Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2004

Called and Sent: Luther Seminary Unveils $96.7 Million Capital Campaign

by Shelley Cunningham, '98

The Seminary community came out in force to support the May 14th Called and Sent Campaign kick-off event.

Three years ago, in July 2001, Luther Seminary quietly began raising funds for the Called and Sent campaign. It was a time to articulate the vision among major seminary donors and enlist their support. There were big dreams for what the seminary needed to do to continue to prepare excellent, faithful church leaders.

And then, two months later, the country was devastated by terrorist attacks. The questions were raised: Is this the right time to undergo a major fundraising initiative? Should we wait?

There were conversations, strategy sessions, lots of prayers. Luther Seminary's trustees were clear: perhaps in times of crisis more than ever, the church needs strong leaders. The seminary had to press on with its vision. The campaign --- with the goal of raising $96.7 million dollars and increasing the number of donors to Luther Seminary by 50 percent--- would continue.

Taking a message of hope to the people of the church

Since then, incredible progress has been made toward achieving this goal. More than $71 million has been pledged; the number of new donors has increased 16 percent. In May, the Called and Sent campaign entered a new phase: taking its message of hope for the future to the people of the church at large--to alumni/ae, congregations, faithful servants who care deeply about God's mission.

Those at the May 14 kick-off celebration heard about the urgent need facing the seminary and its students: In 1950, the national churches paid 100 percent of the seminary's bills.

In 1980, that figure was 50 percent. This past year, churchwide and synodical support represented just 16 percent of Luther Seminary's budget.

"The ELCA's support of the seminary is significant, but its nature has changed," Kathy Hansen, vice president of seminary relations, said. "Now, more and more comes directly from individuals who care about the future pastors, and teachers, and musicians and youth directors of our church."

Sharing blessings, acting on faith

Many of those individuals have already offered their financial support and hard work to the seminary's efforts. One, Janet Anderson, is the chair of the Luther Seminary Foundation Board of Trustees.

"I am keenly aware of the need for additional resources, both in dollars and in the number of donors," Anderson said. "This has become a clear and compelling challenge: how can we enable Luther Seminary to affect the quality of our future church leaders?"

Anderson and her husband, Brad, became connected with Luther Seminary through their former pastor, Rolf Jacobson (now assistant professor of Old Testament). A few years ago, she said, Jacobson told her, "Janet, you and Brad really ought to be supporting Luther Seminary." He brought them to chapel, introduced them to faculty. She began attending Lay School of Theology classes. "I realized right away the seminary's vision for leadership and my interest in biblical preaching really meshed in this place."

Their support has become one way they can, in her words, "follow the excellent model of pastors and parents in my life, to share the incredible blessing of financial resources God has given my family, and to actively live out my faith."

Cornerstones of the campaign

The cornerstone elements of the campaign include major funding for faculty, student scholarships, research and programs in the areas of Biblical Preaching and Worship; Children,Youth and Family Ministry, Congregational Mission and Leadership; and Lifelong Learning. Other key programs, such as World Christianity and Islam, are also included.

More than $17 million is designated for student support through scholarships, with the goal of reducing the amount of educational debt graduates take with them into their ministries. The Adopt a Seminarian program has been helpful in raising awareness of the fiscal challenges facing many graduates. Other endowed and presidential scholarships have also made a great impact.

"My hope is that a lot more scholarship money will be available for our students. We are working hard so that none of our students will graduate with huge debt loads," Norm Jones, chair of the Called and Sent campaign, said. "There has been a great improvement in this area, but there are still so many students who struggle to pay for seminary. I see scholarship endowments as one of the key goals of this campaign."

Critical timing

The public launch of the campaign comes at a critical time for the ELCA and for the church at large. Yet, President David Tiede said, "Ships are not built to ride out the storm in the harbor. We are called to serve God's mission of love in the world." Continued on next page.

The coming years will present both great challenges and great opportunities to help the seminary carry out that mission.

"I have great confidence in the seminary's visionary leadership," Anderson said. "Luther Seminary is one of the places where I feel I can live out what it means to be a child of God."