Concordia Seminary Magazine | Spring 2017

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Gospel at the





Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer, left, performs the Baptism of Malachi Rho Vanderhyde on Feb. 17, 2017, as his uncle and sponsor Ben Vanderhyde, a first-year seminarian, holds him over the baptismal font inside the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus. Ben and his wife, Grace, are Malachi’s sponsors. The baby’s parents are Virginia and Joshua Vanderhyde, a fourth-year student. Photo: Diane Meyer



Gospel at the





First-year seminarian Joshua Brakhage plays with children during an after-school program at Christian Friends of New Americans in St. Louis in March 2017. Photo: Jill Gray






SOWING THE SEEDS OF THE GOSPEL Dr. Victor Raj illustrates how the Christian message communicates directly with people in ordinary, everyday life situations.

MEETING, SERVING PEOPLE WHERE THEY ARE Each Seminary vicar and deaconess intern learns how to bring people into contact with the church’s message of Jesus Christ and His salvation.


From the President


Student Spotlight


News Worth Noting


Support Your Sem


Staff Focus


Alumni and Friends

500: THE IMPACT OF THE REFORMATION TODAY Dr. Paul Robinson explains how today’s understanding of the wall of separation between church and state was not the case for the 16th century reformers.

DESIGNER Susan Klein-Shelton WRITERS Melanie Ave Kim Plummer Krull Jackie Parker Victor Raj (’76, ’94) Paul Robinson (’89, ’94) Kendra Whittle PHOTOGRAPHERS Melanie Ave Peter DeMik Jill Gray Emily King Jane Littmann Jackie Parker Kendra Whittle

MISSION STATEMENT Concordia Seminary serves church and world by providing theological education and leadership centered in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for the formation of pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

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Copyright ©April 2017, Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior written permission of Concordia Seminary.


Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer gives a Clayton Chamber of Commerce leadership class a tour of campus in October 2016. Photo: Kendra Whittle



If you’re an active church member, how old are you? If you’re older, your impression of the church was probably shaped in the 20th century. If so, you may be frustrated when you see the institutional church struggling. All mainline American denominations are struggling in various ways, and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is no exception. Our understandable frustration is a teachable moment!

with us. This is the unconscious, unexamined conviction that if anything decent is going to happen here, we are the ones who must make it happen — a conviction held even by people who talk a good game about God” (Let Your Life Speak, 88). God works in us “to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13 ESV), but sometimes watching church meetings I wonder if we’ve put God in the retirement home.

Peggy Noonan, a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, reflected on a book written by Dean Acheson, Secretary of State under President Harry Truman. World War II was over; no one knew what was ahead. “Everyone’s in the dark looking for the switch. When you’re in the middle of history the meaning of things is usually unclear. … In real time most things are obscure. … ‘Only slowly did it dawn upon us that the whole world structure and order that we had inherited from the nineteenth century was gone’” (Feb. 11-12, 2017; A13). World War II, Cold War, post-Cold War and today, a new normal is emerging; we just don’t know yet what it is. “In the dark, looking for the switch.”

I promise you that all Concordia Seminary graduates hear from me and others that this is a great time to enter the ministry because it’s Jesus’ ministry, not ours. It is His church, not ours. Jesus brings life and immortality to light through the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). Challenges aplenty exist, but you and I are not “functional atheists.” Martin Luther said, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all His creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith.” “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”(Luke 18:8 ESV).

Declining church memberships, declining denominational loyalty, declining dollars — some new normal is emerging. If I may venture my opinion: We church people sin to imagine that we are in the dark looking for the switch. “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12 ESV). Do we — do I? — actually believe that when we fret over the church in this new time? Here’s a second quotation, more food for thought:

The changes around us are challenging but we’re not groping for the switch. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 ESV). That light is Jesus among us and the switch is His living and active Word. “In your light do we see light” (Ps. 36:9 ESV).

“Functional atheism,” wrote social observer Parker Palmer, is “the belief that ultimate responsibility for everything rests CONCORDIA SEMINARY, ST. LOUIS 5

Sowing the seeds of the Gospel BY VICTOR RAJ



“ Theology takes root in any community wherever the seeds are sown as in a seedbed with intentionality, at the grassroots, the fear of the unknown notwithstanding.” — DR. VICTOR RAJ

The brilliance of the Christian message is that it communicates directly with people — sinners and saints — where they are living and making a living in ordinary, everyday life situations. Christians know that their lives lay bare before a gracious and caring God who made them, performed for them His redeeming act uniquely in His Son’s blood and preserves them in the true Christian faith for eternity. This is in congruence with God’s desire that all people are saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Mission is the very heart of God. God intruded an otherwise sin-infested world to demonstrate in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection His reconciling and restoring power for the sake of the created order. God in His wisdom has entrusted His church with His mission to tell the world that He in Christ has reconciled the world to Himself and set apart a people to spread that Word throughout the world (2 Cor. 5:17). Christian mission is God’s mission. Christopher Wright has observed that it is not so much that the church has a mission, but rather that God has a church for His mission. Wright further observes, “If it’s not missional, it’s not church.” For more than two decades, I have been privileged to serve on the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis as a mission professor. Whenever I teach the course “Theology of Mission,” I state clearly to my class that an important outcome I desire of the course is to undo the word “mission” from the church’s vocabulary. From this instructor’s point of view, all theology is missiology. In other words, missiology is theology done right. Just as mission is the heart of God, God’s people have a heart for His mission in every generation and in every context in

which God has placed them. A clear missional focus is a reality check on how we are doing and how we are succeeding (or failing) in serving the people amidst whom God has put us for His purposes. By divine design, God gathers His church anywhere for scattering it everywhere. A generation ago, missiologists predicted that the United States was becoming a mission field. That foresight is now a lived reality before us. America is the world’s third-largest, mission-ready population, next to China and India. Since the latter half of the 20th century, the Lord has been bringing to our shores immigrants from non-Western countries in the millions. Most metropolitan areas have become homes for new immigrants and refugees. As people travel, especially in groups, their native religions traditions, values, mores, cultures and patterns of behavior travel with them and take deep roots within the milieu in which they relocate. New immigrants do not compromise their native religions for the dominant religion of their new domicile. First- and second-generation immigrants are still educating their children in the vernacular of their country of origin. They publish newspapers and literature in the mother tongue and promote performing arts, music and drama as natives to their respective country of origin. Peoples’ identities do not change simply because they relocate. They learn to adapt well to the new situation. Beyond religion, culture works as a totality that shapes and forms the people, especially new generations. Along these lines, a paradigm shift has taken place in all disciplines of life. Classical education, though covetable, is no longer decisive for equipping men and women to perform CONTINUED ON PAGE 8 > CONCORDIA SEMINARY, ST. LOUIS 7


“ By divine design, God gathers His church anywhere for scattering it everywhere.” — DR. VICTOR RAJ

well in their respective areas of accomplishment. “Missional” and “glocal” have become buzzwords, although they have yet to find their place in standard lexica. At home, especially since the millennial generation, the younger generations are losing a sense of belonging in the traditional church. Estranged largely from the institutional church, they identify themselves as “nones” or “dones.” The traditional church, according to them, speaks a language past their head and fails to listen to their cry for reception and recognition. In their own words, however, they love Jesus, but do not belong in the institutional church. The church of today surely is at the crossroads, being able and willing to be of service to those who find themselves among the “excluded middle.” Among the natives as well as the new immigrants in this country, the church of Jesus Christ must work as the agent of transformation. Within a nation that cherishes both unity and diversity, the church needs to engage the cultures in which it is placed, and speak the Gospel winsomely to those who lend a listening ear. The church by all means must keep the lamps before the Lord lit continually for generations to come (Lev. 24:4). The 21st-century church learns from the past, lives in the present and looks forward to the future with optimism and courage to bear witness to the one, uncompromising Gospel. The Gospel transforms people and draws them to the Cross when presented in the heart language of the listener. Globally, theologians and missiologists, pastors and missionaries take into account contextual realities of the places they are called to minister in the name of Christ. The Gospel bears much fruit when the listener confesses



from his heart “Jesus is Lord.” Those who share the Gospel are conscious of how important it is that they first become learners before they can speak and gain a hearing before a new audience. Christians from countries and cultures where Christ is newly introduced and the faith is being newly built from the ground up understand how challenging it is to grow together with a mutually agreed upon vocabulary that will present the true claims of the faith clearly to the audience that is new to it. In communicating Christ cross-culturally, the burden lay more on the side of the communicator than the listener or audience. The receptor cannot be overwhelmed by the jargon and the ineptness of the speaker to speak to the conscience of the listener, however sincere such efforts might be. In real life situations, Christians find that the crushing, if not convicting, function of the Law of God is already at work in the conscience of many who do not yet belong in the kingdom. Christian communicators therefore might, through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, present to them Jesus Christ that they might have living hope in Him. The iron is already hot to be struck. That does not mean that the Gospel is compromised in any way for the sake of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness in the church. It does mean, however, that — as the first-ever meeting of the church council resolved — Christians need to not make it difficult for non-Christians to turn to God and to not burden them with anything beyond abstaining from pagan religious practices, such as idolatry and prostitution, and from rituals like eating food first offered to idols (Acts 15:28). While rituals have their meaningful place in the practice of religion, they can be misunderstood by those who are new

to the faith, if not properly instructed in them. If it is that the Lord has the church for His mission in today’s world, then the church must take into account the contextual realities of the time in order to lift high the crucified One before the whole world to behold. After all, the church exists for those who do not belong. Paul spoke of becoming all things to all people in order that he might by all means save some and, for that very purpose, he became like Christ and he invited his listeners (and readers) to become like him. Christian missionaries who have lived and served in other cultures long term serve as the best examples of cross-cultural communication. The story is told of a missionary couple — and they are still living — who ordered poached eggs for breakfast. They waited and waited and finally they were served pork chops! Such challenges in communication come closer to home to us in our own neighborhoods and even in our own households. Dinner table conversations have a different flavor to them than perhaps a generation ago. Mission has lost its foreignness and it strikes home today more than ever. Intergenerational communication cannot escape notice. Theology takes root in any community wherever the seeds are sown as in a seedbed with intentionality, at the grassroots, the fear of the unknown notwithstanding. The church is the Lord’s and His is the planting. After all, He gives the increase. Dr. Victor Raj is professor of Exegetical Theology, assistant director of the Institute for Mission Studies and the Buehner-Duesenberg Professor of Missions.


Meeting, serving people where they are BY JACKIE PARKER

On Thursday nights in the Denver metropolitan area, about 125-200 people, many of them homeless and struggling in their lives, come to The Table for a free meal and hope. “A lot of them have fallen and are looking for an answer, some kind of hope,” said Trevor Freudenburg, a vicar at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colo. “They have lost their dignity with choices they have made or they have been mistreated by others. We’re trying to restore their dignity and welcome them in with our arms open wide.” Many homeless people live, work and move along Colfax Avenue, the main street that runs east-west through the Denver metropolitan area. Bethlehem is about five blocks north of Colfax, an ideal location for the people who come to The Table on Thursdays. Rev. Tim Ahlman (’08), who is now pastor of Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church in Gilbert, Ariz., started The Table in 2009 to better reach the surrounding homeless community with the Gospel. “Even though we are all fallen people, we all are a special creation of God,” Freudenburg said. The outreach ministry bears out one of Concordia Seminary’s institutional goals to “raise up the next generation of pastors, missionaries and deaconesses who will carry out an evangelical ministry with mission zeal, with a deep commitment to Lutheran theology and practice.” Dr. Glenn Nielsen, professor of Practical Theology and director of Vicarage and Deaconess Internships, said the Seminary’s vicarages and deaconess internships give students significant experience in evangelical ministry. “We seek to place our students in congregations that reach into the community with the Gospel in deeply faithful and vibrantly effective ways,” he said. “During vicarages and internships, each of our students completes an evangelism project in which they learn



about the congregation and the community and then plan an event or activity that brings people into contact with the church’s message of Jesus Christ and His salvation,” Nielsen said. “We hope that leading this evangelism effort will bear fruit not only in the congregations where they are serving but also in the one he or she will eventually serve.” Vicar Bill Grueninger’s evangelism project is to produce a book of neighboring and community events that focus on relationship-based ministry, then to teach a small group from the church how to plan and run the different events. Grueninger is serving at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ind. At lunchtime on Thursdays, Grueninger helps make grilled cheese sandwiches for students who come from Columbus North and Columbus East high schools, both located a few miles from St. Peter’s. “It’s a new opportunity that we are taking advantage of with students,” Grueninger said. He credits Aaron Littmann, the church’s director of youth ministry, for seeing the need in the community and starting the outreach among the nearby high school students. During a recent “Grilled Cheese Thursday,” 44 students attended, 20 of whom do not consider St. Peter’s their church home. Grueninger said that 16 of those 20 students would not have been at the church without the special sandwich event. “We also have seen students who had been a part of our youth group and have fallen away from the group, only to come back for ‘Grilled Cheese Thursdays,’” Grueninger said. “God is good! God has really worked through Aaron Littmann and his ideas.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 12 >

“ We seek to place our students in congregations that reach into the community with the Gospel in deeply faithful and vibrantly effective ways.” — DR. GLENN NIELSEN

At The Table at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colo., visitors are given a free meal and hope.


Left photo: From left, Vicar Bill Grueninger and Aaron Littmann, director of youth ministry, at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ind., prepare grilled cheese sandwiches for high school students Feb. 23, 2017. Photo: Jane Littmann Center photo: Forty-four high school students attended “Grilled Cheese Thursday” at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ind., Feb. 23, 2017. Photo: Jane Littmann Right photo: Seminarian Trevor Freudenburg is serving his vicarage at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colo. Photo: Emily King

< CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10 At St. Peter’s, he credits Rev. Mark Teike with “leading the charge to go into the community,” he said. “It’s not just one person. It’s all of us.” He named the many ways St. Peter’s is helping the community, including Wednesday Night Connections, Bible classes and Third Space, classes aimed at meeting the needs of those who attend. For example, a finance class is available that helps many single parents in the community learn how to manage a budget. “We are trying to find a way to be a real neighbor,” Grueninger said. “God is calling us to make real friendships.” Fundamentally speaking, the life of a Christian is a life of witness 24/7, said Rev. Kou Seying, the Seminary’s associate dean of Urban and Cross-Cultural Ministry and the Lutheran Foundation Professor of Urban and Cross-Cultural Ministry. Seying notes that Jesus’ final words to the disciples before His ascension were: “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” from Luke 24:47-48. “We are living in an unprecedented time of opportunities to share Jesus Christ’s saving message with all the nations of the world,” Seying said. “Due to the great movement of people around the world today, it is vital that the



Seminary trains servants of the church to be missionminded in a multi­dimensional way so that they may engage meaningfully the various worldviews that the Gospel penetrates at the same time in any given community. “What we do and how we witness impacts the church and the world instantly,” he said. “Through an intentional focus on witnessing, our students and our graduates will help the church in its mission.” At Our Savior Lutheran Church in Laurel, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., Vicar Derrick Miliner said his church’s ministry action plan includes meeting and ministering to people from all over the world who live in the four apartment complexes near the church. Many of the children attend Our Savior’s child care center, Open Arms Christian Child Development Center, giving more opportunities to develop relationships with families. About 180 children attend the daycare’s variety of full- and half-day programs. “The goal is to develop relationships with the children and their families and discover how we can best serve them,” said Miliner, who is in the Seminary’s spring 2015 cohort of the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program. “The SMP program has strengthened my faith in the Apostles’ Creed,” he said. “God is gathering us, and as the master narrator, He is telling the whole story, showing the Lutheran distinctions and what the Creed does every time we gather.” Dr. Timothy Saleska, the Seminary’s associate professor of Exegetical Theology and dean of Ministerial Formation, believes the Christian message is getting lost in society.

“More and more people don’t understand the Christian faith, the stories of the Bible and where they come from,” Saleska said. “The need now is as great as ever to reach other people with the Gospel. If we form students with inwardly focused eyes, we’re neglecting the command of the church to go forth in society.” At the Seminary, Saleska said the faculty helps students learn what strategies to use when witnessing to others, including those who come from different backgrounds. Students are encouraged to build relationships with the people with whom they come into contact and learn how to tear down walls with the Gospel. “We have revisited our teaching at the Seminary and have had a growing emphasis in our curriculum with MissionShift and a more intentional cross-cultural emphasis,” he said. “The LCMS districts look to us for church plantings. That’s one way our Seminary is uniquely equipped to serve. “It’s important for congregations to begin to think about ministering to people in their communities and to build bridges with them,” Saleska said. “The old model of attracting people who are already members with programs isn’t enough and that approach is too inwardly focused. We have to intentionally go out of our comfort zone and build relationships with people who are not members.” First-year seminarians Joshua Brakhage and Jacob Buday are doing just that as they volunteer at an after-school pro­­gram and health clinics operated by Christian Friends of New Americans in St. Louis. “Being around new Americans means we have the opportunity to share the message of hope and salvation of Jesus with them, potentially for the first time,” Brakhage said. “The places they have left may have been unreached or hostile to the Gospel. I pray that our nation, our communities and

our churches would always be welcoming places where strangers and those far-off may encounter the light of Jesus.” At The Table outside of Denver, the doors open at 5 p.m. and people who have been outside in the cold all day come in and get warm. Freudenburg said witnessing comes through relationships and knowing peoples’ stories. “Before we eat on Thursdays, we hang out,” he said. “There’s a level of intimacy that happens when you’re eating together. It affirms that they are your friends and this is a safe place.” The people who gather at The Table range in age from 30 to 60. Many count themselves as Christians but have little to no faith life. Worship time allows them to reconnect with Christ. “When we get to the worship service, we explain everything that is going on, because we always have new people,” he said. “We talk about what goes on with Confession and Absolution,” he said. “We tell them about the prayer cards, which gives us a chance to also speak personally to people who have great needs.” Freudenburg said many of the people he has met at The Table are upfront about their past sufferings and struggles. “There’s not a lot of hiding,” he said. “It’s bad that they have often gone through so much but it’s good that they will tell you what’s going on in their lives. There is so much need. “But it’s important to do something,” he said. “People are dying without knowing Jesus.” Jackie Parker is a former communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.






RELIGION AND POLITICS are the two subjects you aren’t

supposed to discuss at dinner. Indeed, many Americans assume that the two should be completely separate in daily life as well. Thanks to Thomas Jefferson, we frequently talk about a wall of separation between church and state. Yet this was not the case for the reformers of the 16th century. The Reformation had to be a political event. Though we might think of the Reformation in spiritual terms and view its legacy primarily as a renewed understanding of the Gospel, the work of Christ, and the role of Scripture in the life of the church, the reformers themselves had no choice but to be involved in politics. Some took to the political aspects of reform with more gusto than others. Of the three major reformers, Martin Luther was wariest of political involvement. Although he appealed to the princes to institute his reforms, he did not trust politics to achieve the aims of his reformation. The Reformation had to be political because the medieval church had become a political power and the popes had claimed authority over the secular rulers. When the Roman Empire ceased to exist in the West at the end of the fifth century, the church there found itself in the position of being independent of the political order for the first time since

“ For Luther, the individual Christian stands under both government and church and has duties in both realms.” — DR. PAUL ROBINSON

Constantine became emperor. Even when the empire was renewed by Charlemagne in 800, the West was governed, at least in theory, by two powers — church and empire. Medieval political thought was consumed by the rival claims of these two powers and with answering the persistent question of which was preeminent, and medieval politics featured vicious warfare between papal and imperial factions. The church not only claimed power in theory but strove to practice it and penetrated every aspect of life with its regulations. Here are only a few examples of the variety and extent of church legislation: • Marriage was regulated by the church. • Any lawsuit that involved a member of the clergy was to be tried in a church court. • Fasting during Lent was enforced by law. • The pope ordered that the crossbow not be used in war against other Christians. In other words, medieval Christianity, though it could certainly be a matter of faith and devotion, was also, most certainly, a matter of subjection to a political order. Martin Luther set out to correct this situation. He believed European rulers were suffering from an identity crisis. “The princes want to be bishops, and the bishops want to be princes,” he wrote in 1523 in On Secular Authority. This treatise is his most famous statement of what has come to be known as the two kingdoms doctrine. He rejected the idea that the Roman church should be a political power, owning vast amounts of land and making its own rules. He also rejected the idea that secular rulers should enforce matters of belief by coercion. Instead, he upheld secular government as established by God. This was a radical statement at the time, because the church had asserted that secular rulers couldn’t even be good Christians since they had to enforce laws with violence. Luther claimed instead that God had

This image of Luther comes from a copy of “Icones sive imagines virorum literis illustrium,” published in 1590 by Nikolaus Reusner, which can be found in the Concordia Seminary library.




“ For Luther, the world was still governed by two powers, but each had its own purpose and mission — the government to preserve order in the world and the church to proclaim the Gospel.” — DR. PAUL ROBINSON


established government and the vocation of ruler to carry out his purposes in the world, even if those were purposes of applying the law. For Luther, the world was still governed by two powers, but each had its own purpose and mission — the government to preserve order in the world and the church to proclaim the Gospel. Rulers were freed from the overreach and oversight of the church in political matters, but also were to allow the church its own freedom to preach and teach. For Luther, the individual Christian stands under both government and church and has duties in both realms. As he well knew, this reality frequently created problems when the claims of church and government conflicted. Luther wrote On Secular Authority, in part, precisely because of such a conflict. His German New Testament had just been printed, and people throughout Germany were reading it. This did not sit well with some Catholic rulers and several territories ordered their citizens to surrender their copies. Luther advised that they absolutely refuse because, in this case, the government was overstepping the boundaries of its authority. Luther also warned, however, that those who defied the government had to be prepared to suffer the consequences. Violent resistance was not an option. Secular authorities emerged from the Reformation stronger than ever. The Peace of Augsburg (1555) settled, at least temporarily, religious conflict in Germany by giving rulers the right to choose whether their territories would be Lutheran or Catholic. One of the unintended consequences of Luther’s ideas was a greater divide between the sacred and the secular,



with what was owed to government, the secular, becoming more prominent. It could even be said that the American experiment of rejecting the establishment of a state church also owes something to Luther’s thought. American democracy, however, has made the situation of individual Christians and their relationship to the government more complicated than it was in Luther’s day. In Luther’s Saxony, the word of the prince was law, and the only choice was to obey or not. Citizens had no say in the government and no part in making the laws. Luther believed that resistance to a ruler by private individuals was always sinful. How different is the situation in the United States today! The idea that the citizens are themselves the government adds to the choices they have when confronted with policies and laws with which they disagree. So Christians, too, face far more difficult choices when it comes to interacting with the government and a wider field for disagreement among themselves — not just over particular issues but also over how to respond. We don’t know exactly what Luther would say about our situation today, but he fervently believed that Christians had the duty and the freedom in the Gospel to live as citizens and even to serve in government, engaging actively in the world of politics. Dr. Paul Robinson is professor of Historical Theology and dean of faculty at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.


EVENTS Theological Symposium The Just Shall Live by Faith: The Reformation Word for Life, Then and Now Sept. 19-20, 2017 Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

500th Anniversary of the Reformation Service Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 7 p.m. Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

RESOURCES Concordia Seminary magazine The Reformation’s impact on … Religion — Winter 2017 Politics — Spring 2017 Society — Summer 2017 Life Today — Fall 2017

Concordia Journal Special Reformation-focused double Winter/Spring 2017 issue

500: The Impact of the Reformation Today Free video series for laity, congregations and students interested in learning more about the history and significance of the events of the Reformation and the impact they continue to have on the world 500 years later. Watch the videos at

LEARN MORE Find more resources from the Seminary’s Center for Reformation Research, including annual lectures, at



Following in first graduate’s historic footsteps BY KIM PLUMMER KRULL

congregations in St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and beyond, during what Heckmann describes as “dangerous and calamitous times.” “In doing the research, I saw how much he did for the church, for the Synod and for Christ, and how he was loved by so many people,” Heckmann said. “The more I learned, the more I admired him and wanted to follow in his footsteps.” Those footsteps can be traced to the log-cabin Lutheran school in Altenburg, Mo., started by emigrants from Germany who included Mueller’s family. In 1839 at age 14, Mueller enrolled in the first class, taught by C.F.W. Walther and other Synod founders.

Joel Heckmann Photo: Kendra Whittle

When Joel Heckmann needed to write a research paper on a “topic of interest” for his LCMS history class at Concordia Seminary, no subject immediately came to mind — until he mentioned the assignment to his grandparents, who suggested he look no further than his own family tree. That’s when Heckmann discovered that his great-great-great grandfather, Johann Andreas Frederick Wilhelm (J.A.F.W.) Mueller, made LCMS history 170 years ago as Concordia Seminary’s first graduate. What began as a research paper turned into an inspiration for Heckmann, who is on track to graduate in May with a Master of Divinity. The seminarian was surprised to learn that his historic ancestor began pastoral ministry during a culture, as Heckmann notes in his paper, wrought with “Godless politicians and financiers, cheap thrills and promiscuous men and women.” “It doesn’t sound too different from today,” Heckmann said.

DIFFERENT PATHS TO SEMINARY J.A.F.W. Mueller — whose many initials prompted colleagues to bestow the nicknames “A.B.C.” Mueller and the alphabet pastor — was ordained in 1847, the same year the Synod was founded. This pioneering pastor served 53 years, a staunch advocate for youth and Lutheran schools and a tireless shepherd to



After a theology program was developed to train pastors, Mueller eventually completed the program in St. Louis in 1847. Heckmann calls his own path to the Seminary “completely different” from that of his trailblazing ancestor, who endured a rigorous journey to America and began his studies amid “suffocating poverty” and “pervading pestilence.” Growing up in Sioux Falls, S.D., Heckmann enjoyed “helping out at church, going through confirmation and helping people in general.” He felt a pull toward the pastoral ministry during confirmation with his pastor and as a student in the pre-seminary program at Concordia University, Nebraska, Seward. “Those experiences exposed me to concrete aspects of being a pastor and gave me the confidence that this was something God created me to do,” said Heckmann, whose father and grandfather also are Seminary graduates — Dr. Robert Heckmann (’84) and Dr. Robert Heckmann (’51).

BALANCING PASTORAL DUTIES, HOME LIFE During his second year of studies, Heckmann tackled the research assignment for the class taught by Dr. Gerhard H. Bode Jr. The Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly published the article, “Pastor J.A.F.W. Mueller: A Faithful Shepherd of Souls,” last year. Heckmann’s paper provides interesting glimpses into the life and ministry of Concordia’s first graduate, including how: • Mueller ignored his health to visit the sick, knowing “how precious the Gospel was to them,” Heckmann writes.


A “particularly treacherous” series of calls to his flock in Johnsburg, Pa., led to diphtheria and smallpox and, eventually, vision loss in one eye. • Although widely regarded as a beloved pastor, Mueller angered some imbibers in Pittsburgh when he “came down strictly” on drinking and saloons. Answering the parsonage door one night, he narrowly missed an axe careening toward his body. “Apparently, J.A.F.W.’s message had gotten to the men,” Heckmann writes. • Mueller served in many roles — helping to organize the Synod around the Lutheran Confessions, teaching confirmation “with a firm but affectionate approach” and delivering essays at theological conferences. He also took care to balance his pastoral and scholarly duties with his home life, working with his first wife, Jane, “making butter, drawing water from the well, soaking beans … and a host of everyday tasks.” Mueller died in 1900 after preaching at St. John Lutheran Church in Chester, Ill., where he had served since 1875. The procession of mourners stretched nearly a mile in a city with a gloom “as dark and deep as though a loved member of each family had been lost,” the local newspaper reported.

‘GREAT OPPORTUNITY’ TO CONTINUE EXAMPLE Following such an historic legacy feels “a little daunting,” said Heckmann, whose first call to pastoral ministry is fast approaching. But he credits “a host of amazing professors, classmates, family and friends” with helping him “not only learn more about my faith but also for equipping me with the tools I need to be a faithful and caring pastor.” Bode, Seminary archivist and associate professor of Historical Theology, called Heckmann an excellent student and “fine young man. He is well suited to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious ancestor. Of course, I don’t have any historical evidence to support the claim, but I expect that J.A.F.W Mueller would be proud of him.”

Rev. J.A.F.W. Mueller, the first graduate of Concordia Seminary, and the great-great-great grandfather of seminarian Joel Heckmann. Photo: Klett family archives


Joel Heckmann, left, takes notes on the Gospel of Matthew in Dr. Jeff Gibbs’ class in April 2017 with classmates Niklas Brandt and Gabriel Sonntag. Photo: Kendra Whittle

Heckmann said he finds encouragement in his great-greatgreat grandfather. “He didn’t let cultural challenges bring him down,” Heckmann said. “He was a faithful pastor, kind and caring, who preached the Word of God with boldness yet in a way that people could understand.” “What a great opportunity I have to continue his example,” said this future pastor, who looks forward to serving “wherever the church needs me.” Kim Plummer Krull is a St. Louis-based freelance writer.


Loum heading up mission in the Gambia The Seminary’s Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology Director Dr. John Loum will return to the country of his birth thanks to a new partnership between Concordia Seminary and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of International Mission. Loum is now heading up an ongoing mission to the Gambia, a small African nation on the northwest side of the continent. While retaining his duties at the Seminary, Loum will spend at least four months each year in the Gambia, largely focusing on teaching the Lutheran doctrine to a small but established group of Christians. “Dr. Loum has a wealth of knowledge of Islam and a love for the people of the Gambia who need to hear the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus,” said Rev. John Fale, executive director of the LCMS Office of International Mission. “Because he is from that culture, he will have opportunities to build trusting relationships that present opportunities to share the Gospel in ways that others could not.” Loum said he is “cut out” for the new duties. “I’m a missionary,” he said. “I was brought to faith by the mission agencies, so I feel everything about me is about missions and sharing the Good News of Christ.”

Loum, who has partici­pated in mission work in the Gambia on his own for the past three years, said he is excited for the opportunity to further his mission work. Along with teaching and catechizing the pastor and lay leaders of the church in the Gambia, he also will be instructDr. John Loum ing the teachers and students of the Lutheran school in the village of Abuko. He hopes to bolster morale among the Christians in the Gambia who are a small minority in the largely Muslim-dominated country. “Dr. Loum has long been an evangelist in the St. Louis area, and has guided scores of missionary pastors through his leadership of the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology,” said Provost Dr. Jeff Kloha. “Concordia Seminary is very excited to partner with the LCMS Office of International Mission in this direct Gospel mission work in the Gambia, where doors are opening today in ways that they were not possible just a few months ago. Dr. Loum’s enthusiasm and regular interaction with the mission field will immediately benefit the students of Concordia Seminary and strengthen their own outreach ministries.”

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• Cory Stallings, The Exchange Communities Lutheran Churches, Jackson, Mo., LCMS Missouri District • Laird Van Gorder, The Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, Macon, Ga., LCMS Florida-Georgia District “We rejoice in God’s gifts with our new Specific Ministry Pastor vicars and their mentors as well as the ministries they serve,” said Dr. W. Mart Thompson, SMP director. “The SMP coursework they are beginning is enriched by this two-year vicarage practicum making ministerial formation an effective ‘hands on’ educational process.”

Front row, from left: Director of Vicarage and Deaconess Internships Dr. Glenn Nielsen, Matthew Cario, Craig McCourt, Jason Schleicher, Jacob Baumann and Mark Crossman. Back row, from left: SMP Director Dr. Andrew Bartelt, President Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Cory Stallings, Chad Minor, Laird Van Gorder, Joel Dietrich and SMP Director Dr. W. Mart Thompson. Not pictured: Wynn Derong and Muleneh Taye. Photo: Kendra Whittle

SMP, CMC students receive vicarage assignments Eleven Concordia Seminary students recently celebrated vicarage assignments in chapel and will serve congregations and ministries of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Ten Specific Ministry Pastors (SMP) students of the 2017 spring cohort received vicarage assignments: • Jacob Baumann, theCross Mount Dora, Mt. Dora, Fla., LCMS SELC District • Matthew Cario, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Tacoma, Wash., LCMS Northwest District • Mark Crossman, theCross Mount Dora, Mt. Dora, Fla., LCMS SELC District • Wynn Derong, Oikos Church, Houston, Texas, LCMS Texas District • Joel Dietrich, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Peachtree City, Ga., LCMS Florida-Georgia District • Craig McCourt, New Creation Lutheran Church, Shakopee, Minn., LCMS Minnesota South District • Chad Minor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, North Canton, Ohio, LCMS Ohio District • Jason Schleicher, Salem Lutheran Church, Tomball, Texas, LCMS Texas District

The SMP program of Concordia Seminary is a four-year distance-education program in which men receive academic training in the setting in which they will continue to serve following ordination. The program is designed to meet the needs of the church for pastors in mission and ministry opportunities where a pastor with a seminary degree may not be available. Local pastor-mentors work with SMP students to provide day-to-day guidance, encouragement and prayer. In addition, one Cross-Cultural Ministry (CMC) student received his vicarage assignment. Muluneh Taye was assigned to Addis Kidan Ethiopian Church in San Francisco, part of the LCMS California-Nevada-Hawaii District. The CMC was established by Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., in conjunction with Concordia Seminary and the LCMS Pacific Southwest District to provide directed preparation for ordained ministry to men who will serve in the socio-cultural contexts of specific ethnic populations and multicultural communities. The Seminary celebrates assignment services throughout the year for students enrolled in special programs such as the SMP and the CMC programs. The Seminary’s primary Call Day is held in April when students receive their first calls to ministry, vicarage placements and deaconess internship positions. Call Day is set for April 26, 2017.


During halftime, Preachers Coach Dr. Timothy Saleska, dean of Ministerial Formation, thanked everyone for attending. “Through you, we will be able to reach out to so many people with the grace of God,” he said.

Former Preachers and current players. Photo: Kendra Whittle

‘ Hoops for Hope’ benefits Ferguson’s Lutheran Hope Center Concordia Seminary’s Preachers basketball team ended its season Feb. 10, 2017, with a game against alumni players in a benefit event known as “Hoops for Hope.” The Preachers beat the alumni players 98-88. Many fans brought donations of backpacks and school supplies for the Lutheran Hope Center in Ferguson, Mo., whose executive director is Rev. Micah Glenn (’16). The supplies will be distributed to students and teachers in Ferguson schools for the 2017-18 school year. About $1,500 also was collected for the center.

In addition to Glenn, the alumni roster included Rev. Will Hanke (’07) of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Brentwood, Mo.; Rev. Jason Reitz (’07) of Zion Lutheran Church in St. Charles, Mo.; Rev. Jim McCoid (’05) of Community of Life Lutheran Church in Oregon, Wis.; Rev. Jeff Cloeter (’05) of Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in St. Louis; Dr. Peter Nafzger (’04) of Concordia Seminary; Dr. Matt Hoehner (’02) of Messiah Lutheran Church in St. Louis; Rev. Scott Giger (’02) of Carmel Lutheran Church in Carmel, Ind.; Dr. Mark Hoehner (’00) of Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church in St. Peters, Mo.; and Dr. Paul Raabe (’79) of Concordia Seminary. The Lutheran Hope Center is a partnership of five Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregations in north St. Louis County. The churches are Salem Lutheran Church, Blessed Savior Lutheran Church, Grace Lutheran Church, Chapel of the Cross Lutheran Church and Immanuel Lutheran Chapel. The goal of the center is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as it provides opportunities for youth and families to grow spiritually, academically, socially and personally.

A Seminary education is now even more affordable The Seminary has great news to share about the affordability of tuition. More than half of our current Master of Divinity (M.Div.) students do not pay any tuition, thanks to the school’s generous financial aid package and, of those who do pay, they pay less than one-fourth of the cost of tuition on average, said the Seminary’s Director of Financial Aid Laura Hemmer.

The award, combined with other forms of financial aid, will enable most M.Div. students to meet 100 percent of their tuition costs. Those who might know someone who is considering full-time residential seminary studies, but may be worried about expensive tuition or having to secure loans, are encouraged to contact the Seminary’s Financial Aid Office.

In addition, the “Reformation Jubilee” award will provide all M.Div. students in residence during the 2017-18 academic year with additional aid amounting to about 5 percent of the published average full-time tuition charge. Average full-time tuition is expected to be $25,920 next year.

Donor-established scholarships, financial aid and the Adopt-A-Student program together make a Master of Divinity degree easily affordable at Concordia Seminary.



For more information, call 314-505-7202 or visit today.


‘ Luther’ premiere wows Des Peres 14 Cine audience Hundreds of people attended the St. Louis premiere of the new movie “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World” Feb. 13, 2017, at the Wehrenberg Des Peres 14 Cine in Des Peres, Mo. The sponsors included Concordia Seminary, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church— Des Peres, Mo. LCMS leaders and faculty members from the Seminary were closely involved in the production. Dr. Erik Herrmann, director of the Seminary’s Center for Reformation Research, was on set in Europe for all three weeks of the movie’s production as historical adviser. Herrmann, LCMS President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, Associate Professor of Historical Theology Dr. Gerhard H. Bode Jr., Professor of Historical Theology Dr. Paul W. Robinson and Professor Emeritus Dr. Robert A. Kolb all appear in the film to give context to Luther’s story. Provost Dr. Jeff Kloha welcomed the movie-goers to the screening. Afterward, Herrmann shared some insights from his role with the movie and answered questions from Harrison and a few from the audience. To host a local screening, visit The movie will appear on cable this fall in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Laudamus heads west for 2017 tour

Top photo: These movie-goers arrived early and were first in line. Bottom photo: Dr. Erik Herrmann and his family pose for a photo. Photos: Melanie Ave

Laudamus toured the LCMS Rocky Mountain District Feb. 18-22, 2017, proclaiming the Gospel at churches and schools in Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico. This year’s tour program included selections from Brahms, Faure, Hogan, Poulenc, Josquin Des Pres, David von Kampen and more. In addition to performing at six congregations, the group also had the opportunity to sing for students of Trinity Lutheran School in Pueblo, Colo., and to tour Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colo., which serves the homeless and impoverished population of the Denver area. Between performances, the choir was able to tour Red Rock Amphitheater, Garden of the Gods and downtown Colorado Springs. The group delighted in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ through music with these congregations and all others they met as part of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District’s Reformation celebration this year. To hear a small sampling from the tour, watch a video of Laudamus singing “Were You There” at

Laudamus performs at Trinity Lutheran Church in Pueblo, Colo., Feb. 21, 2017, as part of its spring tour. Photo: Kendra Whittle

The group concluded its tour with a concert March 12 at Peace Lutheran Church in St. Louis.


Left photo: Movers unload the first of many file cabinets at the storage facility in Maryland Heights, Mo. Right photo: Students gather in the temporary library, which is now operating in the lower level of Loeber Hall. Photos: Jackie Parker

Library closes as renovation begins The Concordia Seminary library closed in February and its operations were moved temporarily in preparation for a $6 million renovation, which will begin this spring. The library will operate in the lower level of Loeber Hall until the fall 2018 opening of the renovated library, which will be called the Kristine Kay Hasse Memorial Library. The majority of the campus library’s collection was moved to a 12,000-square-foot temporary storage facility in Maryland Heights, Mo., about 13.5 miles from campus. Rare books and special collections will be housed in rooms beneath the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus. The art from the library will be stored in the archives in the basement of Wyneken Hall.

Winter Lay Bible Institute

Thanks to generous donors to our Generations Campaign, the Seminary reached its $6 million goal to renovate the library and transform the original 1962 building into a state-of-the-art learning center. We are continuing to make strides to raise an additional $4 million to enhance its learning technology. To learn more about this effort or to contribute, visit, call 800-822-5287 or email A special website has been created to answer questions about the library renovation at For more information, please contact the Circulation Desk at 314-505-7030 or

A large group of congregational members, students and pastors were on campus Feb. 4, 2017, to participate in the Winter Lay Bible Institute. Dr. Erik Herrmann presented “Reformation Reverberations: the Lasting Impact of Martin Luther’s Reforms.” He is associate professor of Historical Theology, chairman of the Department of Historical Theology and director of the Seminary’s Center for Reformation Research. Participants learned about the impact of the Reformation on religion, politics and society. “Our goal is to shape the conversation by providing a lot of resources,” Herrmann said. Videos and other Reformation resources can be found at

Welcome to the Winter Lay Bible Institute! Photo: Jackie Parker



The next Lay Bible Institute will be held Aug. 5, 2017. Learn more at


The professors occupying endowed chairs include, from left, Rev. Kou Seying, Dr. Kent Burreson, Dr. David Maxwell, Dr. Joel Biermann, Dr. Joel Okamoto, Dr. Charles Arand, Dr. Victor Raj, Dr. Andrew Bartelt and Dr. Leopoldo Sánchez M. Not pictured: Dr. David Schmitt and Dr. James W. Voelz. Photo: Kendra Whittle

New library endowment display unveiled, blessed BY MELANIE AVE

A new display honoring the donors who have endowed faculty chairs was unveiled and blessed during a special ceremony Feb. 16, 2017, in the Concordia Seminary library following chapel service. The display, located just inside the library’s lobby, features 10 engraved aluminum panels on a lighted background of a cut metal pattern. Created and designed by the architectural signage firm Engraphix, the display recognizes the current 11 endowed faculty chairs and the donors who established the chairs. It also recognizes Board of Regents member Dr. LeRoy Wilke and his wife, Jane, who made the display possible. “An endowed chair is about the future of scholarship in this institution for the forward-looking mission of our Lord Jesus,” said Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer in his welcome and opening remarks. An endowed chair is one of the highest academic honors that a college, university or seminary can bestow upon a faculty member. It reflects the donor’s desire to continue to see excellence in teaching and research in a specific area. “It’s a double honor. Endowed chairs honor those for whom the chairs are named and it also honors the faculty members who represent their areas so well,” said Provost Dr. Jeff

Kloha. “On the faculty side, the individuals appointed to the chairs represent outstanding teaching and leadership and scholarship among their colleagues. They have served successfully and faithfully as faculty members and as pastors and missionaries.” During the display ceremony, the Seminary’s choir Laudamus sang “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” before a black curtain was removed, unveiling the display. The library erupted in applause. Afterward, Dean of Chapel Dr. Kent Burreson officiated the Rite of Blessing. “God, bless and sanctify this endowment display, which is offered in honor of Your only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,” Burreson said in his prayer. “Grant that it may reflect our love for You and for one another, benefit Your church, bring joy to all who see it and lead us to give thanks for these endowed chairs and the gifts of the people of God who made them possible.” The endowed chairs include: The Gregg H. Benidt Memorial Chair of Homiletics and Literature Provided by Bea and Charles E. Benidt in memory of his late son, Gregg. Occupied by Dr. David R. Schmitt, professor

of Practical Theology.



The Waldemar and Mary Griesbach Chair of Systematic Theology Provided by Mary Griesbach in memory of her late husband, Waldemar. Occupied by Dr. Joel P. Okamoto, associate

professor of Systematic Theology.

The Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Chair of New Testament Theology Provided by Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury. Occupied by Dr. James W. Voelz, graduate professor of Exegetical Theology. This library display was made possible through a generous gift from Seminary Board of Regents member Dr. LeRoy and his wife, Jane. Photo: Kendra Whittle

< CONTINUED FROM PAGE 25 The Buehner-Duesenberg Chair of Missions Provided by Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg in memory of her parents, Rev. Andrew J. and Pauline Buehner. Occupied by Dr. Victor A. Raj, professor of Exegetical Theology. The Gustav and Sophie Butterbach Chair of Exegetical Theology Provided by Gustav A. Butterbach in memory of his parents, Gustav and Sophie Butterbach. Occupied by Dr. Andrew H. Bartelt, professor of Exegetical Theology. The Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke Graduate Chair of Theology Provided by Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke. Occupied by Dr. Charles P. Arand, professor of Systematic Theology. The Louis A. Fincke and Anna B. Shine Chair of Systematic Theology Provided by Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke in memory of Eugene’s father, Louis A. Fincke, and Nell’s mother, Anna B. Shine. Occupied by Dr. Kent J. Burreson, associate professor of Systematic Theology, and Dr. David R. Maxwell, associate

professor of Systematic Theology.

The Werner R.H. Krause and Elizabeth Ringger Krause Chair of Hispanic Ministries

(Catedra Werner R.H. y Elizabeth Ringger Krause de Ministerios Hispanos) Provided by Werner R.H. Krause and Elizabeth Ringger Krause. Occupied by Dr. Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., associate professor of Systematic Theology. The Lutheran Foundation Chair of Urban and Cross-Cultural Ministry Provided by the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis. Occupied by Rev. Laokouxang (Kou) Seying, associate professor of

Practical Theology.

The Waldemar A. and June Schuette Chair of Systematic Theology Provided by June and Waldemar A. Schuette. Occupied by Dr. Joel D. Biermann, professor of Systematic Theology.

Learn more about the Seminary’s endowed chairs at To learn more about the Seminary’s endowments, please call Seminary Advancement at 800-822-5287 or email Melanie Ave is communications manager at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.



Endowment Funds and Estate Gifts

Annual Support and Scholarships

$110 million

$60 million

• Operational endowments • Endowed faculty chairs • Scholarship endowments

• Sustain and grow scholarships • Retain and develop world-class faculty • Maintain the campus



The now permanent charitable rollover act means qualified charitable distributions can be made directly from IRAs at any time of the year. I f you are age 70 1/2 or older, you can give up to $100,000 tax free each year directly to Concordia Seminary from your IRA. Your rollover gift qualifies for your required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year. ou do not have to itemize your taxes to receive Y the deduction.

Have questions? Please contact us today. 800-822-5287

$99.6 million


To learn more about the Generations Campaign, visit

$177 MILLION RAISED TOWARD $180 MILLION GOAL as of press time

Library and Learning Technology $10 million

$7.8 million $69.2 million

• Digital accessibility • Facility enhancements Amount to reach goal

Annual Support and Scholarships

Endowment Funds and Estate Gifts

Library and Learning Technology


Dr. Beth Hoeltke serves as director of the Seminary’s Graduate School, the library’s public services administrator and production manager for The Gospel of Mark. Photo: Kendra Whittle

First a student, now a staff member BY KENDRA WHITTLE

Look up the definition of multitasker and you might find a photo of Dr. Beth Hoeltke. Among her varied responsibilities, she manages the front-end operations at the campus library, looks after about 200 graduate students to help ensure they are on track to complete their degrees and schedules nationwide presentations of the Seminary’s The Gospel of Mark presentations. But that just covers her current roles as the director of the Seminary’s Graduate School and as the library’s public services administrator. Previously, Hoeltke worked in the printing industry, as a shop teacher, as a sales administration manager for a semiconductor test equipment business (with clients including Intel, Micron and IBM) and as a professional chef. These days, Hoeltke said she looks at everything in life with a single, theological perspective. “It’s scary and fun at the same time,” Hoeltke said. “Theology makes you question everything. That’s what it should do for us. If God has put me in a place that is full of wonder, then how does that affect the way I look at it?” In 2005, she was working for a Japanese company in California’s Silicon Valley, when it became clear to her that learning more about her faith was becoming a passion. She began reading theological books and resources during her



free time. Hoeltke found herself drawn to the idea of seeking a theological education at Concordia Seminary. “I couldn’t get enough of trying to understand why Jesus would reach out to somebody like me, that He would give His life for someone like me, that He would die. I just couldn’t comprehend that,” Hoeltke said. “And I know knowledge doesn’t get you there. It still doesn’t, but I was blown away by that.” Dr. Beth Hoeltke agrees to have her head shaved as part of the Seminary’s fundraiser in 2016 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which helps find cures for children with cancer. Photo: Kendra Whittle.


She started attending weekly Wednesday Matins service in nearby Mountain View, Calif., not far from her job. She said the pastor at the church asked if she had ever considered returning to school to study theology. It was an aha moment. So, fifth-career student Beth Hoeltke arrived at the Seminary in 2006, immersing herself in student life as she pursued a Master of Arts in systematic theology. She moved into Metzger Hall and took summer Greek with about 40 Master of Divinity students. “Getting my feet back into school was hard, but it was phenomenal,” she said. One formative experience during her first year at the Seminary was her “Lutheran Confessions” class with Dr. Charles Arand, the Eugene E. and Nell S. Fincke Graduate Professor of Theology and dean of Theological Research and Publication. She would often stay after class and discuss theology with Arand. Hoeltke was baptized Lutheran but grew up Episcopalian. She wasn’t active in the church as a young adult but in 1996 she returned to her Lutheran roots. For her, Arand’s class helped her rediscover and gain a deep respect and appreciation for the tenants of the Lutheran faith. “I’m blown away by the understanding that we (Lutherans) live by the Bible and that we’re a church that is really interested in knowing our doctrine,” she said. “The more I read about Martin Luther and Melanchthon and Augustine, the more I thought, ‘This is amazing.’” After receiving her master’s degree, Hoeltke realized she wanted to learn even more. She applied to the Seminary’s Ph.D. program and was accepted. Her now-friend and mentor Arand agreed to serve as her dissertation supervisor. Hoeltke’s role at the Seminary quickly expanded beyond the role of a graduate student. She had already been working in the campus library, first as a part-time reference desk worker and later managing the Circulation Desk. During her years as a Ph.D. student, the opportunity arose for her to manage the front-end of the library as the public services administrator, a position she still holds. But the new responsibilities didn’t come without challenges. “I would get up, work on my dissertation from 3 to 6 a.m., then work a regular day at the library,” she said. It was during that time that Hoeltke also became involved with The Gospel of Mark, the dramatic presentation by several faculty members and area pastors based on a translation of Mark by Dr. James W. Voelz, the Seminary’s Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Professor of New Testament Theology. Hoeltke now serves as the production manager for the presentation, which travels the country offering presentations at congregations and schools several times a year. Hoeltke finished her Ph.D. dissertation in 2014 on the theology of creation and was named director of the Graduate School in 2016. “That was really quite a compliment for me,” she said. “I was very honored.”

Top photo: Dr. Beth Hoeltke watches a rehearsal for the Seminary’s The Gospel of Mark. Photo: Jill Gray. Bottom photo: Hoeltke chats with Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer, center, and Dr. Kent Burreson before rehearsal of The Gospel of Mark. Photo: Jill Gray

Despite completing her Ph.D., Hoeltke remains interested in expanding her knowledge and continuing academic research. She actively pursues her theological interests, specifically green burial practices and food production and how they relate to God’s design in creation. She is also beginning work on a Bible study for Concordia Publishing House and teaching online theology classes for Concordia University Portland’s doctoral program in education. Hoeltke said her deep interest in learning more about Lutheran theology continues. Seminary Dean of Advanced Studies Dr. Gerhard Bode works closely with Hoeltke. “Beth’s energy is infectious and makes her a pleasure to work with,” he said. “The Christian care and concern she demonstrates every day for the people of this community is genuinely and uniquely her own. This is who Beth is and, frankly, I don’t know what we would do without her.” Kendra Whittle is a communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.


Rev. Eric Ekong preaches in chapel in 2016. Photo: Kendra Whittle

Sem ambassador in the parish BY KENDRA WHITTLE

Rev. Eric Ekong’s parish in Jackson, Mich., is about 480 miles away from the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Despite the miles, he continues to find ways to be connected to his theological alma mater. A 2013 graduate, Ekong has been back on campus as a guest preacher, serving at the 2016 Multiethnic Symposium. His church is a regular host for one of the Seminary’s annual summer workshops, including one this year with Professor Dr. Mark Rockenbach. On Call Day, he is a faithful presence on Twitter during the Seminary’s live stream events, cheering on and offering words of prayer and encouragement to his future brothers in ministry. “What I like about Eric is the ability he has to commit himself to a task and follow it through to completion,” said Dr. Timothy Saleska, the Seminary’s dean of Ministerial Formation. “He is extremely faithful and is a man of his word. You can count on him to do what he says he will do. This makes him a man of integrity — a rarity these days.” Ekong aims to live out the meaning of his middle name, Ini-obong, which means “one with God.” For him, it is a reminder of being one of God’s children.



Rev. Jonathan Udo Ekong, Rev. Eric Ekong’s grandfather, founded The Lutheran Church of Nigeria in the 1930s. Photo: Courtesy Eric Ekong

Ministry is part of the Ekong family tree. His father, Hosea, is a Lutheran pastor in Ohio. His grandfather, Jonathan Udo Ekong, founded The Lutheran Church of Nigeria in the 1930s, an LCMS partner church body which today has more than 80,000 members. As a child, Ekong says he figured one day he would make it to the Seminary. But he admits he took his time. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he says many of his teachers and classmates at Lutheran High School East told him he would make a good pastor. He took their words to heart but even so, he decided to take a break midway through his undergraduate degree at Concordia University Ann Arbor, Mich., switching his major from theology to technology. For more than 10 years he worked as a Unix administrator for Verizon.


Ironically, it was technology that eventually led him back to his initial path to the Seminary. “I was just on the internet clicking around and somehow found myself on the Concordia Seminary website,” Ekong explains. “Before I knew it, I was filling out the online request for more information.” The Seminary’s admissions team members responded with a personalized note along with a packet of information, telling him they remembered his dad from his time at the Seminary. For Ekong, it made a difference. He returned to Ann Arbor and finished his undergraduate degree with the goal of coming to the Seminary. He even attended one of the Seminary’s visitation events for prospective students, Contemplate, but by then his mind was made up. “I handed the admissions counselor my application when I got there,” Ekong says. Ekong and his wife, Linda, and their children arrived in St. Louis in 2009. They wanted to make the Seminary not only their home but also their ministry. As a student being formed for pastoral ministry, he viewed his interactions with his teachers, the staff and his fellow students as an opportunity to serve them through Christ. “It gave me a foretaste of what was going to happen in the ministry,” Ekong says. “Forming relationships with the community as a whole changed me. It was a valuable experience in what was coming next.”

What came next was Call Day in April 2013, and Ekong’s call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Jackson, Mich., as senior pastor, a church he still serves. He admits with a laugh that he doesn’t remember much about what happened after his name was read. “I couldn’t remember the role or position but I did remember the city and the district,” he recalls. “My wife looked over all of the call documents before me. But all I can remember thinking is, ‘God has a place for me to serve.’” And Ekong found plenty of people to serve in the name of Christ in Jackson. As senior pastor, he says he serves the staff and students of Trinity Lutheran School, where three of his five children currently attend. He makes a point to visit his congregation members who are in the hospital or homebound. He says his church, which is adjacent to the local YMCA and county courthouse in downtown Jackson, is in a great place to serve the community. Like many cities, Ekong says Jackson deals with the social issues of poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Jackson is also the site of five jails, including one state penitentiary, and Ekong says that means a growing population of families who move to be closer to incarcerated loved ones. The church, he believes, must be there for the community. “When people give up trying to figure things out by themselves, they turn to us, if they have a good relationship with the church,” Ekong explains. “We try to conduct ourselves in a specific way, so when these troubles come, people know what they’re going to get when they come.” Ekong says he tries to be a liaison between the church and the Seminary, and to encourage others to consider the ministry if they feel that is what God wants for them. One son of his congregation, Matthew Dubensky, is currently a first-year seminarian at Concordia Seminary. Dubensky says his relationship with Ekong actually began during Ekong’s Seminary years. Dubensky attended the visitation event known as Taste of the Sem during his sophomore and junior years of high school. Both times he shadowed Ekong. “We ended up staying in contact over the next couple of years and I occasionally would message him on Facebook or Twitter and ask him a theology question because who better to ask than a seminarian?” Dubensky says. Ekong was called to Trinity while Dubensky was working on his undergraduate degree. Dubensky says he now considers Ekong a mentor who still encourages and provides advice to him as he pursues his own path in ministry. For Ekong, it is an honor to serve as a pastor, a mentor and an ambassador for Concordia Seminary. “It’s up to a pastor to connect the dots for people,” he says. “I’m here. Let’s do God’s work.” Kendra Whittle is a communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Rev. Eric Ekong and his wife, Linda, and their five children.


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2017 SUMMER WORKSHOPS Plan now to attend one of our 2017 Summer Workshops, which explore contemporary topics that influence the practice of ministry.

MAY THROUGH AUGUST • Hosted by LCMS congregations nationwide • Featuring Seminary faculty and staff • For pastors, church workers and laity Nineteen workshops offer an opportunity to delve deeply into topics including: Confirmation Transgenderism Living by Faith Ministry in a Scientific Age Martin Luther


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