The 2018 Synod Assembly adopted “A Resolution of Concern Regarding United Lutheran Seminary” (SA18.6.3), the critical operative paragraphs, for the purposes of this ad hoc committee, being,
And therefore be it resolved, that the 2018 Synod Assembly of the West Virginia—Western Maryland Synod calls upon our representative on the Seminary Board of Directors, to convey our concerns to the Seminary Board of Directors and regularly report back to the Synod Council over the next year as to how the Seminary is proceeding to respond to our concerns; specifically concerning, but not limited to, the vital ministry of the Town and Country Church Institute as it relates to our rural Appalachian context.
And therefore be it resolved, that the 2019 Synod Assembly of the West Virginia—Western Maryland Synod make a place on the agenda for a more in-depth reporting of the welfare of the Seminary, apart from the normal “report” and “representation” that the Seminary usually provides, and deliberation upon the future relationship between the West Virginia—Western Maryland Synod and United Lutheran Seminary.
Synod Council picked up the matter at August 2018 meeting, taking the following action:
Council approved by general consent to authorize the appointment of a committee to address the ULS resolution from SA 2018. The committee will be comprised of all current and former Gettysburg Seminary Board members including Bishop Riegel, Paul Wangerin, Rev. Ralph Dunkin, Rev. Sean Smith, and Rev. Bill Ridenhour.(SA18.8.7)
United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) was proactive in approaching the synod with an eye to a face-to-face meeting with clergy, asking to do so in conjunction with the Winter Synod Clergy Continuing Ed Event. Given the packed schedule of that event, the Synod Clergy Continuing Ed Committee refused the request.
The ad hoc committee, in addition to email correspondence, met face-to-face in Morgantown on 9 January 2019. At that time, the committee outlined concerns and questions, made plans to invite representatives from ULS to meet on the synod’s territory. Two members of the Bisynodical Candidacy Committee (Tamara Riegel, chair of the Bisynodical Candidacy Committee, and The Rev. Jess Felici, synod member on the committee) and The Rev. Jason Felici, the most recent member of the Lutheran Theological Seminary Gettysburg Alumni Council from WV-WMD, were invited to join the committee in its meeting with ULS representatives as supernumeraries. ULS had already indicated that President Green and The Rev. Dr. Martin Zimmann, Director of Congregational Relations, would meet with the ad hoc committee. The ad hoc committee indicated that it wanted the ULS Board chair to attend as well, and, barring that, some other member of the ULS Board.
On 22 February 2019, M.Riegel, Ridenhour, Smith, Wangerin, T.Riegel, and Jessica Felici met at Grace Lutheran Church, Friendsville, MD, with President Green, Dr. Zimmann, and The Rev. Craig Miller, ULS Board member. The conversation was candid.
Email communication continued between committee members and the supernumeraries.
A plan was developed for the presentation at Synod Assembly, in which a member of the ad hoc committee would question the representatives of ULS, the questions being provided in advance. The list of questions was drawn up by ad hoc committee members and transmitted to ULS on 20 May 2019. The bishop prepared the assembly program such that the ULS presentation would occur outside of session, in a forty-five minute time slot immediately prior to Saturday’s lunch, as an open hearing of the ad hoc committee.
Matthew L. Riegel