Spring 2015 Newsletter
Dr. John G. Nordling, CTS Fort Wayne
For service at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa
13 – 24 April 2015
I have had the privilege of teaching 1 Timothy for two weeks (13-24 April 2015) at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa. This is my seventh teaching trip to South Africa and funding this venture has always been a challenge. In addition to my summer preaching engagements, where I show slides and attempt to solicit funds, this past year I secured a generous travel and expenses grant from the Elm Grove Lutheran Foundation (Elm Grove Lutheran Church, Elm Grove, WI; Rev. Eric Skovgaard) which covered my plane ticket and most additional expenses (food; some books). A lesser gift was received from Immanuel Lutheran Church, Frankentrost, MI (Rev. Mark Loest). Of course, I am required to establish contacts with generous congregations and individuals in the United States who support—willingly and generously—the many expenses involved in this ministry; but I have found Lutherans at home who are eager to learn more about the growth of the church in Africa and feel an especial bond with those students whom I feature in my presentations. Hence, I am coming to think of my African teaching ventures as a kind of “two-way street,” rather like St. Paul himself who wrote of the Gentiles that they were “pleased” to contribute to the impoverished saints at Jerusalem, and that they even “owed” the Jews (Rom 15:27). So I am finding that State-side Lutherans likewise are “pleased” to fund my travel, and that they feel some “obligation” towards helping the Lutheran church in Africa by funding my ministry.
Instruction for the Pastoral epistles class consisted of 3 hours of instruction per day, though we met at different times each day. These varied meeting times were a source of confusion this time around, often requiring me to assemble the apparatus, then leave for an hour or two, then return to the classroom, gather students, and set up everything again (my computer requires an LED projector to project the Greek text). Students would forget just when we met (because it varied every day), and once I forfeited an opportunity to teach an ELCSA pastor why the confessional Lutheran churches do not ordain women (1 Tim 2:11-15) because he got the meeting time wrong. So this should be a simple matter, easily corrected—albeit one of great importance. The more regular my meeting times are, the longer my contact hours with the students and the more I can accomplish. Last year’s schedule worked very well: 8:00 – 9:55 a.m. and 11:00 – 11:55 a.m., Monday through Friday. I am hopeful that this matter of scheduling can be rectified in the future.
As in former years, I projected the Greek text of 1 Timothy onto a screen and worked through selections of the material exegetically and theologically. I am pleased to report that we worked through the entire text of 1 Timothy in Greek, as well as selections of 2 Timothy and Titus, reinforced by daily quizzes. Obviously, 1 Timothy should be required reading for any pastor worthy of the name; that little epistle contains many warnings against false teaching, a description of the early church at prayer/worship (2:1-14), the statement that women should not teach nor “lord it over a man” in the worship setting (2:11-14), qualifications of bishops (3:1-7), deacons (3:8-13), widows (5:3-16), elders/pastors (5:17-23), encouragement to “fight the good fight of faith” (6:11-16), exhortations for the rich (6:17-19), and much more. The students drank it all in and had many questions regarding the practical matters involved. As stated earlier, the course attracted the attentions of the Rev. Richard Munzhelele (ELCSA = Ev. Lutheran Church of South Africa, and not in fellowship with the two confessional Lutheran churches in South Africa) and our amicable exchanges before the students greatly enhanced the learning environment. I taught only the Seniors this time (5 students who know Greek at this level) but many Junior and Deaconess students came to hear my lecture on women not having authority over a man (1 Tim 2:11-15), and there were always one to three additional “hangers-on” whom I did not discourage from the lectures. I was also able to incorporate into my teaching relevant portions of Armin W. Schuetze’s 1 & 2 Timothy/Titus (Concordia, 2005) which provides more a fresh translation and folksy paraphrase of the text than a scholarly treatment. Also in my luggage were two boxes of Lutheran Service Books (which had been dedicated by a disbanding congregation in Wisconsin) which I presented to Dr. Weber who will assign one hymnal per student to be used during the morning office (10:00 a.m.) as well as the Morning Suffrages and Evening Vespers. Thus, many of the students go to Chapel three times per day. Attendance was good, especially for the 10:00 a.m. service.
Here are the assignments I expected from each student in the 1 Timothy class:
7 quizzes (approx. 1 quiz per day) 50 %
Assignment Sheet on Schuetze (due over the weekend) 20%
Class participation (attendance, questions) 10%
Final Exam 20%
Total 100 pts possible
It was a relatively small class (5-7 students), as opposed to last year when I taught as many as 18 students per day. However, this was because I taught the Seniors this time—that is, those students who possess the Greek competency to benefit from an exegetical course on 1 Timothy at this level. I should point out that there is a full contingent of students at the Junior level who are learning beginning Greek from Mr. Enoch MacBen who, due to the generosity of the Southern Illinois District of the LCMS (Pres. Timothy Schaar), was able to complete the Fall Greek class with me at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne during the fall 2014 quarter (September-November). I think that Enoch is doing a creditable job of teaching Greek to these up-and-coming students, so hopefully I will have more Seniors to teach next year if I come about the same time. I was quite favorably impressed by the quality of the Junior students (with whom I ate lunch each day); most of the Juniors are from South Africa.
In addition to teaching the two week intensive Rector Weber requested my preaching at Chapel during the 10:00 a.m. services on 15 and 22 April, and the Rev. Nathan Mntambo asked me to preach Sunday 19 April at Evangelical Lutheran Church, Arcadia (English speaking; meets on the seminary premises). The Sunday service was packed to hear my sermon on 1 Pet 5:1-4 (Good Shepherd Sunday); following the service Rector Weber delivered an hour-long lecture on what it means to be a confessional Lutheran Church. Many of the worshippers at the ELC are comparatively recent converts to Lutheranism, and there is always the matter of biblical fellowship vis-à-vis the ELCSA mentality which is more open. I think the meeting went well, and that Dr. Weber presented the matter faithfully and at a level that laypersons can understand. Among several good ideas presented afterwards was the suggestion of going to two services (early and late) because there is not room for everyone as it is, nor to bring friends nor to accommodate children during worship (they typically leave the service after the Children’s Message). Also, two services would allow there to be at least one hour of Bible class/Sunday School per week so that congregants can study the Word of God in greater depth, as well as an adult class for outsiders to study the Catechism in order to join the Lutheran church as full communicant members. I believe this would be a splendid plan and thereby eliminate some of the tensions generated by the fellowship issue. Also, there are plenty of confessional Lutheran pastors in the community who could teach these Sunday morning courses well and faithfully.
During my final weekend (24-26 April) I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying Wilhelm and Angelika to the African Ivory Route camp in Modjadji, Limpopo Province, east of Polokwane. It was rustic, beautiful, and primitive (no electricity; we relied upon kerosene lanterns in the evening, rather like Lothlorian in the first Lord of the Rings movie!). On Saturday we hiked up a mountainside, then back down again, and plenty of time also to see Cycads in their native habitat. This part of my trip I finance myself, but find it well worth treating myself to an authentic South African vacation after working so hard for two weeks before boarding the plane for home. Also, this is a perfect time to be traveling and spending money in South Africa: the exchange rate was 12.18 Rands per 1 U.S. dollar (sometimes the rate is 7 to 1). So I bought much wine and gifts for my return home. During our weekend at Modjadji we celebrated Jubilate Sunday by ourselves (John 15: “I am the Vine, Ye are the Branches”). The Webers are a very devout family and observe family devotions together daily. It was a joy to join their family worship, usually in German.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Wilhelm Weber, Jr., his wonderful wife Angelika, and two of their four children (Frederika, Detlev) who so kindly hosted me in their home throughout the entire two-and-a-half week period. Every day I’d wake at 6 a.m., breakfast, and accompany Angelika and kids in rush-hour traffic to our respective places at the University of Pretoria or the seminary. Then when the day was over we’d retire to the Weber home where I’d relax: check my e-mails, drink Windhoek Beer, decompress, and generally enjoy myself. I should also mention in this connection that I received a free and nutritious lunch every day with the students at LTS prepared by Rector Weber’s sister, Mrs. Renate Straeuli. Also, during my two weeks there, I went out to dinner with Rev. Jacob Corzine (a CTS grad whose primary ministry is to students at the University of Pretoria), Rev. Karl Boehmer (likewise teaching at LTS, and about to defend his doctoral degree in Missiology at CTS), and Rev. Martin Paul (pastor of St. Paul’s, the FELSISA Lutheran Church just down Arcadia Street from the seminary). Another couple that had me over to their place for wonderful German cooking was Rev. and Mrs. Guenther Hohls, who was a pastor in the FELSISA until his retirement. Rector Weber has been to me a great host over the years and a real brother in Christ. In many ways I’ve felt that the extended Weber family has been the backbone of both confessional Lutheran churches in South Africa, and their personal faithfulness has mentored many Lutheran pastors throughout the entire continent of Africa. It is vital that the LCMS continue to support LTS with our offerings and prayers, even as we respond to dramatic requests for assistance elsewhere. I welcome this opportunity to have served the Lord and his church by teaching at LTS in April 2015 and hope, by God’s grace, to return to teach at LTS next year in April or May, then to teach selections from the Corinthian correspondence.
Dr. John G. Nordling
Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
6600 N. Clinton Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46815