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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Concordia Seminary STL and Witness Mercy Life Together

President Harrison Speaking before the
Faculty of Concordia Seminary STL
Yesterday, due to a gracious invitation of Dr. Dale Meyer, President, via Dr. Rick Marrs, Dean of Faculty, President Harrison spoke with the faculty of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. President Harrison thanked Dr. Dale Meyer and the Seminary Community for working so hard to make the installation service happen the way it did and for extending such hospitality. As the international church leaders know, Mrs. Meyer even extended them an invitation to her house on Sunday evening for dinner. The seminary community has been great! President Harrison also expressed his belief in necessity of residential seminary education and how he looked forward to hearing from, listening to, and working with both Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.

After the introduction, President Harrison began to explain how he and his staff came to "Witness, Mercy, and Life Together." Essentially, after the convention, he and his team had to confront the reality of implementing the new structure that the Synod's 64th regular convention adopted. We were looking for a way to get a handle on it. Rather than primarily talk about the "structure" of the church, which is necessary for the well being of the church on earth, we wanted to talk about what the church does. Structure supports what the church does but it is not what the church is about. What we came up with to talk about what the church does is witness, mercy, and life together. The church's structure supports the work of witness, mercy, and life together, but it is not the work or purpose of the church. President Harrison expressed reluctance that his first meeting with the seminary faculty was a "presentation." He stated that the purpose of the presentation wasn't to give a new mandate or new marching orders but to ask the seminary for their opinion  on it and for help in improving it. He also stated that this isn't "brilliant" or "new" but simply a description of what the church always has done using Biblical language. President Harrison also said, "The church wants pastors who witness to the world, act with service and love, and know how to live together in their families, church, and world." After President Harrison's introduction, he introduced me so I could present it to the faculty, as I had previously done to the Board for National Mission, the Board for International Mission,  and the International Church partners a few days before.

abc3+ presenting Witness, Mercy, Life Together
(This photo actually was taken at the presentation given to church partners)
The last time that I had addressed the Concordia Seminary faculty was at the presentation of my Ph.D. dissertation Real Presence: History and Development of the Term in the 16th Century almost 10 years ago. (Here is an article that summarized some aspects of the dissertation from the Concordia Journal, April 2002.) Presenting to the seminary faculty is in itself somewhat intimidating. The seminary faculty has the expertise to identify problems, pitfalls, and failures with Witness, Mercy, Life Together rather quickly. At both of our seminaries you have some of the best experts in Biblical, Historical and Dogmatic theology -- and we were asking them for feed back and to critique it.

Title Slide from Power Point

Key Bible Passages for Witness, Mercy, Life Together
We chose three Bible passages to help capture the central point for teach area: Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. Other passages could no doubt be used. For Witness,  1 John 5:7  and 1 John 5:8 was chosen because it focused on what creates faith, namely, the proclamation of Jesus' death and resurrection and the Sacraments -- Baptism and Holy Communion. For Mercy, Mark 10:45 was chosen because it proclaims who Jesus came to be a servant. For Life Together, 1 Corinthians 1:9 was chosen because we are called into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ.

The reaction of the seminary faculty present at the forum was generally positive. The seminary faculty brought some insights and helped to define a few items more clearly. For instance, one faculty member pointed out how this "model" (for lack of a better word) was not all inclusive in that it focuses primarily on the 2nd and 3rd article of the Creed. While you can find a place for 1st article gifts -- after all you can't do works of service and mercy without the created order -- the 1st article isn't the primary focus. He was correct. There are a whole range of 1st article things like aesthetics, music, et al that support and assist the church in witness, mercy, and life together but are not directly addressed. It would be a mistake for us to portray this as inclusive of everything under the sun, etc. Nonetheless, it can still be a helpful way to talk about the church's work. Some on the faculty asked if they could write Bible studies around the emphasis of witness, mercy, and life together. Some asked if perhaps they could help by providing greater theological depth. Basically, the faculty's comments were positive, helpful and came from a spirit of wanting to help make how this is presented to the church better. I look forward to seeing contributions from both CSL's and CTSFW's faculty in the future.

Animation showing interconnectedness of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together

Well, I had hoped to write a more extensive post about Witness, Mercy, and Life Together but time was short. Soon (within days) the Synod's website will have downloadable resources for pastors and congregations to use if they wish. The entire Power Point Presentation will eventually be available for download on the Synod's website as well as a leader's guide. Concordia Publishing House also has expressed interest in providing materials.


  1. If I may make one suggestion - in the emblem, I strongly recommend inverting the word "mercy" so that the whole thing more clearly reads as "Witness, Mercy, Life Together." To me, right now it looks like "Mercy, Witness, Life Together." Just a thought.

  2. Two comments.

    First, it's great to see the cooperation between the synod and the seminary faculties. It's encouraging to see the faculties solicited in the development stages of whatever this three-fold emphasis model is, rather than cooking the whole thing up on your own and then only going after the fact for some sort of seminary seal of approval.

    Second, while I haven't taken the Confessions classes yet, my mind goes to the title of David Scaer's Festschrift "All theology is Christology." I'm also reminded of verses like "No one comes to the Father except through me." Christ is our go-between; He is the Mediator between God and Man. It's not that the First Article is unimportant, but doesn't the bulk of church and ministry fall under the Second and Third Articles?

    Interested to see what others have to say on this.