From President Phil Krey - July 2013

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From the Editor: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was the challenge issued by President Ronald Reagan to Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 in a speech commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall. Reagan “encouraged” Gorbachev to tear it down as a sign of Gorbachev’s stated desire to increase freedom through transparency and restructuring. 

President KreyI’m reminded of this iconic speech as I think of my experience during the past eight years (my tenure at the seminary) of Dr. Phil Krey’s presidency as the seminary moves toward its 150th celebration. What comes to mind is his vision, leadership, and encouragement toward “educating and forming public leaders who are committed to developing and nurturing individual believers and communities of faith for engagement in the world,” our stated mission that Dr. Krey helped craft with the faculty and Board. From my vantage point, Dr. Krey has accomplished this on several fronts, “tearing down the seminary walls” literally and figuratively, facilitating the restructuring of everything from the physical campus with the construction of the William Allen Plaza to the new flexible, affordable, and relevant curriculum, and encouraging transparency by forming new alliances in the Mt. Airy community and beyond.

Much has stayed the same as LTSP continues to maintain its Lutheran, confessional, and Philadelphia traditions. Much has changed as Dr. Krey’s vision was to reach “beyond our walls” advocating for and implementing open dialogue and collaboration with other denominations and faith communities and instituting ecumenical relationships. This was realized in the revitalization of the Urban Theological Institute and in the hiring of faculty who bring an ecumenical perspective that enriches and strengthens our students and programs, to name several. All this has been done to educate and form public leaders for the mission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These and other reflections you will read in the following article and see in the extended video are, in my opinion, not small accomplishments, and will propel this institution into the future “moving forward in faith” (our 150th anniversary tagline) as a leader. Dr. Krey has embraced and lived out LTSP's vision of “preparing public leaders for faithful, dynamic, multi-cultural, multi-denominational, bold ministry,” and championed our stated values: community and hospitality, diversity, inclusivity, civility, participation, academic rigor, community health, and cooperation. And in doing so, “has broken down the dividing wall” preparing the way for us to continue, on a daily basis, to live out the gospel in our community and the world. I know that in “moving forward in faith,” LTSP will continue to be a leader in tearing down walls of bigotry, racism, sexism, and homophobia.

“For Christ is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” — Ephesians 2:14-20

Here’s to the next 150 years!

Merri Bender Brown

PS Portions Editor

To read LTSP’s complete Strategic Plan, “Public Leaders for a Public Church” that includes our Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Values Statement, Preface, and Four Goals, go to Ltsp.edu/strategicplan.

Phil Krey reflects on a presidency and shares a visionary perspective for the future: Leadership by alumni and relating to the “Public Square” are points of pride

 Something about 150-year anniversaries inspires the Rev. Dr. Philip D.W. Krey to embark on new life chapters.

“I guess you could call me a creature of habit,” he said with a smile. Twenty-eight years ago he decided to step down from the pulpit when Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Baltimore, Maryland, celebrated its 150th anniversary, “and the congregation is still going strong,” he noted. Now, Krey has decided to step down as president of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia at the end of 2014, once the seminary has concluded its 150th anniversary celebration that October. “Fifteen years is long enough,” he said. “It’s time for someone else to lead us forward after next year.” He announced his decision to the Trustees the week of June 23.

Looking back, Krey said he is proudest of the seminary’s alumni he has been privileged to see in action. “When I go out visiting, whether it is to synod activities, Preaching with Power events, Episcopal conventions, anywhere really, I see our alumni leading their denominations, churches, and playing key roles in cities, in musical and singing programs, chairing committees, and leading from podiums. When I see what they are accomplishing I feel a great deal of pride. Within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) our Region 7 Bishops want to call our students.

“That tells me we are doing the right thing to prepare our students for public leadership. I read in the newspaper about Urban Theological Institute graduates like Dr. Bill Moore and Bishop Ernest McNear and the difference they make in Philadelphia.”

Krey is likewise proud of how the seminary increasingly in recent years has integrated itself into the public square in its Mt. Airy neighborhood and beyond. “People increasingly know where and what we are. They know about our faculty and our views on public theology and leadership.” He credits the Master of Arts in Public Leadership program and the PhD program spearheaded by Dr. Margaret Krych in raising some of the school’s visibility. He also offers kudos to the Rev. Dr. Quintin Robinson for sparking a revitalization of the Urban Theological Institute, an initiative that for more than 30 years has offered training to African American students who often work while studying part-time.

Citing the opening passage and the words of the Apostle Paul from Galatians 5, Krey speaks of the “Freedom in Christ that sets us free” to maintain a spirit of neighborliness in the Mt. Airy community and in church life overall. “We have lived into the ELCA’s ecumenical vision for every tradition with which we are in relationship,” Krey said. “We are thoroughly confident in our Lutheran tradition and also fully ecumenical. There is no contradiction in that. It is the way the world is going.”

The president noted that some might be surprised that he did not place construction of the seminary’s high technology Brossman Center classroom building (2005) at the top of his list. But Krey reminds that Brossman was part of the seminary master plan crafted by his predecessor, the Rev. Dr. Robert G. Hughes. “We just took the next step as outlined by the plan.”

Other highlights of a conversation with President Krey:

  • The Krauth Memorial Library, with its climate control engineering, has become well-suited to host its valuable theological collection. It is part of a three libraries under one roof with the collections at Southern and Gettysburg seminaries, thanks to the benefits of technology.
  • The Lutheran Archives Center in The Brossman Center’s Undercroft showcases how the seminary values history. “So much that is housed there is available just for the asking,” he said.
  • Krey lists the celebration of the 300th anniversary of North American Lutheran church planter Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, done with such aplomb, as a highlight of his 15-year presidency.
  • He expresses profound gratitude for the seminary’s extraordinary list of donors who have made gifts ranging from $25 to thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars and more over his presidency. “People do understand the value of theological education,” he said, “and they love our alumni who are their pastors.’’ He celebrates the leadership in giving of synodical leaders and Bishops and the support of the ELCA. Heading toward the seminary’s 150th year in 2014, the school has managed to raise $11 million toward its $30 million anniversary campaign goal, a sum of money that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago.
  • Krey praised the support of faculty, administrators, and four Trustee chairs including Robert Blanck, Addie J. Butler, and John Richter, also Elise Brown, the recently appointed chair. “Our faculty members write and serve the church through teaching. They have really risen to the occasion in this challenging time. They are concerned about our individual students. And we could not do anything without the loyalty of our staff who love the mission of the school.” He noted the size of the staff is 50 percent of what it was 10 years ago, “and it has been hard on us.” He praised his wife, René, the seminary’s registrar “who puts up with me. I truly value her professionalism.”
  • Krey said he is “not overly worried” about the future of the church. “It is God’s Church, not ours.” He cites the wisdom of his mentor and teacher Martin E. Marty who has talked of “betting on the churches of the Augustinian tradition” for their ability to both relate to and be critical of the culture embracing them. “Our (Lutheran) tradition has the capacity to be adaptive to the world. We have a proven ability to teach to our context. We ‘tack’ well.” He took special note of the seminary’s ability to remain strongly Lutheran while positioning itself well from ecumenical, interfaith, and multicultural standpoints — strengths for today.
  • Today’s financial stresses and strains on the seminary and its students are nothing new, Krey said. “The students and faculty suffered a great deal during the Great Depression, when Women’s Auxiliary members brought buckets of coal to the Old Dormitory to help students stay warm.” Krey said many students today depend on food staples Philabundance provides to a seminary pantry in order to have staple weekend goods. And they often incur considerable debt to prepare themselves to serve today’s church.
  • Once he steps down Krey looks forward to spending more time in classroom teaching and fulfilling about a half dozen writing contracts he has in the wings. “I will follow Bob Hughes’s model of not interfering with the leadership that follows me, focusing on being as supportive as I can be,” he concluded.

Watch the extended interview conducted by seminary writer Mark Staples:

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