Weekly Presidential Update

Weekly Presidential Update • March 23, 2018 • Fifth Friday in Lent

Dear Friends in Christ,

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 share the things happening on our Philadelphia and Gettysburg campuses and attempt to answer as many questions as possible in the coming days and weeks

My journey with you, the ULS community, is just beginning. In my role, I want to be as transparent as possible. With that said, please indulge me as I share some of the experiences that shaped my week:

  • I visited the Philadelphia campus for three days and the Gettysburg campus for three days as well.
  • I sat down for a one-on-one with the six members of the president’s council. Members include:
    • Chief Operations officer, Dennis Trotter
    • Chief Financial Officer, Scott Ganley
    • Dean and Professor of Mission and Cultures, The Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian 
    • Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment, Trina Johnsten
    • Vice President of Advancement, Angela Zimmann
    • ULS Chief Communications Officer, Barry Hill
  • I had the opportunity to address the students on both campuses (thanks to amazing technology) at the end of chapel services.
  • I spoke with the president and vice president of the Student Association.
  • I worked with leaders in the UTI community and committed to meeting with a larger group of UTI students next week.
  • I connected individually with four ULS students.
  • I met with the candidates from the Lower Susquehanna Synod at Gettysburg and the Lower Susquehanna Synod Candidacy Committee (scheduled prior to me taking this role).
  • I worshipped in the chapel on both campuses and found God’s presence in the community as each gathering proclaimed the gospel in their own unique voice.

There is much work to be done but rest assured, the work has begun. Since last week, the board has added two members, Bishop Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop of the Metro Washington, D.C. Synod, who replaced me, and Rev. Dr. Constance Mentzer, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, elected by the Synod Council of the Lower Susquehanna Synod.

We are diligently working with the synods and the Church Council of the ELCA to fill other vacant positions before the next regularly scheduled board meeting in May.

Staff Updates

It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a member of our student services team, Heidi Roderick-Schnaath, director of student services. Pastor Roderick-Schnaath has accepted a new call to serve the people of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Perkasie. We are grateful for God’s call for her to this new setting.

One of the critical tasks Pastor Roderick-Schnaath had responsibility for was Title IX compliance. Title IX for the Education Amendment of 1972 protects students and staff of ULS from any form of discrimination based on sex. As we begin to look for her replacement, rest assured her tasks are being transitioned to other members of seminary team.

In the interim, we are grateful that Pastor Roderick-Schnaath has agreed to continue to serve the seminary as our Title IX coordinator and investigator. If you need to report a situation of sexual harassment or discrimination, please call Pastor Roderick-Schnaath at 215-795-2965 (office), 276-463-3586 (cell) or via email at RevHRod3@gmail.com. We have an absolute commitment to the safety of all of our students at ULS, and we want to assure you that complaints will be handled promptly and with confidentially.

Diversity Task Force

There is a newly formed group on campus, the Diversity Task Force. This group is composed of Dr. Sebastian, Dr. Wiseman, Marlita Lee, Dr. Martin Zimmann, Dr. Croft, Kyle Boyer and Rachel Johnson. I will be meeting with this group in the coming days. We will be looking at key issues around the diversity of our seminary in all aspects of our life together. Even as we continue to work toward addressing the concerns of our LQBTQIA+ community, an additional issue that we will be dealing with is racism.

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. This may not be adequate as we look at the history of racism in our American culture. We as a nation have much work to do to break the national sin of racism. The civil rights movement in our country changed the laws of our land but has not changed the hearts of everyone.

Racism continues in ways we often do not see. Assumptions made about people because of race, micro-aggressions that we may be unaware, and cultural and systematic structures that still limit opportunities for people of color. As an institution that trains future leaders for the church, we all must be aware of these continued issues that make people feel unwelcome, limited in opportunity and unfairly judged. We must be the change we want to see in the world. Our seminary cannot and will not tolerate any form of racism.When one member of this community suffers from racism we all suffer together. We must learn together to recognize, repent and grow into the community that God seeks us to be as the body of Christ. As the apostle Paul said:

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:26-27 NRS)


Gracious and loving God, we turn to you in this season of Lent in repentance for our sins, those known to you and those sins to which we are blind. Open our eyes to the hurt we cause and guide us to repentance and forgiveness. For we know that forgiveness comes through the one who died for us, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Lead us this week to Jerusalem, to the way of the cross, that we may know the depth of the sacrifice that your Son made for our brokenness. Renew us that we may love our neighbor as deeply as you have loved us. Amen.

Bishop Jim Dunlop
Acting President
United Lutheran Seminary