July 12, 2013
ELCA Church Council approves another seminary, university merger
The ELCA Church Council approved July 11 a merger between Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., and California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Calif. Between churchwide assemblies, the Church Council serves as the ELCA board of directors.
The merger is the result of conversations among university and seminary representatives who agreed that the two schools can best serve the ELCA's work of theological education by the seminary becoming part of the university.
"We believe that our integrity is well protected in the agreements that we've sent to you," Phyllis B. Anderson, president of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, told the council via teleconference.
In recent years representatives of the ELCA's eight seminaries have been working with one another and other partners to organize their educational and administrative work in ways that advance a wide-reaching and sustainable theological education network that meets the leadership needs of a "church in mission." In this work, the ELCA's 26 colleges and universities have emerged as important partners.
A merger of an ELCA seminary and university occurred for the first time in 2011 between Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, N.C., and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.
In his report to the council, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson reported on the approval of the first eight members of an ELCA Theological Education Advisory Council. The denomination is committed to addressing in a holistic way issues on theological education, leadership development, candidacy, call and rostered leaders.
In other business the council:
- Elected Marit Bakken, Black River Falls, Wis., to the council for a term ending in 2015. Bakken is a student at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.
- Recommended that 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (meeting Aug. 12-17 in Pittsburgh) consider the "Book of Faith" initiative as a continuing emphasis and priority for the church. The 2007 assembly established the initiative to encourage deeper engagement with the Bible.
- Received an update on development of the ELCA churchwide organization strategic plan for 2014-2016.
- Received an update from Jeffrey D. Thiemann, president and CEO of Portico Benefits Services -- the ELCA's healthcare provider. This spring Portico representatives attended 52 of the 65 ELCA synods' 2013 assemblies in order to assist with transition and rollout of new plans in anticipation of the Healthcare Reform Act.