In This Issue
Alum Spotlight: Andrew Kitzing, M.Div '10
Save the Date: New Dean Installation!
5th Annual Week of Renewal: June 23-27, 2014
Sermon: Dr. W. Christopher Evans
Seminex Story: Dr. John Damm
Student Spotlight: Brach Jennings, M.Div '15
Erin Armstrong Chosen to Participate in FASPE!
Sermon: Belief, Behavior, and Belonging, by Dr. Carol Jacobson
In Memoriam: David Jordahl, M.Div '61
In Memoriam: Rev. Judy Gifford, TEEM '02
Alum Updates
Attention Thrivent Members!
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Study at PLTS Online!
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Above the Fog
PLTS Newsletter

April 2014



Blessings to you as we journey through Holy Week!


This spring at PLTS continues to bloom full of new life, opportunities, and exciting events. At the end of March, we welcomed the spring meeting of the Cal Lutheran Convocators to campus. Nearly 50 ecclesiastical representatives from region 2 met to engage in conversation about supporting theological education and for many, this was their first experience at PLTS and the GTU.


Just last week, we had the gift of Dr. Larry Rasmussen here when he presented a special lecture on environmental ethics. A video of the lecture will be posted soon - look for details on Facebook and in the next Above the Fog!


Coming up in a couple of weeks, the Advisory Board will be meeting for the first time in their new role since the merger became official with Cal Lutheran.


On Saturday April 26 I will be installed as the Dean. You are invited to attend and I hope that you will come if you can! In addition to a festive worship service of installation and celebratory lunch, I want this day to be about our embarking together on a new, exciting period in this seminary's life. In this spirit, I have organized a special participatory forum on theological education for the future. Details are in the formal announcement below. 


If you are unable to attend my installation event, I invite you to send a brief note with your response to the following question: From your perspective and context, how does theological education (not only at PLTS)

need to change in its focus, content, means of delivery, to who it is accountable, etc.? Your response may be as brief as a line or two, and preferably something concrete, even pithy or provocative. Please email your responses to me at


Let us walk together with Jesus,


Karen Bloomquist



Can you make a gift to PLTS by May 31st?


If you answered, "YES!" thank you very much!!!


To make a gift today, click here.


Your gift right now to PLTS is appreciated and supports our mission to provide cutting edge theological education for the ELCA. It also supports us in our new relationship as a graduate school of California Lutheran University. 100% of contributions made to PLTS will always benefit the seminary. The only thing that is changing is our fiscal year end date, which is now a month earlier; please, if you can make a gift, we would greatly appreciate receiving it by May 31st!  All new and increased gifts received will be matched up to a total of $30,000 thanks to the generosity of a few special friends.  


If you prefer to donate by check, please send them to PLTS Office of Seminary Relations, 2770 Marin Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94708. THANK YOU!

Alum Speak: Andrew Kitzing, M.Div '10

Rev. Kitzing is pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Andrew grew up in a small town and says his call to ministry began in high school. "My youth director told me I should be a pastor.  I thought about it and then followed the steps to follow my call from God."  In 2006, Andrew graduated from Midland Lutheran College with a degree in youth and family ministry. Then he enrolled at PLTS with dreams of an internship on the East Coast to give him a well-rounded, diverse set of experiences, he believed would help him become the most effective pastor he could be.


We all know what happens when we make plans. 


Andrew did come to PLTS, but his hopes for an East Coast internship were pleasantly interrupted in his second year of studies when he met his now wife, Lori (Lepelletier), who is originally from New Jersey and began her program at PLTS in 2007. Instead of moving to New York, Boston, Baltimore or anywhere else east of his home state of Nebraska, Andrew completed his internship the following year at Our Redeemer Lutheran in Garden Grove, California. "Pastor Brian Taylor taught me a lot while I was working with him.  He trusted me to be responsible and to carry through on things.  He was a healthy role model and I think a great deal of this I have carried with me into my first call. I lead at Zion in a way that empowers members here to share their gifts - I oversee and participate in a lot of things like VBS and Sunday School, but I don't need to do everything.This is healthy and hugely successful for building the good community we have here."



Read the rest of Andrew's story hereĽ

Save the Date: New Dean Installation!

We are pleased to welcome Musimbi Kanyoro as the preacher!

Musimbi Kanyoro is a passionate advocate for women and girls' health and human rights, and social change philanthropy, and is the current President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. Dr. Kanyoro is an accomplished leader with three decades of experience managing international non-governmental organizations, global programs, and ecumenical agencies in cross-cultural contexts. She is a strategic leader who inspires people, and mobilizes action and resources. She is the author of dozens of articles and hundreds of speeches and opinion pieces and has written and co-edited 7 books. Musimbi is a frequently sought after public speaker.


Dr. Kanyoro also serves on several International Boards and working groups including the Aspen Leaders Council, the UN High level Taskforce for Reproductive Health and the boards of CARE, IntraHealth and CHANGE.


Dr. Kanyoro has Ph.D in Linguistics from the University of Texas, Austin and a Doctorate in Feminist Theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She was a visiting scholar of Hebrew and the Old Testament at Harvard University. She has received three honorary doctorates and several recognition awards, including a leadership award from the Kenya Government and most recently she was named as one of the 21 women leaders for the 21st century by Women's E-News. 

5th Annual Week of Renewal: June 23-27, 2014

Sunset out Giesy

You are invited to join new and old colleagues in ministry for a Week of Renewal on the PLTS campus in Berkeley. Nestled in a beautiful setting between the Bay and Tilden Park, it's the perfect place to plan your five day retreat and continuing education getaway. Enjoy classes, worship, stimulating conversation, theological reflection, and restorative time.  Most evenings are free and make a perfect opportunity to explore the greater San Francisco Bay area. 



We are excited to welcome Dr. Herbert Anderson for a special Tuesday evening lecture, The Divine Art of Dying


Tuition for one course is $275 and two courses is $400.  Limited housing will be available for an additional fee. Dr. Anderson's lecture is included in the tuition for one course and is $25 per person for those who wish to attend Tuesday evening only. 


Register here today! If you have questions, please contact Gretchen McDonald in the Office of the Dean a510-559-2731.


Morning Courses (9:15-12:15)


Justifying Faith: 

"The Fragile Soul, Moral Injury, and the Life of Beatitude"

Ted Peters, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics, PLTS and the GTU

As we approach October 31, 2017 and the 500th Anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther's 95 Theses, this class will re-examine the doctrine of justification by faith yield a liberating transformation, a free and joyous investment in love for oneself and for one's neighbor? How can faith in a trustworthy God make our life better?

New Challenges in Lutheran Ethics

Victor Thasiah, Assistant Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University           

New possibilities and challenges - ethical, political, economic, and ecological - demand new thinking and action. How is Lutheran ethics responding? Come, see, and discuss new ways of thought and practice concerning justice, resistance, and reformation.


Discipleship in the Key of John

Martha E. Stortz, Bernhard M. Christensen Professor for Religion and Vocation, Augsburg College

The gospel of John makes an argument about discipleship. The account begins, not with a birth narrative, but a story of creation; it ends, not with the Last Supper, but with a First Breakfast. In between are some of the most vivid encounters with some of the most unlikely people. John's Jesus leads by asking questions: What are some of Jesus' questions - and how do they address us still?

Afternoon Course (1:30-4:30)


Seeing, Remembering, Connecting: 

Beyond Church Survival

Karen L. Bloomquist, Dean and Chief Administrative Officer, PLTS

This class will consider crucial shifts needed for ministry and mission of our congregations. How might the ordinary verbs "seeing, remembering, and connecting" also become important faith practices through which God transforms our lives, congregations and communities? 

Sermon: Dr. W. Christopher Evans

For Wednesday morning Chapel on March 12th, Dr. Chris Evans was our preacher. Chris is the Director of Formation and Student Life here on the PLTS campus and is teaching one class, Word and Sacrament, this semester. Please enjoy his thought-provoking sermon below:


"Because of the Incarnation, I reverence all remaining matter" (St. John of Damascus)In Nomine Patris + et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.


King Hezekiah of Judah broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan. Hezekiah trusted in the LORD the God of Israel...


This morning Jesus compares his own lifting up to that pole of Moses. Just as Moses' pole brought healing to the Israelites suffering from snake venom, Jesus points to his own lifting up as our healing from the bite of sin.


Yet Jesus' comparison comes with more than one biblical allusion. The healing pole of Moses itself in time became a replacement for trust in God, and even a poison to faith, so Kind Hezekiah orders it be broken apart.


And so, I cannot help but think of our own contradictions and ironies.


Of our reveling in triumphs of lifting high the Cross that have become poison. Of idolatries of faith misplaced in ourselves. And our unwillingness to undergo any breaking of ways we have turned our faith into an idol and a bludgeon and a betrayal. Our inability to embrace our dying as Church as liberation as we turn in on ourselves. 


Even our questions, often so well-meaning, are furiously inadequate: How do we change our worship so that others will want to join us? How do we be counter-cultural to stand out from the crowd around us so that others will want to be like us? Do you hear it? The whisper of Christendom still with us: How do we get butts in a seat and pledges for the coffers? How do we get our hands back on the reins of civic life?



Read the rest of Chris's sermon hereĽ

Seminex Story: Dr. John Damm

By Sara Gross Samuelson, M.Div. '14


This story is part of the Spirit of Seminex Project, a year-long initiative to honor the 40th anniversary of Seminex, which was observed at PLTS on February 19, 2014.


"Good afternoon."


He spoke slowly, and the wisdom seemed to seep the 3,000 miles and three time zones through the telephone. It was nearly suppertime in New York, Dr. John Damm informed me, but he had thought about my question and was anxious to tell the tale. I invited him to start wherever he felt he should.

"Well," he started, "the first thing you should know about that time is that at the point of movement out of 801 (the address of Concordia Seminary was 801 DeMun) we had no promise of jobs, no income, no housing was secured. It was a time where everyone involved put their trust in the Lord of the church and in the Gospel, you see." And he continued to speak, cutting straight to the stakes and laying before me his observations of the great risks taken by so many colleagues and students 40 years ago. The central theme was clear throughout our conversation. For Dr. Damm, this experience was entirely about faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ Jesus and to those who shared in that same faith. The story he told was a story of relationships that had been woven together under this common bond. Dr. Damm was meticulous in recounting the behind the scenes details of the walk out. One important observation he recalled was that the students and faculty were given notice to be moved out of their housing at 801 since they were no longer participating in coursework there. "Somehow it all worked out," he told me. People found housing through other seminaries and schools or worked together to find other housing alternatives. The students and faculty supported one another, helping with boxes and setting up new homes and new offices at the new seminary site. The outpouring of support in the aftermath came from many other places too and Dr. Damm was quick to note that they were not just Missouri Synod schools, churches and individuals that were stepping up to help either.



Read the rest of John's story hereĽ  

Student Spotlight: Brach Jennings, M.Div '15

Hello to all Above the Fog readers! I am delighted to tell you about my origins and journey to Lutheranism. It has been a whirlwind of a ride, and one that I could not have planned for myself! Along the way, I have realized God has led me exactly where I needed to be at the right times, even if I did not (and still do not) understand what God was and is up to! 


I am originally from a small town in Illinois on the Mississippi River, called Fulton. I spent the majority of my life there, until graduating high school in 2006, and going to college in central Illinois at Bradley University. I graduated with two degrees, a Bachelor of Arts in Music, and a Bachelor of Arts in History, in May 2011. My time at Bradley is probably one of the most significant events in my life. I was formed with a passion for music, history, and the liberal arts by a committed faculty who believed music and history served the world. I owe much of who I am today to my experiences at this university. Part of my formation process involved spending two summers with Lutheran Summer Music in 2008 and 2009, as the Early Music Intern. This was my first exposure to the Lutheran church. We had weekly Eucharist, and daily morning and evening prayer, combined with some of the most talented high school music students in the country. I witnessed the connection between music and church life at this camp, and for the first time considered becoming Lutheran. 


I did not officially join the Lutheran church until 2010, as I was struggling to reconcile being an LGBT person and deeply religious, amidst receiving a profound call to ministry that I became fully aware of in April 2010. I barely had time to contemplate what this call to ministry meant, because I faced the tragedy of my stepfather's death on May 13, 2010. This event ultimately led me to the ELCA, and to seminary, something that was quite foreign to me when I started college, and still causes me to stand in awe as I think back on all that happened in the past eight years. 



Read the rest of Brach's story hereĽ 

Erin Armstrong Chosen to Participate in FASPE!

PLTS is proud to announce that Erin Armstrong, a second-year PLTS M.Div student, has been chosen to participate in FASPE (Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics). Erin will participate in a program specifically for future clergy.


A highly competitive program, FASPE drew close to 900 applicants from around the world. She will join a group of 48 Fellows in the four FASPE programs (journalism, law, medicine, and religion), who will travel to New York, Poland and Germany this summer to engage in an intensive study of contemporary ethics.


To view the full press release and to learn more about FASPE, click here.

Sermon: Belief, Behavior, and Belonging, by Dr. Carol Jacobson

On March 19th, the PLTS community was pleased to have Carol Jacobson preach at Wednesday morning chapel. Carol teaches Contextual and Practical Theology and is currently serving as worship committee chair. Please read her sermon, titled Belief, Behavior, and Belonging, that follows:


Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

Hymn of the Day: ELW # 247, Come Now, O Prince of Peace


Merciful God, the fountain of living water, you quench our thirst and wash away our sin. Give us this water always. Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


For all the times that I have listened to the story of Jesus' meeting with the unnamed woman at the well, I must admit I have never really figured out what the point of the story is exactly. It seems that in some sense there is so much and so little gospel going on in the same text - beautiful promises of living water and an end to all thirsting; disturbing conversations about religious superiority; theological conversations about spirit and truth; not to mention everyone's curiosity about the woman's private life and just how Jesus knows about it although they've never met. Where should my attention be focused?


Thank goodness for me I am part of a reading course this semester, in which we are discussing how to develop relationships and connect with people who affirm their own spirituality, but no longer understand themselves as being "religious." One of our group members was summarizing for us the main claim that Diana Butler Bass makes in her book, Christianity After Religion. Basically it goes something like this. Christianity, she says, is in the midst of a kind of "paradigm shift." He problem with "institutional religion" for many today, she argues, is that in order to be a member of a religious group or church usually requires adherence to a set of beliefs, which in turn imply certain kinds of behavior. Only by ascribing to these beliefs and engaging in these behaviors, is one recognized as truly belonging to the group. Note the order here for Bass - particular beliefs and behaviors precede belonging.


Christianity, Bass suggests, is beginning to learn that it must reverse that sequence, especially if our eventual goal is to woo all persons to consider belonging to communities of faith. As she reminds us, Christianity did not begin

with a confession [of faith]. It began with an invitation into friendship, into creating a new community, into forming relationships based on love and service [1].

In other words, the experience of belonging, precedes personal investigation about the meanings of beliefs and behaviors.  


In Memoriam: David Jordahl, M.Div '61

PLTS has just learned of the death of Dr. David Jordahl, PLTS Class of 1961, on April 5, 2012.


Dr. Jordahl was native of Waterman, Illinois and a graduate of St. Olaf College, magna cum laude. While at PLTS, David interned under Professor Toivo Harjunpaa at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Berkeley. 


Upon graduation, after a brief stay at Claremont Graduate School, he was accepted as a student at the Carl Jung Institute in Zurich, and eventually received his diploma as a psychoanalyst. He spent his entire professional career in Germany as a psychotherapist and administrator in the German Church's mental health program. Although he was never ordained, he earned a doctorate in theology (Marburg) and a second doctorate in philosophy.  He married Bitten, a Swede, and they had one daughter, Anna. He was a member of the Church of Sweden and was buried in Sweden.

In Memoriam: Rev. Judy Gifford, TEEM '02

Judy Gifford was born on April 21, 1941 in North Platte, Nebraska. She attended school in Kearney before her family moved to Oregon and then to Red Bluff, California, where she graduated from high school in 1959. She later moved to Sutherland, Nebraska and worked for TRW in Ogallala.


On September 23, 1961, Judy married Joseph "Joe" Edward Gifford at Julesburg, Colorado, and they made their home in Paxton, Nebraska. In 1962, they moved seven miles south of Paxton to the farm where they raised their family. In 1996, they moved back into town.


Judy's first church assignment in 1994 was as Parish Ministry Associate for Lodgpole and Chappell Lutheran churches. In 1999, Judy began pastoring Grace Lutheran Church in Sutherland and Maria Lutheran church in Hershey, as she entered the T.E.E.M. program at PLTS.  She was ordained at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte in 2002. Judy also served as an assistant to the Bishop of the Nebraska Synod from 1999 to 2013.


Judy died on February 18, 2013, surrounded by her family.  She is survived by her husband Joe, five children and many other relatives.

Alum Updates

Rev. Bruce Craft, M.Div '61: Condolences to Rev. Bruce Craft on the death of his wife Kay on March 28.


Sherri Frederikson (Knutson), M.Div '07: Sherri accepted a call as Lead Pastor to Tri-County Ministry on December 1, 2013. TCM is a 7-congregation rural ministry site in the Eastern North Dakota Synod.


Rev. Pam Schaefer, M.Div '12: Pam got engaged to John Dawson on March 22nd!

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