Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Last week’s column, in which I urged you to encourage gifted individuals to consider seminary, generated some pushback. Readers wrote to me to share a variety of concerns. Some were logistical: the challenge of mobility, especially for second-career students. Some were missional: how well are the seminaries preparing leaders for a church and a world that look much different in the twenty-first century than they did in the twentieth? Some were institutional: is Trinity stable? Perhaps we should wait and see before sending our students and our financial support.
All of us at Trinity take these concerns seriously. Our 2+2 curriculum is designed to reduce the number of moves for M.Div. students. Our Spanish for Ministry emphasis is a response to changing demographics and mission needs. This semester we are in the process of academic program review, which will help us strengthen our curriculum even more. Do we think we have it all figured out yet? Of course not. No seminary and no church leader has it all figured out. Are we responding faithfully to the Gospel and to Trinity’s mission of forming leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world? Absolutely!
Several of our other ELCA seminaries have gone through serious financial challenges in the recent past and have come out stronger. Trinity’s union with Capital provides a base for stability and strength. Some of you have expressed frustrations with how the transition unfolded. I can appreciate those frustrations, but none of us can change the past. What we can do is move forward, faithfully, as partners.
We are still in the process of transition. There are some wrinkles yet to be ironed out, but that’s to be expected. Nonetheless, we are moving forward. In Paul’s words, we press on toward the goal.
When Paul writes to the Philippians that he is “forgetting what lies behind,” he is not minimizing the past. “What lies behind,” for Paul, includes violence and imprisonment. Indeed, from his prison cell, Paul writes to the Philippians asking for their continued support of his ministry. I ask for no less. Every dollar sent to Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University will be used to support the work of the seminary. Every student sent to Trinity will be well-educated for ministry. Join us as we press on toward the goal, which is not ourselves but “the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
The Rev. Kathryn A. Kleinhans, Ph.D.