From President Phil Krey - February 2014

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So much to celebrate

President Krey

Dear Seminary Friends:

As I read this month’s stories, I am reminded again we have so much to celebrate.

Last fall, we began a new learning approach at the seminary. Adult learners could take an Old Testament class  with Professor Robert B. Robinson either in person in a campus classroom, or online through use of Moodle. About two dozen individuals and congregations took part in that course. We received 11 evaluations from participants in the initiative. I am so proud to report that all 11 evaluators gave the highest possible rating for Dr. Robinson’s teaching and the class.

In one sense I am not surprised by this type of response because I have long appreciated deeply and known of the superlative quality of our teaching. Nonetheless, this kind of response regarding a cherished colleague is the highest form of compliment both for Bob and our school.

The next opportunity of this kind comes about March 8 when retired professor Richard Stewart offers a class for congregations and interested individuals on “Where Old and New Communications Strategies Meet.” I advise you not to miss it. You can connect to course information in this issue of PS Portions. And check out continuing spring semester seminar learning opportunities also highlighted on the LTSP home page!

In this issue, you can read a story about Bishop Andrew Willis and his spouse, Dr. Gladys Willis. Bishop Willis, one of the founders of our Urban Theological Institute (UTI) almost 35 years ago, is now a trustee of the seminary and an inspiration to us at LTSP due to his constant financial, moral, and prayerful support.

Since 1980, when he and Dr. Randolph Jones founded UTI, a nationally famous initiative, Dr. Willis has taken on many roles and has always been a stalwart supporter of a vision for an ecumenical program for African American students at “Lutheran,” as we are often fondly called. The UTI has further connected the seminary to the community with its annual Preaching with Power, which starts on Sunday, March 9. This will be the thirty second year that UTI, through Preaching with Power, brings a week of Black Church music, preaching, and scholarship to the seminary and churches throughout Philadelphia.

Scores of leaders in the Philadelphia region and beyond serve congregations and ministries because of his vision. Dr. Gladys Willis, a UTI alumna, has served as Dean of Humanities and Graduate Studies at Lincoln University for many years. I am so glad you can meet them on the pages of Portions.

There was a time when LTSP could proudly say that one half of the African American clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America were graduates of this school. Thankfully, other schools in our seminary system have joined us in cultivating African American leaders for the church, and our commitment has not abated. We are thankful for the Grover and Irma Wright Scholarship Fund for African American Lutheran Students. In this issue you will read how St. Luke Lutheran Church in Devon, Pennsylvania, has made a substantial commitment to this fund. Ms. Yvonne Lembo, who works  with the LTSP Office for Philanthropy to cultivate gifts among African American donors, among other projects on which she focuses, worked with St. Luke. The congregation’s pastor, the Rev. Susan Ericsson, has a deep commitment to urban and African American leadership. We thank God for her leadership, and lay leaders and the people of St. Luke.

Recently, another saint of the church established an endowment for LTSP to support persons of color who come to LTSP, primarily from Wagner College in Staten Island, New York, part of our long standing Upsala at Wagner Program. The program has produced a series of African American and Hispanic students who have matriculated at LTSP.

These gifts and visions make it possible for students to prepare for ministry, especially those who have come to us with fewer resources. Each vision noted in this issue, each gift, gives LTSP greater capacity to prepare leaders for the multicultural and multiracial future of the United States. We count on your support to be faithful to our mission and vision as a school committed to our Lutheran tradition — committed to the future that God is preparing for the church.

As we have all noticed, our context will also be pluralistic, and so we are fortunate to have Dr. David Grafton, subject of a story herein, on our faculty. A specialist in Islamic Studies, Dr. Grafton is one of our faculty in constant demand for congregational adult forums and preaching because so many of us have many questions regarding how God has placed us in a world of many peoples and religions. Dr. Grafton’s experiences as a missionary in Egypt, and his clear-headed approach to Islamic/Christian dialog, are refreshing and vital for our understanding of the future.

Finally in this issue you will be introduced, or perhaps re-introduced, to the Rev. Louise Johnson, who began her LTSP work 10 years ago as the Associate Director of Admissions when the Rev. Rick Summy was the Director. Pastor Johnson now serves as Vice President for Mission Advancement. She helped envision our highly regarded Project Connect program in the Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries, as well as other programs such as the Master of Arts in Public Leadership. She has helped a great many young pastors and leaders around the country discern their calls. Her imagination and attention to the context of theological education has earned the respect of foundations and many leaders in theological education around the church and country. She is now working with our Alumni Council and serves as director of our institutional assessment procedures.

If you get the picture that I am proud of our trustees, faculty, and staff leadership, you are right. It takes vision and imagination to be a leadership school, and your support helps to make that possible.

Thank you,

Philip D.W. Krey

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