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.