The search for the PLU Pastor


Pacific Lutheran University is now accepting applications for the position of University Pastor to serve in the 2016-17 school year.

Earlier this month the Campus Ministry Nominating Committee, along with the help of Interim University Pastor John Rosenberg, crafted the job description and posted it to the public. The application period is now open and will last for about two months, with the nominations being screened through the Southwestern Washington Synod.

It is unknown how many applications have been received at this time, but Pastor Rosenberg expects about 50-60 people to apply.

“There has been people who have been asking about this job since last summer,” Rosenberg said. “There are a lot of really good, qualified applicants out there — PLU is an exciting place, and this is an attractive position.”

After the application and interview process is over, the Nominating Committee selects the top five applicants and narrows the pool down to three with the help of the Campus Ministry Council and Rosenberg.

“The challenge for the new pastor will be to hang onto and share john-rosenberg-130x130-2those uniquely Lutheran gifts.”

John P. Rosenberg

Interim University Pastor

Then, the top three applicants are  introduced to University President Thomas Krise and Vice President of Student Life Dr. Joanna Royce-Davis. Krise and Davis select one applicant, and the Southwestern Washington Synod extends the official call.

If all goes well, a new University Pastor will be in place for next fall. In the meantime, Rosenberg will finish out the year at PLU.

Rosenberg came out of retirement to serve as PLU’s Interim University Pastor. During this year, it was his job to bridge the gap between the past and the future of Campus Ministry while the University did not have an official pastor.

“Interim pastors come, by definition, during a transition, so you are helping to say goodbye to what was and hello to what might be,” Rosenberg said. “You are closing a chapter and also getting ready to open a new one.”

Rosenberg enjoyed his time serving at PLU and is excited to be a part of the process in hiring a new full-time pastor. He is confident in the Committee’s ability to make decisions, but believes the new pastor must have an inclusive mindset in order to be successful at the University.

“I think it’s somebody that should be really rooted in the best of the Lutheran tradition, but at the same time, somebody who is willing to be hospitable to people of different religious understandings,” Rosenberg said. “PLU is a wonderful and exciting place. The challenge for the new pastor will be to hang onto and share those uniquely Lutheran gifts.” 🅼

One thought on “The search for the PLU Pastor

  • February 29, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Thanks to Maddie Bernard for her article, “The Search for the PLU Pastor”, and Eddie McCoven for his opinion piece, “Calling a new pastor.” (Mast Magazine, February 26, 2016). The Campus Ministry Council and the Nominating Committee appreciate your efforts to keep the campus community informed about the process for calling a new University Pastor.

    While the role of the Interim University Pastor is a necessary one, credit should go to the Campus Ministry Council for crafting the job description and the Nominating Committee for selecting the finalists. The Interim University Pastor’s role is to accompany the PLU community through this time of transition. The choice of a University Pastor and the description of his/her essential functions and responsibilities is up to the Campus Ministry Council and the Nominating Committee (along with the Holy Spirit!). My role is simply to help facilitate the process.

    With regard to the requirement that the University Pastor be selected from the clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the percentage of ELCA students (or faculty, administrators, and staff for that matter), is a relevant but not primary consideration in calling a University Pastor. At least two other important factors underlie this requirement:

    The University Pastor, in addition to serving the entire University community including students, faculty, staff, and administration, is also the Pastor of record for University Congregation, a congregation of the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA. Under most circumstances, pastors of ELCA congregations are required to be on the roster of the ELCA, much as Catholic parishes require that their pastors be Catholic priests or synagogues require rabbis. In that sense, the PLU call is similar to the call of any congregation, Lutheran or otherwise.

    PLU is one of 26 colleges and universities affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As such, it carries on the 500-year old tradition of Lutheran higher education. Consequently, a paramount function and responsibility of the University Pastor is to “support the educational mission of the university through [the] study of the scriptures, gracious leadership in worship and prayer, and leading university members to recognize and act on the Lutheran and religious foundations of ‘care for others, their communities, and the earth.’” (University Pastor Job Description) It makes sense for the person charged with this responsibility to be an ordained ELCA pastor.

    Eddie’s concluding paragraph is well-stated. “The university will be able to find a pastor who can both represent our Lutheran tradition and our diverse community. But the process will not be without its challenges.” Challenges notwithstanding, PLU has had a long succession of gifted University Pastors who have celebrated Lutheran identity while demonstrating a genuine spirit of hospitality to persons from diverse ecumenical and faith traditions. There is every reason to believe the next University Pastor will be every bit as committed to maintaining what former University Pastor Gordon Lathrop once called “a strong center and an open door.”

    John Rosenberg
    Interim University Pastor


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