News (Blog) Posts

Unified Seminary Steering Committee May Update

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

LTSG
Kelsey Fitting-Snyder
Greg Hartman
Tamika Jancewicz
Amanda McCaffery
Erika Tobin
Melissa Woeppel

LTSP
Lawrence Claiborne
Claire Cvetkovski
Justin Lingenfelter
Michael Nailor
DeAndra Richardson
Toshihiro “Toppo” Takamura
Rebecca Wicker

Gettysburg and Philadelphia Boards Vote to Continue Path Toward Unified Seminary

LTSG-LTSP16-07

Two Pennsylvania Lutheran seminaries resolved to stay on a path that would lead to one theological seminary on two campuses after governing boards acted during their April meetings.

The decisions came following their own declarations to form one school at their respective January 2016 meetings and a period of due diligence by joint work groups in February and March. Each board unanimously favored “the conviction that faithfulness to our mission of theological education and leadership formation, for the sake of the world and Christ’s Church, can best be served thereby in the future” by forming one seminary from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG) and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP). The decisions committed the two schools to continue in a process to create one seminary in the two historic locations. The Boards acted on the judgment that since their respective January meetings, the working groups and legal and educational consultants have not uncovered any issues that would prohibit the Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminaries from moving forward on a path to form one school.

Over several years, the two schools have been increasing collaboration among faculty and staff in ways that revealed a stronger pull to combine their strengths. “While economic and enrollment pressures have been part of the picture,” said Kristin Johnston Largen, Dean of LTSG,  “there is a growing pull to create a learning environment across the two campuses that is stronger than either school could maintain on its own.” While both schools have enjoyed superior reputations for faculty pedagogy and creative curricula, Gettysburg brings, historic ties to American religious and social history, and a leading role in teaching and practicing environmental stewardship in the same way that Philadelphia brings urban experiences, additional diversity of a leading metropolitan city, and an enriched ecumenical mix to a united school.

The specific structural decisions and exact shape of the reconfigured seminary remain yet to be determined as the two schools continue to explore the most viable pathway to create one seminary on two campuses. The Board, acting two weeks apart, also expressed “gratitude to all members of both schools’ governance bodies, faculties, staffs and students who are contributing their expertise and wisdom through the work groups, Steering Committee and in other ways .” Reports from a ten-member Steering Committee that guided the initial exploratory process point to an overwhelmingly positive response within the broad constituencies of both schools. Expressing unanimous support for the new venture were all 15 bishops of the synods in the northeast that support the two schools.

After reviewing reports from the Steering Committee established in January and the eight work groups that engaged in due diligence in their respective assigned areas, the boards consulted with educational counsel and met with both seminary presidents ̶ LTSP President David Lose and LTSG President Michael Cooper-White ̶ in special sessions during their respective meetings.

Dr. James Lakso, who chairs the LTSG board, met with the Gettysburg Seminary community gathering following the board sessions said that “we are ready to move  forward, even as we don’t know all the details yet.” In keeping with the proposed timetable, the boards also agreed to a process creating a “Transition Team” to make key decisions in the process before a formal board is in place for the new venture. This Transition Team will be selected by the two schools later this year and oversee the continued project to create the conjoined school. Lakso and LTSP board chair John Richter also announced intentions for the boards to hold joint meetings later in the year.

The movement to create one seminary from the two stems from  multiple studies of theological education in the two schools’ affiliate church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), citing the need for the theological schools to become more sustainable, affordable, and creatively accessible to more students as leadership needs for the Lutheran and other church bodies grows in the next decade.

In conversations with faculty, staff and students, LTSG President Cooper-White and Dean Largen  addressed questions about curriculum and learning continuity in the transition, and invited community input in ways to support faculty, staff and students in the upcoming months. When asked what excites him about the proposed new venture, the president pointed to the opportunity to reshape curricula to be even more relevant to current leadership needs, expanded opportunities for more persons to attend seminary with more generous scholarships, and a more diverse community spanning the two unique and historic campuses. Similarly, LTSP President David Lose, at an all-community meeting following the LTSP Board meeting, stressed that the decisions the Boards were taking would position the unified school not only for greater financial strength but also for growth. “As a result of this new venture, we have committed to making tuition-free education available to all students. This is something neither school could do alone.”

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Founded over 150 years ago, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, seeks to educate and form public leaders who are committed to developing and nurturing individual believers and communities of faith for engagement in the world. It offers degree and advanced-degree programs, and certificate programs, as well as Lifelong Learning offerings, and is launching its new and flexible Distributed Learning Master of Divinity pathway the fall of 2016. Contact us online at Ltsp.edu, call 215.248.7302, or email admissions@Ltsp.edu for more information.

Founded in 1826, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, the oldest of the eight seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, preparing women and men to be outreach oriented public theologians and mission leaders. As a graduate and professional theological school, it provides degree and non-degree programs, continuing studies, and specialized educational opportunities for informed lay persons, ordained ministers and other rostered leaders, and high school youth. More information is available at the Seminary’s web site: www.LTSG.edu , by email at info@LTSG.edu, or by calling 717.338-3000.

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Text of Resolutions

In the conviction that faithfulness to our mission of theological education and leadership formation, for the sake of the world and Christ’s Church, can best be served thereby in the future, the board of the (Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg/The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia) commits to continue in the process leading toward a form of unification with (The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia/Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg). The Board looks forward to taking all additional necessary steps as the most viable pathway is determined by legal counsel and our officers, in consultation with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, our accreditors, and ELCA churchwide “sponsors.”

The Board also expresses gratitude to all members of both schools’ governance bodies, faculties, staffs and students who are contributing their expertise and wisdom through the work groups, Steering Committee and in other ways.

We request that the president and board chair work with their Philadelphia counterparts to recommend to the board members of a Transition Team and a proposal stipulating its duties, responsibilities and  accountabilities.

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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