April, 2011
                 The Virginia



Roanoke listed

among best 376 colleges            

Roanoke College

            Roanoke College has gained more national recognition with its listing among the "Best 376 Colleges" selected by The Princeton Review. Only about 15 percent of the nation's colleges are listed in this popular guidebook, to be published in August.

            Roanoke was selected for a high regard for its academic programs and other offerings, institutional data and opinions of students and feedback from "college-savvy staff across the country," as well as from students, educators and parents who use the Review's services and books, according to Robert Franck, senior vice president/publishing. The guidebook will have a two-page profile on the college.

            Roanoke is "clearly on the rise," College President Michael Maxey said. He called the Review "a wonderful resource for students and parents engaged in the college search. We..hope more students will learn about Roanoke's innovative curriculum and award-winning student programs through this book."

            Also, two Roanoke education professors-Dr. Maria Stallions and Dr. Leslie Murrill-will participate in an Arts for Learning Literacy Lessons Project, funded by a five-year, $4-million U.S. Department of Education Investing Education grant.

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In This Issue
Roanoke College among the best
Lutherans in the news
Holy Trinty adults explore stewardship
Hokies, Wahoos help the hungry
Hard to be a Christian
Bishop calls for increased support
"Comfort" in Tanzania
Camp work weekend
"Church Lady" retires
Holy Joe's Cafe
Religion and politics forged together
Lent is fine time for stewardship
E-mail brings man to church
College archives welcomes synod records
Southern Seminary plans merger
Balmer was theologian in residence
Quick Links

Lutherans in the news



           Dr. James C. Peterson of McMaster Divinity College, Ontario, Canada, has been appointed as the first to hold the Charles and Helen Schumann Chair of Christian Ethics and as director of the Center for Church and Society at Roanoke College. He will follow Dr. Robert Benne as center director at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year.  Peterson is professor of theology and ethics at the Canadian college and a professor of health sciences, training physicians, at McMaster University, Ontario. Peterson, who comes from an evangelical background with Lutheran heritage, will start in the fall. The chair was funded by Charles and Helen Schumann, First English, Richmond.

            Benne recently published his 11th book, Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and Politics and Dr. Gerald McDermott, Jordan-Trexler professor of religion at the college, is editor of The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology, comprising essays by 30 evangelical theologians on themes facing Christians today. A celebration of recent books by Dr. Paul Hinlicky, professor of Lutheran Studies at the college, was held March 30.

            Pastor Fred Hodges, Our Saviour, Christiansburg, has been named Virginia Synod coordinator for the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans in July 2012. He attended a training event in Minneapolis in March.

            National Lutheran Communities & Services, former National Lutheran Home, Rockville, Md., has announced the Village at Crystal Spring, a new continuing care retirement community at Annapolis, Md., subject to approval by the Maryland Department on Aging. The  project is planned to be "a national model for community-integrated senior living."

            Christ, Fredericksburg, is starting a $950,000 building campaign this month. The goal is to reach a level where a construction decision can be made, according to the congregation's newsletter.

            The congregation of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, has approved a $650,000 project for new lighting, painting and refurbishing of the sanctuary, expansion of the narthex and replacement of the roof and forecourt and a meditation garden. Also at St. Stephen, Carl Strikwerda, dean of the arts and science faculty at the College of William and Mary, has been named president of Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Alumni of William and Mary are raising money to establish a scholarship in the name of Dan Stimson of St. Stephen, track and field coach at the college for 25 years.

            St. Peter, Stafford, held a traditional Russian dinner with entertainment by the Washington Balalaika Society as a fundraiser for a sister church in Russia.

            Bethel, Winchester, held a murder mystery dinner in its senior adult mysteries program and installed an automated external defibrillator (AED) and held a CPR skills class.

            The Rev. Pat Watkins, a missionary with the Global Missions Board of the United Methodist Church, will preach on a question of relating with God and the earth on an Earth Day service at Trinity Ecumenical Parish on May 15.

            A study of extinction from the "Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology" by Mark V. Barrow, chairof the Virginia Tech History Department and a member of  Luther Memorial, Blacksburg, was selected as a Choice Academic Title for 2010. Carol Papillon, seniorinstructor and dietetic internship director, received the 2010-11 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty Service Award.

            Members of Bethlehem, Lynchburg, are helping Central Health Hospital volunteers collect 30,000 pounds of shoes which will be sold to a dealer and the money will be used to buy rice and beans for children in a school in Nairobi.

            A gift of video equipment for First, Norfolk, was made possible by contributions from congregation members and donations in memory of Ella Bozeman. The weekly worship service is being videotaped.



Holy Trinity adults explore stewardship

     by Bob Ballard, Holy Trinity, Wytheville  




            We just concluded our annual retreat led by Pastor Chip Gunsten on "Discipleship-Appealing but not Attractive".  Those attending agreed that this may have been one of our best. Chip is a true spiritual leader, and we love to hear his stories. We even remember stories from prior adult retreats that Chip has led.

            Our retreat's theme, "Discipleship," was intended for us to reflect upon our mission within and outside of the church. We spent time on Mission-1/2 Empty, 1/2 Full, Overflowing...? The use of a wine glass with water at various levels was used by Chip to illustrate our mission by allowing water to flow in and out of the glass into a beautiful hand-crafted pottery bowl.

            Another part of the retreat was about Mission Angles of Priesthood of All Believers and Toward a Mission/Vision Statement.  Chip's handouts included "10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing." Oh, so true, we are all guilty of some of these from time to time.         Another handout was "12 Keys to an Effective Church, " from a book by  Kennon L. Callahan. I would recommend this book and a workshop, if available. We concluded drafting our Personal and/or Family Mission/Vision Statement.

            Throughout the retreat we were led in devotions by a regular attendee, George Keck. George's theme was the use of clay and pottery and how God molds, designs, and uses these vessels for ministry.  George brought some pottery items from home and encouraged us to select one that best fit our life and to share why. This was a very insightful reflection and time well spent. Thanks, George!

            The setting of the retreat was the Jubilee House Retreat Center, Abingdon, a beautiful retreat center, easily accessible off of I-81.

           I would encourage each of you to seek out other church members of your congregation to plan a retreat and to set aside time to get to know one another better. During our 17 years some have come and gone, but the core of attendees is the same. This is a time of spiritual growth, reflection and sharing of our faith as we live our faith journey. We are planning our 18th retreat, and at this point do not know where the spirit will lead us. If anyone has a question concerning our retreat, please feel free to contact me.



Hokies, Wahoos help hungry and homeless

holies and wahoos

           Who says that Hokies and Wahoos can't work together? During the week of March 5 the two Lutheran Student Movement groups from VT and UVA did just that. Christian community grew out of a house perched outside of West Jefferson, NC.

         The mission team of nine worked in Boone, NC for the Grace Builders Wood Lot Ministry that provides vouchers for over 600 cords of wood for home heating in Watauga County. The team also sorted food and clothing items at the Health and Hunger Coalition as well as preparing delicious pots of soup for 50 homeless people at the Hospitality House

          In addition to learning about poverty, the group met with the director of Oasis House, a battered women's shelter to talk about the consequences of abuse for children, women and men.  It was a great week of mission work and discovery. The group even got to hike between the rain and snow drops.


It's hard to be a Christian

bass diana butler


             "It's devilishly difficult to be a Christian today," said Dr. Diana Butler Bass, a nationally recognized author, speaker and scholar, in a series of Roanoke talks March 27-29. A church historian who comes from an Episcopalian background, she spoke at Second Presbyterian Church and the Rescue Mission.

            Religion has been perceived as "incredibly negative" since the 9/11 attacks for three reasons, she said: 1. Religious people are blamed for world terrorism. 2. The priest abuse scandal. 3. The religious right reached its highest point in 2001-02. "But they may have won the battle and lost the war-their children are abandoning the church."

            A Gallup poll found that 45 percent of Americans said they attended church in the last week, she said, but another survey of actual church attendance in an Ohio county found that only 18 percent went to a service. It appears that half of the people who go to church see themselves as failures, Bass said. She called this a cultural pattern, not a matter of religion.

            As evidence that people are turning their backs on religion, she said that in 1999, 54 percent of those surveyed saw religion as a "warm word" but in 2009, only 6 percent looked at religion as warm. Religion "has become the enemy."

            But mainline churches are not going out of business, she said. In a study of 50 congregations, large and small, Bass found that many are strong. While the number of people who say they are religious has declined, the number who say they are spiritual has grown. The hope for the church, she said, is "to put the two (religion and spirituality) together."

 "We've got to figure out how to talk to a whole group of people who have never been to church," Bass said. When asked what it means to be a faithful Christian, she said, "Very simply, do I love God and love my neighbor?" 



Bishop calls for increased congregational support 



Bishop Mauney

            Since congregational commitments to the Synod budget are $140,000 less than last year's receipts, Bishop Jim Mauney has urged congregations to consider sending at least the same percentage to support the Synod as in 2010.

            "Like many others, we had hoped that the economy would have recovered so that we could commence rebuilding in 2011," he said, but that hasn't happened.

            After study by the Finance Committee, the Synod Council has adopted a new process for synodical support, shifting from proportionate giving, determined by a congregation's budget and membership, to designating a percentage of its budget for the ministries of the wider church. "Through this process, our life together will be further reflected in our mutual financial growth or loss, not only today but also in succeeding years," the bishop said.

            The Synod ended 2010 with $21,000 in the black, he said, after the annual budget was reduced by $400,000, one staff position was abolished and non-essential expenditures were avoided. The Synod's reduction in giving to the ELCA, reduced from 50.6 percent to 37.1 percent of income, contributed to a decision to abolish many positions and reduce several areas of ministry. He reported that the Synod has maintained its level of giving to institutions and campus ministries and left staff salaries unchanged.

            As the Synod seeks support of congregations, Mauney said, it is mindful of the goal of returning to giving 50.6 percent of its income to support of the wider church in worldwide benevolences. As examples of the ELCA's worldwide witness, he pointed to the demands of the Japan disaster placed upon the ministry of Lutheran World Relief.                                    

Disabled children in Tanzania

know "comfort" from those who care

     by Dwayne Westermann

faraja students 3

Faraja Primary School students


The Faraja Primary School for Physically Disabled Children in northern Tanzania, East Africa, is home and hope to over 80 children from Kindergarten through Grade 7.  "Faraja" is a Swahili word which translates as "comfort" or "relief."  For the children there who suffer a plethora of physically challenging conditions from missing or distorted limbs to spina bifida and hydrocephalis, it is even more; it is life-saving.

The Faraja School is the dream become reality of Joann and Don Tolmie (front center below) of First Lutheran, Norfolk, faraja tolmie familya congregation that has shared and supported the dream of these long-time members.  On several trips to Tanzania in the late 90's, the Tolmies were moved by the plight of these special children and decided to build the school in memory of Joann's mother who taught the physically disabled. In addition to their congregation, they were joined in their endeavor by their three adult sons and their families.  Eldest son, David (back left) is the chairman of the Faraja Fund Foundation, a non-profit established by the family to assist with funding of the school and seeking support for students.  He is joined by his brothers, John (back center) and Paul (back right), on the board of directors as well as non-family members who support the cause.

           In partnership with the Northern Diocese-Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, the Faraja Primary School for Physically Disabled Children opened in 2001 and today ranks academically among the top primary schools in the area.  In fact, local parents want to send their physically healthy children there! However, the school's purpose for being is to search out physically challenged children who might otherwise be left to languish in remote villages with no chance of rehabilitation, much less education. 

In Tanzania, as in many developing, agricultural countries, children who cannot work the fields to help their families survive are of no economic value.  In many cases, they are believed to be a curse and are even left to die at birth.  These attitudes are changing and one of the reasons they are changing is the kids of the Faraja School.  Not only are they academically capable and very eager to learn, but the school has helped to inculcate in them a zest for life and an unwillingness to let their physical limitations define their hopes and dreams for the future.  The school's chaplain and headmaster, Pastor Laban Kileo, says, "We teach our children that 'disability' does not mean 'inability.'"

In a recent visit to the school, I witnessed a soccer game being played by a dozen boysfaraja soccer game with a tennis ball.  The rules were simple:  If you don't have legs, you get to use your hands!  The kids in the wheelchairs deftly dismounted onto the floor and the game was on! The speed and energy rivaled any soccer game I have ever seen with much laughing, yelling and a big "pile on" at the end!  After the game, those who could walk pushed the wheelchairs of those who could not back to their dormitory. 

A staff occupational therapist and a volunteer physical therapist coordinate with certified teachers to make sure each child is receiving the full range of therapeutic and academic resources he or she needs. In some cases, this may involve surgery to correct deformed limbs or prostheses to replace absent limbs.  When children graduate, there is a social work department that assists them and their parents to determine what comes next.  Many students qualify to go on to secondary school.  Others may go to vocational training to learn skills in keeping with their abilities.  The goal, according to Executive Director, Mr. Emmanuel Nguvava, is to insure that "...these disadvantaged children can become future, self-reliant citizens."

Faraja kids in front of schoolIn addition to classrooms, offices, physical and occupational therapy rooms, a library and computer lab, the school boards the children in two dormitories where they learn to wash their own clothes, tend to their personal needs, clean their rooms and make their own beds.  For many of these children, it is the first real bed in which they have ever slept and the first physically challenged playmates they have ever had.  It is a place where they can grow and a place where they learn that they are not alone.

            Sponsors are recruited to help offset the costs and to become supporters and friends to children who have known little of either.  As the school grows, additional sponsors are needed.  For more information, visit the Faraja School website at www.farajaschool.org

Camp work weekend, Lutheran history week planned


          A Spring Work Weekend is planned at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center April 8-10.  Spring cleaning, trail clearing, maintenance and other projects are planned around the camp. Volunteers are expected to provide the labor and the camp will provide food and a bed, according to camp leaders.

            A week-long event, Lutherhostel: Lutheran Migration: The Revolutionary Era, will emphasize valley Lutheran history at Signal Retreat Center at Strasburg, April 25-29. The retreat will include worship, trips to Madison, Woodstock, Timberville and New Market, led by Pastors Bill Hall, George Handley, Richard Berry and Wayne Shelor and Ginny Berry. Cost of the program will be $425 per person or $650 per couple.

            The summer camp at Caroline Furnace will

 begin Sunday. June 19 and continue for eight weeks for campers aged 6 to 17.

            Information about any of these programs is available at the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp & Retreat Center website: www.CarolineFurnace.org.


"Church Lady" Kathryn Buchanan retires 

kathryn buchanan
Kathryn Buchanan and
Roanoke President Mike Maxey


        When Kathryn Buchanan was hired by Roanoke College in 1987, she came to develop a church outreach program under the leadership of then president Norman Fintel. About that time, Saturday Night Live's Dana Carvey created a character called "The Church Lady." Buchanan embraced the spoof and kept a framed poster of Carvey's Church Lady in her office. She retired at the end of March after 23 years in that post.

            Buchanan helped raise money for scholarships and endowed professorships, collecting approximately $14 million from Lutheran and other sources, in addition to being part of the major gifts team that has helped to successfully complete the college's two most recent campaigns.

            In her role as assistant to the president for church relations, she worked diligently to develop strong relationships with the Lutheran church. She worked with the leadership of the Virginia, Metro DC and West Virginia synods. She met her goal to help the synods get to know Roanoke as an institution. The synods host meetings on campus regularly and the college has enjoyed strong relationships developed on her watch.

            Buchanan also served two consecutive eight-year terms as treasurer and then vice president of the Virginia Synod. She was the first female to serve as vice president but that was nothing new for her.  Earlier, she was the first female officer of Dominion Bank in Roanoke and she worked in development at Friendship Manor. "Kathryn has always been ahead of the game. She was a professional woman when that was unheard of," said Carolyn Walter, director of development research at the college.

            "I could never go out and raise money for widgets, but I can raise money for this institution because I believe in Roanoke College," Buchanan said.


Congregations support Holy Joe's Cafe


            Lutheran Navy Chaplain Brian J. Stamm credits members of Good Shepherd, Lexington, and St. Michael, Virginia Beach, with the success of a coffee house ministry for sailors and Marines aboard the USS Keararge.  The churches supply premium coffee and Good Shepherd send a coffee grinder.

holy joe's cafe sailor
A sailor enjoys coffee
at Holy Joe's Cafe

            Stamm said the coffee house-Holy Joe's Café-started to meet the needs of sailors and Marines "who have never been in a church or met a clergy member before...service members who need support in their Christian pilgrimage and spiritual growth."

            While thinking of ways to bring service members to be comfortable in a chapel setting, Stamm decided to turn the chapel into a coffee house, like Starbucks, three evenings a week. The three chaplains he supervises would interact with the service members in a living room setting. The Navy would provide everything needed, except something to consume but the churches filled that gap.

            The evenings at Holy Joes' Café are "a huge success."  About 80 service people gather to talk, play chess and cards. "The chapel is an oasis on the sea...a Bible study goes on in one corner of the room."  Sunday is the busiest evening.

            Stamm gave two examples of contacts at the café. A female sailor, in a relationship with a young man, asked what makes for a long and happy marriage. The chaplain's reply: "Healthy relationships are built on a sacrificial love where each partner truly finds their greatest happiness in seeing the other spouse happy but this has to be the honest desire of each...such a sacrificial love is first modeled on Jesus' love for us."

            A young enlisted man, sitting alone and obviously not very happy, had many changes in a short time for someone who is 19. "We talked about change and Christ leading us among all the changes we will know in a lifetime. We prayed together.."  A Lutheran from the Fredericksburg area, he has been attending Sunday services and the daily Lutheran noonday Eucharist aboard ship. Also, three Marines asked for a copy of Luther's Small Catechism at a Sunday service.

            Stamm, a North Carolina native, is an active member at St. Michael, Virginia Beach.


Lecturer says religion and politics are forged together


            As a Lutheran "public intellectual," Dr. Jean Elshtain of the University of Chicago faculty talked about the "Blessings and Burdens of a Christian Political Philosopher" at the 13th annual Reverend Dr. James R. Crumley Lecture in Religion and Society at Roanoke College March 31.

            Her books have discussed how religion and politics often are forged together and ethics is derived from the Christian tradition. The Christian "lives on the edge," she said. "The earth is good but (the Christian) is against the world at the same time."

            The speaker said she was an early liberal but now a "militant moderate, almost automatically a radical conservative." People celebrate diversity "but we have so little," she said. Calling for diverse views, she was critical of  the majority of law and divinity students who are Democrats.

Lent is a fine time for stewardship


           What is the best time for a congregation to do the annual stewardship appeal?  The traditional time has been in the fall.  The thought was "we do this near Thanksgiving."  It is tied to the completion of the harvest.  A fall stewardship appeal prepares congregations for the new budget cycle that traditionally begins on January 1.

            More and more congregations are finding that Lent is a fine time for a stewardship appeal.  The themes of Lent naturally lend themselves to a Christ-centered attitude toward being a good steward.  These themes include: the sacrifice of Jesus; taking up our own crosses; being the body of Christ; worship as a lifestyle; and giving as duty and delight.

            "We don't want to hear talk of money during the service, especially not in Lent!" is a comment that I have heard in congregations.  I agree.  The best stewardship appeals don't talk about money per se, but instead address the themes of Christian life that naturally come up in our appointed lessons for each Sunday.  We don't talk about the budget in Lent!  One's giving, tithes and offerings, are a personal response to the Lord.   A way is found for folks to indicate how they intend to provide their church offerings for the coming year.  Some do this on a certain Sunday, or invite folks to a congregational meal, or simply have pledge cards available in the narthex.

            It is usually best to have the mission and ministry budget prepared shortly after the pledges are received.  A congregational vote to approve the budget comes next.  Many congregations have changed their fiscal year to start either on June 1 or July 1. 

            For more information on Annual Stewardship Appeals or other stewardship topics, you may contact the Virginia Synod Stewardship Coordinator, Pastor Jim Kniseley, at txbe2godx2@comcast or phone, at 540-845-2427.

Virginia e-mail brings
Kentucky man to church-courtesy of God 

     by Mary Simonovich

 email logo

            I always chuckle when I see the sign that reads, "God answers 'Knee-Mail."  Much to my surprise, last week God got involved in our church e-mail. Serving as our church office administrator, I sometimes send out a church e-mail "blast" to all members reminding them of an upcoming event.  Recently, I sent an announcement to 35 members  and unbeknownst to me, one stranger.

            After the e-mail was sent, the church office received an e-mail response from someone with the same last name and first initial as one of our members and at the same internet provider address.  He wrote, "Where are you located?"  At first, I thought our church member was teasing, so I "played along" and responded, 83 Bluff Point Rd, Kilmarnock. Soon, a second e-mail arrived, asking, "What state?"  This caused me to become suspicious so I phoned our church member and learned I had the incorrect e-mail address for our member.

            I sent a third e-mail to "G," advising what happened, apologized and explained it would take a few days to get our records changed and that he may continue to receive messages from our church.  Out of curiosity, I asked what state he was located in.

            His response was quite surprising.  He wrote "I'm in KY.  Don't be sorry.  God had you send me that email because He wants me back and I need to come visit his house!!!  It has been a while since I have gone to visit Him at his house of worship, although I do speak with him on a daily basis..."

            I responded to G's e-mail and shared a story of the faith journey my husband and I have had for the past 10 years, starting a new mission congregation in a rural area.  I explained that I have personally witnessed time and time again just how awesome our God is and how mysteriously he sometimes works.  I wrote back, "G, I believe there is a reason for everything... your receiving my e-mail may be a hint from God that He wants you back in His house on Sunday...think about it - and I hope you go!!  (You admitted you're long overdue.)"

            Sunday arrived and I repeatedly checked for an e-mail from G wondering, hoping that my words and the events of the last 72 hours encouraged him to attend church.  Nothing on Sunday, but I awoke early on Monday morning and there was a message from G on the church e-mail.

            He wrote, "Well Mary, this morning I woke up, did some laundry and ironed my clothes for work tomorrow...... then I decided to quench my thirst for the Lord's Word and went to church!  It was what I needed. To imagine that He...made sure that you sent His message....it was no mistake... it was His will.  Mary, it was one of the best mistakes you have ever made.  Please pass this story to your congregation as you and they are my sisters and brothers through Christ our Lord!  Please don't be a stranger,  I was invited to your Church so I owe you a visit.... so before my life is over, I'll be trying to VISIT you and your congregation!!  G."

           The end or is it really the beginning? He is an awesome God!

College archives welcomes Synod records

     by Linda Miller

miller linda

          Growing up, I learned the Ten Commandments, the last of which tells us that we should not covet anything that is our neighbor's.  But I confess that I have done just that in regards to the records of the Virginia Synod.  I am the archivist of Roanoke College, and have been in this position since 1989.

           The first time I visited Keith Brown and the Synod archives, I ogled those old ledgers and the fragile pamphlets containing Synod minutes and "addresses," and, yes, I wanted them in the College Archives.  In part, I was concerned about the location-the basement of Bittle Memorial Hall.

           Bittle Hall, with its "collegiate gothic" architecture, while a lovely edifice, is not a spacious building by any stretch of the imagination; I have always had difficulty imagining how it could have housed the College library until 1962.  The basement, with its dehumidifier, was the only place available for the records.  And so, "sin" or not, I coveted those records.

            It wasn't until February 2009 that I received a phone call from a woman on the committee to investigate the possibility of the College Archives being responsible for the Synod records. Eagerly, I replied that we were certainly interested, and the rest-proposals, approval--is history.  [Please note that the Synod still owns its records; Roanoke College is simply the repository responsible for the care and use of them.]

            The move came on a sweltering summer day, August 20, 2009.  Rick Fox, our man responsible for moving anything on campus, made dozens of trips up the stairs from the Bittle Hall basement to his cart, then pulled 15 boxes each load, full of registers, ledgers, volumes, books and artifacts, to his truck waiting on High Street to drive to the loading dock behind Fintel Library.   From there those 105 boxes were carted across the ground floor to the Archives, where I was waiting with vacuum cleaner humming, in an effort to remove as much dust from the lids as possible before the boxes were placed onto the shelves.  Later, we dusted again!

            The first step in dealing with a new collection is an inventory of the contents of each box.  After hiring and training two history major/student assistants [juniors Karianne Brown and Rachel Levenberry], I put them to work doing just that.  Fortunately, Keith had already created a detailed inventory of the first 50 boxes, so we had only 55 more to go.  Weeks later, the girls had created a stack of inventory cards over an inch thick.

            The preservation component, the final step in collection processing, takes the longest: removing metal fasteners, and flattening, refoldering and arranging documents into archival folders and boxes.  We have plowed through most of the original boxes and have only about ten left to process.   Ultimately, there will be a detailed inventory of the entire collection that will enable us to respond more quickly to questions from either the Synod office or the general public.

            And what gems were inside those 105 boxes?  Check the July Virginia Lutheran for the answer to that question! 


Southern Seminary plans merger with Lenior-Rhyne

ltss logo 

           Southern Seminary is planning a merger with Lenoir-Rhyne University to become the school of theology for the Hickory, N.C. university, effective about summer 2012. The plan is the result of a long study of the feasibility of a partnership between the two institutions.

            The Seminary will continue to operate in Columbia, S.C. as a unit of the ELCA, according to Dr.Marcus Miller, seminary president. He said this action "enhances the Seminary's ability to fulfill its mission to the church."

            The new partnership will allow the seminary "to develop a new and more effective administration model, make theological education more accessible for a greater number of people and will allow the seminary at Columbia to continue its historic tradition of preparing women and men for ministry in the church, " he said.

            To meet the needs of the church in today's environment, the seminary "must create innovative solutions that are sustainable and effective." Trustees of both institutions decided to pursue a merger after hearing the feasibility study report.

            The institutions will begin combining combining administrative responsibilities and operations this summer and the trustees will receive a final recommendation for an agreement in March 2012. Summer 2012 is projected as the earliest date for a merger. Virginia and other supporting synods will be engaged and consulted throughout the process. 

Balmer was theologian in residence
at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Williamsburg                        
by Clifford Henderson


The Theologian in Residence program is a yearly event held each spring at St. Stephen in Williamsburg.  This year's theologian was Dr. Randall Balmer, a noted author, an Episcopal priest, and a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, Columbia University.  The title of Dr. Balmer's four part program was "Evangelicalism, Politics, and the Presidency".

In the first session (The Varieties of American Evangelicalism) Dr. Balmer provided an explanation of the distinguishing characteristics of the various groups who fall under the heading of Evangelicals and their theological similarities and differences. 


            The second session (Evangelicals Attitudes toward American Culture) provided insight into how evangelicals have impacted cultural and societal changes in American life from the early 1700's to the present.   Issues such as slavery, women's rights, and prohibition were a galvanizing force which drove an evangelical response to effect positive changes in American society.

            The third session (The Rise of the Religious Right) traced the beginning of the evangelical movement into the political arena, which began in the late 1970's in response to the action of the IRS in denying the tax-exempt status of fundamentalist colleges and universities (Bob Jones University, etc.) due to their racially discriminatory policies.  This was followed by the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and the subsequent reach for political power by fundamentalists intent on changing national political policy to better serve their interests.

            The final session (Evangelicals & Presidential Politics since 1975) was an enlightening discussion of the way a presidential candidate's religious affiliation or stated religious views drew the attention of fundamentalist evangelicals, and the effect this has had on the outcome of presidential elections and presidential politics, from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush. 

            Dr. Balmer is the author of a number of well written books on the evangelical movement including:

 - Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America,

 - Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Sub-Culture in America (which was  made into a three part PBS documentary),

 - Thy KIngdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Truth and Threatens America, and

 - God in the Whitehouse: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush.

            Dr. Balmer was an articulate and engaging speaker and this year's Theologian in Residence event proved to be one of the best in the 16-year history of this weekend event at St. Stephen. 




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