Story Magazine - First Quarter, 2006

Seminaries Receive Grant to Educate More Church Leaders

Future Leaders (from left): Patti McKitterich, M.A. Junior; Kelly Larson, M.A. Junior; and Orin Cummings, Ph.D. candidate.

Luther Seminary and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, as partners in the Western Mission Cluster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant will allow the seminaries to prepare more leaders for the church over the next three years, particularly students of color and those called to ministry in underserved areas of the church, including urban, remote rural, multi-cultural and ethnicspecific ministries.

"Who will lead the church amid the many changes in our culture is a question on the mind of many," said the Rev. Patricia Lull, dean of students at Luther Seminary and grant project director. "The projects funded by this grant will allow those of us in the western part of this country to lean into an answer by actually tackling that challenge in practical and informative ways. What we learn in the next three years will help set the course for the next 15 years," she said.

This joint initiative responds to the growing need for leaders in ELCA congregations, especially in communities of color and in underserved rural and inner city areas. The seminaries will combine recruiting efforts in the West, collaborating closely with colleges, camps, synods and congregations.

"What could be more important for Luther and PLTS?" said Dr. Richard Bliese, president of Luther Seminary. "We want to reach more potential leaders for the church. This grant allows us to do just that. And, yes, we are expecting strong results." Under the theme "Creating a Culture of Call for the 21st Century," the seminaries will work to increase by 25 percent the number of graduates ready to serve by 2008.

"The two most exciting things about this grant are that it advances the shared mission of these two seminaries to prepare leaders for the church," said Dr. Phyllis Anderson, president of PLTS. "And, it provides the means for us to do it better by doing it together."

In conjunction with combined recruitment, the seminaries will revamp their Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) program to create a unified curriculum tailored to fit the unique needs of leaders across the West. TEEM is an ELCA-wide, non-degree program that prepares specially selected leaders for ordained ministry, where the needs of the church are greatest. This means some local leaders in underserved communities will be able to prepare for ordained ministry while continuing to serve in their communities.

Established in 1993, the Western Mission Cluster is committed to extending the educational resources of both seminaries and other partners to better serve the church in the West. It is best known for its Fisher's Net, an online theological education resource, and the Contextual Leadership Initiative, a program through which students from both seminaries are placed in internships and other contextual learning assignments to enhance their education.