The Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C., entered into a collaborative partnership with Lenoir-Rhyne University, making this the first combination of a Lutheran seminary with a university.
A feasibility study conducted in fall 2010 between the boards of Lenoir-Rhyne University and the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary showed similarities within the organizations. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) organized the study and supports the partnership between both institutions.
“L-R and Southern Seminary have mutual missions,” LTSS board president the Rev. Dr. Marcus Miller. “We think that we can be mutually supportive of each other’s missions into the future.”
Board members for L-R included president Dr. Wayne Powell, provost Dr. Larry Hall and vice president for administration and finance Peter Kendall. LTSS board members, in addition to Miller, are dean and vice president for academic affairs the Rev. Dr. Ginger Barfield and vice president for development Ron Walrath.
Why L-R? According to Miller and Powell, LTSS wanted to partner with Lenoir-Rhyne because it is an expanding university with experience and expertise with graduate programs. L-R offers nine master’s degree programs and several professional programs. LTSS offers three master’s degree programs and various contextual learning experiences.
“I think (the merger) will be a pretty clear statement to people in the church and in the community that Lenoir-Rhyne takes seriously its relationship with the Lutheran church,” said Dr. David Ratke, associate professor of religious studies.
The two institutions plan to combine administrative and financial operations. L-R currently manages the financial component of the seminary, but wants to merge its recruiting, registration, fundraising, advancement and academic programs with LTSS. Combination of these operations and others will be identified in the summer, in order to make the institutions more efficient and effective.
“(The merger) puts the seminary on a bigger platform, and it allows us to use management and administrative services and be a part of a thriving university system,” Miller said.
Miller said he hopes the merger will allow both schools to become stronger and build up.
“My goal is that we would be the primary seminary in the United States,” Miller said.”I hope we can continue to offer excellent education.”
In March 2012, both institutions will receive a final recommendation for agreement and plan to merge after legal aspects, administrative structure and constituent relationships of the merger are finalized.
The merger is tentatively planned to be completed by summer 2012.
Powell said he hopes to offer first-year seminary courses at L-R that will provide students with the fundamentals to continue their education at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. He also hopes with the completion of the merger that L-R can offer graduate programs at LTSS.
“(The merger) enhances our reputation and gives us a bigger presence within our church and within higher education,” Powell said. “We are fortunate that both of these institutions are excelling in their respective areas and because of this we are able to enter into this agreement to provide theological education to a broader range of people in the south.”