Historic schools form one body

Two Pa. Seminaries become United Lutheran Seminary

At the exact midpoint of the 500th anniversary year of Martin Luther’s initiation of the 16th Century Reformation, two American theological seminaries with deep roots in Pennsylvania became one school. At the stroke of midnight, July 1, Gettysburg Seminary and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia formed United Lutheran Seminary on two campuses in Gettysburg and Philadelphia.

Founded in 1826, Gettysburg Seminary is the oldest continuing Lutheran theological school in the Americas, and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia got its start in 1864. Together, the schools have graduated more than 10,000 church leaders who have served in religious and public contexts.

“The United Lutheran Seminary is a new venture founded on rich traditions,” said Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, speaking for the 3.8-million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “It brings together urban and rural, Lutheran and ecumenical ministries,” she added.

United Lutheran Seminary opened with 325 students and 21 faculty members, with another 50 staff members working across the two campuses. The decision to unite came from a determination by both schools’ boards in January 2016 to create a stronger single theological seminary, one that could offer premier programs on both campuses, sustain a larger faculty than either alone and offer enhanced learning formats in distributed, online and hybrid class settings. The campuses are located at 7301 Germantown Ave. in Northwest Philadelphia and 61 Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg.

The united school also received its first leader, the Rev. Dr. Theresa F. Latini, who assumed the office of United Lutheran Seminary President on July 1.

As the leader of the new theological school, Latini said the “strength of United Lutheran Seminary comes from its trust in God’s grace and its call to join Jesus’ ministry of healing, justice and reconciliation.” She added “Our wide array of educational programs as well as our communal practices of worship and care will prepare students for faithful and innovative ministry in the twenty-first century.”

With the new school comes a newly-designed, integrative curriculum. Kristin Johnston Largen and Kiran Sebastian, co-deans of the Seminary, emphasize that faculty will offer interdisciplinary perspectives in classrooms in ways that enrich the pedagogy for seminarians.

United Lutheran Seminary begins its life fully accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Association of Theological Schools. The Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pa. has issued approval of the consolidation of the two schools.

Latini’s inauguration is planned for Nov. 2 in Lancaster. She will live on both Gettysburg and Philadelphia campuses, and serve as Professor of Pastoral Theology as well. July 1 also marked the retirement of Gettysburg Seminary President Michael Cooper-White after 17 years at the helm.

David Lose, former president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia began a new call to serve as senior pastor of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minn.