The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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April 7, 2010

Wartburg Seminary president resigns

The board of directors of Wartburg Seminary accepted the resignation of President Duane Larson effective July 1, 2010. Larson has served as President of since 1999.

"God is calling me to do something new in my pastoral and teaching vocation alongside the welcome new personal life I will begin with my wedding this spring. It will be good and right for me to be able to give full attention to the gift of marriage, as well as to enjoy some sabbatical, before moving to whatever God has in mind for the next period of my professional ministry," Larson said.

Larson received a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary and a Ph.D from Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, Calif. Prior to coming to Wartburg he served as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg (Penn.) and as a parish pastor of three congregations in California.

Rita Dudley, board chair said, "He has been a visionary and valued leader, taking the seminary to national recognition as an exemplary communitarian theological institution. Dr. Larson has given the Wartburg seminary community the vision to step forward in the world and lead theological education to comprehend the gift of worship-centered community in a society that sees less need for such. He guided the seminary into the electronic age, branding it as a place where community interactions form the core to Christian relationships. "

Wartburg is one of eight theological schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Wartburg is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and educates women and men to serve the church as ordained and lay leaders. Established in Dubuque, Iowa in 1854, Wartburg is in its 156th academic year.

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March 18, 2010

ELCA releases draft statement on genetics

The ELCA through its Church and Society program unit has released its "Draft Social Statement on Genetics." The draft statement was developed by the Task Force on Genetics.

Members and congregations of the ELCA are invited to study, discuss and comment on the draft. A response form is provided with the draft statement, and various synods will hold hearings about the draft statement.

The proposed social statement is currently scheduled to be considered by the 2011 Churchwide  Assembly.

Visit the ELCA Web site for more information or download the files below:

Executive Summary (.pdf)
Draft Social Statement on Genetics (.pdf)
Frequently Asked Questions (.pdf)

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March 18, 2010

Woman killed at Calvary Lutheran, Federal Way, Wash.

A woman is dead after her husband allegedly shot her May 17 inside Calvary Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Federal Way, Wash. The two were in the building for counseling.

Click here for the story at MSNBC

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March 17, 2010

Dana College sold; will become for-profit

Dana College in Blair, Neb., will be sold to Dana Education Corporation, a new for-profit company, to resolve long-term financial difficulties, the Dana College Board of Regents announced March 16.

Dennis Gethmann, board of regents president, said the board had "investigated a number of viable options, and selected DEC based on the plan presented to ensure continuity, and its desire to keep the mission, heritage and character of the college intact." According to school leaders, Dana's "mission, accreditation, programs, faculty, campus and facilities will be unchanged." According to insidehighered.com, the school's tenure system will also remain in place.

The Nebraska-based Dana Education Corporation was established by "senior higher education administrators who bring to Dana a deep understanding of higher education from an academic and regulatory perspective. ... Upon the effective date of the new partnership, members of Dana's board of trustees will include leaders from higher education, government, and the private sector including a former state governor, past president of a Lutheran university, administrators from Ivy League universities and local community leaders," said a March 16 Dana news release.

Financial struggles were evident in ways that included faculty salaries, which had been frozen for two years, reported insidehighered.com. "Dana will now have new financial resources needed to thrive and highly experienced higher education administrators to complement the current staff," said Dana College President Janet Philipp. "We believe DEC will help Dana maintain and strengthen the college's mission and continue to serve well the diverse populations that have been the hallmark of Dana College's institutional culture."

The Dana College corporation-which will continue governing the College until the end of the 2009-2010 academic year-will become the Dana Education Foundation, with continuing responsibilities for the Danish American Archives, campus ministry, Alumni Affairs and the Alumni Council, as well as support for community events.

The new owners have a short-term goal of restoring Dana's student population to some 1,000 students-effectively doubling the current student body. A longer-term goal is of increasing study abroad opportunities.

Accreditation and regulatory approvals for the sale are expected to be final this summer. With the completion of the sale, Raj Kaji, DEC president and a former vice- president at Walden University, will become president of Dana, and Janet Philipp will take the position of as senior vice president of student engagement. The new provost and chief academic officer will be C. Ronald Kimberling, former president of Argosy University's Chicago campus and staff at U.S. Education Department during the Reagan administration.

"We are excited to work with the faculty, staff and students of Dana College, and look forward to helping Dana realize its full potential," Kaji said. "It is our dream that in five years, one-third of the student body will exercise its opportunity to study abroad."

A year ago, another ELCA-affiliated school, Waldorf College, Forest City, Iowa, was sold to a for-profit online university that sees the school.


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March 16, 2010

Synod council denies Florida congregation's request to leave ELCA

The synod council of the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declined a request from a Fort Pierce, Fla., congregation to terminate its membership in the denomination after the congregation successfully completed two votes to leave as required by the ELCA Constitution.

The decision was a rare instance in which required synod council approval was denied. David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary, said he was not aware of another instance in which a congregation's request to terminate its relationship with the ELCA since the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly had been denied.

St. Peter Lutheran Church, Fort Pierce, was founded in the former Lutheran Church in America (LCA). The ELCA Constitution, section 9.62, states that congregations established by the LCA must "receive synodical approval" before terminating their ELCA memberships.

St. Peter's decision to leave resulted from its disagreement with actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. That assembly approved proposals that would create the possibility for Lutherans in committed, publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA clergy and professional lay leaders. It also adopted a social statement on human sexuality.

The synod council made the decision during its Feb. 27-28 meeting, and the congregation was informed in writing last week, said Edward R. Benoway, bishop, Florida-Bahamas Synod, Tampa. "The synod council prayed about this decision, and for missional reasons, we felt we could not approve this," he said. Benoway told the ELCA News Service that there's no other ELCA congregation in Fort Pierce.

St. Peter's current annual report lists 105 baptized members, with an average worship attendance of 46 people. Members voted 20-0 to leave the ELCA.

"This is the first (former) LCA congregation in the synod that has voted to terminate its relationship with the ELCA. Fort Pierce is an important mission field for us, and we want to maintain our witness to this community. We want to move forward with the people," Benoway said, adding "it will be a challenge." Benoway said he called to inform the congregation's pastor, Theodore C. Rice, of the synod council's decision. He also said the pastor and he agreed to meet to discuss the situation.

"We had a lot of discussion, and we prayed a lot," said Cheryl G. Stuart, Tallahassee, synod vice president and synod council chair. "We took a fair amount of time on this one."

The council discussed St. Peter's request, what it means for the synod council to have authority to grant such a request and the church's mission in that area of the synod, Stuart said. The council's decision was unanimous, she said.

"The council tends to be mission-focused," Stuart said. "It was really about mission for us in the area."

Stuart said the council and synod staff don't have specific plans yet for next steps with the St. Peter congregation, "but we are committed to trying to walk with them and rebuild the relationship."

Rice told the ELCA News Service that the synod council's action had put the congregation into a "dual relationship" with both the ELCA and Lutheran Congregations for Mission in Christ (LCMC), a church body which the congregation joined. He said the congregation didn't want a relationship with both — just LCMC.

Rice said he doesn't believe there's any way the congregation can work with the synod. "How are they going to work with us? We completely disagree with them," he said.

"There's nothing we can do. They don't want to let us off the rolls. We joined LCMC, and that's where we'll do our ministry," he said.

The Metropolitan New York Synod Council has acted on three requests from congregations to terminate their relationships with the synod and the ELCA, but its approach was different. The congregations are Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, New Rochelle; Advent Lutheran Church, Elmont; and St. James Lutheran Church, Stewart Manor. In each case, the synod council adopted a resolution "respectfully" requesting each to "remain in the fellowship of the Metropolitan New York Synod," according to the synod's records.

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