Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary to Move to Hickory, North Carolina

ELCA seminary to relocate to Lenoir-Rhyne University main campus

Seminary students in a classroom talking amongst themselves

Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, one of the ELCA’s seven seminaries, will move from Columbia, South Carolina, to the main campus of Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, early next year pending approval of the university’s trustees in March.

“The reasons for this decision are clear: The budget deficits that we face at the seminary are insurmountable considering current enrollment and broad national trends in theological vocations,” the Rev. Dr. Chad Rimmer, LTSS’s rector and dean, wrote in a letter announcing the plan to the seminary’s alumni. “While many have faithfully and valiantly guided our seminary through difficult years, including the psycho-social and financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time has come to realize that without bold action, the mission of the seminary is simply not sustainable.”

By moving the seminary, the university will save about $2.1 million per year in LTSS operating costs and eliminate significant deferred maintenance costs on the Columbia campus, which is far larger than LTSS’s current program requires.

While the seminary plans to relocate, its mission to prepare leaders for the church’s public ministry will remain unchanged. “Embedded on a campus with a long and rich history of Lutheran higher education, we will be more able to fulfill the seminary’s strategic plan that guides the way in which we nurture, educate and form leaders for public ministry in today’s world,” Rimmer said.

All current full-time teaching and library faculty as well as full-time LTSS staff will be offered jobs in Hickory, and university and seminary leaders have pledged to work with faculty and alumni to find thoughtful ways of relocating meaningful artifacts from the seminary’s Columbia chapel and campus to its new space in Hickory. The seminary’s theological library will also move to Hickory.

“In the last several years, we have invested heavily in LTSS by adding admissions personnel, a Lutheran studies chair, new support staff, a lifelong learning director, and, most recently, hiring Chad Rimmer as rector and dean,” Lenoir-Rhyne President Fred Whitt said. “We want to continue to invest in the seminary’s program and curriculum, and moving the seminary to the Hickory campus will mean that we can be good stewards of the resources we have. This will resolve the seminary’s operating deficit, reduce the cost of deferred maintenance, and allow us to continue to invest in LTSS’s program and mission. We are committed to faithful stewardship and to the seminary’s long-term sustainability.”

When the seminary moves to Lenoir-Rhyne’s Hickory campus, students preparing for ministry will be able to take courses in fields related to ministry, including Spanish language; business; counseling; environmental and health sciences, and will also be able to take advantage of campus amenities for recreation and arts and culture. Seminary leaders anticipate that the move to the vibrant Hickory campus, home to more than 2,200 students, will make lifelong learning opportunities for lay and clergy leaders more attractive and create a pipeline of undergraduate students called to ministry.

“As a Lutheran for nearly all of my adult life, I believe that moving the seminary to the Hickory campus will make us even more able to meet the needs of the ELCA today and into the future,” Madeleine Dassow, chair of the Lenoir-Rhyne University board of trustees, said. “Embedding the seminary on the Hickory campus will allow us to build on our proud tradition of Lutheran education and Southern’s particular call to train students for public ministry. We are grateful to our bishops, alumni, students, faculty and staff for their commitment to create a new future for LTSS in Hickory.”

More information about Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary’s planned move to the Lenoir-Rhyne University Hickory campus, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the university’s website.

News & Events

Deby Mitchell

Lenoir-Rhyne has named veteran classroom teacher and school administrator Deby Mitchell, Ed.D., as the university's new director of disability services.

View More
Class officers Diego Sanjuan and Bethany Perry lead the line of 2024 graduates

In the second week of May, Lenoir-Rhyne University will hold commencement ceremonies recognizing the Class of 2024 at our three campus locations in Hickory, N.C., Asheville, N.C. and Columbia, S.C.

View More