Thursday, February 28, 2008

New online class considers Peter and Paul: Agents of Change

Helping students sort out life’s questions will be instructor’s approach to Spring online course – a focus on the Book of Acts

PHILADELPHIA, PA (February 28, 2008) – “The assumption some people make is that we are living in a completely unique time,” says Autumn Fletcher Hardenstine, who is the instructor for the May-June online course “Peter and Paul: Agents of Change” – a focus on the Book of Acts. The class, for growth and enrichment, is the 21st in a series offered by The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) through its Faith and Life Institute. The class is part of the Institute’s Online Theological Education for Laity initiative. Students completing the course earn a certificate. The course is non-credit, for growth and enrichment.

“We do live in a unique time in many ways, but I want to help students in the class think of Peter and Paul as believers who were much like them, living in a milieu similar in some important ways to the world as we know it.” For example, she says, Paul was involved with communities of people who both ignored God and were God-fearers. “Paul was addressing the hungry, the deprived and the mentally ill, the same as believers do today. Peter was more of an insider, working with the Jews of the day. We can study how both Peter and Paul worked through their faith in the church’s early time.

“What we learn about them poses lots of questions for us,” Hardenstine says. “How do we today live out our faith? How do we relate to the hungry and the deprived, and what are our churches doing? How do we strive to meet the needs of the mentally ill?” Hardenstine, a family therapist at Philhaven, a Schuylkill County treatment center for people with mental illness, daily encounters troubled youth and families during home visits. “In many ways I think the daily challenges aren’t so very different,” Hardenstine says. “I hope people taking the class will see that what they do in attempting to live out their faith journey is similar to what Peter and Paul were trying to do in their day.”

Hardenstine, an Episcopal rector, has served in parish ministry prior to serving in her present capacity at Philhaven. She and new husband, Jim, worship at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pine Grove, PA. Autumn is a graduate of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. She has previously taught online courses for the seminary on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John.

To register for the online class taught by Hardenstine, go to The registration period concludes at the end of April. The course costs $130. For further information contact Mark A. Staples, director of the seminary’s Faith and Life Institute, at 215/248-7352 or email Mark at

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Interfaith series at Lutheran Seminary will tackle 'gender and sexuality' and 'war and peace'

Series on ‘Tough Texts’ aims to dispel distrust
between Christians, Jews and Muslims

PHILADELPHIA, PA (January 15, 2008) – “Tough Texts” is the title of a spring Interfaith Dialogue Series set for three Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m. in March and April at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP). The series will involve Christian, Muslim and Jewish presenters each day, and a rich opportunity for conversation with the presenters and in small groups. Clergy, Rabbis and Imams are invited along with any concerned lay leaders.

Each day the presenters will focus on foundational scriptures from their tradition in terms of three subthemes: “Identity and the Other” (March 30); “Gender and Sexuality” (April 6) and “War and Peace” (April 13). At the outset of each day, each tradition’s presenter will speak for 20 minutes. The presenting panel will take clarifying questions briefly. Small interfaith groups will discuss what they have heard and frame questions for the panel, then come back into the plenary to pose their questions. The day will conclude with a light supper and opportunity for informal conversation.

Planning co-sponsors with the seminary are the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, the Neighborhood Interfaith Movement (Mt. Airy), The Institute for Interreligious and Inter-Cultural Dialogue at Temple University, the Philadelphia Dialogue Forum and Reconstructionist-Rabbinical College of Wyncote, PA. The series is made possible through the generous contributions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Global Mission Department and other donors.

“Sadly, in the face of tragic world and local events, mistrust and stereotypes abound between the three Abrahamic traditions,” says Mark A. Staples, convener of the Interfaith Task Force that has planned the series over the past 15 months. “Sometimes we feel powerless in the face of such episodes, but we believe a way to dispel the distrust is to have meaningful conversations close to home. We hope this series will be the start of an annual program of this type.” Staples said the keynote presenters for each day live regionally in hopes dialogue might become ongoing. He added that the conversation between interfaith planners has been “a dialogue within a dialogue that has been gratifying and exciting.” Sister Maria Hornung of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia said the series is designed to go a step beyond some dialogue programs she’s observed. “It will certainly help people to discern what we agree on as has been done before,” she said. “But it is equally important to take an honest look at our differences so we can dispel misunderstandings.”

For the March 30 topic “Identity and the Other” (To what extent is my faith the one true faith?), the Christian presenter will be the Rev. Dr. Walter Wagner, who teaches at Moravian College and the seminary, who’s been instrumental in Muslim-Christian dialogues and who helped to establish the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College; the Jewish presenter will be Dr. Lewis Ricardo Gordon, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy, Religion and Judaic Studies at Temple University; and the Muslim Presenter will be Dr. Sanaullah Kirmani, who teaches Peace Studies and History at Goucher College.

For the April 6 topic on “Gender and Sexuality” the Christian presenter will be the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, associate professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at LTSP; the Jewish presenter will be Dr. Laura Levitt, coordinator of the Greater Philadelphia Women’s Consortium and director of the Jewish Studies Program at Temple University, where she teaches in the Religion department and the Women’s Studies program, and the Muslim presenter will be Dr. Constance Carter, who’s held adjunct faculty teaching posts at Temple and Villanova universities as well as at the College of New Jersey. She has more than 40 years of experience in social work and career development.

For the April 13 topic on “War and Peace” the Christian presenter will be Dr. Paul Mojzes, Professor of Religious Studies at Rosemont College; the Jewish Presenter will be Rabbi Leonard Gordon, Rabbi at the Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia’s Mt. Airy section, and who has taught Comparative Religion and Rabbinic Literature at Columbia and Brown universities, and the Muslim presenter will be Dr. Khalil Malik, a Lansdale, PA physician involved with The Peace Center in Bucks County and as a member of the National Executive Board of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, USA.

Cost for attending all three sessions is $65 -- $25 per session for attending one or two events in the series. Student discounts apply and scholarships are available for those who are in need and desirous of attending. The series wishes to exclude no one because of inability to pay. Information on student discounts and how to register is available at Questions or requests for information may be addressed to Staples at or by telephoning him at 215/248-7352.

Churches' response to addictions focus for seminary's annual health conference

PHILADELPHIA, PA (February 19, 2008) – Addictions come in many forms, and many church leaders are not comfortable with the church’s response to addictions.

Hence, this year’s annual Health Ministry Conference Saturday, March 29 at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) will attempt to unpack the challenges and help rostered church leaders, health professionals and concerned lay leaders explore the possibilities for “healthy responses.”

The day long program begins at 8:15 a.m. in the seminary’s Amphitheater. Keynoters are Terry Lieb, executive director of Diakon Family Life Services; and Tim Philpot, associate director at the Bucks County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

Participants in the program will be able to define addictive behaviors, identify the variety of addictions, discuss the relationship between a person’s “survival plan” and addiction, and compare and contrast effective responses and educational approaches for addictive behaviors when working with individuals, families and faith communities.

“Everyone has a survival plan,” notes Lieb in discussing the anticipated conference. “As part of their plan many people are controlled by addictive behaviors, ranging from the familiar forms of alcohol and drug dependence to other behaviors, including smoking, eating disorders, gambling, pornography and workaholism.” Lieb and Lutheran synod executives have recently reported that counseling involving pornography addiction is considerably on the increase. “We’ll be talking about healthy responses to such challenges,” Lieb says. Sometimes, he and others have noted, the church builds a wall of silence around the challenges posed by addictive behaviors.

Terry Lieb, a National Certified Counselor and Pennsylvania Licensed Professional Counselor, has counseled hundreds of individuals and families on a wide range of addictive behaviors. During his career he has led hundreds of workshops on emotional and other kinds of health issues challenging families and churches.

Co-presenter Tim Philpot has worked both as a private psychotherapist in a group practice and as a behavioral health therapist and case manager at Princeton House in Princeton, NJ. In 2002 he became the manager of Prevention Education Services at the Bucks County Council before becoming associate director in 2006. Philpot is a member of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in New Hope, PA. He makes frequent community presentations on addiction, parenting, alcohol and drug prevention and group dynamics.

For more information or to register on line go to or call Beverly Freed-Lawrence at 215/572-5654. The $45 conference fee includes continental breakfast and lunch. Student rate is $25.

Preaching with Power coming March 10-14

Five sermons and one lecture by six distinguished African American preachers and theologians, and a celebration of black sacred music comprise Preaching with Power: A Forum on Black Preaching and Theology. Local churches within the community host the evening worship services. All are welcome! Come and be inspired!

The Rev. Otis Moss, III, whose congregants at Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL, include U.S. Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, will be one of six keynote presenters at this year’s annual Preaching with Power series.

The series is co-sponsored by the Urban Theological Institute of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) and neighborhood congregations. All events are free and open to the public. See the Web site - - for preachers, locations and times.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

William Lazareth, LTSP Alum, former Professor, has died

The Rev. William H. Lazareth, among many notable achievements former professor, dean of the faculty, and distinguished visiting professor at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), and former bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died of cancer Feb. 23 in Bar Harbor, Maine. Prof. Lazareth received his MDiv from LTSP, and was recognized with the Distinguished Alum Award in 1994.

The ELCA News Service provided this information in a release:

William Lazareth, Former ELCA Synod Bishop, Author, Professor, Dies

February 26, 2008

William Lazareth, Former ELCA Synod Bishop, Author, Professor, Dies 08-018-JB

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. William H. Lazareth, former bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) died of cancer Feb. 23 in Bar Harbor, Maine. Lazareth, 79, had a distinguished career as a college and seminary professor, author and leader with the ELCA, the former Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and the World Council of Churches (WCC), Geneva.

At the time of his death, Lazareth was a faculty member at Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis., serving as Jerald C. Brauer Distinguished Professor of Lutheran Studies. He was also founding co-director of the online Augustine Institute at Carthage.

A memorial service is planned for April 26 at 3 p.m. at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, White Plains, N.Y., where he was a member. A second memorial service will be held in Bar Harbor at a date to be determined.

"A most eloquent voice in witness to the gospel is now silent," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, in a statement. "With people throughout the whole Church on earth, I mourn (his) death. At the same time, I convey to his dear wife, Jacqueline, and his children, the sympathy of a grateful church."

"Dr. Lazareth was a teacher of the Church. The ecclesial, theological and ecumenical legacy that he leaves will bless the people of the Church for generations to come," he said.

Hanson noted that Lazareth oversaw the drafting "of one of the most influential documents of the 20th century" in his role as director of the WCC Faith and Order Secretariat from 1980 to 1983. The document, "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry," emerged from a half century of theological endeavor and consensus- building concerning issues that have separated churches, he said. "That document now exists in about 40 languages and continues to shape theological dialogue in the quest for deeper church-to- church relationships," Hanson said.

Hanson said Lazareth "had a special gift for using comparisons and contrasts in his patterns of preaching and teaching. He employed vivid phrases and well-crafted sentences to convey abiding truths. Those who had the privilege of hearing him always gained memorable insights into the witness of Scripture and the tradition of the Church."

The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, who served as bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod from 1996 to 2007, said Lazareth was "a giant among us." Bouman is now executive director, ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission.

"Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" is a document that will be a legacy for the whole Church, Bouman said. "It helped me in my understanding of the ministry of the diaconate in the Metropolitan New York Synod, as well as an enduring way in which to think, work and pray for the unity of Christ's Body," he said.

"As bishop he (Lazareth) was an outstanding missional leader. Many remember his clear and passionate call for justice among the urban poor on the streets of the Bronx as he helped launch Nehemiah affordable housing. His leadership as bishop, in so many ways, made our synod proud and public," Bouman said, adding that he was grateful for Lazareth's counsel while Bouman was serving as bishop.

Born in New York, Lazareth earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1948 from Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. In 1953 he earned a master of divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), one of eight ELCA seminaries. Lazareth earned a doctorate in doctrinal theology from Columbia University- Union Theological Seminary, New York, in 1958. Seven honorary doctorates were awarded to Lazareth.

Following his ordination in 1956 in the former United Lutheran Church, Lazareth was a faculty member for nearly 20 years at LTSP, serving as Hagan Professor of Systematic Theology and dean of the faculty. After he left the faculty, Lazareth became a distinguished visiting professor at LTSP. In 1976 he became director of the Department for Church in Society, LCA Division for Mission in North America.

After serving three years as years as director of the WCC Faith and Order Secretariat, he became pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, where he served from 1983 to 1987. He was visiting professor, Union Theological Seminary, New York, from 1987 to 1996. From 1991 to 2002, he was co-president of the Lutheran-Eastern Orthodox International Doctrinal Dialogues, Lutheran World Federation, Geneva.

In 1988 Lazareth was elected bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod and served in that role until 1992 when he retired from active ministry. From 1996 to 2003, he was a member of the executive staff, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, and was a visiting professor at Princeton University before he joined the faculty at Carthage College in 2003.

Lazareth authored 13 books, edited 15 books and wrote at least 45 essays. In 1995 he was named "Lutheran Pastor of the Year USA" by the Luther Institute, Washington, D.C.

Lazareth is survived by Jacqueline, his wife of 53 years, daughters Karen and Victoria, and a son, Paul.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or ELCA News Blog:

Friday, February 22, 2008

162 women ‘renewed’ at second annual Rest, Refreshment and Renewal

Lenten reflections by Linda Post Buskofsky of WELCA highlight the rapidly growing initiative

Some drove for four hours to get to the seminary from places as far north as Dushore, PA, and as far south as Virginia.

They were ecumenically and culturally diverse. They were Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Baptists, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterians. And they were having a good time meeting each other and going to workshops on forgiveness and prayerful yoga and about “Reading Women’s Words” in the Bible. They were 162 participants in an event called “Rest Refreshment and Renewal for Women: The Season Purple.” And they far surpassed in numbers the 117 participants from last year’s first of its kind “Rest” event.

“I’m just thrilled with the way the event has developed,” said the Rev. Ellen Anderson, who worked with Women of the ELCA congregational leaders to bring the vision for such an event to fruition. “Everyone is looking forward to next year.” That date will be Saturday, Feb. 7.

Keynoter for the day was Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director of Women of the ELCA (WELCA). She told the gathering that Lent (the season purple) affords believers a time of deep reflection and “extended confessions…We can hold a huge mirror up to our souls and review what we tend to hide from ourselves and others. Our sinful actions can become a burden that permeates every aspect of our lives. Yet we put blinders on and hide our sins. Ash Wednesday invites us to take a long deep look at ourselves and renew our commitment to follow Jesus. Lent is all about giving ourselves the time to reflect and renew our focus on the cross and our role as disciples of Jesus. It’s a time to know the love and mercy of a God who welcomes us home…”

Buskofsky engaged the women in conversations with each other about various aspects of their faith journey. She sampled with her audience memories from growing up in the faith in Tannersville, PA. Her remarks were very warmly received.

The participants arrived with armloads of crayons, construction paper and craft related goods that will become prizes for Mt. Airy (Philadelphia) children taking part in an anti-violence art contest. There were plenty of gift goods left over to give to area schools.

The women packed Professor Pamela Cooper-White’s class entitled, “Do I Have to Forgive?” (Hint about the content: Forgiveness is a process and it isn’t on you to forgive. God takes care of that.) Fellow LTSP faculty member the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney led the focus on “Reading Women’s Words.” Seminary Musician Mark Mummert led workshops on “The Songs of Lent.” Lois Clymer and seminarian Erika Strobel led two events on “Prayerful Yoga.” Terri Youngblut and Kathie Afflerbach talked about “stopping the violence” in our communities. The Acts of Love group wrapped the art contest prizes that were part of the violence workshop.

“Prays Well with Others” was led by Dr. Robin Mattison of the seminary faculty. The Revs. Leslie Richard and Susan Cole ran “Spiritual Direction” workshops. Beth Titus of the seminary’s admissions staff led more than 20 women in discussions relating to their sense of call in life.

See photos of the day on the LTSP Web site:

Hein-Fry Lectures available online

The 2008 Hein-Fry Lectures, Living Together in the 21st Century: The Lutheran Vocation in World Christianity, presented by Dr. Wanda Deifert with respondent Dr. Nelson Rivera, are available for viewing online. Go to to watch the video streams of each lecture: Does Lutheran theology justify fundamentalism? and Advocacy and political participation: Is there a Lutheran political theology? by Dr. Deifelt, and the response by Dr. Rivera.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Lutheran Vocation in World Christianity topic for annual Hein-Fry Lectures

The annual Hein-Fry Lectures, with the theme Living Together in the 21st Century: The Lutheran Vocation in World Christianity, will be given by presenter Dr. Wanda Deifelt and respondent The Rev. Dr. Nelson Rivera. The lectures will be held throughout the day on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 at Benbow Hall, The Brossman Learning Center on the campus of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP). The public is invited and admission is free.

Dr. Deifelt, Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College, will present two lectures entitled Does Lutheran theology justify fundamentalism? (9:30 am) and Advocacy and political participation: Is there a Lutheran political theology? (11 am) Dr. Rivera, Associate Professor, Systematic Theology and Hispanic Ministry, and Director of Latino Concentration at LTSP, will respond in the afternoon session starting at 2 pm.

For information about the presentations, the day's schedule and more, see

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Engaging Space: Liturgy is Public Theology

The Convocation lecture Engaging Space: Liturgy is Public Theology was presented by The Rev. Dr. Melinda A. Quivik, Assistant Professor of Christian Assembly on Tuesday, February 5, 2008, Benbow Hall, The Brossman Learning Center at LTSP.

Listen to or download the lecture, introduced by Prof. Katie Day, in MP3 audio format.

View the video.