SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - In an effort to address the growing shortage of Lutheran minority clergy, Wittenberg University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, have joined together to offer full-tuition scholarships to qualified persons of color and/or those whose primary language is not English to attend both institutions.
"We are delighted to begin this partnership with Trinity Lutheran Seminary to address this critical need," said Wittenberg President Baird Tipson. "Wittenberg has a long history of cooperation with Trinity and its predecessor seminaries, and this program promises to strengthen the ties between our two institutions."
The partnership makes Wittenberg only the third university affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) nationally to offer such a program. Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., and The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisc., and The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago have already implemented similar joint programs.
"Historically, Wittenberg has been a leader in developing Lutheran clergy," said Bob White, Wittenberg director of church relations. "This program gives the message that Wittenberg continues to be committed to developing leaders in the church."
As part of the program, Wittenberg will offer scholarships, grants and work-study to cover tuition for one candidate selected each year for the duration of his or her entire undergraduate experience at Wittenberg. Negotiations are also underway with the six synods in the region to provide funding for books, and room and board at Wittenberg. Trinity will cover all expenses at its seminary. Selection for the program will be based on nominations from congregations, clergy and synods, and a five-member committee of Wittenberg, Trinity and ELCA officials will choose the final candidate.
Once admitted, each student will be assigned an ELCA mentor during his or her academic studies at Wittenberg. He or she will also meet periodically with the director of admission at Trinity. A multicultural support group and an adviser/spiritual counselor will then assist each student at Trinity.
"A commitment to mentor is central to the program and to the mission," said Mark Ramseth, president of Trinity Lutheran Seminary. "I view mentoring as the sustaining link, and that which will hold the program together. Entry into a program of ministry preparation is not an easy 'track'- and I say that especially on behalf of persons of color. Mentoring and encouragement will be essential."
Wittenberg currently offers a pre-theology program through the Office of the University Pastor, which helps to prepare students for successful seminary work. More than 350 Wittenberg University graduates currently serve as pastors in churches around the globe.
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