Last summer I felt compelled by my father's failing memory to join a sibling conspiracy and sell the Jubilate, his sloop. Among his lessons, he had taught me to sail "wing on wing," before the wind with mainsail and jib ballooning on either side of the mast. This technique became my metaphor for those risky and exhilarating moments in governance when everything balances — briefly.

My father's summertime avocation as captain also gave him the balance he needed for his full-time and then semiretired 60-year vocation as Lutheran pastor. Gratefully I salute his ministry while grieving the hand that now rests on his armchair and not on the tiller.

This issue of In Trust honors those full-time captains in theological education who have left their presidencies in the past few years. Their departures belong to a generational shift in leadership, moving to me because much of what I know about theological education I learned with this generation's experience.

And what seas they sailed! Theological education changed dramatically on their watch. They met challenges by refitting riggings, deepening keels, storing new provisions, and upgrading navigation instruments. Consider a few of the changes:

  • Desktop computers were only the beginning. With in-house servers and the Internet revolution came the high costs of information technology and staff.
  • Campus building and renovations, relocations and satellite opportunities invited support in a rising economy and then strained budgets in the leaner years.
  • Denominational support decreased while favoring scholarships over operating expenses.
  • Fundraising and constituency relations became essential tools for institutional survival and vitality.
  • New standards for demonstrating accountability required institutional research, especially academic and financial assessment.
  • Theological conflict heightened the stakes in faculty hiring, curriculum development, and community practice, including worship.
  • Older pedagogies and financial aid policies no longer fit student bodies made up of more women, and second-career, international and immigrant students.
  • Younger students shaped by renewal movements within their traditions challenged a generation of faculty shaped by the liberations of the 1960s and '70s.
  • The tragedy of sexual abuse and harassment surfacing in the churches generated higher expectations for a seminary's role in screening and formation.
  • Movements to ordain practicing homosexuals and to marry same-sex couples rocked denominations and seminary campuses.
  • A resurgence of ministry training in local congregations and elsewhere challenged the mission and perceived hegemony of graduate theological education.
  • New alliances and tensions remaking the ecumenical and interfaith movements set new curricular expectations.

Given all these circumstances and more, it is not surprising that this generation of presidents became the architects of new forms of governance and pursued new board talent from the worlds of business, finance, law, education, and marketing. They also took the lead to include governance in the rewriting of ATS accreditation standards.

During their years, the daily work of teaching and learning, bookkeeping and maintenance, worship and meeting continued while they added their prayers to those of their predecessors that they might be faithful in their calling.

In Trust salutes these veteran captains for their remarkable runs. Some are visibly weathered by the salt and wind, and most show resilience and joy, which are a testimony to the hope with which they captained their crews and carried their sails. We give thanks for the boundless mercies they received and will continue to enjoy.

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