January is not usually the best time for a warm (!) welcome in Edmonton, but the unusually mild winter was kind and the hosts embraced the visitors who arrived on 23 January for three days of meetings.
Traditionally the boards of regents of the two LCC seminaries have held a joint meeting every two years. Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed at LCC’s 2011 convention, the seminary boards have agreed meet jointly every year. In addition, a smaller committee that includes a representative of the synodical Board of Directors met to monitor the implementation of the MOU.
As each board first met separately, the vacancy in the presidential office at both seminaries was a priority. CLTS, St. Catharines, which has been served for four years by Acting President Dr Tom Winger, has already issued a call for nominations. CLS, Edmonton, responding to the recent resignation of Dr Manfred Zeuch, is examining the call process, while being served by Dr Norm Threinen in the interim.
The boards discussed a commonly expressed misunderstanding that this might be the ideal time to call a single president for both institutions. They noted, firstly, that the LCC convention in 2011 declined the option of a merged seminary with one president (though the seminaries agreed to continue investigating this possibility). Secondly, they pointed to the handbook of synod that requires a president at each institution. Finally, they cited the Task Force’s evidence that an institutional merger would be an enormously expensive and lengthy process that would not likely save the synod any money.
The boards, however, are thoroughly committed to the aims of the MOU. This means that each seminary will have to meet budget targets next year that allow for a reduction of debt and financial sustainability. Although each seminary must have a president, it is clear that the office needs to be redefined. The presidents will be professors who are active in the classroom, as the seminaries will be working with a reduced complement of faculty. This means that the president may be chosen from the existing faculty, or may serve part-time.
The boards heard reports on the increasing level of co-operation between the seminaries. Four courses are being taught jointly via internet video-conferencing, and two professors will travel to the other institution for a short-term course. The faculties have made significant progress on harmonising the curriculum so that courses can be easily shared. The two finance committees will also consult on budgets.
Members of the two boards were very pleased with the spirit of the meetings, and have high hopes for the future. They noted with some concern, however, the declining enrolment, which affects not only the seminaries but the synod. As a third signatory to the MOU, the Board of Directors of synod is committed to implementing a synod-wide recruitment and development programme to support the seminaries. The boards agree that the congregations, Sunday schools, youth groups, and families of synod are best placed to encourage suitable people to offer themselves for church vocations.
“Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38).