ELCA NEWS SERVICE
May 19, 2011
James Kenneth Echols resigns as president of ELCA's Chicago seminary
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Echols has resigned as president of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, according to a May 18 news release from the seminary. Echols, 59, who served as president for 14 years, was the first African American president of a North American Lutheran seminary.
The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago is one of eight seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The seminary's board of directors met May 15-17 and appointed the Rev. Dr. Philip L. Hougen, Iowa City, Iowa, acting president while it prepares for a presidential search, the release said.
"President Echols has provided visionary leadership for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and among the ELCA seminaries," said Hougen, who was chair of the board of directors. "Under his leadership, (it) successfully completed an ambitious $56 million comprehensive campaign, built the Augustana Chapel and created the Cornelsen Director of Spiritual Formation position. Dr. Echols also helped create a Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice, making (the seminary) one of the top 20 seminaries in the U.S. in interfaith studies."
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, expressed thankfulness for Echols' strong leadership of the seminary. "Under his leadership, the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago has become a globally recognized and valued center for Christian-Muslim engagement for peace and justice," Hanson said. "The gifted and diverse faculty has made (it) a center of theological formation that prepares graduates to serve in an increasingly pluralistic world."
Hanson commented that as a scholar, Echols modeled "rigorous engagement" with biblical and theological texts. With Echols' leadership, the seminary has become a key partner in the ELCA's commitment to the vocation of theological education.
"I have always been inspired by Jim's wisdom, stretched by his vision and am grateful for our shared leadership in this church as we serve the gospel and God's mission for the life of the world," Hanson added.
A native of Philadelphia, Echols earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Temple University, Philadelphia, and the Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, an ELCA seminary. He continued his studies at Yale University, where he received Master of Arts, Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in the history of Christianity.
After he was ordained in 1979, Echols served Lutheran congregations in New Haven, Conn., and Hempstead, N.Y. In 1982 he joined the faculty of the ELCA's Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, where he taught American church history and was academic dean for six years. Echols was elected president of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in 1997.
During Echols' tenure as president, he served on the board of the former ELCA Division for Ministry, the executive committee of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, and the steering committee of the USA Section of the Council of International Black Lutherans. He also led the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in a decade-long closer collaboration with Presbyterian Church U.S.A.'s McCormick Theological Seminary.
Echols is editor of "I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Future of Multicultural America."
Sarah Stegemoeller, Los Angeles, was elected chair of the board of directors succeeding Hougen. A celebration of Echols' leadership at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago is being planned for a later date, the seminary said.
Information about the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago is at http://www.lstc.edu on the Web.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.5 million members in more than 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
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