Trinity's Interim Thoughts                                                                                              November  15, 2017


Death and Resurrection: Reality at Trinity, Reality in Christ

This has been a momentous time at Trinity. Last week, the seminary officially announced that it would unite with Capital University effective January 1st. This follows decisions by both the Board of Directors at Trinity Seminary and the Board of Trustees at Capital University, and months of intense preparation on the part of both schools to make this reunion a reality.

I can assure you that Trinity’s Board did not make this decision lightly. We are fully aware of the challenges facing our ELCA seminaries: enrollment in M.Div. programs has dropped by roughly half in the last decade. Continuing high costs led the Board and administration to take various steps over the years, including drawing down our endowment, pursuing a capital fund appeal, and increasing staffing to attract more students and donors. In retrospect, we were like medical personnel in an emergency room, taking extraordinary steps to keep a patient alive. Sometimes, those steps are insufficient, and we must let go of life as we know it.

The hard truth is this: the “old” Trinity we knew and loved is gone. Many staff and faculty lost their jobs as part of the restructuring process. To those who lost your jobs: you weren’t just employees at Trinity – you were extended family for many of us. We grieve for you and pray that God will bring you new opportunities; if we can support you in any way, please let us know. Truly, Trinity as an independent seminary is dying.

And yet, we who follow Jesus know that death is not the end; resurrection is! This is a season of death and resurrection at Trinity.

A Scripture text that speaks to the process of death and resurrection is John 21:15-19. After Jesus’ resurrection, he meets his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and offers them breakfast. He doesn’t just feed them, though: he also takes Peter aside and asks him three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, Peter answers, “Yes, Lord – you know that I love you,” and Jesus says to him, “Feed my sheep.” Finally, Jesus commands him, “Follow me!”

What’s going on here? Three things, I believe. First, Jesus helps Peter let go of his past, when he thought he could follow Jesus in his own power (see John 13:36-38) and ended up denying his Lord three times. Second, Jesus helps Peter embrace a new vocation: where Peter had been a member of Jesus’ inner circle, now he will be a shepherd over the flock. Third and most importantly, Jesus confirms Peter’s mission: he says, “Follow me!”, the same as he did when he first called him.

Letting go of the past, embracing a new vocation, and confirming the mission: this is Trinity’s current reality. As we let go of our past, we face a new vocation as a seminary within a university context. The administration, faculty, and staff of both schools have worked very hard to make the transition as smooth as possible. Capital has embraced us warmly, and we on the board believe Trinity’s deepened relationship with Capital can lead to increased opportunities for our students and new relationships within the university. Soon our interim president will depart (thank you, Stan, for your faithful efforts!), and a new dean, the Rev. Dr. Kit Kleinhans, will help lead Trinity into this new reality. But through it all, the mission remains the same: to form leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world.

Death and resurrection: it’s Trinity’s current reality, and it’s our reality as followers of Jesus. Thanks be to God!


Jerry O'Neal '10

Member, TLS Board of Directors

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