Weekly Presidential Update: 5/4

Weekly Presidential Update • May 4, 2018 • Fifth Friday of Easter and Remembrance of Monica, mother of Augustine, died 387

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we look into May and the upcoming events on our beautiful campuses, I’ll continue to share with you, the ULS community, my experiences and thoughts during this time of transition.

  • I connected with five students and two alumni.
  • I spoke with a gathering of pastors with Bishop Zeiser in the Northeast Pennsylvania Synod.
  • I went to Chapel in Gettysburg on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
  • I attended the board of directors of the Washington Theological Consortium.
  • I sat down with the Gettysburg Times.

News and Happenings

The search for an interim president has been proceeding with a few changes. The Registry Group shared four possible candidates. The trustees committee of the board eliminated two candidates by reviewing their CVs and determining they were not matches for ULS. One of the two remaining candidates is available for an interview next week on the Philadelphia Campus. We’re also looking at additional names that have been provided to us. We also have made changes to the interview committee. Dr. Tommie Robinson will be out of the country, and so we have asked the Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler to take his place. And, I will not be part of the actual interview process. Dr. James Lakso will replace me. The interview team is now:

  • Board members Bishop Claire Burkat, Rev. Dr. Mark Kelly Tyler and Dr. James Lakso;
  • Faculty member Dr. Quintin Robertson;
  • Vice President of Advancement Rev. Dr. Angela Zimmann; and
  • Students Carla Cristopher-Waid and Danny Phelps.

Our candidate for the assistant professor of Biblical Studies has accepted our offer. The candidate will meet with the board of trustees on May 17. With their approval, the candidate will be hired and start on July 1.

On Thursday, a group of us gathered to honor the upcoming retirement of Rev. Dr. Mark Oldenburg. Dr. Oldenburg is the Steck-Miller Professor of the Art of Worship and dean of the Gettysburg Chapel, and has been teaching at the seminary since 1986. His areas of responsibility include not only teaching in the areas of worship and chapel oversight, but also spirituality, preaching and history, as well as chairing “Music, Gettysburg!,” a 20-event free concert series connected with the seminary. His contributions to the life of the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary are too many to mention. He delayed his retirement so he could help with the transition into ULS. On a personal note, he was instrumental in my development as a leader in the church during my time as a student. He has been a mentor to me and hundreds of others throughout the church. Mark is a dear friend and will be deeply missed in the life of this new seminary.

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. She is the director of Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey, a partnership between the Lutheran and Episcopal churches in New Jersey. She has served as director since 2011. LEAMNJ partners with coalition partners around the state of New Jersey to advocate on issues related to hunger, housing, economic empowerment, immigration and community violence. Rev. Lilja helps congregations learn more about using their voice in the public square.

Ms. Karen Arnold has been elected to serve from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod. Karen was born and raised in Pittsburgh and attended Pittsburgh Public Schools her entire K-12 career. She is a member of St. Mark’s – Brookline. Karen attended college at Lock Haven University, majoring in secondary education English and graduating in 1995. She then returned to Pittsburgh to begin her teaching career. She and her husband were married in September 1996. They have two children, Jeffrey Jr. and Alexandra.

She has been an English teacher and athletic director, prior to becoming a principal. Karen was a learning environment specialist for Pittsburgh Public Schools. In this position, she had the opportunity to work with teachers and students in high-needs schools to help create a positive learning environment where teachers could teach and students could learn. In July 2014, Karen was named the principal at Pittsburgh Fulton Pre K- 5, which is a French magnet elementary school in the Highland Park section of the City of Pittsburgh.


I will be in Philadelphia from Monday until Wednesday. I will be heading to Gettysburg sometime on Wednesday and will finish out the week in Gettysburg.

Also this week, Dr. Christine Kennedy began hosting small group dialogues on both campuses on traumas affecting students relating to problems identified by various stakeholders. One problem identified by student leaders is racism and systemic racism. As a result of her preliminary analyses, she, along with her colleague Warren Young, have offered to meet with students on both campuses next week to seek additional input from students regarding this issue, discuss the consulting process to date, and address questions and or concerns. Additional groups for other stakeholders of the seminary on both campuses will be convened in the near future. This continues our ongoing commitment to hear students’ concerns.

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.

Big News for the Week

We have reached an agreement with the Civil War Trust to permanently preserve 18 acres of historic open space on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg. You can read more about this agreement here. This agreement has been in the works for several years. It presents a wonderful partnership between ULS and the community to preserve this sacred space that we occupy on this historic ridge. The Civil War Trust will pay ULS $3.5 million dollars for 18 acres of land. Some of the land will be turned over to the trust, and some of the land will be owned by the trust but the seminary will have access to it. And, a portion of the land the seminary will retain but will commit to conserve it in its current state. This protects and honors this historic space we occupy for the sake of the community. In addition, these dollars will strengthen our financial condition to allow us to support the mission of ULS.

I am grateful for the work of many people, including John Spangler, Michael Cooper-White, Emried Cole, Scott Ganley, the board of trustees and our partners at the Civil War Trust, who have worked over the years to craft a win-win solution. This transaction benefits this historic ridge and its preservation, as well as strengthens the seminary’s stability. These campuses are gifts, and we will continue to look for ways to utilize these gifts to strengthen our mission while keeping our grounding in these places to which we are deeply rooted.

Good and Gracious God, we are grateful for the rich heritage that is represented in the campuses we occupy. Continue to guide us as we steward this land that you have given in our care. Help us to continue to find ways to honor these spaces and to use the resources entrusted to us that we may strengthen leaders to proclaim your Gospel, in your church and throughout the world. Bless Dr. Oldenburg as he is called to retirement, continue to guide him with your spirit that he may find new ways to serve your church. We ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen


Bishop Jim Dunlop
Acting President
United Lutheran Seminary

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