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The board of directors of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools has named Dr. Richard (Rick) Bliese as the organization’s new president. In his new role, Bliese will oversee and direct all In Trust programs and activities, including In Trust magazine, a 24-year-old quarterly periodical for seminary trustees and senior administrators, and the In Trust Governance Mentor service, which offers customized help to theological school boards. Bliese will also lead the expansion of a new In Trust signature service funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., Resource Consulting.

“The board of directors is delighted to welcome Dr. Rick Bliese as president,” said Dr. George Brushaber, chair of the organization’s board, explaining that Bliese had been elected unanimously following a competitive selection process that included finalists from both the United States and Canada. “Rick is widely known and appreciated for his ecumenical outlook, personal warmth, and enormous energy, which makes him just the right person to step into the shoes of In Trust’s past president, Christa Klein.”

As the key factor in the board’s decision, Brushaber cited Bliese’s creative embrace of the challenges that theological institutions are facing today. “Rick’s personal and professional agenda is shaped by his passion for advancing the church’s mission, and his experience in Christian leadership extends across multiple cultures on three continents,” he said. “The board of directors is confident that Rick is well prepared to guide the In Trust Center in the development of new programs and services to benefit our member institutions.”

Bliese responded to his election with enthusiasm. “At this pivotal moment, it will be a privilege to lead the In Trust Center, building on its quarter-century of service to seminaries and divinity schools,” he said. “In Trust is already a respected resource for the institutions that serve the church by educating its scholars and leaders. Now, as we look to the future, we’ll be providing even more tools that will empower theological schools to transform themselves for the coming century.

“I’m very excited about partnering with all of our member institutions as together, with faith and humility, we seek to build up God’s church.”

Bliese will begin his full-time leadership on January 1, 2014. Until then, he will serve as a consultant to interim president G. Douglass Lewis and the In Trust staff during a period of transition.


About the new president

The Rev. Dr. Richard Bliese has 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, the church, and the academy. From 2005 to 2012 he was president of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, the largest of the eight theological schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. While there, he led two campaigns that together raised more than $150 million and launched five new grant-supported leadership centers enhancing the seminary’s brand identity and outreach, including centers for children and youth, mission and leadership, biblical preaching, lifelong learning, and stewardship.

Bliese was also academic dean at Luther from 2003 to 2005, and a tenured associate professor of missions from 2003 until 2012. Before that, he taught missions and evangelism at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. From 1981 until 1990, he was a pastor and missionary, first at a large German-speaking congregation in Herne, Germany, and then at a small French- and Swahili-speaking mission in Bukavu, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).

A graduate of Wright State University, Christ Seminary–Seminex, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Bliese completed his doctoral dissertation on “Dietrich Bonhoeffer as Confessor.” He is co-editor of The Evangelizing Church: A Lutheran Contribution (Augsburg Fortress, 2005) and co-author of Living Out Our Callings in the Workplace (Luther Seminary, 2004).

Bliese was ordained in 1981 at St. Stephanus Kirche in Herne, Germany, and holds church affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He and his wife, Nina, have two adult children.


About the In Trust Center for Theological Schools

The In Trust Center for Theological Schools is the common name for the Association of Boards in Theological Education, a membership association incorporated and based in Delaware. Its members include more than 200 Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Christian seminaries, divinity schools, and theological colleges.

The organization is governed by a 16-member board of directors, which includes ordained and lay members from a wide variety of church traditions, and which is led by board chair Dr. George K. Brushaber.

Bliese’s appointment has been endorsed by his denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “Rick Bliese has served the ELCA in a remarkably wide range of leadership roles, from missionary to pastor to seminary faculty member, dean, and president,” says Jonathan Strandjord, the denomination’s program director for seminaries. “We are delighted with his appointment as president of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools, where his tremendous energy and great gifts for faithful innovation will open a new era of support for theological educators across the whole spectrum of seminaries in the United States and Canada.”


Media inquiries

Dr. Rick Bliese is available for interviews. For additional information, or to schedule an interview, contact Jay Blossom, vice president for communications, at 302-654-7770 or

Photographs suitable for print or the web can be downloaded here.

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The In Trust Center hosts learning community spaces throughout the year. Check out our upcoming events below.

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Board members are typically recruited for their leadership, business acumen, and networks. Dr. Rebekah Basinger, project director of the In Trust Center’s Wise Stewards Initiative, will discuss how strategic questioning and interrogation skills are essential for effective board stewardship.

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In this on-demand webinar, Rick Staisloff, senior partner of rpk GROUP, discusses essential aspects of strategic partnerships. This session delves into current trends, identification of partners, navigating the due diligence process, and common challenges.

Closing the Trust Gap


The current and very troubling condition of trust is a clarion call to action. But despite the dismal data showing pervasive organizational distrust, every organization can assess their current level of trust, learn and adopt a proven trust building framework, and then develop a meaningful and long-lasting plan of action. This webinar details the knowledge and practical next steps to strengthen workplace culture as a result of closing the trust gap.

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