Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary to move to North Carolina

Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary will move from Columbia 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 psychosocial 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 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.

The United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are in a full communion relationship with each other, and many UMC pastors have attended or are currently attending seminary at LTSS. LTSS is the only UMC Senate-approved seminary in South Carolina.

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.

More information about the seminary’s planned move to the Hickory campus, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the university’s website at

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