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From the President’s Desk

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As I write, we are celebrating our largest reunion of alumni/ae for a decade. As this is my fourth year, I do not believe I any longer have curiosity value. What we hope is that the numbers reflect a realization by our alums that we have rekindled a desire to work with them and support them. The success of this reunion is due to the outstanding efforts of Rose Mitchell (now vice president for Seminary relations) and her imaginative and hardworking team.

How do we show our new commitment to our alums? In The Presbyterian Outlook for September 17, 2007, Charles Kalmbach (a leading expert on the management of strategic change) and I published a short research-based paper on the multiple identities of a pastor today. We suggest that there are at least four identities. A pastor is a servant of God, empowered by the Spirit. A pastor is a steward of people and resources. A pastor is a public individual in an ecumenical context who partners and allies with disparate groups. And a pastor is a member of a profession who engages in evolving self-awareness and ever-evolving competence. Such a pastor acquires the ability to “read a congregation.”

In revitalizing our Department of Continuing Education, we have specifically designed an array of courses (financial management for nonprofits; pastoral leadership; Christian caregiving; multicultural ministry) that address and sustain these pastoral identities. Being so specific and intentional is a new step for us. It demonstrates our commitment to support those in parish ministry as well as those in the academy. Please watch the Continuing Education web site. We are trying to align our program with needs of the changing church at the local level.

In June we hosted some fifty presidents and deans from World Alliance of Reformed Churches schools across the world at PTS. Together we explored the challenges and opportunities of theological education today. We pledged to act toward one another in such a way that “issues which are divisive elsewhere in the Christian world may for us become places of mutual understanding and strength.” We are trying to adapt to a changing church at the global level.

Several weeks ago 138 Muslim scholars from every branch of Islam wrote an open letter to Christians (“A Common Word Between Us and You”). The letter asks for an ecumenical dialogue based on our common love of the one God and our commitment to love our neighbor as ourselves. I welcome the generosity of this letter, and I commend it for study and discussion. It provides common ground for respect. You will find the letter and responses to it on the PTS web site. We are trying to respond to the church in interfaith dialogue.

As I write, I am reading reports of the fires in southern California and of the destruction of Malibu Presbyterian Church, ministered to by our alums Greg Hughes (Class of 1988) and Mike Mudgett (Class of 2006). We commend the people of southern California to your prayers. There are no easy answers, but I remember Bonhoeffer’s words in his Letters and Papers from Prison: “The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help. To that extent we may say that the development toward the world’s coming of age, which has done away with a false conception of God, opens up a way of seeing the God of the Bible, who wins power and space in the world by his weakness.”

May God bless all of you.

Iain R. Torrance