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Church Council approves concept of merger

The ELCA Church Council approved April 6 the concept of a merger between California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif.

Council members authorized its Executive Committee to "engage in further discussions and document review with CLU and with PLTS, as necessary, for the purpose of finalizing the proposed merger."

They also asked the committee "to bring a recommended action regarding the merger and the final documents to implement it at a special Church Council meeting at a time to be determined."

Through a similar merger in July 2012, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., became the School of Theology of Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C.

"An ELCA seminary can be fully an ELCA seminary while merged into a church college," Jonathan Strandjord, ELCA program director for seminaries, told council members.

Both CLU and PLTS see the proposed merger "as an opportunity to advance God's mission as well as [introduce] cost-efficiencies," he added.

Strandjord said mergers between seminaries and colleges or universities could enable dual degree programs, where a student could earn, for example, a master's of divinity degree with a master's in business administration, education, nonprofit management or social work. Or they could enter a "3+4" degree program of three years of focused undergraduate study and four years of seminary to earn a bachelor's degree and a divinity degree, he said.


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