Top Ten Seminary Stories of 2012 at Gettysburg Seminary
Gettysburg Seminary President Michael Cooper-White issued the “Top Ten Stories” summarizing the most important news making events in the school’s 187th year.
“At the end of each calendar year,” said Cooper-White, “Seminary communications chief, Pr. John Spangler and I independently compile lists of what we consider the “top 10 LTSG stories” of the year, and then compare notes. Usually there’s an amazingly high degree of correlation between our lists; this year was no exception. In the end, the final selection is my personal “top 10” list, and here it is (not in order of relative importance):
[It should be noted that www.LivingLutheran.org named its profile "Called Through Love" of first year seminarian Joseph Graumann, one of its top 12 stories that would make one "proud to be a Lutheran." See http://www.livinglutheran.com/stories/the-power-of-community.html#.UM-PGXfzgm4. ]
1. Schmucker Hall Readied for Seminary Ridge Museum: For over a half century, Seminary leaders hoped to rehabilitate the Seminary’s venerable “Old Dorm.” In 2012, the dream was finally realized in partnership with the Adams County Historical Society, thereby readying the building for the installation of the Seminary Ridge Museum. Its Grand Opening mid-2013 is viewed as the capstone event of the 150th anniversary of the great Civil War battle.
2. Faculty Members Receive Accolades, Publish “Blockbusters”: Every member of the LTSG faculty is noteworthy. In 2012, two colleagues—Dean Robin Steinke and Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen—were recognized by Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union respectively with distinguished alumna awards. Multiple books authored by faculty were published during the year, including a biography by soon-to-retire Dr. Nelson Strobert of Daniel Alexander Payne, one of the Seminary’s most illustrious students in the 19th century.
3. Scholars of Abundance Bold Leap of Faith: In recognition of the growing financial burden incurred by seminarians, the Seminary announced a new scholarship strategy whereby all students receive the final phase of their study tuition-free. While past generous donors’ endowed gifts will cover much of the cost, the administration announced the new approach counting on additional gifts from the Seminary’s many supporters.
4. Crossroads Campaign Most Successful Ever, Current Budget Challenges Continue: With an original goal of $12 million, the comprehensive Crossroads Campaign raised a total in excess of $23 million for endowment, campus improvements, student scholarships and general operations. Nevertheless, since many of the larger pledges are “deferred gifts” that will come to fruition as donors’ estates are settled years or decades down the road, the Seminary remains challenged to balance the annual budget. Cost-saving measures include deferral in filling positions held by retiring faculty members, and expanded sharing with partner schools, notably Luther Seminary and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
5. Religion and Media Concentration Launched: Unique among schools of theological education, in partnership with Odyssey Network and Luther Seminary, LTSG has launched a series of courses and resources that will enable enrolled students and others to seize opportunities for ministry utilizing the wide array of social media and other technological tools now available.
6. Campus “Greening” Recognized Nationally: LTSG was one of only a handful of seminaries invited to become a charter member of “Blessed Earth,” an emerging coalition dedicated to environmental stewardship grounded in the Christian faith. Campus greening efforts begun some years ago gathered momentum as Schmucker Hall’s rehabilitation included all-geothermal heating and cooling measures, and the initial phase of an environmental friendly walking pathway (featuring both Seminary and Civil War history interpretation) was completed.
7. Admissions Staff Leads Eastern Cluster in Sustaining Project Connect: For more than a half-dozen years, LTSG has joined with Philadelphia and Southern Seminaries in sponsoring Project Connect, a vocational discernment movement aimed at college-aged young persons. In recognition that the project’s impact includes enrollment in seminaries of over 300 of those involved in various aspects, the Lilly Endowment recently announced a third grant to sustain key elements. LTSG’s Admissions Office staff led the three-school team in developing the proposal that successfully landed an additional $375,000 for the next phase.
8. Seminary Leaders Join Global Conversation on Future of Theological Education: Several years ago, the Seminary’s board appointed a “Futures Task Force” to help chart a course amidst the rapidly changing landscape in higher education and leadership formation. In the face of enrollment decline, the faculty has generated exciting plans to expand the Seminary’s outreach by means of several new “access zones.” Dean Steinke was asked to represent the seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at a Lutheran World Federation consultation in Germany on global future directions, and the president represented all eight ELCA schools at an all-Latin America similar session in Bogotá, Colombia.
9. Closer to Home, ELCA, WTC & ATS Landscape Changing: Within the larger global scene, some radical changes are occurring within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Washington Theological Consortium, and Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada. In 2012, our Eastern Cluster partner school, Southern Seminary, merged with Lenoir/Rhyne University; a similar move is afoot in California; and other sister seminaries are in various stages of assessing their long-term futures. A sister school in the WTC, the Washington Theological Union, has closed, and another partner is also merging with a Bible College. The ATS has changed it standards of accreditation to allow more flexibility in degree programs among member schools. As one ELCA bishop said recently, “There may be more change occurring in theological education than almost anywhere else in the Church.”
10. Students and Alumnae/i Changing the Church: Even more important than what may be happening on a seminary campus at any given time is the enduring impact in the Church and world made by its students and graduates. A pre-Christmas telephone call from one alumnus paid tribute to a current intern, whose ministry has reinvigorated a languishing small rural parish. Legion are the stories of how current students and LTSG graduates serving throughout the globe are truly changing the world. At the end of this and every year, that is, finally, what it’s all about!