New School Implementing Resolution
In the conviction that God and the church are calling us into a new venture of theological education in the northeastern United States, with a mission of preparing faithful Christian leaders for the church and the world, the Board of Trustees of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP)/the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG) declares its intent to join with (LTSP)/(LTSG) in forming a new school of theology and leadership formation.
We hereby authorize the president and other officers, in partnership with their counterparts at LTSP/LTSG, to explore all necessary and appropriate steps outlined in “The Proposal for a New School of Theology and Leadership Formation.”
We commit ourselves to work with our counterparts at Gettysburg, our faculties and staffs, in sharing the vision with our multiple constituencies and gaining their wisdom in shaping a plan for the new school.
We express our gratitude for the responses of other ELCA seminaries to the report and recommendations of the Theological Education Advisory Council (TEAC) and Conference of Bishops; and invite their collaboration in helping us shape a curriculum and design that will advance the TEAC’s vision for an ELCA “common theological enterprise.”
We authorize the president to expend an initial sum of up to $50,000 (from unrestricted funds) in order to secure the necessary professional services, conduct constituent focus groups, and cover additional costs related to the initial preparatory phase of creating a new school of theology and leadership formation.
The Boards of Directors of both seminaries met on their respective campuses during simultaneous meetings on 13 JAN 2016 and adopted localized versions of the above resolution to create a new seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (a full communion partner of TEC) in the state of Pennsylvania. As are seminaries of every other denomination across the US and Canada, Lutheran seminaries are struggling to meet budgets and to attract and retain students. Both of the seminaries in PA have a long history, LTSG was founded in 1824 and played a role in the US Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg. It is the home of the award winning Seminary Ridge Museum. LTSP was founded in 1864 and has been influential in both Philadelphia and US history. It also has for the past 40 years developed a relationship with African American denominations to create a uniquely diverse learning environment among US seminaries. The plan is to create a new seminary with two campuses and not just a merger of the two existing seminaries. In anticipation of the questions that many will ask regarding the schools plans they have developed answers to six immediate questions.
A NEW SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY: SIX QUESTIONS (RECOGNIZING THERE ARE MANY MORE!)
1. Can you expand on the reasons for stating that creating a new school is a more compelling vision than “merger,” and how they are different?
We hear many in the church, including recent alumni/ae, stating that while they highly value seminary education/formation, it needs to change—radically rather than incrementally. A merger blends together two entities out of the past. Folks tend to immediately think in terms of “who wins and loses.” A new school calls all to lean into God’s call for the future and invites a creative reimagining of theological education.
2. What are the implications for current students? Might we risk some students transferring to other seminaries to avoid a complicated transition and time of uncertainty?
All current students will experience overarching continuity in earning their degrees. The experience from our two ELCA embedded schools suggests the likelihood of retaining students and even attracting adventuresome prospects eager to be part of something new.
3. Given the degree of disruption that is likely, how confident are you that the loyalty and support of alumni/ae, donors, synods and other key constituents can be held or even expanded?
We hope to count on lots of support from alumni and alumnae. That hope is based on experience from our two sister schools that have “embedded” in universities which suggests continuing loyalty. Maintaining both campuses is important not merely because of the historic ties to place, but because of their rich context for supporting the mission of education. And many will say, “This is long overdue!” We hope to gain new donors captivated by a compelling vision. Early responses already appear to demonstrate wide support for this decision.
4. How will we care for faculty and staff who are not employed by the new school? With the degree of uncertainty, won’t we risk losing key employees whose continuity is crucial for both existing schools and a smooth transition to the new?
One of the key work groups will address this as a priority matter. We will make every effort to offer compassionate transitional support. We can trust our colleagues to continue fulfilling their vocational callings for the sake of the gospel and our mission.
5. Who will lead the new school? How will a board be elected?
ELCA constitutional parameters for synodical and churchwide elections to seminary boards will be followed, although there may be new patterns proposed as well. Current presidents and deans are all committed to guarantee the new school an open future in selecting its new leadership, which will be elected by the new governing board. In the meantime, they will work to sustain strong momentum and provide continuity during the transition period.
6. What is next? What task forces/work groups would be appointed and by whom? How would the costs of the process be covered?
The board chairs, presidents and deans would appoint members in equal numbers from both schools. Given experience elsewhere (as summarized by In Trust materials on various types of consolidations), the following is a likely list of working groups that will seek to address all relevant matters and present reports at spring 2016 board meetings:
i. Governance and Administration
ii. Student Support, Enrollment & Accreditation
iii. Educational Design and Faculty Selection
iv. Advancement (Resource Development) and Communication
v. Economic Vitality & Employee Transition Support
vi. Real Estate and Subsidiary Entities