United Lutheran Seminary Names Theresa Latini as its First President
President-elect Latini will officially begin July 1, 2017, which is also the inaugural date of United Lutheran Seminary (ULS), a consolidation of two historic Lutheran Seminaries in Gettysburg and Philadelphia. ULS is the oldest seminary of the 3.8 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), dating to 1826.
Latini comes to the presidency with extensive experience in theological education as an educator and administrator. She has written two books and many articles on topics such as Christian vocation, congregational leadership, and racial reconciliation. She previously served as the George C. Weinman Chair of Pastoral Theology and Ministry at Luther Seminary and continues to advise students in Luther's PhD program. Currently, Latini is associate dean of diversity and cultural competency and professor of practical theology and pastoral care at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. She has expertise in conflict mediation and has consulted with congregations and judicatories throughout the United States.
Latini will lead the new theological school, whose roots run deep in Lutheran identity in America and broadly across historically ecumenical Christian commitments. "I am honored and humbled to be called to serve as the first president of United Lutheran Seminary. Grounded in the promises of God, this bold and innovative union of two historic Lutheran institutions will enable us to educate and empower public Christian leaders for confessionally rooted, ecumenically connected, and interculturally competent ministry in the twenty-first century. I look forward to co-laboring with students, staff, and faculty at ULS and with colleagues throughout the ELCA as together we join God's work of healing, justice, and reconciliation."
An ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Latini's background includes pastoral positions in Minneapolis, MN, and Levittown, PA. She received both her MDiv and PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary. PCUSA has been a full communion partner of the ELCA since 1997. Full Communion partners share a commitment to interchange of clergy and an official recognition of agreement in essential doctrines and sacramental understanding.
The Rev. Dr. Elise Brown, who chairs the Seminary Board of Trustees, affirmed that, "Dr. Latini brings a broad range of academic experience and expertise in pastoral care, cultural competency, diversity, and conflict resolution." Brown continued, saying these "areas of expertise will serve United Lutheran Seminary and the wider church in forming leaders for the twenty-first century in a church that has undergone significant change. We are thrilled a full communion partner with such deep passion for and understanding of Lutheran reformation theology and history has agreed to serve with us."
Consulting with the Rev. Charles Miller, the leader of the search team, "ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was very affirmative of the ULS presidential search committee's work and its decision to recommend Dr. Latini." During the search process, Miller also observed, "After two interviews and some forty questions ranging from 'what is a seminary?,' 'what does it mean to be Lutheran in America today?,' and 'how do you work with people who don't agree with you?,' Dr. Latini's responses persuaded our committee that she was ULS leadership-ready! Her answers were thoughtful and theologically astute. Dr. Latini's gifts and experience equip her exceptionally well to lead ULS in its pivotal and formative launching on July 1, 2017."
President-elect Latini will begin as the seminary president July 1, with a planned inauguration for November 2, 2017, in Lancaster, PA. She will live at both Gettysburg and Philadelphia campuses with her husband, Tom van Deusen, and their daughter Eleanor.
The search for a seminary president was launched last fall following the decisions of Gettysburg Seminary President Michael Cooper-White to retire after 17 years of service, and President David Lose of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia took a call to serve as senior pastor of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN.