STM-Gothenburg Program: Its History and First Graduates

Dr. Masaki is currently overseas in Europe, teaching classes on the theology of the Lutheran Confessions at the Old Latin School in Wittenberg. He is there as a part of the International Lutheran Council’s Lutheran Leadership Development Program, with students ranging from pastors to presidents to bishops and general secretaries, from the Lutheran Churches in Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Madagascar.

While there, Dr. Masaki also had the chance to attend the first graduation exercises of the STM-Gothenburg program, a joint labor of the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg (FFG, which comes from the Swedish name “Församlingsfakulteten”) and CTSFW. The program takes four years to complete on a part-time basis, allowing the students to both pursue advanced study and continue serving the Church and their congregations as pastors.

“Very proud of our first fruits, Rev. Janne Koskela of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland (ELMDF), Romans Kurpnieks of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL), and Rev. Hannu Mikkonen of ELMDF,” Dr. Masaki wrote on his Facebook page. “It was a great celebration! A wonderful day! Again, congratulation, Janne, Romans, and Hannu!!”

Top row, left to right: Dr. Masaki and Rev. Romans Kurpnieks
Bottom row, left to right: Rev. Janne Koskela and Rev. Hannu Mikkonen
(Photo courtesy Rev. Konstantin Subbotin.)

Christopher C. Barnekov, PhD, of the Scandinavian House Fort Wayne (which helps graduate students from Scandinavia study at CTSFW by providing low cost room and board), followed up with an article on the history of the program and the great need–and incredible remnant of confessional Lutherans–in the Nordic and Baltic regions, as well as in Eastern Europe. A slightly shortened version was uploaded to the main CTSFW page, but you can read his full, original article here:

The graduates, LSTG faculty and board, and CTSFW faculty on the steps in front of the LSTG house. In no particular order: Rune Imberg, Jakob Appell, Timo Laato, Torbjörn Johansson, Roland Gustafsson, Frederik Brosche, Daniel Johansson, Patrik Toräng, Romans Kurpnieks, Bengt Birgersson, and Janne Koskela. Three of our own are among them: Drs. Masaki, Nordling, and Ziegler. (Photo and description originally shared by Dr. Masaki on Facebook.)

The first three graduates of CTSFW’s STM Extension Program in Gothenburg, Sweden, received their degrees in a special ceremony in Gothenburg on Sunday, February 24. Two pastors from Finland and one from Latvia were the first to complete all the requirements, with several more expected to finish over the next year. The program began in 2014 as a joint effort of CTSFW and the Lutheran School of Theology in Gothenburg (LSTG).

The STM Extension was organized at the request of LSTG to meet an urgent need in the Nordic and Baltic regions for advanced theological training on a confessional Lutheran foundation. The former state churches in the Nordic region have succumbed to liberal theology and reaped empty pews, with average attendance below two percent and the percentage of babies baptized dropping steadily. The STM program largely serves confessional movements, several of which joined the International Lutheran Council last fall. In the Baltic region, the STM Extension serves the Lutheran churches recovering from the devastation wreaked during decades of Soviet occupation.

What was totally unexpected, however, is that many students are also coming from Eastern Europe, from as far as Russia, Ukraine, and Romania. The LCMS Office of International Mission has found this program extremely helpful for their efforts supporting confessional Lutheran churches in this region. So have sister churches such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. As a result, this extension that originally hoped to attract seven or eight students now has about 24 from nine different countries.

Dr. Ziegler (middle) with Rev. Appell (left), who serves both local congregation Immanuel Lutheran as well as LSTG, at a restaurant celebrating the graduates’ achievements. (Photo courtesy Rev. Janne Koskela.)

The program is offered through three one week “Intensives” per year, normally taught in Gothenburg. Each year CTSFW faculty teach two courses and LSTG faculty teach one. The CTSFW faculty who have taught in Gothenburg thus far include Dr. Naomichi Masaki, the STM Program Director in both Fort Wayne and in Gothenburg, and Professors Rast, Gieschen, Ziegler, and Pless. Dr. Roland Ziegler is teaching a course on Justification this week.

The Gothenburg Extension came about because it was becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly difficult for young pastors to leave their families and their parishes to spend five quarters in Fort Wayne. Yet the need for advanced study was so great that LSTG asked CTSFW to consider an extension. The format of the program, with three one-week sessions per year (and much work before and after the classes), makes it possible for these pastors to attend. With solid support from the CTSFW Administration and Regents, CTSFW has been able to say, “Yes!”

The program is funded by several LCMS congregations and individuals through the “Bo Giertz Fund,” named after the late bishop of Gothenburg best known in America for his novel, The Hammer of God. This fund has so far been able to cover operating costs for both schools, as well as tuition and fees for students from the Nordic and Baltic regions.  The LCMS Office of International Mission supports the Eastern European students, and several Nordic foundations help Nordic and Baltic students with travel expenses. A local congregation of the Swedish Mission Province, Immanuel, provides lodging for the students. It is noteworthy that the Pastor of this congregation is The Rev. Jakob Appell and its President is The Rev. Dr. Daniel Johansson … both of whom earned their STM degrees at CTSFW, as have several other leaders of the confessional movement in the Nordic lands.

For information about donating to the Bo Giertz Fund, contact the Advancement Office at [email protected] or by calling (877) 287-4338.