Monday, May 07, 2012

Andrew J. “Jack” White : Lutheran Seminary Professor Emeritus and civic activist in Philadelphia and Chambersburg


The Rev. Dr. Andrew J. White, who as a service-minded activist profoundly lived out his 30-year career of teaching practical theology at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), died Sunday, May 6, 2012 in Chambersburg, PA, where he lived in retirement. He was 79.

Emeritus Professor
"Jack" White on campus
in 2005
When White, known to colleagues and friends as “Jack,” retired from LTSP in 1997, he had held the Peter Paul and Elizabeth Hagan Professor Chair of Practical Theology for 14 years and had served as secretary of the faculty for three years. From 1983 until his retirement, he was director of Contextual Education (field work) at the school, and directed the seminary’s Graduate School (Advanced-Level Degree Programs) from 1991 until he retired. During his seminary career, White served four years (1978-82) as Executive Director of the Council for Lutheran Theological Education in the Northeast (CLTEN), which coupled the Philadelphia and Gettysburg seminaries with 11 regional synods and districts of two national Lutheran church bodies of that time, the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church, predecessor bodies of the current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) denomination. White for many years also edited Parish Practice Notebook, a publication that sought to convey to alumni and other church leaders fresh ideas in connection with successful congregational ministry.

What especially distinguished White was how his teaching of theology was reflected in his lifestyle of engaging himself in a wide variety of community service endeavors. Such interests were evident early in his career. He served two congregations before becoming a professor — Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cicero, IN, and Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Cleveland, OH. While in East Cleveland he also chaired that city’s Human Relations Committee (1962-65).

“Jack White had remarkable energy and a real vision for where he thought the church should go,” recalls the Rev. Dr. LeRoy Aden, a colleague of White’s who retired as the Luther D. Reed Professor of Practical Theology after a 27-year career at the seminary. “Many of us on the faculty were teaching in more theoretical areas. Jack had a real focus on the practical side of ministry in the world, particularly social ministry and the urban church. He was not a traditional thinker, but was sometimes viewed as something of a vagabond. He could be really assertive. He was not much into the usual way of doing things.”

Aden said even though his wife, Miriam Eileen Recker White, was not in the best of health during their retirement years living at Luther Ridge Retirement Community, Chambersburg, PA, they maintained active lives, traveling overseas as active supporters of global ministry in South Africa and Germany. The Whites spent a year in Slovakia in retirement while White taught at Bratislava Seminary there. In 1998, White was an international observer of the Parliamentary elections in Slovakia representing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Prof. White in 1997
Appointed to the LTSP faculty in 1967, White became vigorously active on the civic scene while a resident of Philadelphia’s East Mount Airy neighborhood. He served on the Board of East Mount Airy Neighbors (EMAN) from 1968 to 1974 and from 1976 to 1979. He served four years on the Board of Philadelphia’s Haverford Community Center (1968-72). From 1972 to 1978, White was on the Democratic Ward Executive Committee and was frequently its vice-chair. From 1971 to 1978 he was vice-chair of the Board for EMAN Group Homes, focusing on personnel and fundraising for that program serving individuals with developmental delays. Beginning in 1981, White also served from 1981 to 1997 as secretary for the Board of the Mt. Airy Village Development Corp. For 11 years while living in Philadelphia White chaired the Board of Lutheran Retirement Homes (Paul’s Run), a social ministry organization of the church located in Northeast Philadelphia (1977-1988).

He continued that vigorous service in retirement in Central Pennsylvania. White served as a member of the Ethics Committee and as an on-call chaplain for the Chambersburg Hospital. He was vice-chair for the Board of Lutheran Home Care and Hospice in the area, a tutor for the Harrisburg area’s Scotland School for Veterans Children, which closed in 2009. (It was originally founded to serve the children of Civil War veterans.) In retirement White was a board member of the Auxiliary of Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania and former president of the Franklin-Fulton Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

A Wittenberg University graduate (1954), he earned his Master of Divinity in 1957 from Hamma School of Theology, a predecessor school for today’s Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH. Trinity named him its distinguished alumnus in 1986. He earned his PhD from Case Western Reserve University in 1969, focusing his thesis on the areas of political science and community organization. He earned the Master of Theology from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN.

In Philadelphia, the Whites belonged to Reformation Lutheran Church in East Mount Airy. He served on a committee assigned to call a pastor, as assistant scoutmaster, as a member of the congregation’s finance committee, and its choir. For several years he served the Board of the Northwest Philadelphia Lutheran Parish, a collaborative organization of Lutheran congregations.

White was also involved in activities of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. He served on a task force on Ministry of the Laity and on a committee evaluating chaplaincy services. National church activities included service on a commission to study the nature and mission of the congregation and serving in South Africa as a volunteer missionary (1990).

After his wife died early last year, White remarried. His widow, Phyllis Ann Akers White, survives. Also surviving are four children, Mary Sue Burns of Marlinton, WVA; Daniel of Atlanta, GA; John of Houston, TX, and James of Huntingdon, PA; five grandchildren, Jesse and Jonathan Burns, Sara May, Shelby T. and Joanna M. White; and a sister, Dorothy Jean Robinson of Ormond Beach, FL. Two stepchildren survive: Kathryn Perbetzky of Philadelphia and George Akers of Gettysburg, PA.

A memorial service will be held at 11 am Thursday, May 10, at St. Luke Lutheran Church on the Luther Ridge Retirement Community campus, 2695 Luther Drive, Chambersburg, PA 17202, where White was a member. In lieu of flowers, gifts are invited for Lutheran Social Services of South Central Pennsylvania, 1050 Pennsylvania Avenue, York, PA 17404, or The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19119.

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