Dr. John G. Nordling, CTS Fort Wayne
For service at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa
24 April – 4 May 2017
I have had the privilege of teaching Romans (selections) for two weeks (24 April – 4 May 2017) at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa. This is my ninth teaching trip to South Africa and funding this venture has always been a challenge. This trip was financed by left over monies from a two year grant financed by the Elm Grove Lutheran Foundation (Elm Grove Lutheran Church, Elm Grove, WI; Rev. Eric Skovgaard) two years ago, and two lesser gifts from the Extended Ministry Endowment Fund (Blessed Savior Lutheran Church, New Berlin, WI) and the Board of Evangelism (Elm Grove Lutheran Church, Elm Grove, WI).
Instruction for the Romans class consisted of roughly 3 hours of instruction per day, three hours in the morning on MWF and three hours in the afternoon TR. This time I taught 10 male senior students from South Africa and other African countries. As in former years, I projected the Greek text of Romans onto the wall of the LHF Room and worked through selections of the material exegetically and theologically. I certainly could not cover everything, but I am pleased to report that we touched on those portions of Romans that most pertain to the doctrine of Justification in this the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: the life and travels of Paul, the wrath of God, righteousness through faith, the example of Abraham, Adam and Christ (Rom 5), dead to sin/alive in Christ in Baptism (Rom 6), slaves of sin/slaves of righteousness (Rom 6), struggle against the sinful nature (Rom 7), life in the Spirit (Rom 8), subjection to the governing authorities, the deaconess Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), etc. I quizzed the students 8 times on this material, had a two-page Romans hand-out for them to complete during the first weekend I was there, and a final exam to write on the last day of the class. I had already exhausted my book budget by buying copies of Martin Franzmann’s commentary on Romans back in early February, as requested by Dr. Weber. Therefore, I made copies of Dr. Gieschen’s Notes on Romans that were written some time ago for DELTO students. These Notes help students to come to terms with the Greek text they are to be reading and work quite well for teaching Romans in the field, as I have discovered in other mission settings.
Here are the assignments I expected from each student in the Romans class:
8 quizzes (approx. 1 quiz per day) 50%
Assignment Sheet on Gieschen (due over the weekend) 20%
Class participation (attendance, questions) 10%
Final Exam 20%
Total 100 pts possible
In addition to teaching the two week intensive Rector Weber requested my preaching at Chapel during the 10:00 a.m. services on 26 April and 3 May. During the first first two Sundays of my stay (23 and 30 April) I worshipped with the Webers at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, just two blocks from the seminary on Arcadia Street (Rev. Martin Paul). On the plane to Johannesburg from Atlanta I met Rev. Jacob Corzine who asked me to preach at the student service on the evening of Sunday 23 April. Then on the evening of Tuesday 25 April I attended, and took minutes for, the meeting of the LTS Board of Directors at which were present Dr. Gunther Rencken (Chairman), Rector Weber, Rev. Matthias Albers, Mr. Michael Grosse, Mr. Berno Niehbur, Mr. Ruben Dlamini, and Mr. Ben Mokopanele (student representative). This meeting was noteworthy for two reasons: first, Mr. Grosse has spear-headed an initiative to buy the adjacent Rose House (Bed & Breakfast) in order for the seminary to grow dramatically in future years; and second, the Board faced a determined effort on the part of the Members to remove Dr. Weber from his rectorship after 17 years of service. I cannot go into detail here, but suffice it to say that most of the members of the Board of Directors are firmly in favor of keeping Dr. Weber as Rector of the seminary and prevailing upon the Members to cease and desist from what they suppose is a malicious attack against the Rector. It was moved and seconded that the Directors and Members have a joint meeting in order to clear the air and set at naught the many rumors and innuendos that surround this situation. Nonetheless, Rector Weber has faced the possibility that his days at the seminary could end soon.
The trip was significant for other activities as well: during my first weekend there I accompanied Dr. Weber to the ELCSA Akasia Prayer Men’s League Parish Conference (29 April) in order to inform the men—pastors and lay leaders—just why the Lutheran Reformation remains significant and to answer questions. A van-load of our students came from the seminary and it seemed a good way to inform many laypeople just why the Reformation remains important, 500 years after the fact. During my final weekend (5-7 May) I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying Wilhelm and Angelika to the Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge—to go birding and simply enjoy the pristine hinterland of the northern Drakensbergs east of Polokwane. The accommodations were first-rate and we had a marvelous time. This part of my trip I finance myself, but find it well worth treating myself to an authentic African vacation after working 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 13.4 Rands per 1 U.S. dollar (sometimes the rate is 7 to 1), so I was able to take the Webers out to dinner a couple of times and buy gifts for my return journey home.
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 Emily Ngubeni, a local African. Also, during my two weeks there, I was invited to dinner by Dr. Karl Boehmer (teaches at LTS), 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 cuisine 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. 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-May 2017 and hope, by God’s grace, to return to teach next year in April or May.
Dr. John G. Nordling
Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
6600 N. Clinton Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46815
Rev. Anthony Oliphant
Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa
2/26/2017 – 3/10/2017
For two weeks I had the pleasure of co-teaching a class at LTS alongside Rev. Prof. John Pless. The course was “Lutheran Dogmatics for the Congregation”. For the course, we used the recently published “The Saving Truth: Doctrine for Laypeople” by the late Rev. Dr. Kurt Marquart as the text. The class was primarily for seniors at LTS, but several juniors also attended. Several pastors from the area sat in on the class for continuing education. All seniors and pastors received a copy of the textbook. In addition, I brought copies of “Lutheranism 101” for use in classes for underclassmen.
The class met from 14:00 to 17:00 every weekday. This three-hour block of time proved to be easily filled with content from the lectures and with thoughtful questions from the students. I was continually impressed with the questions that were raised, as it showed a deep concern for taking what was being discussed and applying it to the level of understanding and contexts of those in the students’ home countries and congregations. The students were determined to thoroughly understand the material so that they could clearly teach the faith and defend against the heresies that are prevalent throughout Africa. On March 9, Prof. Pless and I hosted a braai for the students. Pastor Shuttleworth, a local Lutheran pastor, hosted a wine tasting to show the wide range of South African wines.
While on campus I also preached for the Thursday morning services on March 2 and 9. Matins was prayed on Thursdays and the preaching texts of the lectionary provided good Lenten meditation.
During my stay, some of the seminary students elected to go to a presentation at St. Paul’s on March 8. Pastor Jacob Corzine, who works with the college students at St. Paul’s, arranged for a Muslim imam to come and speak to the group about what Muslims believe so that the students can be better informed as they progress through their studies of the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. Because many of the seminary students come from nations with a strong Muslim presence, they were able to ask many interesting questions and give further elaboration on the effects that Islam has had on the Church in Africa and on their homelands.
I was given the privilege of attending a staff meeting on March 9 in order to get a glimpse into the operations and everyday dealings of the seminary. It provided good insight into the relationships of all who work at the seminary and showed how much dedication and work has gone into building a faithful and safe place for study toward the Office of the Holy Ministry. My thanks to Dr. Weber for his invitation to the meeting.
The seminary is looking ahead at the future opportunities. The Saint Philip Lutheran Mission Society and the Rocky Mountain District of the LCMS have each raised $15,000 toward building a new library. These funds will be used toward creating a study and research center that will be on the leading edge among seminaries in Africa. With interactive and telecommunication abilities, it is hoped that this new facility can help link the Lutheran seminaries throughout the continent and world. The new library would also serve to draw new students and strengthen relationships with the University of Pretoria. While the full scope of this project is still to be determined, it remains an exciting endeavor. The mission society will keep an eye on how the project continues to develop as we remain enthusiastic supporters of creating the best facility possible at LTS.
Another recommendation for how the mission society can help in a sustained way is to dedicate to send a guest lecturer from among our number to LTS each year. This was a strong recommendation from Dr. Weber and Prof. Pless. After this trip, I wholeheartedly concur. By doing this, we can maintain communication and relationships with the staff and students and we can maintain a continual connection to the work being done at the seminary. We will also be able to give regular “boots on the ground” reports back to our donors in the United States.
I would like to thank all of the faculty, staff, and students at LTS for their overwhelming hospitality and warmth. Thanks to Prof. John Pless for being a teaching colleague throughout the two weeks. A special thanks to the Saint Philip Lutheran Mission Society is in order for providing the funds for airfare in order to go and serve the students at LTS and for the opportunity to visit the seminary and see how we will be able to continue to serve them in the best possible way.
Teaching Lutheran Doctrine in South Africa
From February 27-March 10, I team taught a course on “Teaching Lutheran Doctrine in the Congregation” with Pastor Tony Oliphant (pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Elmhurst, Illinois and Treasurer of the St. Philip Lutheran Mission Society). The class consisted of 22 senior students, pastors, and a pre-seminary student from the University of Pretoria. The text for the course was the newly published book by the late Dr. Kurt Marquart, The Saving Truth: Doctrine for Laypeople. We are deeply grateful to the Luther Academy and its executive director, Dr. Robert Bennett for donating copies of this book for each of the students.
The introductory lecture explored the nature and method of confessional Lutheran theology. We examined the task of the theologian on the basis of Titus 1:1-3, noting in the words of David Hollaz that theology is “eminently practical wisdom teaching from the revealed Word of God all things which sinful man, who is to be saved, needs to know in order to attain true faith and holiness of life.” We spoke of theology as a “public mystery” (Oswald Bayer) in light of Romans 16:25-27. We accented the fact that theology is never simply theoretical but ultimately is necessary for proclamation of God’s Word noting Werner Elert’s statement that dogmatics has to do with the necessary content of the church’s proclamation if the kerygma is to be genuine Gospel, good news for Christ’s sake.
From this foundation both lecturers presented classes on the various “articles” of Christian doctrine: the inspiration, authority and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, justification and sanctification, law and Gospel, preaching as means of grace, Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, ecclesiology, eschatology, and the apologetics (faith and reason). Students were thoroughly engaged in lively and fruit class discussion.
The instructors attempted to present these topics with a view toward how pastors might teach and preach on these subjects in the African context. This meant that we spent more time on issues that are lively in Africa such as :
I am grateful to Dr. Weber for inviting us to teach this course and the many kindnesses shown to us on this trip. I’m also grateful to Dr. Jacob Corzine of the Lutheran Campus Ministry for providing me with housing and local transportation. In addition to the text books provided by Luther Academy, Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois and Immanuel Lutheran Church in Frankentrost, Michigan provided funds to purchase many new books to keep our library up to date.
God willing it, I will return to teach another two week course at LTS on August 14-25, 2017.
-Prof. John T. Pless
17 March 2017