LSTC hosts ELCA bishops for the first time since pandemic
From February 27 to March 1, 2023, Bishop Kevin Strickland of the Southeastern Synod, Bishop Tessa Moon Leiseth of the Eastern North Dakota Synod, and Bishop Craig Miller of the Upper Susquehanna Synod came to Hyde Park to meet with LSTC students and faculty, lead worship, and sit in on classes. It marked the first time since 2019 that ELCA bishops gathered to see our community in action.
Prior to the pandemic, all ELCA seminaries would annually host visits from bishops, an initiative of the ELCA Conference of Bishops which selects and assigns bishops to visit the seven seminaries. These visits are intended to be educational and instructional for the bishops and to create opportunities for community building for all involved. As Pastor to the Community and Director of Strategic Initiatives Erik Christensen said, “Many bishops actually have very limited direct knowledge of the ELCA’s seminaries beyond the one they may have attended when they come into office. This means that their sense of each school can sometime be based in very partial information and impressions based on conditions that may (or may not) have been true in the past, but no longer describe the present.”
In the three days Bishops Strickland, Moon Leiseth, and Miller spent on LSTC’s campus, they encountered LSTC in the present by attending classes, engaging in worship, visiting our new location, and meeting with key members of our community. In sitting in on classes such as Lutheran Confessions and Public Church I, they witnessed how LSTC’s curriculum is both situated in our Lutheran tradition and encourages students to bring that theology outside of the classroom.
“In the classroom and in co-curricular activities we are demonstrating our belief that the leaders of the church need to love God while recognizing that equity in race, gender and sexuality and environmental justice aren’t side projects in this work, but at the center of it,” said Brooke Petersen, Lecturer in Pastoral Theology and Director of Master’s Programs and Coordinator for Candidacy. “I think students who graduate from LSTC are highly skilled at being the kind of pastors and deacons that can help people to see the work of God in the world, while also demonstrating how we can be a part of what God is already doing.”
In addition to sitting in on classes, the bishops also had the opportunity to tour LSTC’s future home at Catholic Theological Union. They walked through the spaces that will house our new chapel, classrooms, and offices, and heard about the decision-making that went into the move. “LSTC’s decision to sell and move is not one of desperation—it is one of resurrection,” Bishop Strickland said. After visiting the future site, he said he also thought the move served as an “applicable teaching opportunity” for LSTC students because it illustrates in real-time what adaptable ministry means for such a time as this.
Perhaps most meaningful, however, was the opportunity for members of the LSTC community to connect with the bishops directly. “I really enjoyed learning about how the bishops got to where they are today and what they’re passionate about,” third-year MDiv student Katie Linthicum said. “It was a great opportunity for us as students to lift up our hopes and fears about being leaders in this church.”
“More than anything else, I hope [the bishops] learned who we are as faithful people serving in various and diverse ways, just as they are,” President James Nieman said. “Our school is not a collection of ideas or programs or claims but at heart a gathering of caring, wise, passionate people – from our students discerning the many forms of ministry ahead to our staff committed to supporting their journey to our faculty who share their diverse ways of knowing.”
LSTC looks forward to hosting more bishops in future years as we begin our next chapter. We hope to continue giving “a renewed sense of hope for what God can do in this church,” as Bishop Strickland said this visit did for him.