Weekly Presidential Update • April 6, 2018 • First Friday of Easter
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we grow in our life together, it is important during this time of change and transition to communicate with you, the ULS community, about my activities as your acting president. It is my intent to communicate about the things happening at our school.
To keep you informed about my journey, I’d like to continue to share some of the experiences that shaped my week.
- I connected individually with three ULS students and two faculty members.
- I continued my conversation with Gettysburg College about areas of future cooperation.
- I began work with a human relations firm who will support ULS.
- I held the first pizza-and-conversation event on the Philadelphia campus.
- I participated in the Triduum Service in conjunction with Gettysburg College, which included washing feet on Maundy Thursday and presiding at communion during the Easter Vigil.
- I worshipped in the Chapel Thursday evening on the Philadelphia campus.
- I convened the Diversity Task Force.
Additionally, if you’d like to schedule time to speak one-on-one with me, please reach out to Joe Carlucci (firstname.lastname@example.org), who will be happy to schedule a time for us to connect.
News and Happenings:
Our ULS community was informed on Tuesday by ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation has suspended our Reconciling in Christ (RIC) designation. RIC status identifies an organization as being accepting of and encouraging the full participation of the LGBTQ community. This is deeply disappointing to the board and me, and I am sure to many others in our community. It is important to note that as ReconcilingWorks took its actions, ULS already had been taking steps to underscore its commitment to the LBGTQ community. Let me 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, I will be working with the Diversity Task Force in the coming weeks to put in place a plan to work in earnest on restoring our RIC designation as we deal with many inclusion issues in our community. I’ve had multiple conversations with their executive director of ReconcilingWorks this week, and I will continue to update you throughout this process. A link to the letter we received, from Reconciling Works, can be found here. I recognize that this news will be painful to hear for many in our community. Please know that there are counselors available on both campuses if you need someone to help process this information. Please call Trina Johnsten in student services and she can help you to set up an appointment. I am always available to talk with anyone who has questions or concerns.
Recently, I reported some human resource concerns to the board, and they asked me to engage with an outside firm. This week, John Campanella from Lyons Companies began work with ULS. He will be doing some preliminary work over the next several weeks. Please do not be surprised if you see John on our campuses.
The trustee committee has continued its work. Recommendations were sent to the Church Council to reappoint David Russell to the board of trustees for an additional three-year term. We also recommended two new ELCA appointments. Once these individuals have approval, we will share their names. We also are currently working with the bishops of the Upper Susquehanna, Southwest Pennsylvania, North East Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Metropolitan New York synods to fill board positions. Upon the completion of these elections, we will be back to the full board complement.
The board has been in discussion about the need to begin the search process for an interim president to serve prior to beginning the careful search for a new president for ULS. The interim will serve as the search is conducted. Once the interim is in place, I will be returning to my role as bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod.
The board is going to be working with a consultant on the issue of board development. It will be part of establishing relationships within the board as we grow. It is also recognition that, in forming ULS, we did not adequately build the right relationships and expectations for the board’s role within the institution.
Vice president for student services and enrollment Trina Johnsten shared this good news: We received word from Chicago that 17 students who have been awarded a Fund for Leaders scholarship for next year have indicated the United Lutheran Seminary as their seminary of choice, or as one of the options they are considering. This is a full 34 percent of the 50 new awards for next year. Excellent work, Becca Ehrlich and Marlita Lee, on encouraging this group as they moved through the application process.
Becca will be reaching out to the group to inform them of the housing stipend that all students who bring a full-tuition scholarship with them receive from ULS. This will hopefully encourage the few who are still deciding between us and another seminary.
- Five are already enrolled (those who started in the spring were eligible).
- Seven have committed for fall 2018.
- Five are admitted but haven’t yet committed to attend fall 2018.
I’d like to invite the ULS community to join me for pizza and conversation on April 10 in the Valentine Coffee Shop on the Gettysburg campus at 5:15 p.m. This is an informal gathering I’ll be hosting monthly for students to communicate their concerns with me in an open and relaxed forum.
Reflection on A.C.T. Rally to End Racism
On Wednesday, I joined with hundreds of leaders in an interfaith event against racism on the Mall in Washington D.C. The day started with a silent march from the MLK Memorial to the Mall.
Some of the speakers for the day included: Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder, Sojourners; Rev. Dr. Jennifer Harvey, author; Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church (Dallas, Texas); Mr. DeRay Mckesson, activist and former school administrator; Rt. Rev. Vashti Murphy McKenzie, presiding prelate, Tenth Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church; and a host of others.
It was a day to be with leaders of religions throughout the United States. Bishop Eaton, the presiding bishop of the ELCA, and ELCA bishops from throughout our church were also present.
One of the speakers spoke on the issue of diversity. He said that often diversity was a goal of organizations, especially educational institutions. But that the real goal needs to be beyond diversity. He said that diversity can be measured in the numbers of students – that you can increase the enrollment of different students and improve your numbers and diversity. The problem is that if the institution does not fundamentally change its culture, those students will not be welcomed and included in the institution. Inclusion must be the goal. It is not only the numbers that matter but a change in the culture.
It caused me to reflect on the conversations I have had within our community – with our African-American students, our LGBTQIA students, and even our Gettysburg and Philadelphia students. Numbers are not our issue but rather our culture. We have made progress in coming together during the consolidation but we at the same time have cultural issues and sensitivities that need attention. I look forward to working with our Diversity Task Force, so we can develop a culture that values our diversity and fosters honoring the gifts in the differences we share.
Gracious God, we give thanks for the gift of this school that is strengthening leaders for your church so that they may proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world. We give thanks for the faculty and their dedication to this mission. They have been a blessing as we have been challenged by consolidation and leadership transitions. We also give thanks for the staff of this seminary who manage the myriad details that are required so that all that is needed is in place to carry this mission. It has been difficult in this consolidation to always see clearly where we are going but we live in the confidence that you are guiding us, the one who brought life from death. Bring us to new life in you. Amen.
Bishop Jim Dunlop
United Lutheran Seminary
If you have questions or concerns that remain unanswered you can always submit those on the ULS Community Concerns page.