn Theological Seminary In New York City Do?”. Auburn Citizen. https://auburnpub.com/lifestyles/rossmann-what-does-the-auburn-theological-seminary-in-new-york-city-do/article_71f735ab-cfb9-5d11-b7e1-e16b3b2adc06.html. ^
  8. Rossman, Ed. 2015. “Rossmann: What Does The Auburn Theological Seminary In New York City Do?”. Auburn Citizen. https://auburnpub.com/lifestyles/rossmann-what-does-the-auburn-theological-seminary-in-new-york-city-do/article_71f735ab-cfb9-5d11-b7e1-e16b3b2adc06.html. ^
  9. “Shawnneidorf.Com » Auburn Theological Seminary”. 2021. Shawn Neidorf. Accessed June 7. http://shawnneidorf.com/tag/auburn-theological-seminary/. ^
  10.       “Auburn Seminary Announces Partnership With Hartley Film Foundation”. 2017. Auburn Seminary. https://auburnseminary.org/press/auburn-seminary-announces-partnership-hartley-film-foundation/. ^
  11. Siddiqi, Maggie, Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, and Carol Lautier. 2021. “The Pro-Democracy Faith Movement”. Center For American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/reports/2021/02/18/495952/pro-democracy-faith-movement/.    ^
  12. “Making Money & Politics An Issue Of Faith: A How-To Memo From Auburn Seminary And Free Speech For People”. 2013. Free Speech For People. https://freespeechforpeople.org/making-money-politics-an-issue-of-faith-a-how-to-memo-from-auburn-seminary-and-free-speech-for-people/. ^
  13. Walker, Bruce. 2014. “‘Theological Study’ Masks Progressive Roots”. Acton Institute Powerblog. https://blog.acton.org/archives/70430-theological-study-masks-progressive-roots.html. ^
  14. Overby, Peter. 2014. “Tract Issued By Theologians Takes On Money In Politics”. KNAU. https://www.knau.org/post/tract-issued-theologians-takes-money-politics. ^
  15. Zauzmer, Julie. 2017. “People Are Looking For A ‘Religious Left.’ This Little-Known Network Of Clergy Has Been Organizing It”. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/04/26/people-are-looking-for-a-religious-left-this-little-known-network-of-clergy-has-been-organizing-it/ . ^
  16. “How Trump Is Paving The Way For A Revival Of The ‘Religious Left’”. 2021. Sojourners. Accessed June 7. https://sojo.net/about-us/news/how-trump-paving-way-revival-religious-left. ^
  17. Roberts, Madeleine. 2020. “HRC And 100+ Faith Leaders Condemn Trump-Pence Administration”. Human Rights Campaign. https://www.hrc.org/news/hrc-and-100-faith-leaders-condemn-trumps-abuse-of-sacred-symbols. ^
  18. “Auburn Seminary Introduces “Faithsource” To Expand Diversity Of Religious Voices In Media”. 2012. PR Newswire. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/auburn-seminary-introduces-faithsource-to-expand-diversity-of-religious-voices-in-media-159078325.html. ^
  19. “Auburn Seminary Launches Nation’s First Multifaith Leadership Program For Justice: Auburn Senior Fellows”. 2015. Religion News Service. https://religionnews.com/2015/05/19/auburn-seminary-launches-nations-first-multifaith-leadership-program-for-justice-auburn-senior-fellows/. ^
  20. “Auburn Seminary Launches Nation’s First Multifaith Leadership Program For Justice: Auburn Senior Fellows”. 2015. Religion News Service. https://religionnews.com/2015/05/19/auburn-seminary-launches-nations-first-multifaith-leadership-program-for-justice-auburn-senior-fellows/. ^
  21. “Auburn Seminary Launches Nation’s First Multifaith Leadership Program For Justice: Auburn Senior Fellows”. 2015. Religion News Service. https://religionnews.com/2015/05/19/auburn-seminary-launches-nations-first-multifaith-leadership-program-for-justice-auburn-senior-fellows/. ^
  22. Zauzmer, Julie. 2017. “People Are Looking For A ‘Religious Left.’ This Little-Known Network Of Clergy Has Been Organizing It”. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/04/26/people-are-looking-for-a-religious-left-this-little-known-network-of-clergy-has-been-organizing-it/. ^
  23. Zauzmer, Julie. 2017. “People Are Looking For A ‘Religious Left.’ This Little-Known Network Of Clergy Has Been Organizing It”. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/04/26/people-are-looking-for-a-religious-left-this-little-known-network-of-clergy-has-been-organizing-it/. ^
  24. “Senior Fellows”. 2021. Auburn Seminary. Accessed June 7. https://auburnseminary.org/senior-fellows/. ^
  25. “Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson”. 2021. Auburn Seminary. Accessed June 7. https://auburnseminary.org/team/katharine-henderson/. ^
  26. “Dr. Keisha E. Mckenzie”. 2021. Auburn Seminary. Accessed June 7. https://auburnseminary.org/team/keisha-mckenzie/. ^
  27. Form 990. 2018. Ebook. Guidestar. https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2019/150/532/2019-150532053-202031959349302658-9.pdf?_gl=1*1wm2n12*_ga*MTcyOTQwMTk5OC4xNTczNDQ5NDky*_ga_0H865XH5JK*MTYyMzAzNzEwMC4yNi4xLjE2MjMwMzcxNDguMA..*_ga_5W8PXYYGBX*MTYyMzAzNzEwMC4yNi4xLjE2MjMwMzcxNDkuMA.. ^
  28. Form 990. 2018. Ebook. Guidestar. https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2019/150/532/2019-150532053-202031959349302658-9.pdf?_gl=1*1wm2n12*_ga*MTcyOTQwMTk5OC4xNTczNDQ5NDky*_ga_0H865XH5JK*MTYyMzAzNzEwMC4yNi4xLjE2MjMwMzcxNDguMA..*_ga_5W8PXYYGBX*MTYyMzAzNzEwMC4yNi4xLjE2MjMwMzcxNDkuMA.. ^
  29. Form 990. 2018. Ebook. Guidestar. https://pdf.guidestar.org/PDF_Images/2019/150/532/2019-150532053-202031959349302658-9.pdf?_gl=1*1wm2n12*_ga*MTcyOTQwMTk5OC4xNTczNDQ5NDky*_ga_0H865XH5JK*MTYyMzAzNzEwMC4yNi4xLjE2MjMwMzcxNDguMA..*_ga_5W8PXYYGBX*MTYyMzAzNzEwMC4yNi4xLjE2MjMwMzcxNDkuMA.. ^
  30. Braun, Ken. 2018. “Ford Abandons Detroit: Forgetting Its Roots”. Capital Research Center. https://capitalresearch.org/article/ford-abandons-detroit-part-2/. ^
  31. “Auburn Seminary”. 2021. Blaustein Philanthropic Group. Accessed June 7. https://blaufund.org/auburn-seminary/. ^
  32. “Auburn Seminary”. 2021. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accessed June 7. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/about/committed-grants/2020/11/inv023889. ^
  33. “Auburn Seminary”. 2021. Righteous Persons Foundation. Accessed June 7. https://www.righteouspersons.org/grant/auburn-seminary-2/. ^
  34. “Leadership Grant Highlights”. 2021. Compton Foundation. Accessed June 7. https://www.comptonfoundation.org/grants-awarded/grant-highlights/leadership-grant-highlights/. ^
  35. “Our Partners”. 2021. The Nathan Cummings Foundation. Accessed June 7. https://nathancummings.org/our-partners/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Abigail Disney
    Board Member
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1971

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Jul Form 990 $6,504,733 $7,288,129 $27,757,567 $464,230 N $4,875,591 $380,178 $492,950 $916,472
    2016 Jul Form 990 $4,755,836 $6,246,211 $27,566,872 $489,748 N $5,116,206 $229,419 $134,428 $838,053 PDF
    2015 Jul Form 990 $6,015,859 $5,975,824 $30,259,511 $1,136,968 N $5,214,161 $223,834 $169,394 $807,594
    2014 Jul Form 990 $5,520,620 $5,731,391 $31,052,327 $685,009 N $4,379,036 $223,295 $241,477 $785,187 PDF
    2013 Jul Form 990 $4,565,105 $6,453,112 $28,138,137 $619,118 N $3,593,495 $286,833 $306,578 $700,853 PDF
    2012 Jul Form 990 $2,829,146 $5,997,102 $28,172,977 $799,578 N $2,187,070 $241,058 $606,902 $513,768 PDF
    2011 Jul Form 990 $5,306,452 $4,931,497 $33,264,291 $673,645 N $4,738,649 $358,359 $579,842 $1,202,629 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Auburn Seminary

    475 RIVERSIDE DRIVE
    NEW YORK, NY 10115-0002