From My Desk to Yours

From My Desk to Yours: New Beginnings, Painful Endings

ULS President’s Newsletter | Fall Term 2018-19

Volume II, Issue I

January at ULS is always a hopeful time.

Far-flung students in our Distributed Learning program gather with other students for intensive classes on both campuses during January. It’s been exciting keeping up on social media with students and faculty on an educational trip to The Holy Land guided by Biblical Studies Professor Dr. Mark Hoffman.

The holiday rush of joyful worship for pastors is over, most of us are finished traveling, and our campuses are quieter than usual, with the stark beauty of bare branches and evergreen foliage hinting at a spring that is still far away, yet promised in the grand cycle of Creation.

Our hope is tempered by two sad losses the ULS community experienced recently. Rev. Dr. Jim Echols, a graduate and later dean of ULS predecessor institution Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, passed away Dec. 22 after a fall at his home in Philadelphia. Dr. Echols was 67.

Rev. Dr. Echols had a distinguished career as a pastor and educator in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, serving parishes in Connecticut and New York after his ordination in ELCA parent denomination The Lutheran Church in America, in 1979. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, A Master of Divinity Degree from LTSP, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in the History of Christianity from Yale University.

Rev. Dr. Echols served on the LTSP faculty as a professor of American Church History from 1982 to 1997. He was unanimously elected Dean of Faculty at LTSP in 1991, the first African-American dean of LTSP. He had a distinguished career as a Lutheran educator after leaving LTSP, serving as President of Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, the first person of African descent to lead a Lutheran theological institution. He served the presiding bishop’s office of the ELCA beginning in 2012 as Director of Theological Education and Networks.

A celebration of his life was held at ULS on December 29. He is survived by his wife, Donna Skinner Echols, and their daughters Jennifer and Courtney.

Our community also lost Aaron Bishop, the Coordinator of Housekeeping on the Philadelphia Campus. Mr. Bishop was a warm and steady presence on campus, always willing to share a smile.

He was a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, and a self-taught musician, playing harmonica, guitar and piano. He was an employee at LTSP and then ULS since 2008. He is survived by a daughter, Aaryn Michelle Bishop, and stepchildren, Lissa, Davie and Kiesha Johnson.

I also have been informed of the January 12 passing of Richard Barger, father of Kyle Barger, ULS Senior Director of Operations.

We request the prayers of the community for the repose of their souls.

Almighty God, we know our brothers Aaron, Jim, and Richard are with you now. Hold them in your glory as we pray for them, sure in the hope of salvation in your Son, Jesus Christ. Guide us in our lives and grant us peace and love and joy here on Earth before we make the final journey to join you in life everlasting.


Richard Green
Interim President

Significant Events and Updates

Sacred Space for Collaborative Listening to Build Contextually Real Leadership for the ELCA

Last week, I had the privilege to participate in a forum with Seminary Leaders and ELCA Bishops of color from around the United States. The consultation was held in connection with January ELCA Council of Bishops meeting in San Antonio, Texas and filled with spirit-led dialogues focused on dismantling racism and oppression in theological education and formation for ministry. This first conversation included:

  • Building authentic relationships
  • Using a design process to identify concerns and opportunities
  • Drafting two prototypes for further development

The meeting, offered in response and commitment to the 2016 Churchwide action on racism, is a significant first step of many.

Collaborators who participated include:

  1. Guy Erwin, Host Bishop, SW California Synod
  2. Abraham Allende, Bishop, NE Ohio Synod
  3. Patricia Davenport, Bishop, SE Pennsylvania Synod
  4. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, Bishop, South-Central Synod of Wisconsin
  5. Pedro Suarez, Bishop, Florida-Bahamas Synod
  6. Idalia Negron Caamaño, Bishop, Caribbean Synod
  7. David Ratke, Dean, College of Theology LRU-Southern Seminary
  8. Richard Green, Interim-President, United Lutheran Seminary*
  9. James Nieman, President, LSTC*
  10. Katheryn (Kit) Kleinhans, President, Capital University-Trinity Lutheran Seminary
  11. Louise Johnson, President, Wartburg Seminary
  12. Ray Pickett, Rector and Dean, California Lutheran University-Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
  13. Robin Steinke, President, Luther Seminary
  14. Javier Goitia, ELCA Churchwide Staff, Theological Education
  15. Peggy Hahn, Assistant to the Bishop, TLGCS, Executive Director, LEAD

Recent Congregation Visit

Martin Zimmann accompanied me January 13th on a speaking engagement at St. John’s Lutheran Church at Summit, NJ, where Rev. Gladys Moore is Pastor and Rev. Blake A. Scalet is Assistant Pastor. Both are ULS graduates. St. John’s Lutheran Church funds a Visiting Professor position with ULS which this year sponsored Rev. Dr. Karoline Lewis, a professor at Luther Seminary, who is a guest speaker at ULS during the week of January 14, 2019.

January Board of Trustees Meeting

The ULS Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday January 29 and Wednesday January 30 in Benbow B and C on the Philadelphia Campus. The meetings are scheduled to begin at 9:00 AM on both days. The community is invited to attend.