Weekly Presidential Update: 3/30

Weekly Presidential Update • March 30, 2018 • Good Friday

Dear Friends in Christ,

As I noted last week, 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 answer as many questions as I can. To that extent, several questions and concerns have been brought to the board’s attention. We’ve tried to address many of those in this Q&A.

To keep you informed about my journey with you, the ULS community, I’d like to once again include some of the experiences that shaped my week.

  • I spoke with the Association of Theological Schools.
  • I connected individually with three ULS students and four faculty members.
  • I had a conversation with the entire ULS faculty.
  • I talked to human resource firms about support for ULS.
  • I had the opportunity to speak with the president of Gettysburg College about areas of future cooperation.
  • I met with the ULS advancement team in Philadelphia and Gettysburg.
  • I visited the Philadelphia campus for two days and the Gettysburg campus for two days, as well.
  • I attended a meeting with a group of African-American students, along with board member Dr. Tommie Robinson.
  • I participated in Maundy Thursday services and helped with foot washing.

Additionally, if you’d like to schedule time to speak one-on-one with me, please reach out to Joe Carlucci (jcarlucci@uls.edu), who will be happy to schedule a time for us to connect.

News and Happenings

We received the news from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that they voted “to accept the progress report.” The next evaluation visit is scheduled for 2020–2021. This means that ULS continues to be fully accredited. This is excellent news and many thanks go to Dean Sebastian, who participated in these meetings, and Dr. Alex Reid, who organized the meetings, submitted the reports and functioned as our liaison to Middle States.

As we move forward in our life together, there have been concerns about the seminary’s management of human resources. Board member Jim Lakso and I are reviewing proposals from human resource management firms that will come in and evaluate our processes to ensure ULS is a safe and healthy environment.

The board of trustees has begun the process of working with the five ELCA synods to identify new board members. Additionally, we’re going to recommend board vacancies be filled in conjunction with the Church Council of the ELCA meeting. We will be looking at issues of diversity as these selections are made, to ensure the board represents the inclusivity we seek in the seminary.

Upcoming Events

On April 4, I’ll be in Washington, D.C., for the ACT to End Racism Rally, which is being held on the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will be one of the featured speakers during the day. The event is sponsored by the National Council of Churches and will be a broadly ecumenical event. If you’re interested in more information, please click here to learn more.

I’d like to invite the ULS community to join me for pizza and conversation on April 5 at 5:15 p.m. (before Chapel) in Lull Lounge and April 10 in the Valentine Coffee Shop 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 Good Friday:  John 18:1-19

Clang, and then click.

That was the sound I remember when I went to the prison to visit someone incarcerated there. I don’t know if you have had that experience of being imprisoned or visiting a prison, but there is finality when the door closes. That door clangs… then there’s a click of the lock. You are in.  Even if you know you’ll be able to leave, it is the sound – that latching sound – that reminds you, you’re locked in.

That is the sound of this lesson. Nicodemus took the body and laid in the tomb, and the stone was placed in front of the tomb. There was no escape. He didn’t deserve it, but he was cut off from the land of the living. He didn’t do anything that deserved this result.  Sin, death and evil had won out. That is the hard part of this day. An innocent man, the son of the living God, was killed unjustly by evil. He was betrayed by those he loved. And now comes the end. Bang.  The tomb is sealed. 

This is not a day for optimism or for feeling good. With a thud, the stone is in place and his friends leave. Death has come. An innocent man was cut off from the land of the living, stricken with the transgressions of his own people, stricken with our transgressions. We would like to pass this day off to the Romans or maybe the Jews in the crowd, but when it comes down to it, we have all participated in this moment. He died for the transgressions of all, including us.

So, with a clang and click, the day ends and death wins. Only when we are willing to hear the sound of the stone, only when we are willing to accept the injustice of what happened to the God incarnate, can we even begin to make sense of what is to follow in this Holy weekend.  The light of the world had been snuffed out and buried, locked in with a sickening thud.

Let us pray.

Jesus, you alone know the pain and the loneliness of this day. Help us to feel and to understand the depth of your suffering and death that we might know the depth of your love and forgiveness for us. Let us not minimize the price you paid for our sinfulness. Let us not rush the end of this story, but rather allow us to experience the fullness of your passion and death so that we may know the fullness of your love. Be with us this day and shape our hearts and minds to follow you wherever your call to discipleship may lead.  In your Holy name we pray. 



Bishop Jim Dunlop
Acting President
United Lutheran Seminary