Weekly Presidential Update: 4/13

 Weekly Presidential Update • April 13, 2018 • Second Friday of Easter

Dear Friends in Christ,

As our journey together continues, it’s important to me that I’m open, honest and candid with you, the ULS community, about the most recent news, activities and conversations on our campuses. In doing so, I’d like to share with you what has been taking place since I last communicated with you.

  • I connected individually with five ULS students and three faculty members.
  • I held a faculty meeting.
  • I continued working with the human relations firm Lyons Companies.
  • I conducted the second pizza-and-conversation event on the Gettysburg Campus.
  • I presided at Dinner Church in Gettysburg.
  • I attended Chapel in Gettysburg on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • I worshipped in the Philadelphia Chapel on Thursday evening.

Additionally, if you would like to schedule some time to chat with me one-on-one in a more formal setting, please reach out to Joe Carlucci (jcarlucci@uls.edu), who will happily schedule some time with me.

News and Happenings

This week, we received news from the ELCA Church Council that they approved two new ULS Board of Trustees members at their meeting:

Reverend Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler is a native of Oakland, California, and is the third child of Bill and Elroy Tyler. In 1987, he accepted God’s call to preach the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University (B.A., Religion), Payne Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity), and the University of Dayton (Ph.D., Educational Leadership). Since 1994, Dr. Tyler has been in full-time pastoral ministry in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dr. Tyler currently serves as the 52nd pastor of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Mother Bethel, the first congregation founded by Bishop Richard Allen, has been a spiritual, social and community force since the late 1700s. Mother Bethel also has the honor of serving as the final resting place of church founder Bishop Allen, Sarah Allen and Bishop Morris Brown. It is an international destination for AME pilgrims and tourists alike.

The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin was elected as the fourth bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in May 2013, and was consecrated as synod bishop on the Feast of St. Matthew on Sept. 21 of that year. At the time of his election, Dr. Erwin held the Gerhard and Olga Belgum Chair in Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, and was under call to the synod as a professor and part-time interim pastor. Bishop Erwin holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a doctorate from Yale University. Guy Erwin is the ELCA’s first synod bishop who is gay and partnered. Bishop Erwin is also part Osage Indian—born in and still active with the Osage Nation of Oklahoma—and his Native heritage makes him another “first” among ELCA bishops. In the ELCA Conference of Bishops, Erwin serves on the Executive Committee and as Region 2 liaison bishop to the ELCA Church Council, and on the bishops’ ready benches for Justice and for Middle East Peace.

We are engaging with an outside search firm to begin the search for an interim president. We are optimistic that, in the coming weeks, we’ll start to receive candidates. We’ll be interviewing the candidates with a team that represents a cross-section our community. We are hopeful to be able to present a candidate to the board at its next meeting.

Last weekend, the ULS admissions team hosted “The Weekend” discernment event on the Gettysburg campus. It was an effective time away for participants to learn, worship, pray and discern where God may be calling them next. We had 22 participants (with four guests) attend the event, along with 13 current students volunteering their time and talents to help others discern (just as they have). Participants came from all over the country, from a wide range of ages, life situations and a variety of denominations. We thank God for the opportunity to have so many people come to ULS to listen for God’s movement in their lives, and to see if God is calling them to seminary education and public ministry.

Good news: Please help me congratulate two of our UTI students, Emmanuel Philor and Nicholas Christian, for being nominated by Drs. Wiseman and Croft to participate in the Washington Theological Consortium (WTC) 2018 Sermon Slam this past weekend in Washington, D.C. This event is hosted annually by the WTC for seminarians to preach a WTC-selected text in front of preaching professors and other seminarians. Out of the consortium seminaries that competed, our very own Emmanuel took first prize. Congratulations to both Emmanuel and Nicholas for their hard work and dedication to the preaching craft.

We celebrated the life and ministry of Dr. Nelson Strobert, as we hung his portrait in the library on the Gettysburg Campus. Dr. Strobert served from 1987-2013 and is Professor Emeritus of Christian Education in the Paulssen-Hale Chair of Church and Society. His work shaped a generation of pastors and church educators.


Next week, I’ll be in Gettysburg for activities surrounding convocation, and then the week of April 23, I’ll be spending the entire week on the Philadelphia campus in conjunction with the convocation there.

Final Thoughts

This week, I received a letter from some of our students related to the problems of racism in our community. There is deep pain and distress reflected in the letter. I’ve had many conversations with students since I began my role as acting president about racism.

There is no universal experience in our environment. That does not diminish the pain and anguish that some have felt over time and in recent events. I had an extended conversation with the faculty on this subject, and they passed a resolution saying they have listened to the voices and committed themselves to addressing these issues in their own work and to taking part in institutional responses to them.

We’ve convened a Diversity Task Force to deal with all aspects of diversity on our campus. Our preliminary meeting identified the need for in-depth conversations in our community. We will be meeting again on April 23, to talk about how to move that process forward. We are presently:

  • Addressing all specific complaints with a thorough investigation.
  • Working to strengthen the diversity of the board and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.
  • Revamping the anti-racism training for students and faculty in the coming year.
  • Contracting with a trauma specialist and beginning to look at a schedule for her work with us.
  • Looking into what would be required for an audit for inclusion, equity and diversity in our campus.

These are the beginning actions for what will be a season of intentional work for the whole community.

On a personal note, I have been called to task for some of my own comments and use of particular terms that have caused pain for people. I sincerely apologize for those things that I have said or left unsaid. It is my commitment to create a safe environment for every single person on our campuses. As I said in my very first reflection, our governing documents are clear that we do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, disability, religion, veteran status, age, or any protected status. We strive to have an environment where we follow this tenet. I will strive to be a model for this behavior.

Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore. (Ps. 133:1-3 NRS)

Gracious and loving God, we desire to live in unity that we have through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Despite that desire, we continue to speak when we should listen, judge people by their characteristics instead of their character, and fail to see how our words and actions cause others pain. Send your Holy Spirit on us that we may find peace in you and a spirit of love that will bring us into true community. Amen.


Bishop Jim Dunlop
Acting President
United Lutheran Seminary

If you have questions or concerns that remain unanswered you can always submit those on the ULS Community Concerns page.