Uniting Pennsylvania Seminaries Choose Name, Launch Presidential Search

“United Lutheran Seminary sums up our vision of the future into which we believe God is calling us,” declared Bishop James Dunlop of Harrisburg, PA at the conclusion of two days of meetings held mid-August in Philadelphia.  The name of the consolidated school that will bring together the Lutheran Theological Seminaries at Gettysburg (LTSG) and Philadelphia (LTSP) was the unanimous choice of the governing bodies of two seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

During the special August 18-19 meetings of the boards and their appointed 12-member Transition Team, decisions were made to determine the path forward for the structure of the consolidation and to launch a presidential search for the consolidated school.

Dunlop, who chairs the Transition Team appointed by the boards of the two consolidating seminaries, continued: “With nearly 350 years of combined history, it’s time we joined together.  By mid-2017, we will be one school on two campuses.  In a time when so many forces in our world seek to divide, our coming together is a powerful witness to our Lord Jesus’ fervent prayer for his followers, ‘that they may all be one.’”

Original plans to consolidate the two existing schools by closing both and creating a new entity were modified at the counsel of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education. In order to preserve licensure and full accreditation, the Department advised that the new school adopt and adapt the existing corporate structure of one of the two schools and have the other join the new venture by closing and transferring its assets.  The boards reviewed multiple factors in adopting a plan forward including the schools’ current accreditation status, the complexity of the corporate structures at each school, the transferability of restricted endowments, and the desire to preserve the historical legacy of both schools by retaining the oldest charter. In order to strengthen the mission of the existing schools by creating United Lutheran Seminary hosted on two distinct campuses, the boards decided to use the corporate entity of the seminary in Gettysburg as the continuing educational corporation. The Gettysburg school will therefore adopt revised bylaws this fall, that create a new board of directors constituted by the synods of both supporting regions of the ELCA and additional members appointed by the ELCA’s Church Council. Degrees currently offered by both schools are expected to be retained, and all current students are guaranteed a pathway to complete their degrees without interruption.

During this meeting, both boards also affirmed the Transition Team’s recommendation to launch a search in early fall for the individual who will serve as the first president of the united school.  Both current presidents, the Revs. David Lose of Philadelphia and Michael Cooper-White of Gettysburg, have said they will not be candidates.  “The quest now begins for a leader who will join us in launching a premier seminary serving the church and the world of the 21st century,” stated the Rev. Elise Brown of New York City, who serves as the Transition Team’s vice chair.  Dunlop and Brown also announced that heading the presidential search committee will be the Rev. Charles Miller of New York City.  A graduate of Gettysburg, Miller has served in recent years as a key leader among trustees on the Philadelphia board.  Prior to his retirement, Miller was the ELCA’s Executive for Administration, responsible for overseeing daily operations of the church’s national and international work.  “In Charles Miller,” the two agreed, “we have a widely respected church leader with deep roots in both of these great schools of the church.”

The governing groups of both existing schools also affirmed broad parameters of curricular design efforts conducted over the summer by a faculty work group.  This new curricular structure is not a hybrid of the existing schools but a creative competency-based program that will integrate academic disciplines to yield outcomes needed for 21st century church leaders, rostered and lay. In addition, the boards gave significant attention to measures of transition support for existing faculty and staff members of the two schools.  It is expected the workforce of the combined school will be approximately two-thirds that of the current seminaries’ employees.  Board chairs Dr. James Lakso of LTSG and the Rev. John Richter of LTSP stated, “We want to do the best we can in supporting all our valued employees, including those whom the emerging unified school will be unable to retain.”

“Our goal all along has been to create a new venture in theological education that enabled us to better prepare leaders responsive to the challenges of the day in a way that is more affordable for students and more sustainable to the larger Church,” said Richter, “and we believe the decisions of the boards accomplish this goal.” Lakso added, “We are seeking the best possible launch for United Lutheran Seminary and both boards affirmed strong support for the use of both campuses and programs distinct to each school including the Urban Theological Institute and the Town and Country Church Institute.” Lose and Cooper-White shared their belief that the new school will strengthen the mission and embrace elements of the ethos and history of both schools.

In more immediate matters, the boards heard encouraging reports on fall enrollment at both schools, who celebrate significant increases in entering new students over the prior year.  Also noted is the trend of continuing strong donor support, a key to the recently announced commitment to award full tuition scholarships to all full-time, residential ELCA students while also significantly increasing aid to all other students.

The United Lutheran Seminary will remain in partnership with six other seminaries of the ELCA.  The ELCA Church Council needs to approve bylaw changes and ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will consult in the presidential search process.  Gettysburg was founded in 1826 and Philadelphia in 1864.

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For further information, contact the Rev. John Spangler, Executive Assistant for Communication and Planning  (jspangler@ltsg.edu) or visit the website  www.newschooloftheology.info

Additional Resources:

PDF version of this news release

Recommended “Pathway” Enabling Resolutions

Frequently Asked Questions about the Unified Seminary

Steering Committee Names Eight Work Groups to Plan for Proposed “New Venture in Theology & Leadership Formation”

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NST16-04
News  For Immediate Release

(February 17, 2106) In its February 12, 2016 meeting, the Steering Committee guiding the planning process for a common school of theology named the work groups that will be planning key features and processes

The Steering Committee, charged with oversight of the process of exploring all matters necessary to form a New School of Theological Education and Leadership Formation, will coordinate the work of the eight groups. The Steering cte is made up of ten members from the Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminary governance leaders, including the seminary presidents, board chairs, deans, one bishop from each of regions 7 and 8, and two additional board members.  It will act in partnership with the work groups to generate final recommendations for action by the seminary boards in April.

The group appointed members to the eight work groups that will explore various dimensions related to the new school’s creation and generate reports and recommendations in order that the current boards fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities.  Including faculty, staff and current and former “trustees” from both schools, these small work groups will convene multiple “stake-holders” to gain broad input in their explorations and formulation of implementing proposals.  The work groups are: (1) Educational Design and Curricular Development; (2) Employee Transition Support; (3) Enrollment, Student Support and Candidacy; (4) Governance and Administration; (5) Accreditation; (6) Advancement and External Relations; (7) Economic Vitality and Business Plan; and (8) Real Estate and Subsidiary Entities.

The work groups are listed below with the appointed members:

  1. Educational Design and Curricular Development: David Lose, Kristin Largen, Kiran Sebastian, Karyn Wiseman, Rick Carlson.
  2. Employee Transition Support: Michael Cooper-White, Elizabeth Meighan, Yvonne Curtis, Linda Thomas, Larry Webber, Emma Porter.
  3. Enrollment, Student Support, and Candidacy: David Lose, Lauren Muratore, Trina Johnsten, Heidi Rodrick-Schnaath, Nelson Rivera, Mark Oldenburg, Nancy Gable, Peggy Wuertele, Quintin Robertson.
  4. Governance and Administration: John Richter, Em Cole, Cheryl Williams, Charles Miller, Joe Ricci, (Jonathan Strandjord advising).
  5. Accreditation (including PA Dept. of Education): James Lakso, David Grafton, Marty Stevens.
  6. Advancement and External Relations: David Lose, John Spangler, Glenn Ludwig, Angela Zimmann, Dennis Trotter, Leslie Hobbs, Lois O’Rourke, Audrey Moody.
  7. Economic Vitality (Business Plan): Michael Cooper-White, John Heidgerd, Jennifer Byers, David Russell, Phil Harrington, Marty Stevens.
  8. Real Estate and Subsidiary Entities: Michael Cooper-White, Frank Leber, Em Cole, John Heidgerd, Paul Jann.

The work groups welcome input from all interested sources. Thoughts, ideas and comments may be shared through email to: contact@newschooloftheology.info .

 

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Steering Committee Meets, Clarifies Scope and Role, and Names Key Work Groups

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NST16-03
News  For Immediate Release

(February 17, 2106) The Steering Committee guiding the process commissioned by the boards of Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminaries met on Friday, February 12th at the Philadelphia campus.  In January each board took action declaring the intent to form “a new school of theology and leadership formation” that will build upon the rich legacies of the two schools.  The boards also charged their presidents and other officers “to take all necessary and appropriate steps” required to present final implementing recommendations at their April 2016 meetings.  Convened by the board chairs and presidents, the ten-member steering committee also includes both schools’ deans, one board member bishop from each region, and two additional trustees.

The Steering Committee clarified its role as being: To oversee the process of exploring all matters necessary to form a New School of Theological Education and Leadership Formation; coordinating and ensuring that the work groups achieve their mandates; and in partnership with them generating final recommendations for action by the seminary boards. 

As the Steering Committee convened, members engaged in a round-robin sharing of “what we’ve been hearing from our constituencies.”  The overwhelming response thus far, as gleaned from multiple individual and group conversations, email and social media traffic, alumni/ae and donor contacts has been positive and affirming.  Those expressing their strong support and encouragement for the venture include bishops from the two supporting regions and elsewhere, key churchwide partners, the other seminary presidents and deans, and officials of our accrediting agencies.  A primary concern voiced in all quarters is to guarantee compassionate transition support for both schools’ current employees, particularly those who may not be offered positions in the envisioned New School.

The group affirmed a decision by the chairs and presidents to appoint eight work groups, that will explore all dimensions related to the new school’s creation and generate reports and recommendations in order that the current boards fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities.  Including faculty, staff and current and former “trustees” from both schools, these small work groups will convene multiple “stake-holders” to gain broad input in their explorations and formulation of implementing proposals.  The work groups are: (1) Educational Design and Curricular Development; (2) Employee Transition Support; (3) Enrollment, Student Support and Candidacy; (4) Governance and Administration; (5) Accreditation; (6) Advancement and External Relations; (7) Economic Vitality and Business Plan; and (8) Real Estate and Subsidiary Entities.  [See separate story NST16-04 for work group rosters]

Anticipating information the boards will need in order to make decisions in April, the Steering Committee identified the following, which will be addressed by the work groups:

  1. Plan for current student continuity and transition
  2. Timeline for personnel decisions and employee transition support
  3. Business plan, including initial years’ enrollment and budget projections
  4. Transitional and permanent governance plans (board, president, faculty & staff)
  5. Legal matters: incorporation, transfer of assets, foundations, endowments etc.
  6. Alumni/ae, donor and constituent relations and loyalty retention
  7. Pursuit of grants, synodical and churchwide commitments for initial years

Before turning attention to the myriad details that must receive attention in the coming weeks, the Steering Committee engaged in generating a preliminary set of “visions and values” to guide the process.  The group stated its intent to guide the process with a commitment to: broad inclusiveness (involving as many persons and groups as possible); transparency (while honoring confidentiality in personnel matters); deliberately inviting diverse perspectives; building and strengthening relationships of trust; encouraging candor; re-examining long-held assumptions; maintaining, strengthening and expanding strategic partnerships; perpetuating the schools’ legacies and Lutheran heritage while embracing ecumenism and the wisdom of the global church.

Signaling its intent to ensure that the New School would be truly innovative, student-focused and attuned to the leadership needs of a rapidly changing church in a changing world, the Committee offered suggestions of what could become “markers” of that institution.  Among the suggestions that will be engaged and developed more fully by the work groups are: (1) Clarity of core mission as forming leaders in a climate of academic rigor and churchly identity; (2) A deep and abiding commitment to form holistic, justice-oriented public theologians and mission leaders; (3) A highly relational institutional “lifestyle,” within a web of multiple partnerships; (4) Striking a proper balance of accessibility (e.g. “delivery” on multiple sites, via distributed learning modes etc.) and residential formation-in-community; (5) Embracing competency-based pedagogical paradigms that enable enhanced student growth and also assist those responsible for ecclesiastical candidacy processes; (6) Cultivating and supporting an outstanding diverse faculty; (7) Developing curricula that are flexible, experiential and bring to bear the collective wisdom of congregations and other ministries in a wide variety of contexts; and (8) Ensuring affordability by budgeting to sustain the fully-funded tuition plan just announced by both schools for the coming year.

Turning its attention to preliminary consideration of several issues already being addressed, the Steering Committee developed plans to:

  • Engage legal counsel in matters related to property, incorporation and personnel
  • Consult further with accreditors and the Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • Develop a timeline with the goal of notifying current personnel 9-12 months in advance of faculty and staff configurations in the New School, as well as application and hiring processes
  • Determine ongoing leadership roles of current presidents and deans, and explore the possible desirability of engaging a Project Manager to coordinate many ongoing aspects of the work
  • Prepare to launch the process of incorporation, formation of a “founding board” and other urgent matters if the boards grant final approval in April.

The ten members of the Steering Committee are: Presidents David Lose and Michael Cooper-White; board chairs John Richter and James Lakso; Deans Kristin Largen and Jayakiran Sebastian; Bishops Traci Bartholomew and James Dunlop; Trustees Elise Brown and Frank Leber. See news release NST16-04 for the work group rosters.

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Gettysburg and Philadelphia Seminaries Offer Tuition-Free Education

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NST16-02
News  For Immediate Release

(February 11, 2016) The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG) today announced a dramatic increase in the amount of financial aid each school is giving students, including making full-tuition scholarships available to all new full-time, ELCA rostered leader candidates studying in residence. “In partnership with the ELCA, our supporting Synods, and many faithful congregations and individuals, we decided the time is right to make seminary education far more affordable for our students,” declared Presidents Michael Cooper-White (LTSG) and David Lose (LTSP). In addition to this generous offer for new students, the schools also expect to increase scholarships for all current full-time enrollees.

Moreover, the two schools have also committed to supporting all other students from any denomination enrolled at least half time in a first theological degree program by matching dollar-for-dollar all support made to students from sponsoring congregations and church bodies up to the amount of full tuition. “Our goal,” the presidents said, “is to make it possible for any student to receive a superior education tuition free.” This significant increase in financial aid comes as the first major initiative of the new school of theology and leadership formation the two schools plan to start. “By making more robust financial aid a central commitment of the new school,” the presidents continued, “we can build a new budget with that level of aid as the fixed commitment.”

“What is the total cost of attendance for graduates from West Point or the Naval Academy?” the presidents asked, and then answered, “Nothing. Because the graduates of those schools will pay back their education through at least five years of service to their country. Our students,” they continued, “will also repay the gift of their education through a lifetime of service to the church.” The goal, the presidents explained, is to create a more cooperative approach to theological education. “Students don’t simply pay for or earn their degrees,” they said, “they receive them as a gift of the church they will be serving. And congregations don’t merely sponsor ‘their’ student but are investing in the future leadership of the whole church.”

While this decision stems from the creative work to fashion a new school, each seminary will begin awarding these full-tuition and other scholarships immediately to students entering in the fall of 2016 as well as increasing aid to those eligible who are already studying at the school. “We’re not leaving anyone out,” the presidents said.

The presidents stressed that current and on-going gifts from congregations and individuals, as well as the support of synods and the ELCA, make this dramatic increase in aid possible. “We cannot do this alone,” they stated. “Our responsibility is to come up with an educational structure and budget that is efficient and responsible, and we are grateful for the support of so many faithful and generous people to make the dream of a fully-supported seminary education a reality.”

For more information on the new financial aid policy or to apply to one of the schools, please contact Nate Preisinger (LTSP) or Lauren Muratore (LTSG). To make a gift to either school to support candidates studying for ministry, please contact Dennis Trotter (LTSP) or Glenn Ludwig (LTSG), or visit the seminary websites (www.Ltsp.edu and www.Ltsg.edu).

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Pennsylvania Lutheran Seminaries Declare Intent to Form One School of Theology

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NTS16-01
News  For Immediate Release

Joint Press Release for New School Actions
Contact: John Spangler Jspangler@LTSG.edu; 717-338-3010

(January 13, 2016) In simultaneous meetings held on their respective campuses January 12-13, the boards of Gettysburg and Philadelphia Lutheran seminaries adopted identical resolutions calling for “the creation of a new school of theology and leadership formation.”  Both boards’ resolutions stated their actions were taken “in the conviction that God and the church are calling us into a new venture of theological education, with a mission of preparing faithful Christian leaders for the church and the world.”    The boards’ unanimous actions authorized the two schools’ presidents and other officers to take all necessary steps required prior to their April 2016 board meetings that would launch the process of creating a unified Lutheran seminary.

Founded in 1826, Gettysburg Seminary is the oldest Lutheran seminary in the Americas.  Widely renowned for its role in the great Civil War battle of Gettysburg, the school on Seminary Ridge opened an award-winning Seminary Ridge Museum in 2013.  Since its founding in 1864, Philadelphia likewise has played a pivotal role in American and Lutheran history.  Beginning more than 40 years ago, Philadelphia’s outreach to ecumenical partners, particularly historic African American churches, has created one of the most diverse learning environments that exists in 21st century theological education.

“From the moment we both felt the Spirit leading in this bold new direction,” declared Presidents David Lose and Michael Cooper-White (of Philadelphia and Gettysburg respectively), “it became clear that our proposal would not envision simply blending together two fine traditions and excellent institutions.  Rather, we believe God is calling us to do a new thing.  Mergers are created out of past realities; our vision is to embrace what God is beckoning from the future.”

“The heart of this plan,” the two presidents continued, “is the opportunity to engage the larger church in a conversation about what the church needs from a seminary today and then build that kind of seminary, not simply try to adapt existing institutions to a world very different from the one in which they were initially launched. We believe a new seminary will be among the leading institutions of theological education and leadership formation.”

The proposal developed by the two presidents was in response to prior actions by each board, taken within the larger context of a comprehensive review of theological education by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  Each board had asked that key leaders conduct explorations of options that will ensure the highest caliber of leadership preparation for future ministers and other church leaders.

As envisioned, the new Lutheran seminary will be “one school on two campuses with multiple points of access.”    Efforts already well under way at both schools to offer coordinated “distributed learning” opportunities (with courses available online as well as in short-term intensive formats) bode well for other areas of expanded collaboration that can occur even before the new school is launched.  The search for and selection of administrative leaders and faculty for the new school will be conducted by a founding board of directors, which will be constituted in accord with parameters established by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s governing documents.

The resolution adopted by both seminary boards authorized their officers to engage experts in matters related to finance, legal and property-related issues, and academic accreditation.  The presidents and board members committed themselves to conduct widespread conversations with constituent groups, their sponsoring church body, and the other six ELCA seminaries.  The resolution specifically refers to these key stakeholders and the importance of “gaining their wisdom as this exploratory process unfolds.”  The boards and administrative leaders also issued strong reassurances to current students at both schools that they will be able to complete their studies under current curricular requirements.   Many students and recent graduates already have experienced enhanced offerings as the two schools have expanded faculty sharing and offered reciprocal registration and library privileges in recent years.

“We will all pray fervently for God’s guidance as we move into a time of exciting change,” concluded Lose and Cooper-White.  “Sensing this truly is God’s and our church’s call for us at this moment, we are confident the pathway forward will be revealed as we move along in our journey of faith.”

Questions and press inquiries may be made to John Spangler, jspangler@LTSG.edu  Tel. 717.338.3010

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