Forging Ahead

We are proud of the resilience, flexibility, and grace that our Seminary community has shown in meeting the challenges of a difficult year, and now we look forward to a new future with hope and excitement.

Combining with Moravian College

We are excited to be moving toward combining our historic institutions! Over the next couple of years, this process will create an ecumenical divinity school that is even greater than the sum of its parts.

The timing was right for our schools to explore this evolution. 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 recently transitioned 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. We believe a strategic combination of our schools will create a new ecumenical partnership to serve an even wider global faith community.

Joint News Release: Moravian University and Seminary and Lancaster Theological Seminary to formally begin combining the two institutions

July 19, 2021: Moravian University, including the Moravian Theological Seminary, and Lancaster Theological Seminary have received formal approval to commence work to combine the two seminaries. In April of this year both schools announced the formation of a joint committee to explore combining the two historic institutions, pending final approval from the respective Boards of Trustees and the Moravian Church.

Moravian University, founded in 1742, Moravian Theological 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.

On July 10, a Special Synod of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church convened and voted to approve the definitive agreement to combine, allowing work to begin consolidating the two institutions. This approval follows approval by the Boards of both Moravian and Lancaster on June 21, 2021.

“The combination of Moravian and Lancaster Theological Seminaries as part of the Moravian University family creates a partnership that generates both missional and financial benefits,” said Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian University.

“We are excited about combining our historic seminary with Moravian to create an ecumenical partnership to serve an even wider global faith community,” said Eric Hoerner, acting president of Lancaster Theological Seminary. “We are grateful for the discernment, grace, and commitment of all who helped bring this opportunity to fruition, and we move forward in our mission with renewed hope and joy.”

Within a short period, Bryon Grigsby will become the president, and the Rev. Dr. Heather Vacek will become the dean of Lancaster Theological Seminary. The Rev. Dr. Vanessa Lovelace, academic dean and vice president of Academic Affairs at Lancaster Theological Seminary since 2019, will be Associate Dean of Lancaster Theological Seminary.

The Rev. Dr. Heather Vacek, vice president and dean at Moravian Theological Seminary, commented, “I am thrilled about the possibilities the future holds for a combined Lancaster Theological Seminary and Moravian Theological Seminary. The two institutions have compatible missions and approaches to theological education, enabling faculty and staff to partner to serve a range of constituents well, including those pursuing ministry in the Moravian Church and the United Church of Christ.“

Moravian Theological Seminary and Lancaster Theological Seminary each will teach their current degree and certificate program curricula during the 2021-22 academic year. Shared marketing activities will begin immediately. Students will be able to take courses at either campus as soon as feasible.

Final consolidation, subject to an Agreement to Consolidate, is expected to take several years and is contingent upon regulatory approvals of the Association of Theological Schools, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, among others.

For more information, please visit moravian.edu/mts-lts

Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions and answers were developed jointly by faculty/staff leaders from Moravian and Lancaster.

No. Lancaster Theological Seminary (LTS) will become part of Moravian University. Moravian Theological Seminary (MTS) and Lancaster Seminary will craft and execute a shared vision for theological education that serves their individual and collective constituencies. Moravian University and Moravian Theological Seminary are excited to have a presence in Lancaster.

The timing is right for both Moravian and LTS. A strategic combination creates 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.

By combining institutions, both can take advantage of the strengths of each school and will be strengthened, missionally and financially. Both Moravian Seminary and Lancaster Seminary will benefit from the shared work and cooperative engagement of faculty, staff, and students.

LTS has been exploring opportunities over their last three strategic planning processes. In the most recent strategic plan, the LTS Board of Trustees identified long-term financial sustainability as a key goal with the possibility of creating new partnerships that would help achieve this goal while advancing the seminary’s mission.

LTS has had conversations with UCC institutions over several years, but found the right partner in Moravian. LTS benefits from geographic proximity with Moravian University and Moravian Theological Seminary that is not the case with other UCC seminaries. Combining with Moravian University and Moravian Theological Seminary allows LTS to keep its distinct UCC identity while partnering with a seminary of the Moravian Church with a compatible mission and approach to theological education.

LTS will retain its name and will remain on its Ann B. Barshinger Campus for the foreseeable future.

Though the partnership is underway, the full, legal consolidation will take place over a number of years as we finalize accreditation and regulatory approvals. The Association of Theological Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education must approve the consolidation, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We anticipate that it will be a full year (fall 2022 at the earliest) before the consolidation is complete.

Yes. LTS will continue to be listed as a UCC-affiliated seminary in the Yearbook, which operates as the record of all UCC-affiliated institutions. The relationship is governed through the bylaw that relates to the Council of Higher Education: “The CHE shall be composed of the academies, colleges, and theological schools that indicate their desire to be recognized as related to the United Church of Christ and that are accepted by the Council as conforming to its standards (UCC Bylaw 294).” LTS will continue its commitments to open and affirming, peace and justice, anti-racism, and anti-oppression.

Yes. True to the Moravian Church’s history of ecumenism, Moravian Theological Seminary has a long history of preparing individuals for service in many denominations. MTS will continue to welcome students preparing to serve in diverse socioeconomic, intercultural, and interfaith contexts.

Yes. For the 2021-2022 academic year, LTS will continue as an independent, accredited degree-granting institution. When the full consolidation is complete, LTS will become an additional location for Moravian University. At that point, LTS graduates will receive a degree that indicates both Moravian University and Lancaster Theological Seminary.

Current students will continue along their degree pathways with graduation requirements remaining unchanged and with normal annual tuition increases. Any changes that may occur at a future date will be announced.

We hope to enable cross-registration at both schools as early as the Fall 2021. Moravian Theological Seminary and Lancaster Theological Seminary each will teach their current degree and certificate program curricula during the 2021-22 academic year.

All regular, full-time Lancaster faculty will remain with the Seminary. All other LTS employees will become Moravian employees for an initial 90-day period. Any employee whose position is eliminated as a result of the merger will be eligible for severance compensation based on years of service and will be encouraged to apply for other position openings with Moravian.

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.