Scholarships awarded to students attending ELCA seminaries

10/6/2015 12:00:00 AM

            CHICAGO (ELCA) – In its commitment to supporting seminary students preparing for ministry, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) – through the ELCA Fund for Leaders – awarded scholarships to students attending the eight seminaries of the ELCA for the 2015-16 academic year.

            "The ELCA Fund for Leaders is the ongoing promise of this church that those called to lead the ELCA have the opportunity to follow that call – to learn and prepare at an ELCA seminary, to go wherever the call might take them and to enter their pastoral service without the burden of excessive debt – freed to serve with confidence, creativity and generosity," said Christina Jackson-Skelton, executive director for ELCA Mission Advancement.
            The ELCA Fund for Leaders is an endowed scholarship fund to provide tuition assistance for qualified candidates studying at ELCA seminaries. The endowment is part of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA.
            Jackson-Skelton made her comments at the annual scholarship awards banquet held here Oct. 2 to honor 19 first-year seminarians who received full-tuition scholarships through the ELCA Fund for Leaders, and three seminarians who received mission developer/redeveloper scholarships through a partnership with the Mission Investment Fund, the ELCA's financial ministry.
            The Rev. Kwame Pitts, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in South Holland, Ill., and an ELCA Fund for Leaders mission developer scholar (2014), delivered the invocation, and the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA, delivered closing remarks and the benediction at the banquet.
            Students receiving full-tuition scholarships are:

+ Sergio Amaya, Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest, Austin, Texas.

+ Amy Asendorf, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

+ Andrew Baumgartner, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

+ Elisa Berndt, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.

+ Matthew Canniff-Kesecker, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.

+ Leonard Duncan, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

+ Laura Dunklin, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.).

+ Tara Fleck, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

+ Brenda Greenwald, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif.

+ Charlene Guiliani, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.

+ Caroline Keenan, Luther Seminary.

+ Hayden Kvamme, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

+ Frances Le Bas, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.

+ Ian McMichael, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.

+ Tawanda Murinda, Wartburg Theological Seminary.

+ Kimberly Peterson, Trinity Lutheran Seminary.

+ Kathryn Plasek, Wartburg Theological Seminary.

+ Kelly Sherman-Conroy (Mato Waste Winyan), Luther Seminary.

+ Kristen Wall, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg.

            Students receiving mission developer/redeveloper scholarships are:

+ Sara Bishop, Luther Seminary.

+ Emily Ebert, Trinity Lutheran Seminary.

+ Matthew Seegert, Wartburg Theological Seminary.

            "Each of our scholarship recipients received a scholarship from a named endowment created by or for a faithful follower of Jesus Christ," said Rachel K. Wind, director for the ELCA Fund for Leaders. "These scholarships vary in many ways – some are established by bequests, others by outright gifts – but all share a common theme of desiring to support students at ELCA seminaries."
            Five new scholarships were announced at the banquet, including the Benjamin Splichal Larson Memorial Scholarship that is "made up of gifts from over 140 different people. People from every corner of the church … who may not have ever had the opportunity to meet Ben, but people who felt the tragedy of a young man's life cut short, people who wanted the legacy of this inspirational young man to continue," Wind said.
            Splichal Larson died in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. A student at Wartburg Seminary, he was serving his January-term there.
            Four of the full-tuition scholarship awards were "designed to support and encourage students of diverse backgrounds to consider seminary. The response was extraordinary," Jackson-Skelton said. "Sixteen candidates were nominated from their seminaries to be considered for these diversity scholarships and each one of these individuals had a unique story to tell. We were only able to select four but as the ELCA Fund for Leaders continues to grow, we look forward to continuing to grow the diversity of scholars. Additionally, we have added seven new named endowments – two of which are synodical endowments."
            Jackson-Skelton also highlighted the ELCA Federal Chaplaincy Endowment, which was established in 2014. "With an initial 'quiet campaign' the chaplains so far contributed over $60,000" to that fund, she said.
            "It is abundantly clear that the ELCA Fund for Leaders is growing in size, growing in impact and growing in awareness," said Jackson-Skelton, adding that the fund is a quarter of the way to its overall goal of raising $15 million by 2018 as an initiative of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA.
            This academic year the ELCA Fund for Leaders as a whole will support 235 students studying at all eight ELCA seminaries, distributing around $1.6 million, and 112 students will receive full, half or partial tuition scholarships from the general ELCA Fund for Leaders; 123 students will receive scholarships of varying amounts from ELCA synod partners.
            The ELCA Fund for Leaders began in 2000 with the intention of helping support seminary students complete their studies without taking on a sizable debt load that has become the norm.
            The long-term goal of the endowed fund is to one day support every qualified candidate attending an ELCA seminary.
            Information about the ELCA Fund for Leaders is available at
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 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
Associate director, ELCA Publications and Public Relations
773-380-2956 or
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