Forging Ahead

The students, faculty, and staff at Lancaster Theological Seminary have navigated the Seminary’s first year of fully online learning and telecommuting since 1825. We face a future that may be different than years past but one which gives us reason to embrace hope.

We are proud of the resilience, flexibility, and grace that our Seminary community has shown in meeting the challenges of a difficult year.

Announcement with Moravian College

We are excited to launch a formal dialogue with Moravian College and Seminary to explore the possibility of combining our historic institutions! This conversation will help us discern if our seminaries’ strengths can be combined to create an ecumenical divinity school that is even greater than the sum of its parts.

The timing is right for our schools to have this discussion. In recent years, our Board of Trustees has explored a number of potential scenarios for strategic partnerships that would both promote greater financial stability and advance the LTS mission for years to come.

Comenius Hall at Moravian College
Comenius Hall at Moravian College

Meanwhile, Moravian College is transitioning to Moravian University which allows for expansion of its graduate programs, including the theology program.

Progressive theological education should model for the church and the world the power of alliance and unity as stewards of a common mission to transform lives for the transformation of the world. A strategic combination of our schools could potentially create an ecumenical partnership to serve an even wider global faith community.

Joint News Release

April 21, 2021 – Today, Moravian College, including the Moravian Theological Seminary, and Lancaster Theological Seminary announced the formation of a joint committee to explore combining the two historic institutions.

Moravian College, founded in 1742, Moravian Seminary, founded in 1807, and Lancaster Theological Seminary, founded in 1825, have long and storied histories of providing educational and formational opportunities for students from a variety of backgrounds and have prepared generations of students to serve the church and the world.

“These discussions are very preliminary, and we’ve just begun to identify where and how the joining of Moravian and the Lancaster Theological Seminary could benefit the students, faculty, and communities we both serve,” comments Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian College. “The reputation of the Lancaster Theological Seminary speaks for itself in terms of the quality of the faculty, the leadership, alumni, and the programs they provide to their students. I’m excited at the possibility, but there’s still much work to be done and many conversations that need to take place.”

Moravian Theological Seminary is part of Moravian College and offers several professional theological programs for students from various religious backgrounds. In the fall of 2020, Moravian College announced that it would be transitioning to University status in the summer of 2021 as the college grows and continues to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs leading to master and doctoral degrees.

Lancaster Theological Seminary offers various masters, doctoral and certificate programs, including online classes providing Continuing Education credits (CEUs) for lay ministers, bi-vocational leaders, individuals in discernment, and others.

“This conversation is an opportunity to explore the possibility that our seminaries’ combined strengths can create an ecumenical divinity school that is even greater than the sum of its parts,” said Rev. Dr. David Rowe, interim president of Lancaster Theological Seminary. “Progressive theological education should model for the church and the world the power of alliance and unity as stewards of a common mission to transform lives for the transformation of the world.”

Several meetings among the respective boards, leadership, and faculty at both institutions are planned for the coming weeks, and updates on combining the two institutions will be provided as they become available.

Once the exploration process is completed, a report regarding a new relationship between Moravian College, Moravian Theological Seminary and Lancaster Theological Seminary will be presented to the respective Boards of Trustees and the Moravian Church for final approval.

To learn more, please visit moravian.edu/mts-lts and lancasterseminary.edu/forward.

Questions and Answers

In anticipation of the curiosity and conversation that this exciting announcement will generate, we have developed the following questions and answers for the LTS community. If you have further questions, please email your name, contact information and your question to development@lancasterseminary.edu.

Leaders at each institution have met and believe that it is in the best interests of both schools to consider the possibility of combining efforts to provide an ecumenical theological education on multiple campuses. We have developed a formal but non-binding framework for this process of consideration.

At LTS, we have been exploring potential strategic opportunities over the last three strategic planning processes with our Board of Trustees. In the 2020 strategic plan, we identified long-term financial sustainability as a key goal with the possibility of creating new partnerships that would help us achieve this goal while advancing our Seminary’s mission.

True to the Moravian Church’s history of ecumenism, Moravian Theological Seminary has a long history of preparing individuals for service in many denominations. The shift from being Moravian College to Moravian University allows for expansion of all graduate programs, including the theological program.

The timing was right for both Moravian and LTS. A strategic combination of institutions could create an exciting ecumenical partnership able to serve an even wider global faith community. The opportunities that result from combining resources, facilities, faculty expertise and our respective alumni communities have the potential to write a new and powerful story for our two seminaries.

The context of a global pandemic highlights the financial circumstances within all of higher education (and especially theological education) to leverage collaborative, mutually beneficial partnerships.

We expect the process of dialogue and due diligence to last through the summer, at least. An exploratory committee composed of representatives of both schools will address key issues including financials, academics, enrollment, and governance. According to the agreed-upon framework of our discussions, the exploratory committee will present information to the boards of trustees of both institutions within 45 days.

We are currently in the exploratory stage and have begun formal dialogue. We expect that there will be no impact on any students, faculty or staff at this stage of the discussions. It’s too soon to tell. As the process moves along, we are committed to sharing information when it becomes possible.

Our preliminary discussions have included a commitment to retain the LTS name.

No. Lancaster Theological Seminary will continue to offer its accredited programs in its current location. In recent years, the LTS Board of Trustees has explored a number of potential scenarios for strategic partnerships that would leverage different operational models to promote greater financial stability and advance the LTS mission for years to come. This current conversation is simply a continuation of this strategy.

The LTS Board of Trustees suspended the presidential search in February after deciding to move forward with discussions about a potential partnership with Moravian College. After the period of due diligence, the Board will decide whether or not to resume the search.

Lancaster Theological Seminary: Context and History

Established in 1825 by members of German Reformed churches in Pennsylvania to educate clergy to serve America’s fledgling churches, the Lancaster Theological Seminary has expanded its mission to serve a more diverse Church and global society.

In its early years, the Seminary made its home in several towns in southern Pennsylvania before settling in Lancaster in 1871, where it held classes on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College.

In 1894, the Seminary moved across the street into its newly built Romanesque Revival academic building located on the three-acre historic campus where it continues today.

Over the 20th century, the Seminary expanded its mission from preparing clergy for congregational or missionary careers into a fully accredited graduate school of theology providing education for both lay and ordained leaders who seek to serve in positions ranging from the pulpit to the public square, from schools to social services. Innovative, accredited degree programs include Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry, Master of Arts in Religion, and Master of Arts in Ministry & Leadership. Newer offerings include the Certificate in Theological Studies and the Certificate in Anglican Studies, a joint program with the Stevenson School for Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

In 2020, the Seminary opened the Pennsylvania Academy of Ministry at Lancaster Theological Seminary, offering noncredit classes for lay leaders, individuals in discernment and clergy seeking continuing education.

Over the last several years, Lancaster Theological Seminary has faced the challenges of an increasingly competitive environment for theological education by taking affirmative action. The Seminary redesigned the core degree program to offer the Master of Divinity in two tracks, weekdays and weekends. The tighter curriculum with fewer credits offers students a more predictable schedule, making it possible to maintain outside employment while matriculating.

LTS GraduatesThe Seminary redesigned the Doctor of Ministry program to offer working clergy the opportunity to learn in-person with their cohort during two on-campus intensive weeks per year while attending classes online. The revamped program that integrates faith, theology, and ministerial practice has attracted students from across the U.S. and Mexico.

The Seminary launched a new professional degree, the Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership, available in a two-year or three-year program that cultivates leadership capacities for those already in active ministry.

Lancaster was one of only 10 seminaries in the United States to pilot — and then expand — a unique program to reduce student debt, making it possible for more students to afford a seminary education and even graduate with less — or no — educational loan debt.

The Seminary also increased its Admissions team, added new technology to better target and track potential students in discernment, and expanded its scholarship programs. To extend our reach, the Seminary has partnered with nearby Elizabethtown College to offer an accelerated bachelor’s degree completion program for undergraduates interested in graduate theological studies.

Vision – Mission – Values

The Seminary’s collective aspiration:

As a Christ-centered community, we empower
individuals, leaders, communities, and churches
to thrive as we engage the emerging needs of God’s world.

The Seminary is guided by the inspiring vision:

Lancaster Theological Seminary is where
God transforms us to transform others and the world.

The Seminary’s mission is:

To educate and nurture leaders to join in
God’s liberating and redemptive work
so that all creation may flourish.

As a Christian seminary:

We value critical theological reflection in scholarship and practice.
We value diversity of perspectives and faith traditions.
We value students for who they are and who they are becoming, not just for what they know.
We value social justice.
We value faithful stewardship of time, talent, and resources.

Unique Attributes

During the development of the Seminary’s 2020-2022 Strategic Plan, the following distinctive characteristics of Lancaster Theological Seminary were affirmed:

We pursue diversity in theology and practice of ministry;

We empower students to bring their diverse voices and backgrounds to the learning experience;

We provide a holistic spiritual formation that includes cross-cultural learning and field education;

We actively work toward inclusivity and racial justice in community;

We are an inclusive and safe space in the region for people of color, the LGBTQ community, and women who aspire to leadership.

Lancaster Theological Seminary takes a dynamic approach to theological education with a curriculum that stresses engagement with how faith is lived both personally and within the broader community and world. The educational philosophy and methods of instruction allow students to explore a range of beliefs while they are challenged, supported, and encouraged in their creativity and in thinking critically.

Our Community

A diverse and vibrant community, Lancaster is centrally located in southcentral Pennsylvania, an hour west of Philadelphia, and within an easy drive to New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

Lancaster, settled in 1709 and incorporated in 1729, is considered to be the oldest inland city in the United States. Lancaster City, with about 60,000 residents, is the cornerstone of a metropolitan area of more than a half million people. The area is rich in history (George Washington actually slept here with his troops during the Revolutionary War), featuring historic architecture and museums including the home of abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Lancaster has received national attention for its refugee resettlement programs as well as its inclusion on a number of national lists of “best places to live.” Lancaster boasts an active arts community, music and performance venues that attract national acts, nationally reviewed restaurants, a nationally ranked health care system, and nine colleges and universities.

The walkable urban center is surrounded by well-tended farmland, rolling hills and rivers, parks and preserves ideal for
outdoor adventures from hiking to boating to skiing. Explore more about Lancaster at www.discoverlancaster.com.