The ULS community was informed on Tuesday, April 3, that ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation has suspended the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) designation for United Lutheran Seminary. The board and seminary community are deeply disappointed in this. A link to the letter we received, from Reconciling Works, can be found here.
RIC status identifies an organization as being accepting of and encouraging the full participation of the LGBTQ community. It is important to note that as ReconcilingWorks took its actions, ULS was already taking steps to underscore its commitment to the LBGTQ community.
To be clear: ULS seeks to respect and value the LGBTQ members of our community and stands with them as they discern their calling. Our Gettysburg and Philadelphia campuses strive to be inclusive settings for people of all backgrounds and cultures to learn and worship Jesus Christ. But now, more than ever, it is important that we back these words with our deeds. To that end, the Diversity Task Force is putting in place a plan to work in earnest on restoring our RIC designation as we deal with many inclusion issues in our community. We have had multiple conversations with the executive director of ReconcilingWorks and will continue to update the seminary community throughout the process of communal discussion, education, listening, and discernment that will lead to a new statement of welcome for ULS.
Information on how the former Philadelphia and Gettysburg Seminaries came to become RIC can be found below:
The United Lutheran Seminary continues to follow the course set by its predecessor institutions as a Reconciling in Christ Seminary, explicitly welcoming students, faculty and staff of all gender identities and sexual orientations, and seeking to defend all people against discrimination and abuse.
United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) is a consolidation of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, which became RIC in 2010 and Gettysburg Seminary, certified RIC in 2015. ULS officially came into being July 1, 2017.
United Lutheran Seminary celebrates the beauty and diversity in God’s creation,” says President Theresa Latini. “As such, we wholeheartedly welcome LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty. Called to be ambassadors of reconciliation, we commit ourselves to becoming a just, equitable, and inclusive community of faith and learning for all, especially for those who have been excluded from full participation in the church and the academy.”
The student association, faculty, and ultimately, the Board itself engaged in study of the issues in a process suggested by Reconciling Works (formerly Lutherans Concerned). Students raised the question because they believed that “this is who we actually are,” according to multiple student leaders. The process was designed and guided by a task force of the Board of Directors and included students, staff, faculty and other members of the community. The Faculty also endorsed the decision.
Faculty contributed to the study and churchwide conversation that led to the decision in 2009 to ordain persons in partnered, same sex relationships. By way of examples, you can see some of the Rev. Dr. Timothy Wengert’s contribution through links below.
The process included a review and updating of personnel policies and conversation led by Reconciling Works staff member Tim Feiertag. The process also included a full year of student and community-wide forums, Student Association activities and a unanimous endorsement by the faculty. Much praise was heard from the task force about the process, including a testament to the faithful integrity of students and the community in general as they initiated the question.
Co-Deans Kristin Largen and Kiran Sebastian summarized the importance of being a RIC seminary, saying “We see our certification as a Reconciling in Christ Seminary as a central component of our identity as an educational institution of the ELCA, as we seek to form a wide range of excellent candidates for public ministry.”
Reference to further information: