Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Timothy Wengert’s final word: A pep talk from Luther for today’s Church

(go to for recordings,
photos of the day and a copy of this report)

Professor Timothy Wengert Perhaps New Jersey Pastor and LTSP alumnus Kent Klophaus said it best after hearing Professor Timothy Wengert’s pre-retirement farewell remarks, a reflection for today’s church on Reformer Martin Luther’s most popular tract, The Freedom of a Christian, delivered to a full audience of past and current students, colleagues and community at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) on November 19, 2013.

“That was a pep talk for the church’s rostered leaders,”Klophaus said, “a chance to regroup and get reground.”

Wengert, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor for Reformation History at the seminary, began by saying, “So it comes down to this: twenty four and a half years of teaching, 35 years since entering graduate school and 29 since completing my PhD, 36 since ordination, 40 years since I married my first wife, eight and one-half years happily married to my dearest Ingrid, 34 and 30 years, respectively, since the births of my children ,and less than a month from the birth of my twin granddaughters. What a remarkable run! Without the prayers and support of many of the people in this room, that is, without God’s mercy, I could not have made it to this day.

“How does one end this phase of one’s calling to the church and begin anew?” Wengert continued. “In my case by going back to the beginning, to a tract of Luther’s to examine, as he put it, ‘What does Luther mean by freedom?’” Wengert explained he has been going through “Freedom of a Christian” meticulously, word-for word, as the editor of the first volume of Augsburg Fortress’s new six-volume collection of Luther’s works, The Essential Luther. He noted he had not begun to fully comprehend what Luther was saying in the tract until he went to translate it on his own and added that Luther intended to have the tract, published in October 1520, be his “last word” as he – excommunicated by the Pope – began to prepare to meet his doom in anticipating to appear as an accused heretic before the imperial parliament that was to meet in Worms in April 1521.

Hundreds of alumni and friends constituting an overflow audience crammed the Schaeffer-Ashmead Memorial Chapel and paid tribute to Wengert before and after his remarks with lengthy applause. “No matter how long your applause lasts my remarks will not be any shorter,” he quipped at the outset. No summary will do justice to Wengert’s carefully crafted 30-pages of remarks. Here are but a few highlights.
  • Wengert cited the paradoxical sentences of Luther’s in the tract, “The Christian individual is a completely free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian individual is a completely dutiful slave to all, subject to all.” He went on to discuss the freedom of faith and then talked about works of love.
  • Luther’s primary audience consisted of working pastors of the church of his day.
  • Freedom of a Christian should be read once you are in the trenches, slogging through the mud,”Wengert said. The freedom message of the tract implies a rejection of the definition of priest or cleric in Luther’s day “or frankly our own.” Such leaders, Luther noted, are called to be “serving others with the ministry of the Word in order to teach the faith of Christ and the freedom of the faithful.”  Luther upends the power politics that wounded the church of his time and ours, Wengert said. “Think of those who dream of the pastor as CEO or spiritual guru or ultimate fixer of everything wrong with our congregation, community or world. What an irony! The very ones who are free in Christ to serve the neighbor and who are entrusted with sharing this good news with others are the ones who would be anything but servant.” As a result of this perversity, Luther noted in his writing, “the knowledge of Christian grace, faith, freedom and Christ has perished entirely, only to be replaced by an intolerable captivity to human works and laws.”
  • On preaching, Wengert noted the kinds of practices Luther goes after: “Story-telling – that condemns Christ to the detritus of history and makes him simply an example, a law, of how to live our lives; self-centeredness – whether relying on human authorities and stories to give us preaching clout or, something Luther could not imagine but is so common today, talking about ourselves and our spiritual journeys; emotional manipulation – which is the sum and substance of most of what passes as preaching on the airways and in the “purpose-driven” McChurches of our day.” Preaching in a nutshell, according to Luther, promotes faith in Christ, and not simply Christ, but “Christ for you and me,” Luther wrote in the tract. The fruits of such preaching teach that “the presence of Christ’s righteousness swallows up every sin…So the heart learns with the Apostle to scoff at death and sin and to say, ‘Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. For death is swallowed up in victory – not only Christ’s but ours – because through faith it becomes our victory and is in us and we are conquerers.”  “If you have any cross-stitchers in your congregations, get them to cross-stitch that, I don’t know, on your underwear. Or, if there are any tattoo artists, ink it where the sun shines,” Wengert said.
  • An aside: “I am sick and tired of Lutherans and others who complain that Lutherans do not do good works, even blaming the grace and mercy of God for it. Our little cadre of Lutherans has built the largest private social service network in the country – not the wealthier or larger denominations which are so addicted to talking about works. Moreover, the teaching of Christian vocation in the world means that we can measure good works by how many diapers are changed and how much manure is hauled, not by all the foolishness that passes for good works in our churches today. And then, in a particularly silly book about the third use of the law, some masquerade their legalism under a concern for morality, accusing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America of abandoning Biblical sexual ethics for – I don’t know what – wild orgies, I suppose, when in fact our social statement on sexuality identifies the true culprits: not homosexuals in life-long committed relationships but the commodification of sexuality and its coercive use inside and outside of marriage.”
  • On good works, citing Luther, Wengert remarked: “If works are coupled with righteousness…and you presume to be justified through them, then they become absolutely compulsory and extinguish freedom along with faith. By this kind of linkage such works are no longer good but instead truly damnable. For they are not free, and they blaspheme against the grace of God, to whom alone belongs justification and salvation through faith.”
  • On the Roman Catholic Church: “When I started working on this talk there was a different bishop in Rome. I have more hope for our churches than ever before. One can only hope Pope Francis survives given how many risks he takes. I wish I could sneak a copy of Freedom of a Christian onto his nightstand in the Vatican, so that he might read and believe. Finally, once again, the spirit of the Vatican II Council, which held 500 years ago would have drawn the Roman Church back to Luther’s proclamation and theology, blows through the churches of our separated brothers and sisters.”
  • On the tract itself: “What is so remarkable is not only the appendix or the chief intended audience but its content. Like the Augsburg Confession, here is an early Lutheran document shorn of almost all polemic and name-calling, sent with a brilliant cover letter to Pope Leo X, and filled, nay, rather, bursting at the seams with the universal, law-free gospel of God’s mercy and therefore justification by grace through faith on account of Christ alone.”
  • Prof. Wengert with current and former studentsOn faith, Wengert first cited a sentence from Luther: “Many people view the Christian faith as something easy, and quite a few people even count it as if it were related to the virtues. They do this because they have not judged faith in light of any experience, nor have they ever tasted its great power.” Wengert went on to note: “Here we are in the middle of a country obsessed – from the most liberal theologian to the most conservative, from Roman Catholic to Methodist to Mennonite and beyond – to the freedom of the will and the notion that faith is a human decision or commitment that we bring to the religious table to set the gears of God’s grace in motion. Such an approach to faith is not freedom but the worst kind of bondage – leaving people stuck wondering whether they have done enough, decided enough or gotten serious enough about God. Well, how are you doing? Faith is not an Aristotelian virtue cooked up by the soul. No, Luther insists, it is an experience. It is what happens when water and the Word hit that infant’s or adult’s head, when the wine and bread strike their tongue while the words ‘for you’ ring in their ears, or when, as in the case of my mother, standing at a trolley stop in Milwaukee, Pastor Beiderwieden’s words suddenly penetrate your heart and you are left in tears: ‘He died for me.’ Yes, Janet, her pastor replied, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
  • Quoting Luther: “You may be asking, however, how it comes about that faith alone justifies and how it confers so many treasures without works, given that so many works, ceremonies and laws are prescribed in the Scriptures. I answer this way. Before all else, remember what has been said above, namely, that faith alone without works justifies, frees and saves…The entire Scripture of God is divided into two parts: commands and promises. Commands, to be sure, teach what is good, but what is taught is not thereby done. For the commands show what we ought to do but do not give the power to do it. They were instead established for this: so that they may reveal individuals to themselves. Through the commands they know their inability to do good, and they despair of their own powers…Believe in Christ, in whom grace, righteousness, peace, freedom and all things are promised to you. If you believe, you will have these things. If you do not believe, you will lack them. God alone commands and God alone fulfills.”
  • On works using a personal illustration:  “We don’t have to earn anything; we don’t have to worry about whether we please God or not. After all, we do not please God except in Christ, who makes us kings and priests and gives us what we are not. Suddenly, with the burden of works and living up to God’s expectations lifted, we have all this time on our hands. It’s like, I don’t know, retiring early and being free to edit a Dictionary of Luther and the Luther Traditions, volume one of the six-volume Essential Luther, help the Metropolitan Museum of Art prepare an exhibition on the Reformation, help the Kessler Collection at Emory with the same thing, write an intellectual biography of Melanchthon. The Christian life, you see, is really like retirement: waking up each morning and saying to yourself: “What am I going to do now that I don’t have to do anything.”
  • In summary Wengert noted concluding words by Luther in the tract: “Therefore, we conclude that Christian individuals do not live in themselves but in Christ and their neighbor, or else they are not Christian. They live in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith they are caught up beyond themselves into the neighbor – remaining nevertheless always in God and God’s love.”
Wengert was introduced by the Rev. Dr. John Hoffmeyer, associate professor of systematic theology at the seminary. Hoffmeyer paid tribute to Wengert as an internationally foremost scholar of Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s close Reformation era colleague; as a leader of the task force leading to the approval of a Evangelical Lutheran Church in America church-wide social statement on Human Sexuality (2009); and as a “teacher of the church” from whom many students learned for the first time in seminary that “God loves them unconditionally.” Hoffmeyer said that in his travels across the church “no classroom teacher’s name comes up as often as does Tim Wengert’s.”

The Rev. Ingrid Wengert and Prof. Wengert presenting their gift to the library.At the conclusion of his remarks, Wengert announced a gift for the seminary. He had discovered in his collection of books an old volume that was bound using scrap paper that contained a copy of the 1542 Luther Small Catechism. He had the scrap pieces exquisitely framed for the seminary’s Krauth Memorial Library collection, and with his wife the Rev. Ingrid Wengert presented the framed gift to Dr. Karl Krueger, director of the library.

The Rev. Dr. Timothy Wengert is the Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor of Church History at LTSP, teaching primarily in the fields of Reformation history and the Lutheran Confessions, and will be retiring at the end of 2013. A parish pastor for over seven years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, he received his doctorate from Duke University in 1984 and joined Philadelphia's faculty in 1989. Read more on Dr. Wengert's biography page.

- article written by seminary writer Mark Staples

(go to for recordings,
photos of the day and a copy of this report)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

LTSP Alumni among speakers at City of God conference Oct. 24-26

LTSP alumni the Rev. Dr. Ernest McNear and Bishop Dwayne Royster are among the keynote speakers at The City of God: Philadelphia conference, October 24-26 at The First Presbyterian Church in Germantown. The conference provides an intimate learning laboratory where Christian leaders from the greater Philadelphia area will be inspired, encouraged, and networked together in understanding and working out God’s vision for the city.

The City of God: Philadelphia conference provides an intimate learning laboratory where Christian leaders from the greater Philadelphia area will be inspired, encouraged, and networked together in understanding and working out God’s vision for the city.
On October 24-26, we will be energized as we explore a theology of urban transformation and engage with practitioners who are leading thought provoking and creative ministries throughout Philadelphia. 
Join us as we share, network, learn practical tools, and visit local examples of community transformation initiatives!
Urban Pilgrimages
Keynote Speakers:
  • Will O’Brien Jesus in Philadelphia: A Theology of Urban Transformation”
  • The Rev. Dr Ernest McNear " Transforming Philadelphia: God's Spirit, Our Hands”
  • Bishop Dwayne Roystor "Community Organizing in Philadelphia: Working Toward a Renewed City"
  • The Rev. Dr. Douglaas Bailey "Word in the City" Reflections
Here is a quick glance at our Conference schedule
Thursday (10/24)
10:00am Registration at The First Presyterian Church in Germantown 
Thursday's Program includes lunch and dinner, as well as:  
  • “Word in the City” with Doug Bailey
  • Pilgrimage to Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry
  • Afternoon Keynote with Will O’Brien 
  • Dinner & Evening Keynote with The Rev. Dr. Ernest McNear  
9:00pm Departure
Friday (10/25)
8:30am “Word in the City” with Doug Bailey at The First Presyterian Church in Germantown 
Friday's Program includes lunch as well as:
  • Pilgrimage to Broad Street Ministry
  • Afternoon Keynote with Bishop Dwayne Royster
5:30pm Departure
Saturday (10/26)
8:30am “Word in the City” with Doug Bailey at The First Presyterian Church in Germantown 
Morning Workshops
12:00pm Closing worship

Registration for the event is $125, with a group discount (3 person max) of $100 each. Go to the registration page to register with a credit card or though PayPal, and for other details.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dr. Timothy Wengert's final public lecture at LTSP: Tuesday, November 19

Save the date for 
Professor Wengert's final public lecture at LTSP!

We know many of you - our alumni, friends, and colleagues - will want to be present for The Rev. Dr. Timothy J. Wengert Professor Timothy Wengert's final public lecture at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), offered as a gift to his students of the past quarter century. The lecture, titled "The Final Word: Martin Luther's Freedom of a Christian for Today's Church," will be presented in the Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel on the LTSP campus on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 11:30 am. More information coming soon, including registration details. While you'll want to be there in person, the lecture will also be live streamed and recorded for those who are not able to come to Philadelphia.

In his lecture, Dr. Wengert will address Martin Luther's famous tract, The Freedom of a Christian from 1520, which provides one of the most succinct summaries of Luther's theology. In the course of editing this work for publication in Augsburg Fortress's The Essential Luther project, Prof. Wengert has discovered new insights into Luther's approach to public ministry - insights that can also assist ministry in today's church.

Dr. Wengert is the Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor of Church History at LTSP, teaching primarily in the fields of Reformation history and the Lutheran Confessions. A parish pastor for over seven years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, he received his doctorate from Duke University in 1984 and joined Philadelphia's faculty in 1989.  Read more on Dr. Wengert's biography page.

Memorial Service for Lois La Croix Wednesday, October 16

A Memorial Service for Lois La Croix, executive assistant to the president at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), is set for Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 12:30 pm in the Shaeffer-Ashmead Chapel on the seminary campus, 7301 Germantown Avenue, in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. All are welcome to join the seminary community in celebrating La Croix, who died September 25 after a lengthy illness. A resident of Philadelphia’s Roxborough section, she was 59. The memorial service will be followed by a light luncheon in Benbow Hall. Please RSVP by October 10 for the light luncheon to Carrie Schwab at

Participants in the service will include Lois's pastor, the Rev. Annemarie Hartner Cook; the Rev. Dr. Robert Hughes, past president at LTSP; the Rev. George Keck, who worked with La Croix both at the Lutheran Church in America and at the seminary; the Rev. Curtis Haynes, past seminary chief financial officer; and LTSP president the Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey.

Ms. La Croix requested that all donations be made in her memory for use for staff assistance. They can be sent to the Lois La Croix Staff Assistance Fund, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119, or call 215.248.6324.

You can read the announcement of La Croix's death here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lois La Croix dies. She was the longest-serving administrator at the Lutheran Seminary

Lois La Croix, executive assistant to the president at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), died yesterday afternoon after a lengthy illness. A resident of Philadelphia’s Roxborough section, she was 59.

La Croix held two key administrative posts at LTSP over 25 years and was the school’s longest serving administrative staff person.

“Lois set the standard for being an exemplary administrative assistant,” said seminary president the Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey, who worked alongside La Croix for more than a decade. “She was at the center of everything. She anticipated every meeting, event, report, and meeting, and prepared the president’s office, staff, and faculty for their roles so that the school would have a chance to function at a high level. She believed in accountability and held us all to our commitments and responsibilities. You did not want to hear her say that the Board report would go out without your contribution because you were missing a deadline. She loved a challenge and rose to every new role presented to her. She could be firm in her expectations of colleagues, and yet she was readily available to graciously counsel students, staff, and faculty alike when needed. She will be missed and will always be remembered for her leadership at the seminary.” 

“I often thought of Lois as someone much like a provost at a larger institution of higher learning,” said Mark A. Staples, who served as LTSP’s director of communications from 1997 to 2005 and knew her well as a colleague. “She was much, much more than an assistant. She was well-organized with details regarding the life and history of the school and took responsibility for events and activities large and small. Lois contributed much strategically to the life of the school. She gave a lot of moral and detailed support whenever LTSP faced a challenge or emergency and always seemed calm and in control at such times. I often depended on her for critical information or background. Plus,” he said with a smile, “I ate a lot of candy.” La Croix was generous with little touches, he remembered. “She kept a stash of candy in a desk drawer that made visitors to the president’s office feel welcome. She never seemed to run out. She could be spot-on and focused whenever a critical situation demanded, but she also had the best sense of humor. I well recall her Halloween desk trinkets — a witch costume and pointed hat. She was a snappy dresser during much of her career, but on Halloween it did not faze her to be seen at the president assistant’s desk in costume.” La Croix was also a big-time fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. Whenever the Phillies played an afternoon baseball game, La Croix kept the game on at low volume at her desk.

Carrie Schwab, the executive assistant who has succeeded La Croix, remembered her predecessor’s “big, beautiful hats, her particular love of Halloween, and her laugh (bordering at times on a loud cackle) that was so full of life. I recall how Lois took me under her wing and mentored me when I moved to Philadelphia from the Midwest. My mom, who was concerned about my move to ‘the big city,’ felt comforted because Lois was a part of my world.” La Croix served as maid of honor when Carrie married Martin Schwab, who serves as the seminary’s business manager.

La Croix had requested that a memorial fund in her name be established for use to assist seminary staff in emergencies. “Establishing this fund is so like her,” said long time seminary faculty member the Rev. Dr. Katie Day. “Lois knew intimately the difficulties that staff could go through, and she wanted them to have a safety net. This was such a sensitive and caring gesture. I hope everyone who can will make a contribution to this fund.”

“She was on top of her job,” recalled Robert Blanck, Esq., the attorney who chaired the seminary’s board of trustees for about 30 years. “She had or quickly found answers for whatever question or problem I was trying to resolve.” Blanck, who knew La Croix throughout her seminary employment, said she was “helpful, cooperative, pleasant, and ever willing to lend assistance.”

The Rev. George E. Keck, retired director of admissions at LTSP knew La Croix practically her entire career. “Lois was a bit rebellious and decided not to go to college,” Keck recalled. “She instead spent time at the Lutheran Church in America Deaconess Center in Gladwyne to discern what to do with her life after high school.” The Lutheran Church in America was a predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination.

“Having no professional or college training Lois took an entry level job as a telephone receptionist at the Division for Professional Leadership (DPL) at 2900 Queen Lane in Philadelphia. (DPL, working with regional church jurisdictions called synods, oversaw the candidacy and requirements for the national church’s rostered professional leaders.)

“I was called to the DPL staff to develop new programming in 1978,” Keck remembered. “But no secretary was available. Lois began working for me part time in that capacity. It became quickly evident how organized she was, and she could spell better than I could. She and I learned our respective roles together. Since I was from Pittsburgh she introduced me to the Phillies and Eagles. As Lois developed skills on the job she developed a network of contacts working with synod candidacy committees and bishops. She arranged workshops and conferences and as computers came into vogue she mastered the art of preparing handbooks for candidacy committees of the dozens of regional synods.”

When the merger took place to form the ELCA, moving church offices from New York City and Philadelphia to Chicago, Keck and La Croix were both out of a job.

“I was appointed admissions director at LTSP, and was able to arrange for Lois to be appointed as my secretary,” Keck remembered. La Croix began her seminary career in July of 1987. She became executive assistant to President Robert G. Hughes several years later after a tragic traffic accident claimed the life of her predecessor, Laurie Simon.

“Lois was a very private individual in her personal life, but in birthday notes and comments to me she would always thank me for the opportunities provided to her.” Staples added that despite his frequent attempts to interview La Croix for a much-deserved story about her contributions, she resisted all such invitations.

La Croix is survived by her mother, Louise, of New Jersey. The funeral is private. A memorial service is being planned by the seminary with details to follow. Ms. La Croix requested that all donations in her memory for use in staff emergencies be sent to the Lois La Croix Staff Assistance Fund, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119, or call 215.248.6324.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

LTSP Alumnus John Huneke ('56) has died

Pr. Huneke at the 2010
LTSP commencement
The Rev. Dr. John Huneke ('56), an MDiv graduate of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), has died. He served as pastor at Reformation Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York, since 1973, his fourth pastorate in a long and faithful career that spanned more than 50 years. His long ministry serves as an example of faithful stewardship, as well as of pastoral leadership, providing a ministry of compassion, presence, and proclamation of God’s gift of justification by God’s grace through faith.

Pastor Huneke was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 6, 1931. He graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953; completed some preliminary MDiv coursework at Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1953-54; and entered The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in fall 1954, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1956. He continued his education at Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was awarded the Master of Theology degree in 1958. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia at the 2010 commencement, where seminary President Philip D. W. Krey cited Pr. Huneke "for his exemplary stewardship and pastoral leadership and his compassionate presence" in making use of God's gifts to serve others.

Like St Francis, who used to renovate urban churches in the 13th century, Pr. Huneke spent a generation renovating the building and mission of Reformation Church in Brooklyn, a congregation with a long connection to LTSP. The Honorable Charles A. Schieren, turn-of-the-twentieth century mayor of Brooklyn, merchant, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, gave LTSP the Charles A. Schieren chair, now held by the Rev. Dr. Katie Day. The Honorable mayor also gave Reformation a stunning stained glass window as a tryptich with Jesus as teacher, healer, and one who blessed children. 

Pastor Huneke continued this philanthropic tradition by providing, through the ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission, an endowment for scholarship aid for students at LTSP from the Metropolitan New York Synod, especially students of color from the seminary's joint program with Wagner College. 

Pr. Huneke's funeral will be on Friday at 10:30 am at the N.F. Walker of Queens Funeral Home, 87-34 80th St, Woodhaven, NY 11421. Metropolitan New York Synod Bishop Robert Rimbo will preside.

You can read more about Pr. Huneke and watch his address at LTSP's 2010 commencement here.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elizabeth Bagger has died: Tireless LTSP benefactor and volunteer, career English teacher

Elizabeth "Betty" Bagger, a career English teacher who was also a benefactor and volunteer to the cause of education for many years, died after a long illness on Saturday, August 17, 2013 at Luther Crest, a retirement community in South Whitehall Township, PA, near Allentown where she resided.

Mrs. Bagger was born Feb. 18, 1923 in Burlington, Iowa, the daughter of the late Daniel Lawrence and Irma Goezer Hodges. She graduated from Burlington Senior High School and the College of Commerce in Burlington. Her first career post was serving as an office assistant for the Des Moines County Farm Bureau in Burlington.

Mrs. Bagger decided to head east, where, during World War II, she studied parish administration and graduated from the Lutheran Deaconess Motherhouse in Baltimore, MD. After graduating, she became parish secretary at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA, where the Rev. Henry Bagger was pastor. While working there, Pastor Bagger told Elizabeth, "You should meet my son, Ralph, when he returns from service in the war." The meeting subsequently took place, and the couple married. Pastor Henry Bagger went on to become president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), which was to become a focal point for Betty Bagger's considerable volunteer exploits.

Ralph W. Bagger followed in his father's footsteps to become a parish pastor, serving at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Allentown (1951-1955), Immanuel Lutheran Church, East Lansdowne (1955-1959), Friedens Lutheran Church in Hegins (1959-1968), all in Pennsylvania, and finally working in Philadelphia as Periodicals Editor for the Board of Publications of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), a predecessor body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination. During the years Ralph Bagger held his editor's post, he and Betty lived in nearby Norristown, Montgomery County, where Betty last taught before the couple retired. Ralph Bagger died in January 2005.

During the Hegins years, Mrs. Bagger completed her college studies, commuting to both Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, and Kutztown University, where she was awarded a master's degree in education with a concentration in English. She then began her teaching career at Tri-Valley High School in Hegins. During the Norristown years, Mrs. Bagger taught English and Literature of the Bible at Norristown Area High School. While there, she initiated student exchanges to England, Wales, and Germany. During this period of her life Mrs. Bagger became involved in the Auxiliary at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), where her father-in-law had served as president. She was president of the Auxillary for many years before its membership began to decline and it disbanded in the mid-1990s. Through Auxiliary events and tireless campaigning, Mrs. Bagger was a force in raising funds to upgrade spaces on the seminary's 13-acre Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, campus. Projects included improvements made to dormitory rooms and the now more than 100 year old Krauth Memorial Library.

Mrs. Bagger was a liaison of the Mt. Airy Lutheran Archives Board, an extensive church history repository housed on the LTSP campus.

From 1954 to 1984, Ralph and Betty Bagger served as writers and editors for the official biennial convention summaries of the former United Lutheran Church in America, also a predecessor church body of the ELCA, and Lutheran Church in America. They sat together in the front row at the assemblies, taking careful notes and then working far into the night to produce detailed summaries for quick distribution to voting members and other church audiences. They were known for their meticulously careful reporting and writing.

"Betty and Ralph were very precise in their work," recalled Robert Blanck, Esq., a Philadelphia attorney and Trustee at LTSP who knew them both for many years. "Betty helped her husband with regard to editorial matters during his work with the Board of Publications." Blanck remembered Mrs. Bagger as "a good person who was interested in people. She had a delightful sense of humor. You could sit and chat with her for hours."

When Blanck was treasurer of the LCA and the Baggers were doing their summaries, Blanck recalled, the Baggers would persistently urge him to include humor in his reports to the assembly to "liven up" the content. The Baggers, he remembered, also accumulated voluminous materials from their church work over the years. "When it came time for them to retire, downsize, and move from Norristown to Luther Crest they found it to be an impossible task," he said. While some of the materials went to the Archives at LTSP, because of the remaining volume the couple ended up combining two Luther Crest apartments into one in order to meet their needs, he said.

Over the years, the couple enjoyed vacationing in Vermont, and traveled to Canada, Japan, Europe, and India. They enjoyed hosting others including foster children and, at one time, a Vietnamese refugee family.

Surviving are four sisters-in-law, Vivian Hodges of New Brighton, MN; Mary Hodges of Wapello, IA; Carol Bagger Skinner, of Ithaca, NY, and Barbara Bagger Rhyne of Portland, OR, as well as nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

A funeral service is scheduled for Sunday, August 25 at 4:00 pm at Christ Lutheran Church,1245 Hamilton St., Allentown, PA, 18102. Burial will be in Butler, PA at the convenience of the family. Arrangements are being handled by the Trexler Funeral Home in Allentown, and the Thompson-Miller Funeral Home in Butler, PA. Memorial gifts may be sent in care of the Bagger Library Endowment Fund at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119, or contact Kathie Afflerbach, Director of Donor Services, 215-248-6324.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

J. Lawrence House dies: a friend to Lutheran Seminary donors for nearly 20 years

For Immediate Release
For more information contact: Merri Brown, Director of Communications,, 215-248-6323

J. Lawrence House dies: a friend to Lutheran Seminary donors for nearly 20 years

Philadelphia, PA (August 14, 2013) – J. Lawrence House, who over nearly 20 years was a dynamic, integral force in the growing giving initiative on behalf of the students, faculty, and staff of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), died unexpectedly Tuesday evening, August 13, at a Disney resort in Orlando, FL, where he was vacationing with his wife, Karen, and close family members. He was 63. Larry and Karen House lived in Plymouth Meeting and had been married 40 years.

Karen and Larry House were in Orlando following the August 3 wedding in Pennsylvania of their daughter, Katie, to Michael Burton, a Whitemarsh Township police officer. They vacationed several days together before being joined by other family members at the resort where House died. Katie and Michael were honeymooning elsewhere 

"Larry," as he was known, served two stints at LTSP. From 1991 to 2006 he was Director of Development, providing leadership in areas including the annual fund, alumni relations, major gifts, planned gifts, and two significant capital appeals – one for $8 million and one for $20 million. He then served in a similar capacity for three years as Vice President of Development for Liberty Lutheran Services, a Southeast Pennsylvania Lutheran Social Ministry Organization, before returning to LTSP in 2009 as Director of Leadership Giving. He also held the titles of Senior Major Gifts Officer and Senior Philanthropic Advisor, the post he held at the time of his death. A Certified Fund Raising Executive and rostered Associate in Ministry (AIM) with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), House, during his second seminary stint, focused on securing larger gifts through developing current gift strategies as well as assisting graduates and friends considering their ultimate stewardship through planned and estate gifts.

"I try to help people achieve their philanthropic goals," House would say. And his comprehensive experience in all aspects of fundraising made him well equipped to do so. For Larry House, the simpler moments in fundraising gave him greatest pleasure, he once said, for example seeing the look of joy on a donor's face when viewing the fruits of his or her giving on behalf of the school and its students. "That look always told me that everyone benefits when someone decides to give," House said.

The scope of annual giving increased more than 10-fold during House's first 15 years at the school. But numbers alone do not tell Larry House's story. Blessed with a rich and deeply resonant voice and easy-going humor, House was a gifted storyteller who seemed both at ease and inspirational before an audience, from the pulpit, or when sharing anecdotes about the school he loved in someone's living room. House often spoke without notes. He used to talk about the importance of building relationships through numerous personal visits as the way to attract financial support.

"Donors became his friends," Mark Staples recalled of House. Staples, former Director of Communications at LTSP, served many years with House as a colleague. "Larry House genuinely cared about people. And they cared about him. His mind and heart were storehouses of memories. He loved telling stories about the people he had come to know and value over so many years. A hallmark example of his visitation style was the annual trip he made to donors in Florida, accompanied by seminary Presidents Philip D.W. Krey and, before that, Robert G. Hughes."

Speaking the day after her dad's death, daughter Stina Schaeffer remarked simply, "My dad knew he was loved."

House began his career as a social worker for a Lutheran Social Ministry Organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania called Lutheran Welfare Services, based in Hazleton. He subsequently became a church and community program developer for the agency, and then its development director. He joined the development staff for the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg before coming to LTSP in 1991.

House belonged to Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, Ambler, PA, and was active in the congregation as well as being active in initiatives of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA, including serving on Synod Council.

"We are saddened to have lost a great servant of the church and seminary," said LTSP President Philip Krey. "Larry was a wonderful friend to all, and a masterful member of the Philanthropy staff. Our hearts and prayers go out to Karen and the family."

"Larry House is unlike any other fundraiser I have known," Dr. Robert Blanck, former chair of the LTSP Board of Trustees, said in 2006. "He's not simply a fundraiser. He sees donors as human beings. He doesn't really do it just for the money. He gets close to people and enjoys his dealings with them very much. With Larry, what you see is what you get. And I think that is why he is so successful. 

"Larry was a man of great generosity," said John V. Puotinen, Vice President for Philanthropy at LTSP and President of the LTSP Foundation. "He gladly shared his love for the church, his wealth of experience and knowledge of philanthropy and stewardship, and blessed all he met with warmth and good humor. He will be missed, but what he gave all of us will be gratefully remembered."

"Larry was an invaluable leader at LTSP," said the Rev. Dr. John Richter, former chair of the seminary's Board of Trustees. "His tireless efforts to encourage supporters to share their resources with the seminary have supported the education of a generation of rostered leaders. His sustaining ministry has been and will continue to be a blessing to many. The seminary community offers prayers of thanks for Larry's life and vocation. In the midst of sorrow, may we all rest in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection."

"Larry's premature departure from this life breaks my heart," said the Rev. Dyan Lawlor, lead pastor of Upper Dublin Lutheran Church. "Any pastor benefits greatly from having Larry's counsel, insight, and experience in building a solid and healthy foundation for the church's future. Pastor Keith Anderson and I surely owe him our deep thanks. But the ELCA, LTSP, and Upper Dublin have lost a 'Steward Extraordinaire.' Larry's big heart, contagious laugh, and endless devotion to securing the future of theological education were exemplary and successful." Lawlor noted House served Upper Dublin as Assisting Minister, usher, and Endowment Fund Chair, and also acted in church dramas both "serious and silly."

"My heart is full of love, respect, and affection, as well as grief, as Larry House has left us to claim his baptismal promise in Christ," Bishop Claire Schenot Burkat of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod said upon learning of House's unexpected death. "Larry will always be remembered as a man of contagious joy, deep faith, and great generosity in every way."

Surviving, with his widow Karen, are two daughters, the Rev. Stina, wife of Gary Schaeffer of Huntingdon Valley, PA and Katie, wife of Michael Burton of Conshohocken, PA; a son, Erick, who lives with his wife, Sarah, in Wyndmoor, PA; a brother, William, of Vero Beach, FL; and three grandchildren. Gary Schaeffer ('09) and Stina Schaeffer ('10) are LTSP alumni. The Rev. Stina is a pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Valley, PA; and Gary is an Associate in Ministry at St. James Lutheran Church in Pottstown, PA.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

A publication quality photo of Larry House can be downloaded at

John Kahler
Media Consultant for The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Philip D.W. Krey plans to step down as Lutheran Seminary President at the end of 2014

Accomplishments over 15 years include The Brossman Learning Center construction and expanding seminary’s public presence

PHILADELPHIA, PA (June 26, 2013) — The Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey, will step down from his post as president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) at the end of 2014. Krey announced his decision to the seminary’s Board of Trustees during a meeting on campus this week. Founded in 1864, LTSP is one of eight seminaries affiliated nationally with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, its parent denomination headquartered in Chicago. The school has about 350 students and offers the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Religion, Master of Arts in Public Leadership, Master of Sacred Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and PhD degrees. Students from some 30 Christian affiliations have studied at LTSP. Most seek training to serve as rostered or professional church leaders, such as pastors, educators, social service agency leaders, or directors of music.

“I told the Board that I wanted to continue my service until after the seminary’s 150th anniversary celebration in October of 2014,” Krey said. “I began serving as president in December 1999, and I really think 15 years as president is long enough. I did the same thing as pastor of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Baltimore, serving until its 150th anniversary, so I guess you could say I am a creature of habit.” He said he will concentrate on a growing list of academic projects when he returns to the faculty.

“The seminary is a distinctly different place than it was when Krey assumed the presidency,” said the Rev. Dr. John Richter, Board Chair. “He brought terrific energy and vision to his responsibilities. The seminary campus was transformed under his leadership with the construction of the high-tech Brossman Learning Center, the school’s first building dedicated exclusively to classrooms. He spearheaded the seminary’s greater connection to the public square on neighborhood, city, and Commonwealth levels. He oversaw several curriculum and accreditation reviews, led Master Plan initiatives through times of great change and challenge, and with the help of others energized the seminary’s financial support base. It is clear he has been a conscientious and committed steward of theological education in this place.”
Krey, the Ministerium of New York Professor of Early Church History at LTSP, carries an impressive academic portfolio in addition to his skills as an administrator. And he’s known for his passion for urban ministry. He is a member and co-founder of the Society for the Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages and has a special fascination for the history of the interpretation of the Book of Revelation. He has written and translated a medieval Franciscan’s Revelation Commentary, that of Nicholas of Lyra, who lived in the fourteenth century and is the author of several books including Martin Luther’s Spirituality, a translation, (Paulist Press, 2006). He has been vocal about the importance of rebuilding and renovating inner-city parishes and during his years in Philadelphia has served as mentoring or interim pastor for several Philadelphia Lutheran congregations. He is a co-founder of the Inner-City Ministers’ Guild, which meets four times a year for prayer, continuing education, accountability, and recruitment of urban pastors.

Krey joined the LTSP faculty in 1989 as Professor of Church History with tenure. He became dean of the seminary in October 1997. He has served on the Board of East Mount Airy Neighbors since 2002 and is a member of the Union League of Philadelphia.

Philip Krey earned his BA in English and Religion from the University of Massachusetts in 1972. He was awarded his MDiv in 1976 from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. In 1982 he received a Certificate in Organizational and Community Systems from Johns Hopkins University. He earned an MA in Early and Medieval Studies from the Catholic University of America and in 1990 he was awarded a PhD in the History of Christianity from the University of Chicago. He is also a Fulbright Fellow, having studied in that capacity at the University of Munich in 1988.

His spouse of 39 years, RenĂ© Diemer, is the seminary’s registrar. They live in Philadelphia’s East Mt. Airy on the seminary’s campus. The couple has five adult children.

Letters to the seminary community from the Rev. Dr. John Richter, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and to the board from President Krey follow:

LTSP 150 Celebration
June 26, 2013

Dear Members of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia Community,

At a meeting of the Board of Trustees on June 26, 2013, President Krey submitted a letter indicating that he will step down as this seminary's leader on December 31, 2014. His letter to the Board is included below.

The Board expressed its heartfelt thanks to President Krey for his diligent and dedicated leadership of this seminary for the past 15 years. It is clear he has been a conscientious and committed steward of theological education in this place. There will be opportunities to express our gratitude in the days ahead.

The Board has begun planning for an orderly transition and tending to the many tasks involved in the search for and selection of the seminary's next leader. This process will involve the various stakeholders and constituencies of the seminary. We are committed to clear communication during this transition. Please watch for information on the search process in the coming weeks. We covet your support and invite your prayers.

In the meantime, there continue to be multiple issues the Board and entire seminary community will address. There are several challenges that will require action and decisions in the coming months. Determinations made in the days ahead will shape this school for decades to come.

In the midst of transition, our work continues. The Board and president pledge to work especially closely in the coming months, aware of the work we are called to in the present even as we plan for a new day. Please join with the Board and the president in seeking to faithfully guide our seminary into the future God sets before us.

With gratitude for the promises of God, and your continued partnership in our mission, 

The Rev. John C. Richter
Chair, Board of Trustees
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
LTSP Office of the President
Grace and Peace be to you from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear members of the Board of Trustees,

As people admire the cross given to me by my dear faculty colleagues at my installation as president, I regularly share how proud I am to wear this gift in this great city. I will be honored to pass it on to someone who will steward this wonderful school into God's future. Today, I shared with the Board of Trustees that I long planned to step down as president soon after the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the seminary.

I began serving in December 1999, and as I plan to step down on December 31, 2014, fifteen years will be long enough. By God's grace I will entrust the beginning of the next 150 years to someone whom the Board invites to lead this wonderful school with its dedicated faculty and staff, amazing students, and superb boards and trustees. As a creature of habit I did the same at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Baltimore. I was able to serve as pastor until its 150th anniversary, and 28 years later it is still going strong. I have supported the three spectacular pastors who succeeded my ministry, and I pledge that the board and my successor at LTSP will receive my prayers and resolute financial support. 

In the days ahead, I will have plenty to do as I have a growing list of academic projects. I have enjoyed my service here and have valued the board's leadership and commitment. I am grateful to the seminary community for its trust in my stewardship. In the next eighteen months I pledge my focused attention and all my resources to fulfill the 150th anniversary initiative that is part of LTSP's Strategic Plan that holds great promise. It is my prayer that God will send us favorable winds. I thank God for each of you. May God continue to bless this wonderful school.

With thanksgiving in Christ Jesus, 

Philip D. Krey
President and Ministerium of New York Professor of Church History
June 26, 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Easter message from President Philip Krey

PS Portions

A Taste of Seminary Happenings

Easter 2013

An Easter message from President Philip Krey
President Philip Krey
For the women, it took a long time for morning to come. The night is long when - in the dead of night - fear, death, and loss weigh down our hopes and dreams. After a long night, the women found the news that the rock had been rolled away from the tomb, and God had broken into all our nights with the morning greeting, "Jesus is Risen." Our nights and mornings need never be the same, as our hopes and dreams are greeted night and day with the newness of the Easter greeting, "Christ is Risen." At the Philadelphia Seminary, all of us wish you a blessed Easter season filled with hope and the presence of God in the risen Christ.

Philip D. Krey

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spring Convocation 2013: Let the Games Begin!

Spring Convocation 2013
Greetings in Christ from 
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Let the Games Begin!

Each year classes that are celebrating their anniversary years (graduation years ending in 3 or 8) engage in a little friendly competition to see who can raise the most money and see their class year emblazoned on the plaques in the Lull Lounge (one for the highest amount and one for the highest percentage). 

Now, winning and having your class year displayed for all to see is nothing to sneeze at. (God bless you!) But the really exciting part is that you have the opportunity to support a new seminary student, honor a teacher who made the difference for you, or support the work of the Urban Theological Institute. And that's not all. Supporting LTSP in its mission to educate and form leaders means that you are, again, part of sharing the Gospel to a world in need. So, as far as I can tell, this deal is one you will not want to pass on!

To make a class gift, click here. Fill in the top portion of the form with you information and enter your class gift amount at "I want to contribute to my class gift." If you haven't yet registered for Spring Convocation events, continue filling out the rest of the form, or call Kathie Afflerbach at 215.248.6324 to register. You can contribute to a class gift if you are already registered or even if you are unable to attend Spring Convocation!

Let me know if you have any questions.

I am looking forward to our time together.
The Rev. Louise N. Johnson
Vice President for Mission Advancement

See the full Spring Convocation schedule here.

LTSP 150
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia | 215.248.4616 |
7301 Germantown Avenue | Philadelphia, PA 19119

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Preaching with Power coming March 10-14

Preaching with Power: A Forum on Black Preaching and Theology returns to Philadelphia for the 31st year from Sunday, March 10 through Thursday, March 14. Preaching with Power is a program of the Urban Theological Institute (UTI)  of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), and features five sermons and one lecture by six distinguished African American preachers and theologians, along with an Ash Wednesday service with preaching by seminary professor the Rev. Dr. Charles Leonard.

Local churches in the Philadelphia community host the evening worship services, plus the lecture and music celebration held on the LTSP campus in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. All are welcome! Come and be inspired! The worship offering proceeds go to The Rev. Dr. Joseph Q. Jackson Endowed Scholarship Fund, which benefits UTI students.

Dates and preachers/programs for 2013 are:

Sunday – March 10, 2013, 3:30 pm, Celebration of Music in the African American Church at Janes Memorial United Methodist Church, 41-59 E Haines Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144

Monday – March 11, 2013, 7:00 pm, Dr. Ralph D. West preaching at Grace Baptist Church of Germantown, 25 West Johnson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19144

Tuesday morning – March 12, 2013, 11:15 am, Dr. Yolanda Pierce lecturing at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Benbow Hall, The Brossman Center, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19119

Tuesday evening – March 12, 2013, 7:00 pm, The Rt. Rev. Nathan D. Baxter preaching at Reformation Lutheran Church, 1215 East Vernon Road, Philadelphia, PA 19150

Wednesday morning – March 13, 2013, 11:15 am, Dr. Alyn E. Waller preaching at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19119

Wednesday evening – March 13, 2013, 6:30 pm, Bishop Martin Luther Johnson preaching at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, 6401 Ogontz Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19126

Thursday – March 14, 2013, 7:00 pm, Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram preaching at Mt. Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church, 428 North 41st Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147

The week concludes with a Prospective Student Day on Thursday, March 21 starting at 6:30 pm on the LTSP campus. Is God calling you? Come and See what is available for you at LTSP! 

For more information on Preaching with Power, including venue directions and preacher profiles, and to register for Prospective Student Day, go to the seminary Website:

LTSP's New Curriculum: A Reflection

A Reflection by the Rev. Dr. David Grafton
Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor,
Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Lutheran Theological Seminary
at Philadelphia seeks to educate and form public leaders who are
to developing and nurturing individual believers and
communities of faith for engagement in the world
The Rev. Dr. David GraftonI remember very vividly my first orientation session at seminary some twenty-four years ago. I sat down in the midst of an excited yet nervous cohort of incoming seminarians in the then new ELCA. It was at that point I realized I was one of the few “first career” theology students. Most of my classmates, friends, and colleagues were “second” or even “third” career students who brought with them a great deal of experience and commitment to the church, having been serving for years as lay leaders in their own congregations. I, on the other hand, had followed the “old school” regimen of doing a pre-theology program at a Lutheran university, and had hopes of continuing my Lutheran confessional seminary education at an ELCA school in preparation for my career in the Lutheran Church. I was a product similar to what Richard Lischer in Open Secrets called “the system.” After eight years of pre-seminary and seminary training, I felt pretty-well prepared for ministry in my first call, and then the boiler broke and I had no idea what to do.
This model of theological education has been the basis for training an educated clergy for quite a long time in North America. The concept of learning the “classics” of seminary education  biblical languages, early Christological debates, Lutheran confessional identity, and pastoral techniques  before heading out into the reality of parish contexts has been a wonderful model that has served the church well. Unfortunately, that model is no longer sustainable for several reasons.
My experience taught me that “book learning” was critical. And yet, I could never learn enough. While I had wonderful opportunities to fill my tool belt with the critical tools that helped me do ministry, after a total of twelve years of education (BA, MDiv, PhD), I could truly never learn enough to be a good pastor. It was clear I would need to be a life-long learner in the ministry. This is even truer today. 
I was also fortunate enough to have the institutional support of the church to subsidize my education at every level. My synod provided grants for me to attend a Lutheran university, my congregation underwrote my Lutheran seminary education, and a Lutheran companion synod provided a stipend while I worked on my PhD overseas. Throughout this time, my wife worked to help support us, and still we went into debt. As we know, seminary debt is an overwhelming challenge in the church today.
Finally, my experience as a church professional was nurtured by a large program-church at the height of its institutional life, supported by a network of field education congregations that gladly received and financially subsidized its seminarians, and was welcomed by a first-call congregation that was more than willing to provide a parsonage and health care for a young pastor, spouse, and babies on the way.
In many ways, times have changed, but in most ways, things are still the same. We still need pastors and lay leaders who are thoroughly grounded in the scriptures and confessions, who are able to meet the challenges of ministry in today’s world with integrity. However, in many places, the national demographics, church culture, networks, and resources that I grew up with have changed, and will continue to change. Things are changing so fast that it is impossible to train a student once for a lifetime of effective ministry.
LTSP serves the seminary’s mission of preparing public leaders for the mission of the church in the world. The seminary takes seriously its commitments to educate and form public leaders who are able to develop and nurture ministries of the church, as well as engage the larger public square for the common good. The seminary is committed to shaping Christian leaders who are able to articulate their faith within multiple publics. To this end, the seminary has been involved in a curriculum revision to respond to the changing landscape of our church and the many different communities in which our ministries are located. This new curriculum will build upon its past traditions of a confessionally Lutheran, inherently ecumenical seminary, with a high standard of academic rigor. The mantra of this new curriculum is: flexible, affordable, and relevant.
Flexible: The most recent Lutheran model of theological education assumed a four year full time residential student who could relocate to the seminary, move to an internship site, and relocate back to the seminary before heading out to first-call assignment — four moves in four years. Statistics demonstrate that the number of full time MDiv students nation-wide is dropping at a dramatic rate. The pool of applicants and their ability or desire to engage the “system” have changed. It is clear that those discerning a seminary education require flexibility from the church that will allow them to learn, grow, and prepare themselves while either not having to leave their employment, relocate, or to take four years to move through their courses; all the while realizing that theological education is never completed, even after seminary. The seminary hopes to work hand in hand with synods, candidacy committees, and judicatories to provide opportunities for undertaking study while working in ministry.
Affordable: The church has recognized that current seminarians are bearing the bulk of the financial burden for their studies. While it is true that other professional schools have not had subsidized education, it is also true that the financial benefits of church workers rank near the bottom of all trained professions. In addition, the ability of ministries to provide housing and health care coverage for their pastors has been greatly challenged. There is no getting around the fact that theological education is a significant investment of time and money by the church. With shrinking resources from traditional sources of income, the seminary will need to continue to support its Leadership Fund, as well as find opportunities for students to engage in ministry through co-op models while they study. A new curriculum will provide avenues for students to continue working, or, if full time, move through more quickly and meet their requirements for graduation in a more affordable and timely manner.
Relevant: The traditional models of theological education that I was schooled in provided classroom theory upon which to build skills for practical ministry. This curriculum centers on experiential or case-study based methods so that theory and praxis inform each other on a continuing basis. The intent is to invert the previous paradigm and introduce students to practical ministry and theological reflection from the beginning of the program. This is a model that has been utilized by the medical and legal professions for more than thirty years. Students will be required to link particular required courses with field education sites and demonstrate how their practical ministry is affected by their theological identities, and how their “book learning” impacts their practice.
It is easy to see that the flexible, affordable, and relevant criteria are all inter-related. A new curriculum will aim to provide combinations of full and part time study, residential, commuter, distance components, and hybrid courses so that candidates for ministry can move through their education more quickly with courses that attempt to create opportunities for learning from practical ministerial experiences.
A new curriculum at LTSP will be based upon the seminary's commitments to educate and form rostered leaders for the church that are competent to meet the needs of the church in a changing church and a changing culture. Students will be required to demonstrate they can lead communities, be entrepreneurs, preach, and live the Gospel in a variety of ministerial contexts where traditional church community may no longer be the base for much of our society. In addition, whereas the previous 2004 curriculum took a major step of requiring students to take courses in global, ecumenical, and interfaith engagement, this curriculum will require students to integrate the global, multi-cultural, ecumenical, and interfaith realities of our nation within the whole of the curriculum. Finally, an initial Introduction to Public Theology and a final course in Public Theology will help students integrate their theological and confessional witness within larger social issues where the church needs to have a public voice, bearing witness to the God made manifest in the Crucified and Risen Christ. We hope this developing curriculum will form the new “system” for another generation of church leaders.
The new curriculum will be launched in fall 2013.
Originally published in the January issue of PS Portions online at Also see President Krey's introduction to the issue: Moving Forward in the Name of Christ.