Weekly Presidential Update: 4/27

Weekly Presidential Update • April 27, 2018 • Fourth Friday of Easter

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we navigate this time of transition, I’ll be continuing to share my journey, experiences and thoughts with you, the ULS community.

  • I connected with two students, two faculty members and two alumni members.
  • I spoke to the attendees at the Philadelphia Alumni Convocation.
  • I went to Chapel in Philadelphia on Monday, and Tuesday.
  • I attended an alumni gathering.
  • I was at the alumni awards banquet.
  • I met with the UTI Board.

News and Happenings

We are continuing to work with the search firm Registry to identify an interim president. We have begun to receive names from the process. We will be quickly reviewing these names to have candidates to bring to campus for interviews. The interview team is composed of:

  • Board members Bishop Claire Burkat and Dr. Tommie Robinson;
  • Faculty member Dr. Quintin Robertson;
  • Vice President of Advancement Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann;
  • First-year student Carla Cristopher-Waid;
  • A Philadelphia based student (who we have not confirmed yet) and
  • Myself.

We are in the process of bringing a new candidate to teach in the Biblical Studies department. A search committee recommended a candidate to the faculty. The faculty has asked me to consider this candidate for recommendation to the board of trustees at their May meeting. I have met with the candidate, and believe this person will be an excellent addition to our faculty. The candidate is in the process of discerning this call. If that is a positive process, we will be able to introduce the candidate to the board in May for approval.

Our supporting synods have continued to provide us with new leaders for the board:

Rev. Sara Lilja has been elected to serve on the ULS Board of Trustees by the New Jersey Synod Council. Rev. Lilja is called as the assistant to the Bishop for Multicultural Ministry.

Ms. Karen Arnold has been elected to serve from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod. She is lay person and school principal.

I will share more information about the newest members of the ULS Board of Trustees next week.


I will be in Philadelphia on Monday, April 30, then traveling to Washington, D.C., for the Washington consortium board meeting. On Tuesday, I will be leaving from Philadelphia to meet with a gathering of Northeast Pennsylvania synod pastors. I will be in Gettysburg the rest of the week. The following week I will start in Philadelphia and finish the week in Gettysburg.

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.

Final Thoughts

I received Senior Pastor David Lose’s April 23 message and respect his concerns about the future of the United Lutheran Seminary. Pastor Lose has been a wonderful teacher and leader in our community, and I thank him for his contributions to our Philadelphia Seminary. We are a community that benefits from having many different opinions, and I certainly value them all.

As we all know, the challenges we face are tremendous. Our work at unifying a diverse group of people across two campuses and toward healing from the pain faced by so many communities, continues in earnest. We are making some progress on that front, although we clearly have a very long way to go. With that said, the hard work of so many continues to be a daily source of inspiration for me.

In this week we have had important conversations on the subject of race. There are complaints that go back years and some that go back months. As I have said in previous messages, this is a high priority for the board and certainly for me in my limited time remaining as your acting president. I want to make sure you’re aware of several steps we have taken in this critical area:

  • We have brought in a trauma consultant, Dr. Christine Kennedy, to begin conversations with students.
  • We have formed a Diversity Task Force that met this week. A group led by Dr. Karyn Wiseman will begin work on a welcome statement. The Diversity Task Force also met with Dr. Kennedy to coordinate efforts.
  • We are planning events at each campus with Dr. Kennedy and students for a status of her work in the coming weeks. We must work together as a community in this important work.
  • We contracted with a human resources firm, Lyons Companies, to work on specific investigations. These investigations are being overseen directly by the board of trustees. Sadly, this work has been delayed due to the passing of a member of Lyons Companies. Since then, a decision was made to change firms. The board meets Thursday night to approve a new firm which will begin their work immediately. The firm will have absolute autonomy in its investigations.
  • With the approval of the board, I have been working to bring pastoral and behavioral health services specifically to the Philadelphia Campus in conjunction with Bishop Burkat.

Let me also say that there have been people that have been hurt by my choice of words. I want everyone to know that I have no intention of hurting anyone. I recognize that there are times in which I have not been sensitive in the words I choose. I want you to know that I am deeply sorry and humbly repent. I will continue to meet with anyone who wants to meet with me to discuss your concerns and how we can move our wonderful ULS community forward. It is my commitment to create a safe environment for every person on this campus.

We must live the words found in our governing documents: 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. Much of my remaining time as your acting president will be spent striving to have an environment where we follow this tenet. I will continue to keep this in the forefront of the work I do.

I will continue to open my door for the ULS community to visit with me to discuss what is most important to them. I have met with many students in group settings, as well as one-on-one in my office. After each meeting, I find myself comforted in knowing that we are fortunate to serve bright, kind, passionate and spiritually focused students. They care deeply about ULS and our mission. Like all of us, they are focused on making ULS the best it can be.

As I have indicated, we are actively looking at naming an interim president in the near future. Our interim president will allow for a formal search process to identify the next permanent ULS president, who will lead our community and students for the foreseeable future. My role is to be able to ensure continuity in this transition time.

As signaled in statements by the faculty and trustees, the leaders of United Lutheran Seminary are committed to moving forward in our mission of providing the highest caliber of theological education and formation for leaders of the church.  While much rebuilding of trust still needs to occur, I am inspired by the commitment to do so on the part of so many on both campuses and among our broader constituency. The past two weeks, in which dozens of alumni from both Gettysburg and Philadelphia campuses “came home” to their beloved alma mater, reassures me on this score, as do my daily interactions with our wonderful students and colleagues at both sites.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done for our students. They are foremost in my thoughts and prayers from the moment I awake until the end of my day. They deserve our full attention and care, as many of us received when we were in their position. I am grateful for all the expressions of support and prayers that the board and I have received in recent days and weeks. It is my hope the entire ULS community will continue to join me in looking forward, in service to our students and their futures in service to the church and the world.

Gracious and loving God, we are called into this community to strengthen leaders for your church. Often there are things that divide us in our work together, yet you call us to unity in your Son. Send your Spirit on us that we may all be one, as Jesus prayed. It is our fervent hope that we may do your will in our work. Strengthen us for the time ahead. Enable us to see the gifts of all the people who work to strengthen the mission and ministry of this school. Bless our students, faculty, staff, board members and alumni in their work that all may grow in your grace. We pray in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. 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.