In This Issue
Founders' Day 2012
Update on Merger Talks
Remember the Future
Stewardship Coaching
Wishing Godspeed to Christine Sinnott
In Memoriam: LeRoy Fulscher
Healing the Gospel
How to Create Jobs
Quick Links
Join our list
Join Our Mailing List
Above the Fog
PLTS Newsletter

September 2012


This issue of Above the Fog goes out just as new students are coming on campus. Orientation consists of three days of introductions and giving out of important information. Behind the formal sessions, though, are many hellos, meals, picnics, movings-in to apartments and dormitory rooms, explorations of the environs, sighs of relief at arriving, reunions of returning students, rededications of faculty and staff, and general good spirits.


The sun is shining most of the time. No hurricanes or tropical storms at this end of the country!


But seriously, we begin this school year knowing the importance of this work of training up leaders for the Lutheran church. That's our focus and our joy, to engage with very talented students in their education and formation. That is our very reason for being.


Now it is our turn once again to take the baton, in partnership with all of the people who influenced the calls and direction of these folks: congregations, pastors, teachers, candidacy committees, dedicated Christians every one.


It is our pleasure to remain in touch with all of in all of your places through the wonder of the Internet. Read what interests you in this newsletter, communicate with us your feedback and changes of life situation. Come to the campus when you can, especially for this month's Founders Day.


Be well, and remember the Gospel!


Rev. Brian Stein-Webber

Director of Seminary Relations

Founders' Day 2012
Bonhoeffer's (and Our) Postracial Blues

The election (and now the possible reelection) of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency hailed for many the dawning of the postracial condition. And yet virtually from day-one of his presidency, unpleasant racial realities intruded upon our postracial cultural fantasies-with issues of religion and Christian identity being quite often front-and-center. This lecture turns to an unlikely place --to a 1940s German prison cell and to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's prison poetry, with its African American blues signature -- to examine the postracial condition of race or his and our postracial blues.


Join us for Founders' Day, September 26, 2012. Our speaker this year will be J. Kameron Carter, Associate Professor in Theology and Black Church Studies at Duke Divinity School.

Click here to register online.

Update on Merger Talks

PLTS remains in conversation with California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks regarding the possible merger of our institutions. There has been much conversation between our two presidents and faculties. Representatives of CLU have been on campus assessing the condition of our grounds. Potential conditions are being discussed and negotiated.


The Board of Regents of CLU meets in October, and will consider this important matter, as will PLTS' own Board in November.


No matter what happens, though, it is vital that the friends of this seminary continue to support our common work and mission. If the merger happens, it will be the joining of two vital institutions that have both overlapping and separate constituencies. It will be strength combined with strength in a mutually beneficial arrangement.  Merger or not, this seminary WILL STILL NEED YOU!


Feedback from listening post events conducted last year around the West has been positive, with a concern for carefulness. We can assure you that care is being taken, and that all proceedings to date have been very respectful.


So know that the legacy of PLTS that has been built up over the past 60-plus years will be continued. And we wait with you to learn of the outcomes. It goes without saying, but keep both PLTS and CLU in your prayers.


Victor Thasaih
Victor Thasaih

For three days at the end of August, eighteen lay folks from around Region 2 were on campus studying the subject of ethics from faculty Steed Davidson of PLTS and Victor Thasaih of California Lutheran University. As a group, the participants read two books ahead of time and spent their time in presentations, small group discussions, informal conversation and introduction to the campus.


Some of the participants were well acquainted with PLTS. Ranae Wright of Seal Beach was once a board member, for instance. But for many others, who were elected by their bishops to be a part of the weekend, this was their first time to the top of Marin Avenue.


President Phyllis and Dr. Herb Anderson were on hand the whole weekend to encourage and visit and reflect on the important topics. One of the assigned books was about people who have spoken with courage against injustice. Their bravery was as impressive as, or because of, what they often suffered as a consequence.


If you are interested in participating in this weekend next summer, somehow make your requests be made known to your bishop's office!  Tell her or him that you want to be part of CREDO!

Remember the Future

A growing number of PLTS friends are including the seminary in their estate plans. Thank you to all who have told us!


We have had the tradition of holding a brunch for Remember the Future members and interested others on campus in the late winter or early spring. That will happen again in 2013. And during this school year, under the leadership of Judy Larsen and others of the PLTS Foundation, we will be seeking to spread the word in other parts of the seminary's territory.


Current RtF members will receive invitations, and we will also publicize locations in this place. So keep your eyes out for the information, and if you have been thinking of benefiting PLTS in your will or other financial instrument, take action!


If you have any questions, contact Rev. Brian Stein-Webber in the Office of Seminary Relations at 510-559-2711 or 

Stewardship Coaching

For a few years now, Professor Tom Rogers and Vice President Joel Wudel have been organizing a financial coaching program for students. Constituents from around the West have met with the students in person or over phone or Skype to discuss various aspects of personal finances and planning.


Paying for seminary, though highly subsidized by generous individuals, congregations and church bodies, can still be a challenge. It is the goal of the seminary for students to borrow as little money as possible to attend PLTS, so that they will not be burdened by an excessive debt load when they continue their ministries after graduation.


The joint commitment for students and coaches is generally for one school year, though that can stretch to an additional year in cases.


If you would like to become a personal stewardship coach, contact Rev. Brian Stein-Webber right away at or 510-559-2711. 

Godspeed to Christine Sinnott

Christine Sinnott Over the years, Christine Sinnott's life and the ongoing life of PLTS have interwoven, like threads in a tapestry. Now, we are bidding her Godspeed for what might be the last time, though we are sure to stay in good touch.


Christine comes from a clergy family, her father first being a parish pastor in Philadelphia, and then joining synod staff in New Jersey, where she grew up in Jersey City.


When Christine enrolled at PLTS in the fall of 1993, she was given a work-study assignment in the Office of Seminary, doing database management and communications. She eventually ended up changing her ministry trajectory, but stayed on staff at the seminary full-time, serving as acting admissions director for a time.


Here's where the warp (or woof) of her life went elsewhere for a time, as she taught preschool and did some temp work. Then, a few years later, she came to PLTS once more, this time as communications director, handling the myriad publications, programs and announcements of the school.


In 2004, Christine left to do freelance work and then development and communications work (once again) at Lutheran Social Services of Northern California. A few years late she took a job as bookkeeper and office manager at Berkeley Design Build. Then, when Jean Haddock left the seminary's Office Seminary Relations, Joel Wudel contacted Christine to come back, where once again she took up - you guessed it - database management and communications.


In the midst of all of this weaving, Christine had a daughter, Kieran, who has grown up on the grounds of PLTS. For the first year of her life, Kieran came to work with Christine. Kieran will miss her friends at PLTS, the extra office space in which she ran her own art studio, and the beautiful campus that she has spent hours exploring.


Christine has been working part-time at the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Oakland. They were so taken with her abilities and values that they are now hiring her as full-time development manager. Her new responsibilities -- event management, donor relations, database work, and that general category "as needed" -- are all things Christine can do well.


What we will miss about Christine: her professionalism and expertise, her absolute dependability, her deep knowledge of the seminary, her custodianship of the Office of Seminary Relations. She will miss the people here, and will continue to treasure the friendships she has made and the satisfaction of doing work that strengthens the church.


Thank you, Christine.

In Memoriam: LeRoy Futscher 

LeRoy Futscher A long-time friend of the seminary, the Rev. Dr. LeRoy Futscher, passed away on June 18th of this year. Dr. Futscher, in addition to everything else he did, served at one time as an adjunct faculty member in the area of pastoral care. He was also a member first of St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Berkeley, and when it merged with other congregations, Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.


Dr. Futscher was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he studied engineering before enlisting in the armed services during World War II. Affected by the war, he changed vocations and decided to enter the ordained Lutheran ministry. He graduated from Northwestern Lutheran Seminary in 1951 and was ordained in 1952, having married Eleanor "Ellie" Louise Fitchner in 1950.


Dr. Futscher went on to receive a Master of Sacred Theology in Pastoral Counseling from Andover Newton Theological School in 1952. He served Holy Trinity in Marshall, Minnesota and St. Paul in Waterloo, Wisconsin before moving to Berkeley in 1956 to help establish the program for clinical pastoral education for a consortium of three Berkeley seminaries.


In Berkeley, he developed and directed the chaplaincy program and outpatient services for marriage and family counseling, eventually becoming Director of the Department of Religion and Health at Herrick Memorial Hospital. He also served as Director of Chaplaincy Services for Lutheran Welfare Services of Northern California in Oakland.


He taught many students in Clinical Pastoral Education at Herrick, and was on many congregational internship and teaching parish committees, as well as being a profound mentor for countless people. Says Pastor Sara Isakson, "His kind and compassionate caring will live on in the lives of all with whom he shared so generously."


Dr. Futscher was active in the Jungian group Guild for Psychological Studies, and taught at PLTS, the Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union. He was active in the Lion's Club for fifty years.


Roy and Ellie were married for 60 years and raised four children together. A memorial service will be held at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley on Saturday, September 29th at 2:00 pm. 

Healing the Gospel

Healing The GospelDerek Flood, MA 2011, is thrilled to announce that his book Healing the Gospel has been published by Wipf and Stock and is now available on Amazon.

The book description reads:


Why did Jesus have to die? Was it to appease a wrathful God's demand for punishment? Does that mean Jesus died to save us from God? How could someone ever truly love or trust a God like that? How can that ever be called "Good News"? It's questions like these that make so many people want to have nothing to do with Christianity.

Healing the Gospel challenges the assumption that the Christian understanding of justice is rooted in a demand for violent punishment, and instead offers a radically different understanding of the gospel based on God's restorative justice. Connecting our own experiences of faith with the New Testament narrative, author Derek Flood shows us an understanding of the cross that not only reveals God's heart of grace, but also models our own way of Christ-like love. It's a vision of the gospel that exposes violence, rather than supporting it--a gospel rooted in love of enemies, rather than retribution. The result is a nonviolent understanding of the atonement that is not only thoroughly biblical, but will help people struggling with their faith to encounter grace.


Derek expects the book "will certainly ruffle some feathers, as it takes on penal substitution as not only unbiblical, but also deeply harmful." But his hope is that it will be a vehicle of healing to those whose faith has been damaged by that hurtful understanding of God, and in some small way open up a way for people to recognize and experience the truly good news of God's amazing grace and life-imparting love. 

How to Create Jobs

Dr. Bruce Rittenhouse, MA 2002, recently had an article published in The Christian Century: "Stimulus Needed: How to Create Jobs." The article may be accessed by subscribers on the CC website. Rittenhouse argues the way to stimulate the economy is through government spending rather than through austerity measures.


Rittenhouse's PhD thesis at the University of Chicago tested theories that attempt to explain the success of consumerism. His conclusion, following the thinking of Paul Tillich and others, was that people buy things for basic religious and existential reasons, in order to give meaning to their (our) lives, not because of desire to imitate or to signal status. A book on the subject is forthcoming.


Dr. Rittenhouse teaches part-time at Aurora College. He and his wife have a young daughter. 


Mitchell Jones, MDiv 1980, completed a recent interim in Bozeman, Montana. He is going to Nice, France, for intensive language study. One book is currently under consideration by a publisher and a second is nearing submission. His third grandchild was born this summer.


Conrad (Simonson) Royksund, BD 1958, recently returned to Tucson, Arizona, after a few years in Minnesota.


John Maas, MDiv 1977, served for one month as resident supply pastor for Island of Faith Lutheran Church, Wrangell, Alaska, a warm, welcoming, wet community that just burned their mortgage.


David Nagler, MDiv 1993, now serves the Central City Mission in San Bernardino, California. On that location are a men's shelter, free meals, a food pantry, a clinic, after-school program, arts groups, ESL instruction, a thrift store, and now again, regular worship. Click here to read David's story about his congregation.


Please keep us up to date with your whereabouts and news with this form.