Several members have asked me regarding what is happening between the seminaries here in Philly and in Gettysburg. As an Alumnus, I do get periodic updates and although I don’t tell you about each and every one, this one is of considerable interest.
Uniting Pennsylvania Seminaries Choose Name,
Launch Presidential Search
August 24, 2016
The Launch of a New Seminary
At the recent August 18-19 meetings of the Gettysburg and Philadelphia Seminary boards, which included the jointly appointed 12-member Transition Team, the group received positive news regarding fundraising for the fiscal year just completed and encouraging enrollment projections for the coming academic year as they prepared to make decisions regarding the New Venture. At the conclusion of their meetings, they had selected a name for the newly formed seminary, determined a formal pathway forward to unify the two schools, and launched a presidential search process.
United Lutheran Seminary was the unanimously chosen name for the unified school. “United Lutheran Seminary sums up our vision of the future into which we believe God is calling us,” declared Bishop James Dunlop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod. The name was selected from a list of many suggested by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and board members.
A Pathway Forward to Unify the Seminaries
Original plans to consolidate the two existing schools by closing both and creating a new entity were modified based upon 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 a new venture in theological education hosted on two distinct campuses, the boards decided to adopt the corporate entity of the seminary in Gettysburg.
The Gettysburg school will therefore modify and rename its corporate entity to create United Lutheran Seminary and to transfer the assets of LTSP to this new school. Through the revision of Gettysburg’s bylaws a new board will be created from the synods of both Regions 7 and 8 of the ELCA and additional members appointed by the ELCA’s Church Council. It will also change its name to United Lutheran Seminary and call a new president to lead the new school hosted on two campuses.
Presidential Search to be Launched
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 Rev. Elise Brown of New York City, who serves as the Transition Team’s vice chair, stated, “The quest now begins for a leader who will join us in launching a premier seminary serving the church and the world of the twenty-first century.” 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 Seminary, 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. The ELCA Church Council needs to approve bylaw changes and ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will consult in the presidential search process.
Curriculum, Faculty, and Staff
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 establishes a creative competency-based program that will integrate academic disciplines to yield outcomes needed for twenty-first century church leaders, rostered and lay. Classes will continue to be taught on both campuses, all degrees currently offered by both schools are expected to be retained, and all current and new students enrolling this year are guaranteed a pathway to complete their degrees without interruption.
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,” declared 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.”
More Information Posted Today
A full news release about the decisions coming from this recent set of meetings, including the full text on the structural pathway forward and a new set of FAQ’s, will be posted on the website http://ift.tt/2bWwbPb today at 3:00 pm.