It's Time to Rock the Lutheran World
In the mid-1990s, I met a friendly African man working in the print shop at St. Louis Seminary. I was immediately drawn to his winsome personality. I was on campus doing graduate coursework for a summer session. He was in St. Louis – on leave from teaching at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, in Matongo, Western Kenya. A controversy over the bible’s teaching on the sinner's justification before God had rocked the church. Scandinavian missionaries in Kenya suggested Robert Preus be invited to speak on the topic. He did so. It was Dr. Preus who suggested that Walter study in St. Louis.
Next I heard of Walter Obare, he’d been elected Bishop of his Kenyan church body sometime early in the new millennium. This rather large and fast growing church had no official ties with the LCMS. In
2003, Walter wrote to me as executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, and soon I was able to visit Kenya. We began an investment in the Kenyan church and its programs of mercy for the needy. This has borne fruit beyond anything we could have hoped for or imagined.
Soon Walter had convinced his church to seek fellowship with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. That was accomplished in 2005. The relationships with the Missouri Synod have continued to grow and blossom. A few years ago, as the Church of Sweden was devolving like so many liberal Lutherans, into the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality. A group of faithful Lutherans within that church asked Walter to come to ordain for them a bishop who could in turn ordain pastors who were faithful to the word of God. This was necessary because the Swedish church has for years harassed and denied ordination to young men faithful to God’s Word. Walter did so. But he soon was accused of “meddling” in the affairs of another church body. He was called on the carpet by the Lutheran World Federation leadership (the ELCA Bishop is also head of the LWF!), and even removed from the LWF theological commission.
Yet Walter did not, has not, looked back. In fact, I just received news that Walter traveled to Europe again last week. In Bavaria he received the Walther Kuenneth Prize for faithful Lutheran Confession, given by the remnant of faithful Lutherans in the Bavarian church (Sammlung um Bibel und Bekenntnis). He also traveled to Finland where he assisted in ordaining a Finnish Bishop for a group of faithful Lutherans there facing the same persecution and harassment (http://scandhouse.org/finland/home.html).
The news of a black African bishop, coming to Scandinavia (the Kenyan church was the mission plant of the Swedish church and other Scandinavian mission societies), as a missionary seeking to re-introduce the true faith to the motherland, has caught the attention of not only the Lutheran World, but also the secular press.
All this happened because ONE student from Africa was given the chance to study at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
It’s time to rock the Lutheran world. It is time for us to shift 4 million dollars (as a start) from the total 80 or so million dollar budget of the national LCMS, to both seminaries. (In fact, with a bit more money our Canadian sister church and its seminaries could also help us rock the Lutheran world!). This will enable 100 international students per year on each of the two LCMS campuses (at about $20,000 a student). One of our seminary presidents was speaking with an ELCA seminary president recently, who complained, “The ELCA provides only 15% of our funding.” Imagine the shame in our man having to admit that the LCMS provides next to nothing for our seminaries! This is an immediate way to increase the number of students at our schools, increase the numbers of faithful Lutheran missionaries and theologians around the world, and to introduce the deaconess ministry as the option for the service of women in confessional Lutheran Churches around the world. Think of the benefits of our American students getting to know the next Walter Obare? Think of the lifelong missionary interest and knowledge of the world that will be shared! We have so much to learn from friends around the world! Think of a hundred Obares A YEAR going home to Asia, to Russia, to Eastern Europe, to India, to Indonesia, to Madagascar, to central and South America! We have a theological treasure to share with the world. As the ELCA has fallen off the cliff on the issue of sexuality and the authority of the bible (along with the host of northern and liberal Lutherans), the Lutheran world has never been more open to contact with the LCMS. These scholarships will be provided to top students from our partner churches, and from many other churches well beyond our traditional realm of cooperation.
Our seminaries know how to deal with international students. We have the room on the campuses. The people of the Synod want the seminaries supported. We could simply put up HALF the amount ($2,000,000) and ask the good people of the Synod to match it. Given the opportunity, I’d help raise this money myself. Every one wins. In fact, once the Synod begins actually supporting the seminaries (one of the main purposes of the Synod’s existence – long since forgotten; Constitution, Article III Objectives: “Recruit and train pastors… and other professional church workers”; “to support synodical …seminaries”), the money will roll in and the program will be expanded even more. I’ve worked long enough in the Synod’s bureaucracy to know what can and can’t be done. This not only CAN be done, it must be done. It only takes the will to do so. This will be money FOR CHRIST’S MISSION IN THE WORLD well spent! What I’m suggesting is a veritable “drop
in the bucket” compared to the dollars spent by national Synod. But it will be a drop with Tsunami like waves of mercy and grace for the world!
The simplest ideas are the most profound. It’s time to rock the Lutheran World. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine…” Matthew 5:14-16