May 18, 2011
For immediate release
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.”
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.