Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Letter to an Anonymous Donor

From the Gettysburg PO
By Michael Cooper-White, Seminary President

Dear Friend in Christ:

Shortly before a recent day at the office concluded, as I was wrapping up some pending matters prior to a few days of vacation, the call came from our mutual friend in Chicago, Pr. Don Hallberg, director of the Foundation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Don’s call and your generous intent made my day, and I lift prayers of thanksgiving to God for you!

Pr. Hallberg explained that it is your desire to remain “anonymous” in your extravagant generosity. Following our standard protocol, Gettysburg Seminary would issue a letter of thanks if your gift were $3 or $300 or $3,000. The fact that ultimately it will be a gift of $300,000 upon the completion of your life’s journey means that your donative intent will make a BIG difference for the Seminary in perpetuity. You and I share a common commitment to ecumenism, and your gift to the Seminary’s permanent endowment will ensure ongoing ecumenical education that will broaden the horizons of future generations of students.

You have chosen well in your selection of Gettysburg Seminary for this marvelous gift. The biography of our founder, Samuel Simon Schmucker, is entitled “Pioneer in Christian Unity.” Since the beginning, this school has heeded our Lord’s yearning “that they may be one” as God’s people. For nearly two centuries, ecumenical impulses have emanated from this institution into wide-ranging arenas. We were one of the founders of the ecumenical Washington Theological Consortium. The keynoter for our 2006 opening Academic Convocation is its current director, Father John Crossin, a Roman Catholic priest. Back in the late 1960’s, a Roman Catholic bishop was invited to preach in our chapel—a radical move at the time! All students are required to take at least one course in a school of another C hristian denomination. Here on campus we offer courses in practical engagement with our full communion partners, as well as a new course on major world religions taught by a professor joining our faculty this fall. While the large majority of our students are Lutheran, we are blessed every year by a rich sprinkling of present and future ministers from many traditions. You can be assured that the intended purpose of your gift—offering courses in ecumenism—will be honored.

How I wish I could know your name and call you on the phone or pay a personal visit! But in humility, you have chosen to be anonymous in this incredible act of Christian stewardship. Perhaps you are a regular reader of our Seminary website and will come across my “anonymous acknowledgement” in this venue. In any case, I trust that in the larger life of God there may be a day beyond our days here on earth for me to express gratitude on behalf of Gettysburg Seminary.

Oh, and one final note: Might it be possible without compromising your anonymity to offer several friends and relatives a word of encouragement? In other words, can you quietly share your commitment to such lavish generosity, with a gentle but firm urging, “Go thou and do likewise”?! God bless you, dear anonymous saint and supporter of Gettysburg Seminary, whoever and wherever you are . . .

Monday, August 07, 2006

Milton Valentine -- 100 Years Ago

Gettysburg Seminary Blog

One hundred years ago, Milton Valentine, professor and president, died. His Christian Theology held in high regard by moderating voices between progressing and conservative forces in theology, was published by the United Lutheran Publication House in Philadelphia. Bearing a copyright date of 1906, Christian Theology is now available on the Project Wittenberg website, an anthology and Lutheran online archive. Valentine was one of the early Lutheran voices diving into the faith and science issues, emerging in the 19th century and carrying into the 20th. Visit this work at:

Christian Theology at Project Wittenberg

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Knowing When to Stop

Knowing When to Stop
From the Gettysburg PO (Seminary President's Office)
by Seminary President Michael Cooper-White

All wars eventually do end. Sadly, like ballplayers who have clung to nose-diving careers or singers who can no longer hit the high notes, war-makers so often fail to recognize when it’s time to stop (which is usually when the violence is still escalating).

But its time to stop.

An elderly doctor friend of mine reflected a while back on when he knew it was time to close his practice that spanned nearly a half-century: “When the phone calls at home on Sunday became a burden rather than a welcome opportunity to help another hurting soul, I knew it was time to stop.” We’ve all known performers, players, practitioners and even some preachers who didn’t recognize their time to conclude a career had arrived.

Usually, it isn’t pretty when someone outstays their abilities. An aging athlete (and this usually means ball players still in their 30’s) hangs on too long, gets badly injured or is embarrassed as the batting average slides ever lower and he’s benched by younger players who can deliver at the plate. Far more serious are the cases where a surgeon’s eyesight or skill of hand has deteriorated, perhaps to the point where a colleague in the operating room has to offer a firm word of reproof or file a wrenching report.

In some arenas, the potential risk of professionals going beyond their time is strictly regulated. Many airline pilots continue to chafe at the mandatory age-60 retirement regulations; others conclude that the FAA’s policies are based upon realistic generalized conclusions about the natural slowdown in reaction time and other factors.

From my experience participating in and guiding planning processes in many contexts over the years, I recognize that organizations and congregations often have great difficulty envisioning that things can be different than they are at present. It’s not just that they find it hard to begin new ventures; the more challenging part is often to stop doing some things that have outlasted their original purposes and no longer serve the mission. When we engaged in a planning process for the Seminary a half-dozen years ago, a question posed to multiple focus groups was: What programs that the Seminary currently conducts should we stop doing? Of all our inquiries, that one received the fewest responses.

Amidst the current killing and devastation wrought by Israel in Lebanon, there are growing calls for a cease-fire. So too do many choruses in this country and around the world crescendo in calling for an end to the war in Iraq. Thus far the calls go unheeded—by our government and by the Israelis and Hezbollah as well.

All wars eventually do end. Sadly, like ballplayers who have clung to nose-diving careers or singers who can no longer hit the high notes, war-makers so often fail to recognize when it’s time to stop (which is usually before violence is first perpetrated). The tragic consequences on the battlefield are far greater than an embarrassing performance on the ball field or even in the operating theater. Both combatant soldiers and innocent civilians are slaughtered by the thousands. In this venue of public theology, I now join my voice with the rising tide of others in saying that in Lebanon, Iraq and throughout the Mideast, it’s time to stop.

Gettysburg Seminary Acquires the Luther Institute


July 21, 2006 (Washington, DC) The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg has acquired the Washington, D.C. based Luther Institute, a pan Lutheran, faith-based organization devoted to exploring issues of faith and ethics in the public discourse.

As a founding member of the Washington Theological Consortium, Gettysburg Seminary has offered Washington, D.C. based programming and educational opportunities for more than three decades and maintained a long term partnership with the Luther Institute and other capital area institutions.

The 24-member board of the Luther Institute voted on June 27, 2006 to approve affiliation with Gettysburg Seminary, “in order to enhance and leverage the reputation of both institutions.” The Seminary was one of several institutions expressing interest in the pan Lutheran agency. Seminary President Michael Cooper-White said that this acquisition “is a natural for Gettysburg Seminary,” which is a founding member of the 12-school Washington Theological Consortium. “The Seminary has been anchored in the nation’s capital since 1971,” he continued, “offering its students the rich resources of the consortium and a residency program through its House of Studies and Lutheran Center for Theology and Public Life. Gettysburg Seminary is highly committed to its Washington presence and this new relationship with the Luther Institute strengthens this long standing commitment.”

Dr. Laura Mitchell will continue to serve as president of the Institute at its offices located at Reformation Lutheran Church, 226 East Capitol St., Washington, D.C. 20003.

See full story at Gettysburg Seminary news site