Speaking Against the Void

by Dr. Theresa Latini
President, United Lutheran Seminary

Martin Luther King Jr - Theresa Latini - United Lutheran SeminaryIn recent days in the United States of America, we’ve been awash in moral outrage, and rightly so. Politicians, news commentators, pastors, theologians, global leaders, and ordinary citizens have risen up in opposition to President Trump’s references to Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as “sh**hole countries.” In the context of discussing U.S. immigration policy, President Trump spewed, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” And “Why do we need more Haitians? . . . Take them out.”

When such vitriol flows from the White House, it is incumbent upon all of us to speak an unequivocal “NO!” As we do so, President Trump’s comments must be named for what they are: racist, xenophobic, hateful, violent. They deny our common, universal humanity. They exclude and de-humanize persons of color. They tear apart the fabric of community. They marginalize. In short, they promote death rather than life. These comments carry within them the power of the void (or, nothingness)—a kind of power that would turn the most vulnerable of God’s good creation back into nothing.

Over the years, I’ve turned to Dr. King’s sermons to help me lead in moments like these. He teaches me to interpret the pervasive sins of racism, classism, and militarism in light of scripture and above all he reminds me of the biblical mandate to love. His sermons, indeed his whole life, witness to much that we desperately need today: persistent nonviolent resistance and peacemaking; an unwavering neighborly love grounded in the gospel; a dogged refusal to dehumanize the so-called enemy; a commitment to action and radical restructuring of our social order so that justice and peace might prevail.

Over the weekend, I read again his sermon “Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break Silence,” delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967. To summarize of a few of the most salient of Dr. King’s points for our consideration today:

1. We must speak out.

Silence is betrayal of marginalized and vulnerable populations. Silence also is a betrayal of our own values. Such speaking out against racist, xenophobic speech and policies will need to be persistent. Sporadic speech is not enough to confront the goliath of injustice looming over our country.

2. We must speak out with humility, not self-righteousness.

If Dr. King himself speaks of the “betrayal of [his] own silences,” then how much more so ought the rest of us do the same?! Our moral outrage must be coupled, especially for those with privilege, with a willingness to also stand under the “NO!” of God. Insofar as we perpetuate injustice—both intentionally and unintentionally, consciously and unconsciously, personally and structurally—we are called to confession and repentance, again and again.

3. We must speak (and act) locally and nationally and globally.

We cannot work for justice in one arena and ignore profound injustice in another. For we are all connected to one another; so are our socioeconomic policies. Dr. King said, “A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind [sic] as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

4. We must act individually and systemically.

We must care for persons and care for our institutions. Such care entails advocacy and comprehensive change. Dr. King preached, “On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

5. We must act nonviolently, because all of this work is fundamentally about love.

God is love and love is the “ultimate reality.” Which means, among other things, that we must love our so-called enemies, wherever we have created them. When we hate even those who act in hateful ways, we run the risk of becoming like them, and we perpetuate the very thing we are longing to end. Saying “NO!” to President Trump, then, must be accompanied by the hard work of speaking out against his actions, and the power of the void, without dehumanizing him. For in doing so, we say “YES!” to the God of love, the God of forgiveness, the God of peace.

On this day of commemorating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., may we commit ourselves to this work, and may we pray together for God’s reign of peace to come.

Reason #1: A Hope-Filled New Beginning

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This post is part of our end-of-year series, in which 5 ULS staff members and students share reasons they support ULS in their year-end giving. We appreciate your support!

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Reason #1: A Hope-Filled New Beginning

From Angela Zimmann, VP of Advancement

This year has been witness to some of the most fractious and galvanizing public conversation in a generation. Even simple cultural events like the playing of the national anthem at football games have been politicized and folks are dragged into making public stands where there were previously none.

At a time like this, I have been part of a hope-filled new beginning born out of a conflict that lasted over 150 years: United Lutheran Seminary. What does this say about the future of theological education in the Northeastern United States? It says that we recognize that people are more important than archaic doctrinal differences, that the mission of God’s kingdom is our core commonality, and that the rich traditions we carry forward are for the purpose of building bridges and not creating barriers.

ULS staff - Angela Zimmann

I fervently pray for the future of not only our nation, but our relationships within the cradle of humanity itself. United Lutheran Seminary is working to equip the saints for the work of ministry at a time when God’s message of grace and hope are needed more than ever. Thank you for your prayers and support of this mission. Thank you for being part of God’s redeeming work in the world.

Angela Zimmann
VP of Advancement
United Lutheran Seminary

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Reason #2: “I Would Not Have Guessed…”

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Reason #2: “I Would Not Have Guessed…”

From Ryan Fitch, ULS Student

My time at United Lutheran Seminary has been one of great joy.

Just a couple years ago I would not have guessed that I would be in this place, following the paths that my father and grandfather have as well. Since beginning this journey, I have found a new means of connecting with both of these personal inspirations. We have been able to discuss the ways seminary life and curriculum have changed so many times in our cumulative 8 years in Gettysburg.

It has been comforting to hear that they have experienced very similar changes, that often seem shocking at the time, and yet this place has continued to educate, inspire, and develop leaders in the church.

Ryan Fitch, ULS student

Financial burdens for my father still persist, but he is relieved to see that the same is not true for me. I have been given such a great gift by coming to United Lutheran Seminary in this time, and always keeping an eager eye to the future of this seminary.

Ryan Fitch
Student
United Lutheran Seminary

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Reason #3: You Can Be the Difference

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Reason #3: You Can Be the Difference

From Lisa Dubay, Major Gift Officer

Be the difference you want to see in the world.

Be Kind.
Be Thoughtful.
Be Loving.
Be Generous.

You can make a difference this year in the life of a student at United Lutheran Seminary. Your gifts to the seminary help contribute to the educational opportunities for the next generation of leaders in the church. Through your generosity, you can help to foster educational opportunities, personal growth, community involvement, and comfort to those that are discerning a call to ministry here at United Lutheran Seminary. Your support will help us to raise up new leaders for the church who seek to spread the good news that Jesus Christ came to announce to the world.

As we look with awe and wonder at the Star which led the shepherds to the infant Jesus, we live amidst the continuing glow of that light. Jesus has called each of us to be a light in the darkness. Each of us is capable of making a difference. Through your support of United Lutheran Seminary and its students, you can play an active role in service to Christ’s mission.

ULS staff - Lisa Dubay

Please consider a contribution to the seminary as we continue our journey into 2018. Blessings to you and your family in the new year!

Lisa Dubay
Major Gift Officer
United Lutheran Seminary

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Reason #4: Crazy Weather

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Reason #4: Crazy Weather

From Becca Ehrlich, Associate Director of Admissions

When I was living in Philadelphia and discerning a call to Word and Sacrament ministry twelve years ago, a pastor friend of mine suggested that I meet with the Associate Director of Admissions at the then Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Sneaky-Smart

This was both smart and sneaky-smart, because I had never met a female pastor before and he knew that I should talk with one, and sneaky, because he knew that talking with Admissions staff at the seminary would most likely move me along in the process of applying for both seminary and candidacy in the ELCA and help me to follow my call from God.

I had lunch with the Associate Director at the time, Rev. Louise Johnson (who, incidentally, is now the president at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Iowa), at the diner down the street from the seminary. She was open and honest about what being a female pastor was like, and answered all my (strange and weirdly specific) questions about seminary, ordained ministry, and her own discernment journey.

After lunch, I asked if I could see the Chapel on campus, and she was more than happy to oblige. We entered the Chapel, and talked a while about worship opportunities on campus and special community events that happen there.

Someone Flipped a Switch…

When we walked into the Chapel, the sky was overcast but the weather was calm and normal. When we walked out of the Chapel a half-hour later, though, it was like someone had flipped a switch and we had walked onto the set of The Wizard of OZ during the tornado. The wind was so strong that it felt like we were running into a wind tunnel. When we ran under a tree, a huge branch came loose and came crashing down in front of us. We kept running as fast as we could towards our cars, now with our arms over our heads in case another branch decided to jump ship from its mother tree.

We were almost to our cars when Louise stopped suddenly. She turned into the wind, and looked up. I stopped too, wondering what was happening. After a brief second-long pause, she yelled into the wind and ominous-looking clouds: “OK, OK! SHE’LL GO TO SEMINARY!!!!”

Crazy weather aside, that day was the day I started taking seriously my discernment process and call from God. Speaking with Louise and talking through my questions, hopes, and fears about seminary and about ministry with someone who understood what I was going through and could answer my questions was instrumental in my discernment journey.

A Place to Discern

Becca Ehrlich - Graduation - with Katie Day

I think about that day often as I work in Admissions at ULS. Every day, I talk with people all over the country, from all different life situations, who are discerning calls to public ministry. And every day, I pray that God will use me to help someone on their own discernment journey, just as God used Louise that day. ULS is where future ministry leaders can discern their call from God in a safe and helpful environment– and pursue their call if and when they answer. Supporting ULS is a way to ensure that prospective students can continue discerning and pursuing their calls from God, so that people around world will hear and experience the unconditional love of Jesus.

Rev. Becca Ehrlich
Associate Director of Admissions
United Lutheran Seminary

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Image: Becca (left) at her graduation from LTSP in 2011 with Dr. Katie Day.

 

Reason #5 to Support ULS in Your Year-End Giving

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Top 5 Reasons

To Support ULS for Your Year-End Giving

This post is part of our end-of-year series, in which 5 ULS staff members and students share reasons they support ULS in their year-end giving. We appreciate your support!

Make a Tax-Deductible Gift to ULS

Reason #5: Alumni – on the Shoulders of Giants

From Martin Otto Zimmann, Dir. of Alumni & Congregational Relations

When I walk across the seminary campus, memories come without warning, and all of them are dear to me. I know I am not alone in this. When alumni come to visit the Philadelphia and Gettysburg campuses, the stories they share remind me that we walk on sacred ground and carry on a rich heritage of people whose dedication to furthering God’s reign sustains future generations in their desire to serve.

I love listening to the memories of my fellow alums and alumni from Philadelphia. These stories shape the lush narrative of God’s people throughout the combined 300+ years of theological education in Pennsylvania, which has made an impact in the furthest corners of Christendom.

Martin & Angela Zimmann

We stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before us, and we pass this legacy on to the next generation of rostered leaders who will continue in this great tradition. Thank you for the support that guarantees continued growth of this legacy, this wonderful sharing of memories in the name of the One who gives us life with all its confounding complexities.

May God bless you in the coming year.

Rev. Dr. Martin Otto Zimmann
Director of Alumni and Congregational Relations
United Lutheran Seminary

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Image: Revs. Drs. Martin and Angela Zimmann, pictured on their graduation day from LTSG in 1998, and pictured at the graduation ceremonies of 2017.

 

Rt. Rev. Dr. Frederick Houk Borsch Memorial Photo Unveiling

Join us on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 for Eucharist and the Unveiling of the Memorial Photo of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Frederick Houk Borsch (1935-2017), beloved Professor of Anglican Studies and New Testament, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. We are honored that Mrs. Barbara Borsch will be with us. The portrait has been generously donated by Mrs. Amanda Smoot.

The event will be held in The Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel at the Philadelphia Campus of United Lutheran Seminary: 7301 Germantown Avenue (Mt. Airy), Philadelphia, PA, 19119. It is free and open to the public.

Schedule

11:45am: Eucharist
12:24pm: Community Lunch
1:45pm Unveiling of Picture

For questions, and to R.S.V.P., contact The Rev. Dr. Storm Swain:  sswain@ULS.edu.

 

Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence at Chapel

Gettysburg Chapel

On Tuesday night, Oct. 3, Gettysburg for Gun Sense will be holding a vigil in the Seminary’s chapel in Gettysburg beginning at 7 PM, to pray for the victims of Sunday’s massacre in Las Vegas, and for an end to such horrors. Everyone, most certainly including seminary folk, is welcome. Please see Pr. Oldenburg moldenburg@uls.edu for more information.

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