Saskatoon-based Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) has appointed the Rev. William Harrison as president. Harrison, who is the first Anglican to be president of LTS, says he wants to be “something of a bridge” between the Anglican and Lutheran churches.
“I think that what it’s going to enable is a closer conversation between Anglicans and Lutherans here on the Prairies,” he said of his appointment.
LTS is located on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan, and is an affiliated college of that university. It is a member of the Saskatoon Theological Union, alongside the Anglican seminary College of Emmanuel and St. Chad, where Harrison taught from 2000 to 2005. “At that time, I worked very closely with the Lutherans here at LTS,” he said.
Despite his familiarity with the school and its theology, Harrison’s experience with Lutheran worship had been limited previously. “The experience is really very similar in many ways, and yet with some differences which can kind of take one by surprise…in, often, interesting and exciting ways,” he said. He cited the flexibility in eucharistic prayers in the Lutheran context, which had allowed the person presiding at a recent service which Harrison attended to create a prayer that worked powerfully together with the sermon.
“It was a wonderful experience, and it was one of those moments when all of the pieces of the eucharistic service came together beautifully, and in a very rich way, that doesn’t always happen.”
Harrison says that the seminary is in “transition… starting to build toward the future.” For the past few years, the school has been working with a new curriculum model, focused on intensive and distance courses.
“We’re also facing the challenges, as most seminaries are, of smaller student populations, so that means we are rethinking ourselves and how we work together,” said Harrison. “That’s all quite exciting for me.”
The church is grappling with “new ministry contexts and new kinds of ministry,” Harrison said, and in addition to its traditional task of preparing students to be pastors in parishes, the seminary is preparing students for other types of ministry contexts. For example, LTS is expanding its master of theological studies (MTS) program, and developing a major in community health and parish nursing.
“It’s true both for Anglicans and for Lutherans that less and less does ministry hinge on the work of ordained people alone, and more and more it’s done by teams,” says Harrison. He says continuing the work of helping people to think in teams will be one of his top priorities moving forward. The other, he says, will be to strengthen the school’s focus on mission and evangelism.
Harrison received a bachelor of theology from St. Paul University/University of Ottawa, an MA in English from the University of British Columbia and a PhD in systematic theology from Boston College. He previously served the Anglican Church of Canada as principal of the Kootenay School of Ministry in the diocese of Kootenay and, most recently, as the director of mission and ministry for the diocese of Huron. He says these diverse roles have prepared him for the complexities of leading a seminary.
In an installation service November 5, co-presided by ELCIC (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) Bishop Sid Haugen (Saskatchewan Synod) and Anglican Bishop David Irving (diocese of Saskatoon), Harrison was welcomed as the president in what LTS director of communication and development, the Rev. Fran Schmidt, called “a joyous celebration of our full communion partnership with the Anglican church.” ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson preached at the service.
The ELCIC and the Anglican Church of Canada have been in full communion since 2001, and Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada can share the Eucharist together, use each other’s liturgies, participate in each other’s ordinations and have clergy serve interchangeably in either church.
“My sense is that this job is a perfect fit for me,” said Harrison. “I think this is a very happy choice, and that is something that wouldn’t have been possible…without the full communion relationship.”
Learning from each other, Harrison says, is the most exciting part of this relationship. “We are stronger together and we have much to teach one another.”
Editor’s Note: Corrections have been made to an earlier version of the story. Saskatchewan Synod Bishop Sid Haugen’s last name was misspelled. The last name of the Rev. William Harrison became “Harrington” in the seventh and eighth paragraph of the story.