Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chicago Fall Triple-Header

From the Gettysburg President's Office

Six years after moving away, it no longer feels like coming home when I land at O’Hare Airport in the Windy City. As with Minnesota, Washington, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago now feels like a place I used to live. Oh, it’s still familiar enough that I can whiz around on the freeways and get to various destinations without too much difficulty. And I always look forward to Chicago visits since son Aaron and his wife Melissa call Chicago home, and both work at the ELCA Churchwide Office.

A triple-header finds me in Chicago in as many weeks this fall. The first occasion was for a consultation on “leadership” convened by the Office of the Presiding Bishop. The identification, preparation and support of “faithful, wise and courageous leaders whose vocations serve God’s mission in a pluralistic world” is one of the major strategic directions established in an ELCA-wide planning process a few years ago. Of course, that’s right up the alley for those of us who work in seminaries, and we were well represented among the 45 or so participants who spent a weekend pondering what makes good leaders tick and how they can be found and equipped. In his introductory remarks, Bishop Mark Hanson told the group (I hadn’t arrived yet due to weather-related travel delays) that “leaders need to be known for their unquenchable curiosity.” In our small group conversations, I had the delight of sitting with old friends and new acquaintances, hearing their wisdom gained from experience teaching and leading colleges, seminaries and churchwide units. My small group included Gettysburg colleague, Dr. Bill Avery, an astute student of leadership even as he is widely known for his own in areas of stewardship, evangelism and field education.

The second Chicago touchdown, which followed intervening days visiting generous donors and seminary supporters in Illinois, was for a meeting centered on stewardship. Joining me for both the visits and stewardship consultation was seminary Vice President for Advancement, Mr. Em Cole. Some of the best teachers of good stewardship work in institutional development offices where they daily help devoted Christians determine how to be good stewards of what God has entrusted into their care. One of the factors prompting this consultation is the unrelenting diminution of dollars which flow from congregations to synods and churchwide ministries. I was reminded of my early days in ordained ministry when some of the veteran pastors I encountered insisted that their congregations pay church benevolence first, even before their salaries when cash flow was scare. Nowadays, such insistent leadership seems sadly lacking in many quarters. On a positive note, comparative data shows that Gettysburg Seminary grads have the strongest track record leading congregations in generous sharing with the wider church. We’ll be discussing these matters more in upcoming faculty and board of directors meetings, to ensure that LTSG continues to lead the way in this important aspect of ministry.

As I write this P.O. column, the third Chicago trip awaits me—this one for our annual fall meeting of ELCA seminary presidents, a portion being joint sessions with the Conference of Bishops. We’ll be discussing areas of common concern, including how the seminaries are meeting the current and anticipated future leadership needs of the church. Some time will be spent in cluster caucuses, with regional bishops hearing updates on life at the seminaries this fall, and presidents in turn listening to bishops describe the joys and challenges in their synods.
While these trips take me away from campus a goodly amount, I never fail to gain new insights that assist me in my leadership and stewardship. Feel free to corner me around campus or check in electronically if you’d like to learn more. And be sure to keep abreast of what’s happening in the ELCA (or your church body if you’re one of our ecumenical students) by regularly reading The Lutheran magazine and press releases on the website. So doing reminds us that even as we may be committed to and leaders within a community of God’s faithful called a congregation, we are also always members of and servants in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church on earth!

President Michael L. Cooper-White

See all of the 2006 PO Columns at http://www.ltsg.edu/db/index.htm?dir=pubs&page=articles&cat=po&year=2006