From the Rector's Desk - November 2018

It’s now been a couple of months since my last update from PLTS. When I last wrote we were just a couple of weeks into the new academic year. Now we are closer to the end of the semester and just a few days away from Thanksgiving break. A lot has happened in the intervening weeks. There is some good news to share. However, in the last week life has been disrupted by the tragic shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks by a gunman who killed 12 people, including Justin Meek who was a recent graduate of Cal Lutheran. The shooting was followed immediately by fires in Southern California that put the Cal Lutheran community on alert for evacuation. There have also been fires in northern California which have killed at least 42 people and have completely destroyed the town of Paradise.

In solidarity with the Cal Lutheran community PLTS cancelled class last Thursday. Students, faculty and staff gathered for prayer, readings and conversation at the same time the community was gathering in the chapel at Cal Lutheran.  The events of the past week have caused us to realize just how deeply we are connected to California Lutheran University. Since we have been in the new location in Berkeley many of the staff and some of the faculty have been on the seminary campus and many of us have been down there. We have worked closely with university personnel and they have become our colleagues and friends. In the coming days, the PLTS community will have conversations about how we can support the Cal Lutheran community. For others who are interested in doing so, President Chris Kimball has indicated that a Cal Lutheran Tragedy Assistance Fund for Cal Lutheran students, staff and faculty who have suffered loss during recent events has been established.

Even as we continue to keep Cal Lutheran, the Thousand Oaks community, and all those ravaged by the fires in California in our hearts and our prayers, we have some good news to share. Cal Lutheran and PLTS did receive the $1 million Lilly grant we applied for in collaboration with all eleven synods of Regions 1 and 2 of the ELCA to develop a Thriving in Leadership Project. Desta Goehner and I are working together with the Bishops to create the necessary structure and support to administrate the grant over the next five years. The grant will deepen the relationship between the university, the synods and the seminary and provide opportunities for us to collaborate in the formation of leaders for the church. 

In October PLTS had its ten-year accreditation visit from the Association of Theological Schools. A lot of work goes into preparing for this visit, which is an occasion for honest evaluation and reflection. The faculty, staff and students have a perspective on how things are going at the seminary, but it’s good to gauge that against a team of outside accreditors. I am happy to report that PLTS received accreditation for another ten years. I would like to share with you what the ATS accreditation team identified as the distinctive strengths of PLTS:

  1. The ways in which the seminary has weathered significant transitions and emerged a stronger and more contextually engaged institution.
  2. The careful attention that the faculty has given to developing a revised MDiv curriculum designed to better serve the needs of its students and the wider church and society, now and into the future.
  3. The seminary’s clear sense of identity and purpose, the ways in which it fills a real need in the region and in its denomination, and the tangible sense of love and investment in the seminar that is expressed by faculty, students, alumni, advisory board members, CLU leadership and other stakeholders.

These statements are from the ATS Committee’s Recommendations. The ATS will vote on these in February, so they are not official yet. There are things we need to continue to work on, and we will do that. It is encouraging, though, to have an outside accrediting team affirm the good work that has been done and see the fruit that it has born.

We are grateful for your partnership in supporting the mission of PLTS.

In gratitude,

Ray Pickett