ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 27, 2012
Lenoir-Rhyne University, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary to merge
CHICAGO (ELCA) - At a March 26 signing ceremony, representatives of Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., celebrated the decision to merge the two institutions, effective July 1. The merger is the first such combination of an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) seminary and university since the founding of this church in 1987. The ceremony took place at the Martin Luther Statue on Shaw Plaza in Hickory.
With the merger, Lenoir-Rhyne University is establishing a school of theology which will include an ELCA seminary -- Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. The seminary will retain its own name and identity while integrating with the larger university system.
The ELCA has eight seminaries and 26 colleges and universities.
The merger illustrates "the kind of trust that developed among the leaders of each institution," said the Rev. Marcus J. Miller in a Lenoir-Rhyne news release. "Before, we had compatible missions. Going forward we have the promise of a vibrant, singular mission. That's powerful," said Miller, who will retire as president of the seminary this summer.
Dr. Wayne B. Powell, president of Lenoir-Rhyne, called the merger a "win-win" for both institutions. "As one university, we will be both broader and deeper, and that makes it a win for students, faculty and alumni."
"Both institutions will be enriched with a greater diversity and an increased capacity to serve both church and society," said ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson.
In 2011 the boards of Lenoir-Rhyne and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary recommended that the institutions enter into a formal collaborative partnership leading to a merger. The recommendation came as a result of a feasibility study initiated when it became clear between the boards and institutions that each had similar goals and strong reputations.
"There was a time and place decades ago when seminaries were integral units of colleges and universities," according to the Rev. Mark N. Wilhelm, who oversees the mission leadership of ELCA schools, colleges and universities.
Wilhelm said the merger "is the first for the ELCA. It's somewhat a 'back to the future' movement."
Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary was founded in 1830 and has been located at its current campus in Columbia since 1911. Lenoir-Rhyne was founded in 1891 by four Lutheran pastors.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 4.2 million members in 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.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com