Before the academic year concludes, this brief “Update” will offer a summary of additional steps taken and plans for the summer as progress continues toward the unification of Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminaries.
Following unanimous votes by both boards to continue toward the goal of launching a reconfigured, unified “New Venture” the summer of 2017, informational sessions were held on both campuses. A press release communicated the boards’ decisions and it has received some attention, including a follow-up report by the widely disseminated Religion News Service (RNS).
The ten-member Steering Committee met in Harrisburg on May 3. At that meeting, steps were taken that had been requested by both boards, including developing guidelines that will govern the work of a slightly larger (12-member) Transition Team, to be appointed in upcoming special meetings of the boards. That team’s responsibilities will include overseeing ongoing activities by the several Work Groups that have continuing tasks; developing a presidential job description and appointing a presidential search committee; determining the name of the unified school, and recommending to the existing boards (and ultimately a unified reconfigured board) a curriculum and resulting faculty configuration for the yet-to-be-named seminary. The Steering Committee also finalized draft bylaws that will be submitted for preliminary review by the PA Department of Education, our accreditors, and the ELCA Office of the Secretary, all of whom must “sign off” before a new entity is approved.
The Steering Committee expressed appreciation upon hearing that on both campuses students have agreed to serve on a Student Advisory Panel (names listed below), which likely will convene over the summer via the internet and for its first meeting in person early in the fall. The Committee also established dates for two joint summer board meetings, as had been requested by both boards. On July 15 both boards will gather on the Gettysburg campus, and on August 19 they will come together again at Philadelphia. The Steering Committee also took note of many expressions of encouragement being received, and of the ongoing widespread concern for the well-being of students, faculty, and staff, all of whom face a measure of uncertainty during a time of transition.
The Curriculum Development and Educational Design work group will be busy over the summer, digesting the input being received in many conversations where alumni, lay and rostered leaders, and others are offering input on what should be priorities in theological education and leadership formation moving forward. On June 14, members of both faculties and representatives of other ELCA seminaries will spend a day with Dr. Daniel Aleshire, Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools, who has a depth of experience and wisdom gleaned from the 250+ seminaries that form ATS. Faculty and staff work groups related to various elements of the curriculum will be formed and start their work over the summer as well.
A four-minute video has been prepared under the auspices of one of the work groups, to be offered at all the synod assemblies in the ELCA’s Regions 7 and 8 this spring. Key seminary leaders, including board members, will host informational forums in several of the synodical assemblies.
As additional information becomes available, reports and documents will be posted on the website: newschooloftheology.org.
Student Advisory Panel
Toshihiro “Toppo” Takamura