Friday, December 21, 2012

Donald G. Johnson appointed LTSP Vice President of Student Development

Donald G. Johnson of Freedom, NH, an expert in motivating young people to determine their vocational direction through faith and theological discernment, has been named Vice President of Student Development at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP). He begins his work early next year.

Don JohnsonIn his new post, Johnson will be responsible for managing Admissions Department activities within the seminary's Enrollment Services program. Johnson will also work with staff of the LTSP Foundation to solicit major gifts from individuals and organizations in support of student scholarships. In directing the seminary's Admissions outreach, Johnson will oversee a strategy for visiting and maintaining contact with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) colleges, campus ministry, and outdoor ministry locations. He'll collaborate with a network of LTSP admissions contacts within various additional programs or denominations, such as the seminary's Urban Theological Institute, initiatives concerned with Latino and Asian outreach, and the United Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, and Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denominations.

For the past seven years, Johnson has directed Project Connect of the Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries, assisting more than 1,000 young people to explore the possibility of seminary education. Of these, 331 have enrolled in seminary or divinity school. Among other Project Connect endeavors, he led discernment retreats through which 93 of 491 participants have decided to enroll in seminary. He thus transformed the initiative from a simple idea to a program with name recognition and energy across 21 synods (Lutheran jurisdictions) of the ELCA.

Prior to taking on Project Connect, Johnson served for 35 years as Executive Director of Calumet Lutheran Camp and Conference Center, West Ossipee, NH, and the President and CEO of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of New England. Under Johnson's leadership, Calumet grew over the years from a summer camp for children into a thriving, year-round center involving 15,000 persons of all ages each year. Johnson is a rostered ELCA leader, bearing the title of Associate in Ministry. He has been a certified camp director since 1978, and is currently vice-chair of the Board of Directors for the Green Mountain Conservation Group. Johnson is a member of Lutheran Church of the Nativity, North Conway, NH.

"We have the finest team imaginable with Don as part of our team," said LTSP President the Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey in making the announcement. "With his plan to develop a Seminarian Sponsor Program so that seminarians will be funded by individual and organizational sponsors, we will be able to help students manage their debt load, which is a missional issue for the church."

"I see this new challenge as an opportunity to build upon my experience in developing leaders for the church of today and tomorrow," Johnson says. "I have a passion for promoting a strong 'culture of call' for talented young people who see their faith and talents as resources for making a difference. LTSP is the best place for me to be right now to make the kind of difference I believe God has empowered me to make." 

Johnson and his wife, Janet, are parents of two adult daughters, Heather Beth Johnson-McCormick and Kristina Lynn Johnson-Maksimowicz. The couple has four grandchildren.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Arvid E. Anderson 1923-2012; STM Graduate

Arvid E. Anderson

Pastor Arvid Anderson died at home on October 29, 2012. He was born and raised on a dairy farm in northern Wisconsin. He graduated from Augustana Seminary in 1949, and earned his STM degree from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, where he was a Teaching Fellow in Greek. He was ordained in 1950 in Washington, DC. He was pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Waterford, Michigan from 1950-1961.

He was called to the staff of the Board of Parish Education of the Lutheran Church in America, a predecessor body of the current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA),  and served until 1977. He traveled throughout the church during the introduction of a new Parish Education Curriculum. He served as a consultant for the Lutheran World Federation in curriculum development in South Africa, Tanzania,
and Liberia.

In 1977 he was called to serve as Pastor at Salem Lutheran Church, in Ironwood, Michigan, where his first wife died of cancer. He was called to the Division for Parish Services of the ELCA, and became director the Department for Research. He was the author of "The Inescapable Presence, Reflections on the Book of Psalms as a Guide for Our Faith Journey." Following his retirement in 1988, he and his second wife, Nancy, served as chaplains at the Mary J. Drexel Home in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. He is survived by his wife, three children including LTSP alumna the Rev. Ellen Anderson, and six grandchildren.

The funeral will be on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, Ambler, PA. Greeting Time 10-11 am, Service 11 am, followed by a Reception at 1 pm. Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations to ELCA World Hunger, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764 or Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, Built to Serve Program, 411 Susquehanna Road, Ambler, PA 19002, 

A message to LTSP alumni and friends about Hurricane Sandy

A message to LTSP alumni and friends:

The LTSP community offers prayers and support to all those who have suffered because of and been affected by Hurricane Sandy, and is grateful our campus sustained minimal damage. 

If you would like to help, we encourage you to visit ELCA Disaster Response at Photo from ELCA Disaster Response.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Rev. Louise Johnson appointed Vice President for Mission Advancement

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) is pleased to announce the appointment of the Rev. Louise Johnson as Vice President for Mission Advancement, effective October 1, 2012.

This new position brings together the responsibilities of Alumni Relations and Church Relations, and adds the important new area of Institutional Assessment. In this function, Pr. Johnson will be responsible for assessing progress toward the seminary’s strategic goals, and reporting that information to the seminary’s faculty, staff, Boards, and other LTSP stakeholders. Pr. Johnson will work together with Pr. John Puotinen, Executive Director, and the Foundation staff in planning and carrying out strategies to meet the goals of the three areas of responsibility.

Pr. Johnson has served LTSP since June, 2004, first as Associate Director, and then as Director of Admissions. Under her leadership the Admissions Department has been recognized for exceptional achievement among its peers, and demonstrates a passion for helping women and men as they discern their call to public ministry.

Previous to her work at LTSP, Louise served as a parish pastor, and then on the staff at Wartburg Seminary in the areas of admissions, pastoral care, community life, and continuing education.

Pr. Johnson’s new office will be in the Hagan Building, Room 121. Her new phone extension and email address will be publicized as those transitions are completed.

Please join us in welcoming Pr. Johnson to her new role in service to the seminary and in a new opportunity in ministry.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Memorial Service October 30 for Prof. Andrew "Jack" White

A memorial service for The Rev. Dr. Andrew J. White, a service-minded activist who profoundly lived out his 30-year career of teaching practical theology at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), is scheduled for Tuesday, October 30, 2012 in the Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel on the LTSP campus, 7301 Germantown Avenue in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. The service begins at 6 pm, with LTSP professor Katie Day preaching, and a reception following. The public is invited to celebrate Dr. White’s many contributions to the community and the wider world, as well as to the seminary and church.

Emeritus Professor
"Jack" White on campus
in 2005
Dr. White died Sunday, May 6, 2012 in Chambersburg, PA, where he lived in retirement. He was 79. White, known to colleagues and friends as "Jack," retired from LTSP in 1997. He had held the Peter Paul and Elizabeth Hagan Professor Chair of Practical Theology for 14 years, and had served as secretary of the faculty for three years. From 1983 until his retirement, he was director of Contextual Education (field work) at the school, and directed the seminary's Graduate School (Advanced-Level Degree Programs) from 1991 until he retired. During his seminary career, White served four years (1978-82) as Executive Director of the Council for Lutheran Theological Education in the Northeast (CLTEN), which coupled the Philadelphia and Gettysburg seminaries with 11 regional synods and districts of two national Lutheran church bodies of that time, the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church, predecessor bodies of the current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). For many years, White also edited Parish Practice Notebook, a publication that sought to convey to alumni and other church leaders fresh ideas in connection with successful congregational ministry.

What especially distinguished White was how his teaching of theology was reflected in his lifestyle, engaging himself in a wide variety of community service endeavors. Such interests were evident early in his career. He served two congregations before becoming a professor - Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cicero, IN, and Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Cleveland, OH. While in East Cleveland he also chaired that city's Human Relations Committee (1962-65).

"Jack White had remarkable energy and a real vision for where he thought the church should go," recalls the Rev. Dr. LeRoy Aden, a colleague of White's who retired as the Luther D. Reed Professor of Practical Theology after 27 years at the seminary. "Many of us on the faculty were teaching in more theoretical areas. Jack had a real focus on the practical side of ministry in the world, particularly social ministry and the urban church. He was not a traditional thinker, but was sometimes viewed as something of a vagabond. He could be really assertive. He was not much into the usual way of doing things."

Aden said even though his late wife, Miriam Eileen Recker White, was not in the best of health during their retirement years at Luther Ridge Retirement Community in Chambersburg, they maintained active lives, traveling overseas as active supporters of global ministry in South Africa and Germany. The Whites spent a year in Slovakia in retirement while White taught at Bratislava Seminary there. In 1998, White was an international observer of the Parliamentary elections in Slovakia representing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Prof. White in 1997
Joining the LTSP faculty in 1967, White became vigorously active on the civic scene while a resident of Philadelphia's East Mount Airy neighborhood. He served on the Board of East Mount Airy Neighbors (EMAN) from 1968 to 1974 and from 1976 to 1979. He served four years on the Board of Philadelphia's Haverford Community Center (1968-72). From 1972 to 1978, White was on the Democratic Ward Executive Committee and was frequently its vice-chair. From 1971 to 1978, he was vice-chair of the Board for EMAN Group Homes, which served individuals with developmental delays, focusing on personnel and fundraising. Beginning in 1981, White served until 1997 as secretary for the Board of the Mt. Airy Village Development Corp. For 11 years White chaired the Board of Lutheran Retirement Homes (Paul's Run), a social ministry organization of the church located in Northeast Philadelphia (1977-1988).

He continued that vigorous service in retirement in Central Pennsylvania. White served as a member of the Ethics Committee and as an on-call chaplain for Chambersburg Hospital. He was vice-chair for the Board of Lutheran Home Care and Hospice in the area, and a tutor for the Harrisburg area's Scotland School for Veterans Children, originally founded to serve the children of Civil War veterans, which closed in 2009. He was a board member of the Auxiliary of Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania and former president of the Franklin-Fulton Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

A 1954 Wittenberg University graduate, he earned his Master of Divinity in 1957 from Hamma School of Theology, a predecessor school for today's Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH. Trinity named him its distinguished alumnus in 1986. He earned his PhD from Case Western Reserve University in 1969, focusing his thesis on the areas of political science and community organization. He earned the Master of Theology from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN.

In Philadelphia, the Whites belonged to Reformation Lutheran Church in East Mount Airy. He served on a committee assigned to call a pastor, as assistant scoutmaster, as a member of the congregation's finance committee, and its choir. For several years he served the Board of the Northwest Philadelphia Lutheran Parish, a collaborative organization of Lutheran congregations.

White was also involved in activities of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. He served on a task force on Ministry of the Laity and on a committee evaluating chaplaincy services. National church activities included service on a commission to study the nature and mission of the congregation, and in 1990 inSouth Africa as a volunteer missionary.

After his wife died early last year, White remarried. His widow, Phyllis Ann Akers White, survives. Also surviving are four children, Mary Sue Burns of Marlinton, WVA; Daniel of Atlanta, GA; John of Houston, TX, and James of Huntingdon, PA; five grandchildren, Jesse and Jonathan Burns, Sara May, Shelby T. and Joanna M. White; and a sister, Dorothy Jean Robinson of Ormond Beach, FL. Two stepchildren survive: Kathryn Perbetzky of Philadelphia and George Akers of Gettysburg, PA.

A memorial service was also held May 10, at St. Luke Lutheran Church on the Luther Ridge Retirement Community campus, where White was a member. In lieu of flowers, gifts are invited for Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania, 1050 Pennsylvania Avenue, York, PA 17404, or The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Philadelphia and Gettysburg Seminaries Collaborate on Contextual and Clinical Education

Pennsylvania's two Lutheran seminaries are expanding their collaboration in the preparation and formation of church leaders. Announcements in early September at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG) and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) conveyed decisions by leaders of the two schools to jointly administer key aspects of their field education programs.

These additional dimensions of partnering build upon successful collaborative work and joint ventures, which have also included the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) in Columbia, South Carolina. The three Lutheran schools in the eastern United States organized and incorporated the Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries (ECLS) fifteen years ago. Through the Cluster, the schools merged their electronic library catalogues, making available to students, professors, and other users the vast combined resource collections. The ECLS has also sponsored Project Connect, a vocational discernment and seminary recruitment effort aimed at college students, which has encouraged hundreds of young persons to consider ministry as they contemplate future occupations and life pathways.

Dr. Richard Carlson, Professor of Biblical Studies at LTSG, who already directs parish internship placement and oversight at Gettysburg, will assume the same work for LTSP students. Dr. Leonard Hummel, LTSG's Professor of Pastoral Theology, will coordinate Clinical Pastoral Education programs for both schools. Dr. Charles Leonard, who has conducted all aspects of field education at Philadelphia for fifteen years, will continue as LTSP's Director of Contextual Education. Leonard, who is a professor in the area of Practical Theology, specializing in urban ministry, will also expand his classroom teaching and mentoring of students preparing for pastoral service in congregations and other settings.

In a joint statement, the two seminaries' presidents, Philip Krey of Philadelphia and Michael Cooper-White of Gettysburg, shared their enthusiasm for this new shared faculty and administrative arrangement: "This is a very positive development for both schools' students. Bringing under one umbrella the vast network of congregations and clinical settings where our students are mentored in the pastoral arts and practical engagement expands their access to some of the churches' finest ministry practitioners. In our own era as seminarians, the two schools worked together in these areas. Renewing that proven pattern for today's students brings us a special measure of satisfaction. This approach may become a model for other seminaries seeking ways to enhance their students' formation and also realize cost-saving efficiencies that become more critical in these challenging times."

___________________________________ For more information, contact Merri Brown at Philadelphia or John Spangler at Gettysburg.

released September 13, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

LTSP's Urban Theological Institute celebrates 32nd Anniversary September 25

For Immediate Release
For more information please contact:
Merri Brown, Seminary Communications,, 215-248-6323

LTSP's Urban Theological Institute celebrates 32nd Anniversary September 25

The Rev. Dr. J. Wendell Mapson, Jr, pastor of Monumental Baptist Church, Philadelphia, is the guest lecturer and preacher on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 as The Urban Theological Institute of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia celebrates the 32nd anniversary of its founding. Dr. Mapson will present the Anniversary Lecture at 11:15 am in Benbow Hall, The Brossman Center, on the seminary campus at 7301 Germantown Avenue, Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. His sermon will be given at the Anniversary Worship Celebration at 7 pm at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, 2800 W. Cheltenham Avenue, Philadelphia. Both the lecture and worship are open to the public, and offering proceeds will benefit the seminary's Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Sr., Chair in African American Studies.

Dr. Mapson is Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. Also, he has taught at the Palmer Theological Seminary and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and is former President of the Baptist Ministers' Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity. He and the congregation of Monumental Baptist Church are celebrating their 25th anniversary of ministry as pastor and people in November.

For 32 years, The Urban Theological Institute (UTI) of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia has been dedicated to providing theological education to church leaders that is relevant and upbuilding for the African American community. If you have a sense God is calling you to be a pastor, to serve as a social justice advocate, Christian educator, chaplain, teacher, or church leader, UTI can equip you with the theological education you need to succeed in your chosen ministry.  Through programming and courses, the UTI provides opportunities for clergy and laypersons to prepare themselves for service as educated leaders of the church. Over 100 of the Philadelphia region's African American church leaders are graduates of UTI degree and certificate programs.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Sr., Chair in African American Studies was established in honor of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Sr., who in 1949 was one of the first two African Americans to receive a STM degree from the seminary. Pastor Wright served as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia's Germantown section for 42 years, and was the congregation's pastor emeritus for an additional 21 years during retirement. His son, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., is pastor-emeritus of the 8,000-member Trinity United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago, and is a frequent preacher at the UTI's annual Preaching with Power series.

For more information and directions, visit


One of eight seminaries certified by the 4.5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), LTSP ( has prepared well over 4,000 church leaders during its history. The school has been located on its Mt. Airy campus in Philadelphia since 1888 and has embraced seminarians from some 28 Christian traditions. For 32 years, the seminary's Urban Theological Institute has prepared scores of African American leaders for church service in the Greater Philadelphia area. 

John Kahler
Media Consultant for The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Two LTSP Alumni Ordained as Pastors Aug. 11

(From News from the New England Synod

Two Ordained as Pastors Aug. 11

Two women were ordained Saturday, Aug. 11 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Chelmsford, Mass., to serve as pastors in Massachusetts and Connecticut. New England Synod Bishop Margaret Payne presided.

Pr. Manke, Bp. Payne, Pr. Read
The Rev. Rachel Manke has accepted the call to serve as pastor of First Lutheran Church, Malden, Mass. In May, Pr. Manke received her Master of Divinity degree in May 2012 from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), where she was senior class president. She interned at First Lutheran Church, Waltham, Mass. Prior to seminary, she worked in marketing for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun basketball team and briefly in television for NBC in New York. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with a minor in theatre at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, in 2001. A Connecticut native, she was baptized and confirmed at Christ Lutheran Church (LCMS), Niantic, Conn., and entered seminary as a member of St. Mark Lutheran Church, Norwich, Conn.

The Rev. M. Kathleen Read has accepted the call as associate pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church, Manchester, Conn. Born in New Orleans, La., and raised in Old Greenwich, Conn., Pr. Read received a Master of Divinity degree in 2011 from LTSP. She graduated from Fairfield (Conn.) University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and spent most of her professional life prior to seminary as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. For the past few years, she has contributed to "NES News,"the weekly online newsletter of the New England Synod. In 2000, she joined First Lutheran Church, West Barnstable, Mass. She formerly served on the Synod Council.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

LTSP Welcomes new Dean July 1

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia welcomes the Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian as the new Dean, starting July 1, 2012

The Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran SebastianThe Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian assumes the post of Dean of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) July 1. He succeeds the Rev. Dr. J. Paul Rajashekar, who has held the post for 12 years and will now focus his energies on a variety of interests, including returning more fully to the classroom as the Luther D. Reed Professor of Systematic Theology.

Dr. Sebastian, 53, a resident of Philadelphia's East Mt. Airy neighborhood on the seminary campus, has served on the faculty since 2007. Called "Kiran" by colleagues and friends, he is the H. George Anderson Professor of Mission and Cultures, directs the seminary's Multicultural Mission Resource Center, and for the past three years held the position of Seminary Chaplain.

He earned his Doctor of Theology in 1997 from the University of Hamburg, Germany (Magna Cum Laude). In 1991 he earned his Master of Theology from the Federated Faculty for Research in Religion and Culture, Kottayam, India, where he received the all-India prize for having the highest grade in all branches of study for the degree. He was awarded his Bachelor of Divinity in 1984 from the United Theological College in Bangalore, India, where he was likewise honored for receiving the highest grades during his studies. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Bangalore University (1980). He went on to teach from 1988 to 2007 at the United Theological College, where he served as Professor of Theology and Ethics and Chair of the Department, Dean of the Doctoral Division, Secretary of the Governing Council, and Editor of the Bangalore Theological Forum.

Dr. Sebastian's teaching background reflects his wide-ranging scholarly interests and love of books fostered by his family - especially his grandmother, whom he terms his foremost mentor, and his parents and uncles, many of whom were pastors and scholars. At LTSP, courses he has led include the History of Christianity, with a focus on the Early Church, Theology and Ethics of the Early Teachers of Faith, Gospel and Cultures, Global Christianity, Study of the Churches at the edge of Empire, Eucharist and the Koinonia of the Church, Baptism and the Unity of the Church, and courses on Religious Toleration and Public Theology.

Dr. Sebastian teaching"I enjoy a range of interests," he smiles. Dr. Sebastian's decision to teach at LTSP arose out of an invitation from Dr. Rajashekar to consider joining the faculty after former LTSP Professor H.S. Wilson stepped down as the first faculty member to hold the Anderson Chair. Dean Rajashekar's link with Dr. Sebastian began in the early 1980s, when Dr. Rajashekar, fresh from earning his doctorate at the University of Iowa, taught him at the United Theological College in Bangalore in courses including "Introduction to Indian Christian Theology" and "Life and Thought of Martin Luther."

Dr. Sebastian became an ordained pastor of the Church of South India in 1985. The Church of South India was formed in 1947 by a union of Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational traditions in what has been good-humoredly called "the greatest coming together of traditions to form a church since the Pentecost!" Being part of such a church has made him feel "very comfortable" at LTSP, which he says is firmly rooted in its Lutheran tradition but which has also welcomed students from the range of traditions he has known in India, as well as students from many other backgrounds. The United Theological College likewise features a diverse faculty and student body including students and scholars from Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal backgrounds.

Dr. Sebastian says he is thrilled at his new opportunity as Dean at a seminary with a wide range of interests that reflect his own, including foci on public and global theology and strong Lutheran roots that have been fed by other traditions, including the school's 30-year-old Urban Theological Institute with its breadth of traditions and student backgrounds. "Our Latino/Latina, Urban/Metro, Multicultural, and Black Studies concentrations and Interfaith perspectives reflect the changing demographics of our landscape," he says. "Our challenge will be to harvest these rich gains into a format for a new curriculum flexible enough to accommodate full- and part-time students."

While the seminary faces economic challenges in a difficult time, he describes the circumstances as posing an opportunity. "We can't stretch ourselves too broadly," he says. "The economic realities force us to meet our core challenge to provide a top quality theological education training public leaders for the church and wider society. It is not only the seminary, but our staff, faculty, and students who are dealing with these economic realities. In such a time we need to continue to be faithful to our mission. It is a chance to rethink about how to maximize our effectiveness."
Dr. Sebastian and ATSI 2012 Scholars 
"I am amazed that my colleagues entrusted me to this post," Dr. Sebastian says. "That they have welcomed a stranger who until recently was an outsider to this country and seminary says a lot about what the seminary has accomplished and about its ethos. They have made me feel like I belong." He praises Dr. Rajashekar for providing a solid legacy as a hard-working Dean that he can build upon.

In a time when many focus on a "declining" church, Dr. Sebastian cautions that decline is not a part of church life everywhere. "The Bride of Christ always has surprises for us," he says. "A Christian needs to ask, 'Why is there this living hope in us?' We are here to tell the good old story in a changing and messy context. We are not witnessing to a dead faith but rather to the real, living Christ, interacting with all of humankind and beyond."

Dr. Sebastian explains his family background and upbringing, which led him seamlessly to become a pastor. His grandfather was a pastor of the Basel Mission (formed early in the nineteenth century as a joint mission of South German Lutherans and North Swiss Reformed) who died when Dr. Sebastian was an infant, but his grandmother kept memories alive and was the first to tell him stories from the Bible and of the Christian heritage, including the story of Luther at the Diet at Worms in Germany, a 1521 trial by the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy during which the Reformer refused to recant his writings that disputed the church's claim that freedom from God's punishment of sin could be purchased with money. "She dramatized that story of courage," he says. "She taught me the family's history and made the Bible come alive." His parents were both teachers at a prominent and well-known school in Bangalore. His father went on to become Professor of English at the Regional Institute of English in Bangalore and senior editor at Orient Longman, an international publishing house. His mother taught Sunday school at his home parish, the St. Dr. Sebastian in classMark's Cathedral of the Karnataka Central Diocese of the Church of South India, Bangalore, where his father also served as organist for 43 years. "I used to listen to him practice, and I was an altar boy," Dr. Sebastian says. In fact, Sebastian explains, he received his last name through a choice made by his father because of his Dad's love of Johann Sebastian Bach's music. "Bach is my favorite classical musician today," Dr. Sebastian says. He likes to listen to classical music when he reads. In addition to enjoying a range of scholarly books, Dr. Sebastian admits to enjoying real-life stories of Othe famous hunter and conservationist, who has written many tales about villagers in North India living amongst (gulp) tigers that eat people. A seminary alumnus, the Rev. Ben Krey, has taught Dr. Sebastian about baseball, and he is now a Phillies fan.

While a lover of academia, books, and scholarly pursuits, Dr. Sebastian says he remains influenced daily by his pastoral ministry experiences in India. "My first posting was to a remote and rural area with five congregations that brought me back to earth and grounded me in the life of the people," he recalls. "The parishioners were poor and vulnerable, what some would term 'untouchable' people. These people embodied for me and taught me what ministry is. Today I teach about these people and draw from my experiences with them. I have never been able to get away from them, and I don't want to. They taught me lessons for life, about centeredness, about how to live a life of faithfulness."

Dr. Sebastian tells of how he and his wife of 25 years, Mrinalini, would, during a subsequent call to a large urban church, ride a Moped to visit a dozen or more urban church families each evening through the chaotic traffic in Bangalore in order to regularly reach out to the 750 families they served.

The couple has two adult children - Neeraj, 22, holds a BS in Biology from Drexel University and is now engaged in cell biology research, and Saagarika, 18, soon begins her studies in mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Sebastian credits his wife for all her support in fostering his career and helping the family adjust to a new culture. "She gave up a lot." She holds a Doctorate in Literature from the University of Hamburg, has served as a lecturer in a number of colleges, and was a Fellow of the Center for the Study of Culture and Society in Bangalore.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The 148th Commencement - May 18, 2012: Videos and Photos

Videos, photos and more from the 148th Commencement of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia are now online. Start here on the LTSP website:

Monday, May 14, 2012

LTSP Alumna Judith VanOsdol begins 'new chapter of ministry'

LTSP alumna the Rev. Judith VanOsdol (MDiv '87), who recently joined the staff of the Upstate New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was featured on an online story at Pr. VanOsdol was LTSP's Distinguished Alumnus in 2009.

Read the story online on the Star Gazette site.

(photo from

Mission Now: A panel defines today’s challenges and opportunities (report from Spring Convocation)

(see the photo gallery from Spring Convocation at the end of this article)

Remarks by four leaders were a highlight of LTSP’s Spring Convocation, attended by about 125 alumni
Today’s mission frontier looks and feels different in many ways from the colonial frontier American Lutheran Patriarch Henry Melchior Muhlenberg mined to plant the church in the 1700s. But there are similarities too.

“The God who made the world still loves it,” the Rev. Stephen Bouman told more than 100 alumni gathered for the 2012 Spring Convocation at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia on May 1. Bouman, paraphrasing the Apostle Paul’s Acts 17 message to the people of Athens, noted “That is the message of our mission as a church today. Through the death of Jesus the world was restored, and we are challenged to keep restoring it.”

Bouman suggested, however, that people today may be “more alone and afraid than they have ever been. He cited an article in the May 2012 issue of The Atlantic entitled “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”

Panelists (left to right) Bouman, Rajashekar,
Neale and Miller.
“Are we more concerned about putting the story of ourselves on a Facebook wall than we are about tending to our relationships?” asked Bouman, the executive director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Congregational and Synodical Mission initiative. He was one of four panelists dealing with an afternoon theme of “Mission Now.” The two-day convocation had the overall theme of “The New Frontier: Mission Then, Mission Now.”

Bouman said a preoccupation with ourselves “makes us lonely” and added that the Lutheran Church today needs to have a global, ecumenical and interfaith focus. 

Bouman told the story of a Sudanese woman, once abused and neglected in a refugee camp, who had found a home at Grace Lutheran Church in Omaha, NE, and through the church had found the power to forgive her abusers. “We have always been the church of renewal for the poor and the stranger,” Bouman said. “This Sudanese woman belongs to you and me, and we belong to her. If the Lutheran Church can’t find a way to continue to show up on this kind of issue, then God will find a church that will. We have the same holy obligation each year…If we tell immigrants and strangers to check their baggage at our (church) doors as poverty grows, then we are hypocrites.”

Bouman has co-authored a book with Ralston Deffenbaugh entitled They Are Us: Lutherans and Immigration (Augsburg, 2009), which defines Lutherans as part of an immigrant church and which makes the case for immigration reform, calling on the modern-day church to a “mission of evangelical hospitality.”

“Today’s new mission starts often look different from our traditional congregations,” Bouman said. Of the 60 new starts in the current year, one-half focus on immigrant populations. Mission developers are often connected with community organizers, he said, and the focus is not only on worship but also on service, creating what he described as “a powerful front door.”

Leadership can look different too. In Hollywood, CA, the church is employing seven lay evangelists. As in Muhlenberg’s day “the church must be planted,” Bouman said. “But that requires us to go out into the community and encounter and listen to our neighbors.”

He called upon the church to be a part of a strong “public platform” that often requires creativity. In Minot, ND, Bouman described how Lutheran Disaster Response, responding to ruinous storm damage, has helped to foster congregational renewal, “a bridge to healing” in the community.

Seminary Dean J. Paul Rajashekar explained to the alumni he is concerned that, to many people, “the mission of the church is unclear. They are allergic to the church and don’t want to be a part of it.”

Rajashekar described the seminary’s mission: “Centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia 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.”

“Mission,” Rajashekar said, “is the practice of faith in the world. The mission is to make churches in our communities public places for use by all people with pastors as public leaders.” He said the seminary is working through its teaching to build that attitude within future leaders. “The Eucharist is not just a thing that we share. It is an All You Can Eat Eucharist. That is our mission and we need to learn how to get there.”

Rajashekar said, “The Church must belong in the community, otherwise there is no sense of mission. We need to build and nurture the communities we are a part of. We are one community in the midst of other communities these days, frequently with many diverse and different publics.

“We need to be bridge-builders,” he said. “Not everyone we meet will intend to be a Christian. We need to come to terms with that. To practice our faith in the world we need to engage other communities within our communities.”

The Rev. Lee Miller II, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Northeast Philadelphia’s Mayfair section, described his congregation as part of a working class, blue collar community dealing with considerable poverty. 

“We’re rapidly growing in diversity with residents who are Chinese, Albanian, Liberian and Vietnamese." He said 65 per cent of the church membership lives within a mile of the church, and 25 per cent come from the region, sometimes at quite a distance.

“Our challenge is to live out Acts 2,” Miller said. (And all who believed were together and had all things in common – Acts 2:44). “We gather for worship, study Scripture with 40 adults doing Bible study, and we care for those in need.”

He said the congregation sets its leaders free “to do what they are gifted to do.” Miller, who focused on urban studies while at the seminary before graduating in 1998, said the congregation works to engage the people in its community context and embrace the cultural diversity surrounding it. “I try to make my preaching accessible to everyone,” he said. “We are trying to build connections through social service, vibrant worship, prayer, music and proclaiming the Word in our context so that people will feel invited into our ministry.”

A key component has been to expand upon St. John’s Food Cupboard, now known as the “Feast of Justice.” St. John’s associate pastor the Rev. Patricia Neale (MDiv 2007) directs the program, which is now a non-profit social service agency serving about 1,700 families annually with food, literacy and resource counseling initiatives. The program has many community partners, Miller said.

“We’ve been able to remove the divide between church and service within our building,” Neale said during her panel presentation. “We’ve transformed our mission through organizing the development of our church in a new way. It’s not Sundays only. We are practicing discipleship 24-7. We dispense about 340,000 pounds of food each year through four feeding programs….”

But Neale explained that the goal is not simply to feed people who need to be fed, but transforming lives by teaching about “the bread of life.” She said that neighbors partaking of social service through St. John’s benefit from “a dignified experience. We help connect people to resources and we provide counseling. We’re transforming lives, but all our lives are being transformed. We are called to be planted in our community, and that is what is happening.”

Mark Staples, seminary writer, served as panel moderator.

Earlier in the day, alumni heard from faculty member Dr. Karl Krueger, director of the Krauth Memorial Library, about “Mission Then,” a look at Muhlenberg’s colonial era ministry in North America.

LTSP President Philip Krey (left) with Distinguished Alumni
Mc Near, Philips and Simmons, and Alumni/ae Association
President the Rev. Kathleen Ash-Flashner 
At the Convocation dinner, three LTSP graduates were honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Awardees were the Rev. Gordon Simmons, who was honored for his diligence in making the neighborhoods he served in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy and West Oak Lane, and Wallingford, PA “his mission field by reaching out to residents and responding to their needs.” He is known for his bicycle ministry through neighborhoods. While in Mt. Airy, over a 15-year period he visited 10,000 homes three times each, and when honored by the Community College of Philadelphia for his leadership in 2004 was recognized in part this way: “His spirited leadership and mobile style of ministry tell the story of his love for the city and his commitment to its people.”

The Rev. Ernest McNear, MDiv ’99, a graduate of the seminary’s Urban Theological Institute, was recognized for his leadership in sponsoring a “Fugitive Safe Surrender” program at his True Gospel Church in center city Philadelphia. The program, conducted several years ago, resulted in 1,500 non-violent offenders streaming to the congregation over four days to turn themselves in in exchange for favorable considerations. The offenders were charged with such crimes as being scofflaws, drug possession, or other summary violations. True Gospel Church sponsors a learning center for 130 children in kindergarten through fourth grade “because the lack of education is a direct cause of incarceration,” he says. He’s also involved in prison ministry and directs the Philadelphia Freedom from AIDS campaign.

The Rev. Leon Phillips’s mission field has primarily been in response to disasters throughout the U.S. and its territories. The 1961 LTSP graduate began his career serving congregations. In 1969, the Lutheran Church in America’s Board of American Missions called him to serve as coordinator of the Greater Wilkes-Barre area and consultant to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod for congregational and area studies. He became a deployed staff member of the LCA’s Division for Mission in North America in 1972. After major flooding in the Wilkes-Barre, Kingston area of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Lutheran Disaster Response began bringing the energy and efforts by Lutherans around the country to together respond to natural and human-caused disasters in the U.S. and its territories. Dr. Phillips’s mission became to serve as Domestic Disaster Relief director. He was at the forefront of the church’s response to disasters such as Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew, earthquakes in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and the Oklahoma City bombing. 

Preacher for the convocation’s Opening Eucharist was the Rev. Dr. Nelson Rivera, associate professor of Systematic Theology and director of the Hispanic Concentration, who is observing the 25th anniversary of his graduation from LTSP (MDiv '87). Keynote presenter the morning of May 2 was the Rev. Dr. Timothy Wengert, Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor of  Reformation History at LTSP.

Enjoy this slide show of photos from Spring Convocation:
click here to view the photo gallery and 
download images or order photos

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Alumna the Rev. Leah Cook McDowell (MDiv 2003) has died

The Rev. Leah Cook McDowell, an LTSP MDiv graduate from the class of 2003, has died after a long illness. Pr. Leah was ordained in her home synod, Southeastern Minnesota (ELCA), on November 16, 2003, and was called to Zion Lutheran Church, Philadelphia. In 2008, she was called back to Minnesota as pastor of St. Paul's UCC/ELCA Church in Lewiston, MN.

SEMN Bishop Harold Usgaard shared Leah's obituary, written by classmate the Rev. Kim Cottingham Sheehey with Leah's assistance, on the SEMN website,, entitleRev. Leah Nicole Cook McDowell Accepts a New Call With the Heavenly Choir and Joyful Music Section.
(photo from, Rochester, MN, where an obituary is online here:

Monday, March 12, 2012

30th Annual Preaching with Power starts Sunday

For Immediate Release
For more information please contact:
John Kahler, Seminary Communications,, 215-248-6397

30th Annual Preaching with Power starts Sunday

The Urban Theological Institute of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia celebrates thirty years of Preaching with Power starting Sunday, March 18 with The Rev. Dr. Jasmin Sculark preaching at Janes Memorial United Methodist Church, 41-59 E Haines Street, in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Preaching with Power celebrates outstanding African American preachers and teachers, and comprises five preaching events at Philadelphia churches, along with a lecture and Black Sacred Music concert on the seminary campus. All events are free and open to the public, with free will offering proceeds benefiting the seminary's Rev. Dr. Joseph Q. Jackson Endowed Scholarship Fund.

This year's schedule of preachers and events:

Sunday, March 18, 2012, 6:30 pm
The Rev. Dr. Jasmin Sculark preaching
Janes Memorial United Methodist Church, 41-59 E Haines Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144

Monday, March 19, 2012, 7:00 pm
The Rev. Otis Moss III preaching
Grace Baptist Church of Germantown, 25 West Johnson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144

Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 11:15 am
Dr. Eddie Glaude, lecturer
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Benbow Hall, The Brossman Center,
7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19119

Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 7:00 pm
The Rev. Dr. Kevin Dudley preaching
Reformation Lutheran Church, 1215 East Vernon Road, Philadelphia, PA 19150

Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 11:15 am
Black Sacred Music Concert, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19119

Wednesday, March 21, 2012, 7:00 pm
The Rev. Dr. DeForest B. "Buster" Soaries preaching
Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, 6401 Ogontz Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19150

Thursday, March 22, 2012, 7:00 pm
The Rev. Dr. Jessica Kendall Ingram preaching
Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 419 S 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Directions to venues and details on the events are available online at


One of eight seminaries certified by the 4.5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), LTSP ( has prepared well over 4,000 church leaders during its history. The school has been located on its Mt. Airy campus in Philadelphia since 1888 and has embraced seminarians from some 28 Christian traditions. For over 30 years, the seminary's Urban Theological Institute has prepared scores of African American leaders for church service in the Greater Philadelphia area. 

John Kahler
Media Consultant
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
7301 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19119
fax 215-248-4577

Friday, February 10, 2012

LTSP Alumnus The Rev. Karl Schneider has died

The Rev. Karl Schneider
photo from
LTSP Alumnus The Rev. Karl Schneider (MDiv) died February 7, 2012. In addition to being a pastor, he was a teacher and coach, and served the community, synod and greater church in his work on addictions. His teaching included German language and English as a second language, and he was a German visitation pastor. Read the obituary as published February 10 in The Philadelphia Inquirer here.

The memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2012 at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 3025 Church Road, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444. Greet family members at 10:30 A.M. followed by memorial service at 11 A.M. In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia PA, 19119-1794, or Lutheran Children and Family Services, 5401 Rising Sun Ave., Phila. PA, 19120,

Thursday, January 26, 2012

LTSP Alumnus the Rev. John Saraka called as Pastor and CEO to Syracuse

The Rev. John Saraka (Peter Chen/Post-Standard)
LTSP MDiv Alumnus the Rev. John Saraka has been called as Senior Pastor of Atonement Lutheran Church, Syracuse, NY, and CEO of Atonement Ministries. Pr. Saraka most recently served in Jamestown, NY, and also served congregations in Philadelphia and Buffalo. Read a complete interview with Pr. Saraka on