Gettysburg is Reconciling in Christ
May 5, 2015
The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg is named among those schools who explicitly welcome students, faculty and staff of all gender identities and sexual orientations, and seeks to defend all people against discrimination and abuse, becoming a Reconciling in Christ Seminary.
The unanimous decision by the Board of Directors at its spring meeting was followed by Reconciling Works naming the 189-year-old seminary to its Reconciling in Christ (RiC) list of certified institutions.
President Cooper-White urged the Board to consider making a decision this spring, given the fact that the seminary community had been in a study process for more than a year. In his opening report to the Board, he reflected how at a recent discernment weekend he told participants, “There comes a time to move from discernment to decision.” Discussion and discernment focused on the question raised by the Student Association regarding whether the Seminary should seek to be an official “Reconciling in Christ,” community, with explicit welcome for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, the board decided by unanimous vote to pursue RiC status. The vote was based on the fact that the school sees itself as a community that “respects a wide range of opinions regarding human sexuality within the church and confesses the unity of the church in Jesus Christ.”
The student association, faculty, and ultimately, the Board itself engaged in study of the issues in a process suggested by Reconciling Works (formerly Lutherans Concerned). Students raised the question because they believed that “this is who we actually are,” according to multiple student leaders. The process was designed and guided by a task force of the Board of Directors and included students, staff, faculty and other members of the community. The Faculty also endorsed the decision.
The process included a review and updating of personnel policies and conversation led in this spring board meeting by Reconciling Works staff member Tim Feiertag. The process included a full year of student and community-wide forums, Student Association activities and a unanimous endorsement by the faculty. Much praise was heard from the task force about the process, including a testament to the faithful integrity of students and the community in general as they initiated the question. Joe Graumann, former Student Association president and participant in the task force, said that “Before coming to Gettysburg, I was concerned that I would be safe and happy as an openly gay student. Upon arrival, I knew that would be true. Gettysburg has always been a safe and welcoming place, and now we are proud to advertise just that.
Dr. James Lakso, chair of the Seminary’s Board of Directors, expressed thanks to the RiC task force chaired by board member, Dr. Janet Montelaro, for their work in bringing this recommendation, addding, “the board heard moving testimony from members of the committee and from ReconcilingWorks staff on the power of ‘putting up a sign’ acknowledging the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students” at Gettysburg Seminary. Interim Dean Largen also summarized the decision: “We see our certification as a Reconciling in Christ Seminary as a central component of our identity as an educational institution of the ELCA, as we seek to form a wide range of excellent candidates for public ministry.”
The decision makes Gettysburg the fourth ELCA seminary to seek and receive RiC status, following Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.