Driven by an alignment in mission and strong belief that, united, the institutions can have greater positive impact on the world than they can achieve separately, Capital and Trinity announced on Nov. 7, 2016, their mutual intent to pursue a common, secure and sustainable future by uniting their institutions. Together, Capital and Trinity can form leaders who are change agents in a world in dire need of exceptional education at the intersection of intellectual, social, personal and spiritual preparation to empower citizens who will lead for the sake of the world.
After a year of bold thinking about the future, innovation and exhaustive integrative work, the vision for a unified Capital University with Trinity Lutheran Seminary is clearly in sight. Capital’s board approved the legal agreement to unite Capital and Trinity at its meeting Thursday, Nov. 2, and Trinity’s board approved the same agreement at its meeting Friday, Nov. 3.
“This is a momentous moment in our shared history, and in our future together as one institution,” Capital President Elizabeth L. Paul, Ph.D., said. “One year ago, the seminary’s long-term future was uncertain. But we stood together. Understanding the world’s deep need for transformative theological and higher education; compelled by our calling to prepare our graduates for lives, work, ministries and legacies of purpose, we stood together. And we declared we would create a sustainable path forward. Today, I am proud to stand before you and say with confidence: The seminary’s future is secure.”
In addition to board approval, the union also has been endorsed by the Association of Theological Schools. Final approval from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ohio Department of High Education and Higher Learning Commission is anticipated later this month.
“Working in partnership with ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and the Church Council, our Region 6 Synod Bishops, and our site review team from the Higher Learning Commission, this vision is becoming a reality,” Paul said. “I am filled with gratitude for the encouragement and deep insight our partners have brought to this work. To the hundreds of faculty, staff, alumni and donors whose belief in the impact we can have together on our students and the world, you have worked tirelessly and sacrificially to make this happen. This is your moment. Thank you.”
Capital and Trinity also announced the new entity, called Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University, will begin operations Jan. 1 under the visionary leadership of a newly appointed dean, the Rev. Kathryn A. “Kit” Kleinhans, Ph.D.
Kleinhans will join the Capital family in January 2018, after serving 24 years on the faculty of Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. The first woman hired to teach religion full time at Wartburg, she was named the Mike and Marge McCoy Family Distinguished Chair in Lutheran Heritage and Mission in 2013.
“My sense of calling, as a pastor and as a teacher, has always been to serve the church. The coming together of Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Capital University will provide unique opportunities to extend Trinity’s mission of ‘forming leaders for Christ's church at work in the world’ in new and exciting ways,” Kleinhans said. “I am equally excited by the promise that Trinity’s new institutional home as part of Capital University will create opportunities to enhance student learning and development through the integration of theological thinking in other areas and programs of the University. In addition to forming leaders for the church, we will contribute to the education of theologically informed leaders for all contexts of life and work. I look forward to contributing my gifts and experience to this vibrant community as we move forward together.”
Kleinhans earned a bachelor’s degree in Theology from Valparaiso University, a Master of Divinity from Christ Seminary – Seminex and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and a doctorate in Theological Studies from Emory University. She chaired Wartburg’s Religion and Philosophy Department from 1999-2010 and primarily taught classes in Christian theology and church history, with an emphasis on Martin Luther and the theology and history of the Reformation.
The Rev. Dr. Stanley Olson, interim president of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, has known Kleinhans for many years, including his work with her during his days as president of Wartburg Theological Seminary. He described her as “one of our most-gifted advocates for seeing life as vocation.”
“Kit is intrigued with a God who engages the world – and with the world that God engages,” Olson said. “She has a heart for students, and will provide visionary and collaborative leadership for Trinity and Capital as they discover continuities and newness in their linked missions.”
Kleinhans is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with which Capital University is affiliated. Before her tenure at Wartburg, she was a pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Atlanta, Georgia.
She has served the ELCA at the national level in several capacities: member of the Program Committee of the ELCA’s Vocation and Education unit; chair of the Addressing Social Concerns Review process; member of the Stewards of Abundance project focused on reducing seminary student indebtedness; member of the Women and Justice Task Force; and as a member of the Entrance Rite Discernment Group for the ELCA’s new Word and Service roster.
Shared History of Capital and Trinity
Capital and Trinity share a beautiful mission and history of educating leaders for the church and the world. Our history began in 1830 with the founding of the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary (ELTS) in Ohio. It continued in 1850 with the charter of Capital University, broadening the reach and mission of the seminary to include general education for all. From 1830 to 1959, Capital and ELTS were united behind that shared mission as one institution, and only separated at the direction of the American Lutheran Church. While separated from Capital University, then-ELTS joined in 1978 with Hamma School of Theology to form a single Lutheran seminary in Ohio — Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Side by side, Capital University and Trinity have remained collaborative in academics, student support and service, but have done so informally.
The church since has changed its policy, creating an opportunity for the union of Capital and Trinity, which would formalize a relationship that has been in place for decades. This union heightens a renewed connection to the institutions’ Lutheran values and purpose. The union will strengthen identity and create distinction. Together, Trinity with Capital can excel at:
- Mission for the sake of the world – educating and forming a new generation of faith-informed leaders for the emerging world.
- Leading cutting-edge pedagogy in interdisciplinary degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels via multiple modes of delivery to reach more potential students.
- Delivering relevant experiences, events, and speakers on our campuses and across the globe that inspire students to impact the community and our world.
- Forming leaders with an ethic of inclusivity and with ecological passion and commitment.
Uniting Trinity with Capital will support strong institutional identity and educational excellence. Success is reliant on a sustainable business model, which is achieved by developing new revenue streams through gifts and grants, diversifying tuition revenue streams through new, interdisciplinary programs, optimizing use of property, buildings and other physical assets, and integrating operations and eliminating redundancies.