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Letter from President Ogilvie

PDF file of this letter

To:       The Wider LTS Community
Date:    January 3, 2013

I am prompted by the New Year to share a vision of where Lutheran Theological Seminary Saskatoon is going and, in the second section of this letter, to supply a response to our wider network of supporters who have asked for more information following the Board of Governors’ declaration of financial exigency on November 13, 2012.

Moving Forward with Strength
LTS is ready to begin a New Year slimmed down to fighting weight! To ensure our students will continue to receive excellent theological training and formation, steps have been taken, with a renewed and strategic process of student recruitment.

Recognizing that the shortfall of candidates sent forward by the synods, the Board designated $250,000 of the Faithful for the Future capital campaign specifically to student recruitment. In the past ten months, we have identified thirty-three prospective candidates, many of whom were previously unknown to the synods! Many are not ready to begin their studies just yet. However, two have indicated they will come in the fall of this year. Our conversations with interested persons continue to take place.

Our new curriculum is designed to give greater flexibility of process and requires fewer professors to teach the same areas. This curriculum remains academically rigorous; our basic requirements stand. However, our format now includes more intensive courses, in most cases two-to-three weeks rather than three months. This enables distance students not yet moved to Saskatoon to participate in one or two courses per year. Those in the MDiv/BTh programs still have a residential requirement, with slighty over half the courses required to be taken on-campus. The new program is structured thematically, so some courses will be offered in alternate years – focusing learning and faculty load.

Training for the MDiv/BTh and the diaconal certificate programs remains a top priority for LTS. Yet we see a hunger for strong lay theological training. Moving into the future means offering more of this type of training, both on-campus (as with our School of Faith lay school of Theology) and at a distance (through online learning as well as through intensive credit- or non-credit courses offered in other centers).

We are spurred on as we achieve our capital campaign goals. Two of the Faithful for the Future campaign’s goals are accomplished! The new chair lift was installed over the summer, allowing all students, staff, and visitors full access to our facilities. The new boiler was completed by early fall. This boiler will reduce our heating costs by 35% this year. Through the bitter cold streak Saskatoon faced in December, we were warm. The recruitment work, the campaign’s third goal, is funded and is well underway. The campaign’s fourth goal – the hiring of a new Professor of Pastoral Theology – will happen when the full one million dollars required to fund the position has been raised and collected. We now have a little over $400,000 yet to raise and about $1,400,000 left to collect. 

How We Came to Our Decisions
Shrinking resources have been the norm for nearly all North American seminaries for a number of years. LTS has been creatively dealing with this fact and has regularly reported to the constituency about our financial situation. The past year brought a financial "perfect storm" and made our case acute.

Synodical funding for theological education in Western Canada has been decreasing since 2004, when the BC Synod chopped $10,000 from their allotment at Convention. Two and a half years ago, the MNO Synod cut its grant to LTS by more than half, from $71,000/year to $39,000, and now $32,000. Nor was LTS on the list of ministries that would receive additional funding should the synod exceed its anticipated revenue. The British Columbia, Alberta & the Territories, and Saskatchewan synods have held funding steady over the past few years. This year, however, Alberta & the Territories and Saskatchewan cut LTS by a combined $27,000. We have been warned that more cuts are coming. Due to the Saskatchewan government’s changing political priorities, our provincial education grant, a significant portion of our budget for decades, may also be in jeopardy.

Rental income from our Dormitory has historically been a good source of revenue. The Canadian Light Source (CLS), a synchrotron research facility on the University of Saskatchewan campus, rented half of our Dormitory as accommodation for guest researchers for the past nine years, a $90,000 income to LTS annually. The University recently gifted a dormitory to CLS, so the CLS pulled out of their rental agreement with LTS in July 2012. Our other ongoing tenant, the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad, announced suspension of operations effective July 1, 2013. Their rent has provided $67,000/year in income through a contract that expires June 30, 2014. Just recently, the ESC Council announced the intention to keep a minimal presence but not a renewal of its rental agreement.

Three years ago, we saw losses of $90,000/year on our food service. At the time, the loss was offset by the CLS rent, so the Dormitory still showed a small profit. That year, we laid off our kitchen staff – finding new jobs for those who wanted them. We instead hired a catering service that cut our food services loss by $50,000 annually. Losing the CLS contract meant closing the kitchen altogether. The Dormitory residents now on the University’s meal plan report satisfaction with that service.

Filling the Dormitory with students is a challenge: few seminarians live in our Dorm, in part because in the 1960s, rooms were designed for single students rather than for couples or families. This year, we not only had additional rooms to fill (the former CLS wing) but also faced increased competition from the University’s new apartment-style residences across campus.

Recent lower enrollments have reduced tuition income by $91,000 per year. With enrollment at its current rate, the student-to-professor ratio is not economically viable. These realities, along with other financial issues, led the Board to declare exigency and to let two professors go. As other seminaries in the Association of Theological Schools have done, LTS favoured faculty with multi-disciplinary expertise in order that key courses be supported. The two laid-off professors have been given as generous a severance package as was possible.
 
How You Can Help
Join with me, with our staff, our faculty and our students, as we pray and work together for the
ministry of theological education at LTS and those who have resources to share! Give to the Seminary’s Annual Fund (e.g., through the Fall Appeal and the Phone-a-Thon). Most importantly, identify and encourage those with gifts for ministry to contact their Synod Committee on Theological Education for Leadership and the Seminary!

If you have further questions about our mission or our future, I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about our work. Call 306.966.7863 or email .

The Rev. Kevin A. Ogilvie, PhD
President
Lutheran Theological Seminary Saskatoon
114 Seminary Crescent
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X3