Monday, September 27, 2010

Special Convocation 10/5: Theological Education in a Globalized World

Dr. Dietrich Werner, Coordinator of Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland, will present a special convocation on “Theological Education in a Globalized World” on Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP). The convocation is scheduled for 11:30 am, and will be held in Benbow Hall, The Brossman Center, on the LTSP campus, 7301 Germantown Avenue, in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. The convocation is co-sponsored by LTSP and the Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia. The talk is open to the public; admission is free.

Dr. Werner has lectured around the world and written extensively on theological education in many contexts in the 21st century. According to The Christian Post, he told the fourth congress of the World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions in 2008, "There is an immense need for increased efforts to promote ecumenical theological education in view of the enormous challenges posed by fast growing churches, grave inequalities in access to higher theological education, and the growing trends of religious fundamentalism and fragmentation."

Dr. Werner is a Protestant theologian from the Northelbian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Germany, and was trained in missiology at the University of Bochum.

LTSP Celebrates start of the 147th Academic Year

LTSP celebrated the start of the 147th academic year with Opening Day worship, convocation and a picnic on Tuesday, September 7, 2010.

LTSP President The Rev. Dr. Philip D. Krey preached and presided at worship. Watch his sermon:

Faculty members The Rev. Dr. Karyn L. Wiseman, who joined the faculty as Assistant Professor of Homiletics, and The Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney, member of the faculty who was awarded the position Associate Professor, Hebrew and Old Testament (with tenure), were installed, along with a number of new seminary staff. (in the photo below: l-r - worship assistant seminarian Rosemarie Doucette, LTSP President Philip Krey, LTSP Dean J. Paul. Rajashekar, Prof. Wiseman and Prof. Gafney. See the slide show below and online gallery for more photos)

The 2010 opening convocation highlights Theological Education in the Changed Context of the Church and Society from the perspective of LTSP graduates the Rev. Maritza Dolich and the Rev. Carlton Rodgers, along with LTSP Dean J. Paul Rajashekar and President Philip D. Krey. Both pastors lead congregations in the Philadelphia region. They address the theme through their experiences in their contexts as pastors in a world that continues to change.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Seminary instituting Grover C. and Irma Wright Scholarship Fund to support African American scholars

African American Lutheran church pioneer Grover Wright persuaded dozens of Black scholars to serve as Lutheran professional leaders

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) is establishing this fall the Grover C. and Irma S. Wright Scholarship Fund in support of African American Lutheran students seeking to become rostered professional leaders in the church. The inauguration of the scholarship was celebrated at a special signing ceremony at LTSP on August 27 (see the photo show at the end of this entry for photos of the event).

The late Dr. Grover C. Wright, a civil rights pioneer active in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, worked many years as associate director for leadership development for the Lutheran Church in America’s (LCA) Division for Professional Leadership (DPL). He died in 1997 at the age of 80.

The Wright Scholarship Fund is being established with a $75,000 gift made possible through proceeds from the dissolution of the Black Lutheran Community Development Corporation (BLCDC), a non-profit enterprise founded in 1987 by Grover Wright. BLCDC for about 20 years supported single parent families in finding low-income, affordable housing, and offered services to support and assist such families to become self-sufficient. The enterprise developed several housing units in Philadelphia. After her husband’s death, Irma S. Wright chaired BLCDC and worked diligently to carry on its purpose until it could no longer be sustained, and she decided the scholarship would be an appropriate initiative for carrying on the couple’s legacy. (at right: Irma S. Wright at the signing ceremony. Photo courtesy Jesse Brown,

“Grover Wright was a man I very much admired,” says the Rev. Dr. Louis Almen, the DPL executive director who recruited Wright to his national church post in Philadelphia in 1972. “He was creative and winsome, a mentor and encourager to many, many dozens of African Americans from all over the country that he met and came to know, many of whom he persuaded to become pastors and professional leaders in the church.”

Almen explains that he first met Wright in September 1967 when the LCA, a predecessor denomination to the current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), convened a meeting that included African American leaders to listen to the issues concerning them and to discern responsive directions the church could take. “I was impressed with him right away,” Almen said. “He was very bright and had a compassionate, persuasive personality.” Out of that meeting, led by then LCA President Franklin Clark Fry, came a DPL initiative aimed at attracting 100 students to study to become professional church leaders in the next decade, Almen recalls. And it was that initiative, and their 1967 meeting, that led Almen to eventually recruit Wright to LCA service.

Wright was a Pullman railroad porter during his early career. In that capacity, he learned from and contributed significantly to the labor union movement, working closely with A. Philip Randolph, a pioneering African American union leader who headed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. “The legacy of A Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters are cornerstones in African American history,” says Sister Cecilia Wilson, a Lutheran Deaconess and 1985 LTSP graduate who is chairing the scholarship initiative. “Mr. Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters were key shapers in civil rights history.” She notes that Wright’s Christian faith deepened greatly during the time he worked with railroad passengers, including military personnel.

In 1968, Pastor Edward Dixon persuaded Wright to become an associate in ministry at Christ Lutheran Church in Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion section. There, Wright directed Christ Parish House, a community outreach initiative that included hosting a cooperative nursery school. Wright was vigorously involved in youth work, and during his lifetime received several honors from the Boy Scouts of America.

Four years later, Almen tracked Wright down to work as an executive in the LCA’s leadership initiative to recruit African Americans. Once engaged as a DPL executive, Wright traveled all over the country to meet with prospects, often visiting Lutheran colleges. “He would visit them and sometimes telephone them,” Almen recalls. “He was like a compassionate great uncle, always sincerely concerned about them and their families. He helped them to see their potential, and he had a way of supporting them to get past their doubts. He really was a pioneer in the church in the kind of work that he did.” Wright’s memorable smile, sense of humor and hearty laugh helped to ingratiate him with anyone he met.

“I was a ‘pipeliner’ in the Lutheran Church,” says the Rev. Dr. Richard N. Stewart, associate professor for communications and parish administration at LTSP. “So I wasn’t recruited by Grover the way others were – Sherman Hicks and Jim Echols would be examples. [Echols, former LTSP Dean, is currently president of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.] But he had a tremendous inspirational influence on me.” Stewart recalls that Wright worked closely with the Rev. Dr. Massie Kennard, an LCA executive in New York City, to overcome the financial constraints that sometimes served as barriers to education for the individuals Wright recruited.

Wright’s widow, the former Irma Palmer, who survives and lives in Philadelphia, was constantly at Wright’s side, affording crucial administrative support and advice and filling a teacher and mentor role. In addition to serving as president of BLCDC, Irma Wright worked with the Urban League, first as a volunteer, then later as an employed administrator, ordering and keeping count of supplies, and tracking income and expenses, among other responsibilities.

During his lifetime, Grover Wright was recipient of a score or more of honors and awards, including receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters Honorary Degree from Muhlenberg College in 1985. His volunteer service with many organizations included the executive board of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA for a time.

Irma Wright has been “greatly supportive” of the Wright Scholarship initiative, Sister Cecilia notes. Mrs. Wright, Sister Cecilia, and the Rev. Dan Shook ’59, have worked together and with others including family and friends to organize the scholarship fund. Shook first met and worked with Wright in the 1960s when Wright served Christ Church. The two men became close friends in the 1980s, and Shook in several ways supported Wright in the organizing of BLCDC. “Grover was into many things and was remarkably gifted,” Shook recalls.

A celebration of thanksgiving for the scholarship, including worship, is in the planning stages for this fall, with Dr. Addie Butler, a member of LTSP's Board of Trustees, and Dr. Stewart as co-chairs. Gifts to the Grover C. and Irma S. Wright Scholarship Fund are welcome at any time. Checks can be sent to the LTSP Foundation, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119 - please reference the Wright Scholarship Fund on the memo line. Or gifts can be made online at

Images from the signing event:

Visit the signing event photo gallery online

Many thanks to Jesse Brown for providing photos as indicated in the gallery.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Lazareth Lecture canceled


Ed Pawlowski, the mayor of Allentown, PA, will be the distinguished presenter of the 2010 Lazareth Lecture in Theology and Ethics on Tuesday, September 28 at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP). The lecture is scheduled for 11:30 am in Benbow Hall, The Brossman Center, on the seminary's campus, 7301 Germantown Avenue in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Mayor Pawlowski was first elected to his post in Allentown in 2005, and was reelected in 2009. An Allentown resident for over a decade, Mayor Pawlowski has been a leader in improving and rebuilding the city, working to "build a better Allentown" by making City Hall a catalyst for change. His background is in urban planning and public policy, with a master's degree from the University of Illinois. He earned a bachelor's degree from Moody Bible Institute, Chicago.

The annual William Lazareth Lecture in Theology and Ethics is presented in honor of the late Rev. Dr. William Lazareth (BD 1953), the Hagan Professor of Systematic Theology and dean of the faculty at LTSP for over 20 years. Prof. Lazareth served the church and society in a number of roles, including leadership roles nationally and internationally. He was an advocate for greater understanding through theological dialogue across the world's denominations, as well as an advocate for the poor.

This year's lecture, while centering on Theology and Ethics, is part of the seminary's series of convocation lectures addressing the theme Theological Education in the Changed Context of the Church and Society. Upcoming lectures include “Theological Education in a Globalized World,” presented by Dr. Detrich Werner, World Council of Churches, Geneva, Switzerland on October 5; "Teaching Bible in the Seminary Curriculum: A symposium by the Biblical Area" on October 12; Teaching Church History in the Seminary Curriculum: A symposium by Church Historians, November 16; "Teaching Theology in the Seminary Curriculum: A symposium by Systematicians" on December 7; and "Teaching the Practice of Ministry in the Seminary Curriculum: A Symposium by the Integrative Area" on February 15, 2011.