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.”
Interim University Pastor