Our Welcome & Equity Statement
As a community of saved and forgiven people of God, United Lutheran Seminary is called to minister with and affirm all people, knowing that the world is often a place of alienation and brokenness. Indeed, the Church and even this institution have participated in and perpetuated harm to many marginalized persons. We lament the painful alienation that many have experienced from the church and institutions of the church, including ULS and its predecessor institutions, because of what we have done and left undone. However, we firmly believe that Christ calls us to repentance, reconciliation, and wholeness. We are challenged by the Gospel to be agents of healing within our society.
We affirm the apostle Paul when he states, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV). Christ has made us one. We acknowledge Christ’s reconciliation extends to people of all races, ethnicities, national origins, languages of origin, immigration statuses, mental illnesses, physical attributes or abilities, ages, family structures, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, former incarcerations, recovery statuses, religious affiliations, and socio-economic statuses.
All too often, society scorns, and the Church alienates, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and non-binary persons. Therefore, we are called to action and to concretely show our support, inclusion, care, solidarity, and concern. It is for this purpose that we affirm that people of all gender identities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations are of sacred worth as unique and genuine individuals created by God and are full participants, beloved members of our community.
Moreover, society, the church, and other institutions marginalize and discriminate against persons of color. Therefore, we are called to action and to concretely show our support, inclusion, caring, solidarity, and concern. It is for this purpose that we affirm that people of all racial and ethnic groups are of sacred worth as unique and genuine individuals created by God and are full participants, beloved members of our community. Our seminary community commits to the acceptance and affirmation of all persons. While not everyone in our community is like-minded in the theological and cultural understandings included in this statement, we commit to speaking in love and agreeing to treat our siblings in faith equitably and with affirmation and welcome.
The United Lutheran Seminary community commits to changing the world through the transformative grace of God, inclusive hospitality, and radical welcome. We commit ourselves to making this place open, welcoming, accepting, and affirming to all of God’s children. We pledge to provide a place of comfort and safety. We promise to teach that the Gospel of Christ is for everyone equally. We will strive to advocate for systemic change within the policies and practices of church and society. We will work to alleviate not only the painful symptoms of oppression and exclusion, but also to eliminate their root causes.
As a community embodying these values, we will do our utmost to translate our convictions into transformative action in all aspects of our life together. We commit to the important work of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation within our community life.
Reconciling in Christ
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.
Tradition of Reconciling in Christ Predates the formation of United Lutheran Seminary
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.
“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.
Reference to further information: