News (Blog) Posts

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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