James Kenneth Echols resigns as LSTC president May 18, 2011

Updated May 25, 2011

With deep gratitude for his 14 years of service, the board of directors of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago accepted the resignation of the Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Echols. Dr. Echols was the first African American to serve as president of a North American Lutheran seminary. A celebration of Dr. Echols’ leadership at LSTC is being planned for a later date.

“President Echols has provided visionary leadership for LSTC and among the ELCA seminaries,” said the Rev. Dr. Philip Hougen, chair of the board of directors. “Under his leadership, LSTC successfully completed an ambitious $56 million comprehensive campaign, built the Augustana Chapel and created the Cornelsen Director of Spiritual Formation position. Dr. Echols also helped create A Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice, making LSTC one of the top 20 seminaries in the U.S. in interfaith studies. Over the last several years he has initiated efforts to get the ELCA seminaries to collaborate more closely to better serve the church.”

In a letter to the LSTC Community, Dr. Echols stated that during his fall 2010 sabbatical, “I spent significant time in professional reflection, vocational discernment and the need to address certain personal issues . . . . I realized that I began my own seminary education focused on serving as a parish pastor but that twenty-nine of my thirty-two years of ordained ministry have been served in the central and important ministry of theological education as professor, academic dean and president. I continue to give thanks for the privilege of having been able to do so. All of these factors led me to begin to think seriously about resignation.”

After the ELCA entered into a full communion agreement with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Dr. Echols led LSTC in a decade-long closer collaboration with McCormick Theological Seminary (PCUSA). He has been a leader in the ELCA and in the wider community, serving on the board of the ELCA Division for Ministry, the executive committee of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, and the steering committee of the USA Section of the Council of International Black Lutherans. He is the editor of I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Future of Multicultural America (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).

Echols was elected president of LSTC in May 1997. He served as academic dean at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) from 1991-1997. He joined the LTSP faculty in 1982, teaching American Church History. Since 2005 he has team taught, with Dr. Albert “Pete” Pero, The Theology of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. course at LSTC.

A native of Philadelphia, Echols received the bachelor of arts degree from Temple University and the master of divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He continued his studies at Yale University, where he received the degrees of master of arts, master of philosophy, and doctor of philosophy in the history of Christianity.

The LSTC board of directors has appointed the Rev. Dr. Philip Hougen to serve as acting president while it prepares for a presidential search. Ms. Sarah Stegemoeller was elected as chairperson of the board at its May 15-17 meeting in Chicago.


The Rev. Dr. Philip Hougen
Acting President

Jan Boden
Director of Communication and Marketing

The Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) is dedicated to bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Based in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, it is the leading urban Lutheran seminary training students for purposeful vocations in the global community. Aligned with its Lutheran heritage and built on a foundation of intellectual rigor, LSTC’s innovative, nationally recognized curriculum gives students skills for visionary Christian leadership in the public sphere.

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