2019 Donation Day

Today was Donation Day, which is a tradition nearly as old as the Seminary itself. Donation Day started as a way to feed the student while they were studying for full-time church work. The CTSFW Seminary Guild cares for our students through Donation Day, taking on additional student projects through donations and their membership dues, as well as using their baking and crafting skills throughout the year for birthdays, snacks during final weeks, and gifts for newly born babies.

Phyllis Thieme, the President of the Guild, opened donation day immediately after chapel with a welcome to the visitors. Eighty-one years ago, in 1938 (the year before the Guild came into being), 1,0008 registrants arrived at the Springfield Campus for Donation Day. “Since the founding of CTS in 1846, the ladies of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have always supported CTS, the students, and their families,” Mrs. Thieme said. “Let’s fast forward now to today. We may not have 1,008 registrants bringing their donations as they did back in 1938; however, the donations by the Lutheran Women Missionary League represent thousands of women who have given their donation, their support of the students here at CTS. A lot has changed since 1939, but one thing has not: the faithful giving of the many Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod women to help our future pastors and deaconesses and their families.”

Jonah Domenichelli, 4th-year and president of the Student Government Association, introduced the five LWML District Presidents who were able to make it to Donation Day. He and his wife moved to Fort Wayne with three children and now have five; they know the tension between family needs and the rigors of education very well. “Moving here, like most students and families experience, can be very stressful because you’re trying to figure out where the money’s coming from; how are you going to pay for school? How are you going to take care of your family? How are you going to take care of yourself if you’re a student by yourself?” he said. “However, we were reassured that the Lord would provide for us when we moved here. And indeed he has. We have been supported through countless student adoptions and donors like yourselves, and God is faithful. And we appreciate everything He has provided through you.”

The five LWML District Presidents in attendance were Susan Gruber (Michigan District); Barbara Kaun (Wisconsin South District); Janice Gerzevske (Northern Illinois District); Jeanne Schimmelmann (Ohio District); and Marge Gruber (Indiana District). All five brought greetings from their districts and asked that the students from their districts stand, that they might recognize them. After chapel they met with these seminarians and deaconess students in the student commons for coffee, and later each gave a short report during the afternoon meeting on their work with the Food & Clothing Co-op (generally large grants to help fund the Co-op as well as student aid and scholarships).

Dr. Paul Grime and 4th-year seminarian Jonah Domenichelli stand in the back row; the women, left to right: Marge Gruber, Susan Gruber, Jeanna Schimmelmann, Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Janice Gerzevske, Barb Kaun

“This morning is the very best way to start the day,” Mrs. Schimmelmann said in her greetings to the Seminary, “worshiping our Lord in this beautiful chapel with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As it has been said, ‘It doesn’t get better than this.’”

Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op, began her speech with another historical comparison between now and then. In 1949, ten years after the Seminary Guild started, donation day visitors donated 221 dozen eggs, 97 chickens, 5,000 quarts of home-canned goods, and $1,500 in cash donations. “But what a difference 70 years makes!” she exclaimed, before reading another set of numbers. Last year, through the support of donors, the Food Co-op provided over 2,000 dozen eggs, 4,000 pounds of Brakebush Chicken (not to mention over 2,500 pounds of cow plus 12,000 pounds of pork), over 36,000 pounds of produce, and $12,225.06 was spent at local grocery stores. “In this ever-changing world, the focus of the Guild remains the same: to care for their students and families,” she said. “As mentioned, the LWML is a large supporter of us; we can’t do this without you.”

She then had all the students stand, starting with those who hadn’t stood yet and finally asking that all students rise to their feet. “This,” she said of the standing students, “this is who you are caring for. From the students, from the faculty, from the staff—as a former student, former student wife, current staff member—from the bottom of my heart I thank you for what it is that you do for our students and their families. Thank you.”

Donation Day visitors spent time in the student commons after chapel to meet the students and families that they are supporting.

During lunch, as a treat for the ladies Deaconess Rittner had student wives (and at least one student wife who is also a seminary student herself, studying to become a deaconess) and their children held a fashion show. They wore clothes they found at the Co-op. Most of the little girls—when they weren’t feeling shy—were thrilled; the boys less so. You can view photos from the show in the pictures provided here.

Behind the scenes in the dining hall, as the families wait for their cue to come walk the floor in Luther Hall.

Lance Hoffman, Advancement Officer since 2016 and newly appointed Assistant Vice President of Operations, also spoke at the afternoon meeting. He taught at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne for 26 years before joining CTSFW. The high school is his alma mater; when he graduated from college with a teaching degree and was called back to his old school, his father was a colleague and his little brother was one of his students.

As a former history teacher and now an advancement officer serving the financial needs of CTSFW, Mr. Hoffman’s presentation married both: to effectively raise money for CTSFW, the Advancement Department has to understand both where society came from and where it’s going. “Changes in our society require changes in our strategy,” he explained.

He largely bypassed the first 100 years of CTSFW’s history (“Things are so different before that it’s almost useless to consider strategies,” he explained), and focused on the past 80 years. The post-war era from 1945-1975 was the golden age of the middle class in America. Television began replacing radio and print and everyone answered their phone and read their mail. “We’ll get to today when virtually none of this is true,” Mr. Hoffman said briefly, before returning to the post-war period. Planes and cars had replaced trains as interstate highways and airports sprung up everywhere. Synodical support was high.

Because of this, the Seminary operated on a “big net, small fish” strategy; what we would now call the Annual Fund approach. With a robust middle class (and in conjunction with modest educational costs), it worked well. With many small gifts meeting their needs, little attention was given to major gift cultivation or long term planning. “But if there’s one thing you can be sure of,” Mr. Hoffman said, “is things will always change.

“Both seminaries were blindsided by undergraduate debt. No one predicted that we would have pastoral and diaconal students coming in with $100,000 in debt,” he explained. In the 1960s a part-time job could pay for most education costs. In the 70s, the wealth gap between rich and middle class began to expand while educational costs rose almost incomprehensibly fast. “Minimum wage has not gone up 2,000% like education costs,” he said. “Times have changed and the math doesn’t add up anymore.”

“Big net, small fish” no longer works on its own. The top 10% of the nation holds 67% of the wealth and the bottom 90% the remaining 33%. Nor have communication changes been conducive to philanthropy efforts. Land lines and snail mail are fading. There are a dozen new ways to contact people (email, cell phones, social media) but in a sea of noise, that’s made it harder to be heard. There have been no major changes in transportation from 1976-2019, save for access: with private planes and 24/7 travel, people now live seasonally and the wealthy own multiple homes. National trends have affected the LCMS at all levels, especially in the difficult years in the 80s and 90s. Synod still supports her seminaries, but not in the same way financially. Both seminaries have had to become financially independent.

Many middle class donors still continue to give to their seminaries. They provide millions a year—but today that’s millions short. We have thousands of donors who give generously of their means, but we’d need thousands more to make up the difference.

This is where major gift cultivation—particularly through endowments—come into play. An endowment is a gift that can never be spent. Rather, the gift is invested and CTSFW spends a percentage of the earnings. The great advantage is that these gifts last as long as the Seminary does. Since the post-war era, CTSFW has gone from 0 in endowments to millions. “Not bad for a school our size,” Mr. Hoffman said. But: “Bad for a school our age.” Harvard, for example, has endowments in the billions. The difference is that Harvard, established in 1656, has been cultivating major gifts for hundreds of years. CTSFW didn’t start until 100 years into her history.

Chairs are another type of endowment, set up to pay for a specific professorship, as the earnings from the investment pay for that position’s salary and benefits no matter who holds it. CTSFW has five at this point, all still currently held by their original faculty recipients: Dr. James Bushur in The Carl and Erna Weinrich Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Church Studies chair; Dr. Cameron MacKenzie in The Forrest E. and Frances H. Ellis Professor of German Reformation Studies chair; Prof. Robert Roethemeyer in The Wakefield-Kroemer Director of Library and Information Services chair; Dr. David Scaer in The David P. Scaer Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology chair; and Dr. Roland Ziegler in The Robert D. Preus Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Lutheran Studies chair. These will be passed on as these men retire and new faculty take their place.

The Advancement strategy, according to Mr. Hoffman, is clear: “Blending the tried and true with the new.” We need both those who give major gifts and those who give according to their more modest means. And that doesn’t yet take into account the generosity that comes to our students in the form of home congregation gifts, student adoptions, and the Co-ops. There’s also the additional projects, like the recent renovations to W8 and L7 (the campus was only 20 years old when CTS first moved onto the grounds but now the infrastructure is 65 years old and starting to show it), the capital campaign for the library expansion project, and, in 2018, the introduction of the 100% tuition grant for full-time residential pastoral and diaconal students.

“You’ll note,” Mr. Hoffman said. “I didn’t say ‘free.’” A seminarian may no longer be responsible for his tuition (though he’s certainly expected—and is required to promise—that he will help by applying for scholarships and aid), but someone’s certainly paying for it: the Body of Christ. The Church cares for her future pastors and deaconesses.

This is important, not only because it meets the modern challenge of the educational debt crisis, but because we need church workers. Enrollment is down at both seminaries, as is church worker enrollment in the Concordia University System. Take into account that 50% of pastors in the LCMS are over the age of 55, and in the next 10 years we’ll lose 3,000 pastors to retirement. (Though perhaps slightly later, Mr. Hoffman conceded: “Pastors are a weird breed,” he said to laughter, “They don’t often retire at normal retirement age.”). Our two seminaries are currently producing only about 100 new pastors a year; or, 1,000 new pastors over the 10 years.

Mr. Hoffman’s solution: “Give us the students. We’ll figure out the money.”

And we remember this too: the need is urgent, but not desperate. With the Lord of all—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—on our side, we can never be desperate. But we can ask ourselves what we can do where He has placed us. Some of us give financially, some of us choose to go into church work, still others serve as the voice that asks her grandson, or his neighbor, or our friend if he has ever thought of becoming a pastor.

“The seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how,” (Mark 4:27). The Lord of the harvest grows His kingdom and commands that we pray to Him for laborers. May we do so cheerfully and boldly, knowing we can trust His promises.

100 Years of Deaconesses

Today, September 17, 2019, we celebrate 100 years and one month of deaconesses in the LCMS:

The roots of the office of deaconess go back to the first two verses of Romans 16, when Paul commends to the saints at Rome “our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae…for she has been a patron of many and of myself.”

Some 1,800 years after Paul wrote this letter to the Romans, Lutheran deaconesses in Germany were bringing aid to widows, orphans, and the sick and disadvantaged in response to the hardships that arose from the industrial revolution. These trained church workers particularly cared for women in distress, serving in girls’ schools, hospitals, homes for the mentally ill, and in training schools for teachers and deaconesses. Today, deaconesses function in much the same roles: as nurses, social workers, and parish assistants to pastors in a congregation.

However, when the LCMS came into being in Chicago in 1847, though the new Synod was well aware of the work of deaconesses from reports back in Germany, they were wary of doctrinal issues and cautious about beginning a training program on new soil. Some had accused (not always wrongly) deaconesses of being a copy of the Roman Catholic nuns, while others feared that training female diaconate would bring unbiblical ideas and practices into the Church.

For decades, the LCMS essentially left the issue alone. Each congregation cared for the needs of their own flocks, though as populations and need grew they began banding together into welfare societies and institutes that served wider geographic areas. In 1904, the Associated Lutheran Charities brought together every synodical agency involved in charity work and convened for their first convention. By 1908, a couple of pastors in the association noted that other Christian denominations used trained deaconesses to great advantage, and began the conversation of how to secure trained deaconesses for the Lutheran church. The suggested answer: “Why not begin the training of deaconesses for our work?”

Synod was not immediately enthusiastic. Though they recognized the gifts and talents of women in mercy work, officially recognizing a female diaconate and training deaconesses for service remained controversial because of the history of doctrinal issues associated with the role. In 1911, Rev. Herzberger, the first urban missionary installed in Missouri (and one of the pastors in the 1908 conversation), addressed Synod at Convention, hoping for their blessing on the creation of a Deaconess Home. He said (in part):

“We emphasize that this be a Lutheran Deaconess home. The representatives and supporters of this Lutheran Deaconess Home do not want it to be from the unbiblical Deaconess existence such as found in the days among the “schwaermer” schismatic and pseudo Lutherans who would have nothing more than a Protestant nunnery…

“What motivated the representatives of this conference to plan such a Deaconess Home is not because of business or to look for something new, but because of a crying need of the many places that desire such Deaconess ministry. Our Lutheran hospitals and boarding schools especially desire them. How greatly feminine care makes itself felt. Often it is difficult to obtain such a woman leader (head nurse) or Director in our Institutions.”

Synod didn’t reject the idea of the home, but neither did they give it their blessing. The committee that responded to the matter recommended that Synod not take the existence of the Deaconess matter into their own hands though a synodical committee should oversee and safeguard any such program from “getting out of hand.” The committee also requested “that Synod promise this establishment in the Lutheran—that is Biblical spirit—from the beginning and while in operation. Since Deaconesses, especially in our times, would find a blessed circle of activities in the hospital, in city missions as care givers for the sick and the poor in our congregations, in our mission to the heathen, being recognized as care givers they could bear witness to the Gospel in the course of their service of mercy.”

Four months later, Rev. Herzberger expounded on the scriptural and historical basis of a confessional Lutheran diaconate. Only notes from the presentation, written down by a pastor in attendance (the Rev. Herman Bernard Kohlmeier), remain. Seven alphabetized points summarized Rev. Herzberger’s main arguments, three of which were:

A. There is only one divinely instituted office, the holy ministry. All other offices are auxiliary offices, and may be established, changed, abrogated by the church as she deems best for her welfare.

B. The office of the female diaconate is such an office. It flourished in the early Christian church, lost its character, however, and disappeared under popery, and has been re-established in some parts of Christendom in our time.

E. It is not implied that deaconesses are a special spiritual order in the church, nor serving in the ministry. Scripture bars women from the office of the ministry but they can exercise the right and obligations of the priesthood of believers. Therefore deaconesses give instruction, admonition, comfort of Scriptures as the situation requires.

The presentation kept the discussion alive in Lutheran circles for the next eight years, while Rev. Herzberger (and others with the Associated Lutheran Charities) wrote letters to the presidents of districts and Synods affiliated with the Synodical Conference. These men began to express their support for a deaconess training school. In 1918/19, Rev. Herzberger wrote a tract on “Woman’s Work in the Church,” expanding on these points:

“So we learn direct from Scripture [earlier in the tract he referenced Romans 16:1 and 2 as well as the saintly widows in 1 Tim. 5:9 and 10] that it was customary for the congregations in times of the Apostles to employ women workers! They were servants of the particular congregation in which they labored and were under the jurisdiction of the local congregation and assistants of the pastor or bishop. It is of the highest importance to remember that fact that the female diaconate is an auxiliary office of the Holy Ministry…there is but ONE divinely created office in the Church viz. the office of the Holy Ministry. The pastor is exclusively THE teacher, THE shepherd and overseer of his congregation and will have to give an account to God for his stewardship. (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-3; Hebrews 13:17). Because of that fact all other offices in the Church are but human ordinances. They can and ought to be created as exigency and the welfare of the local congregations demands. But they must all have their root in the divinely appointed Ministry and stand in vital relation to it…

“The Apostle Peter tells us emphatically, I Peter 3:7: “that Christian women are heirs together with the men of the grace of life” and hence, they belong to that “chosen generation and royal priesthood” of which he speaks in his second chapter, “who are to show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.” On account of their SPIRITUAL PRIESTHOOD women have the same call to labor in the Church of Christ that Christian men have. There is but one limitation—imposed by the Lord of the harvest Himself—they are not to preach the Gospel in public worship [I Cor. 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:11-14)…

“Our sorrow grows greater when we think of the many opportunities we miss for winning souls for Christ because of our NEGLECT in training and supporting gifted and pious women in our midst for missionary and charitable work. The World War may be over, but the sad conditions it has created in all ranks of society are not over! If ever the Church of Christ was called upon to bend every effort for the saving and uplifting of redeemed souls that time is NOW!”

Diaconal service grows from the mercy so richly poured out on undeserving sinners. “Mercy is central to who God is, as evidenced in the Father’s compassionate giving of His Son, in Christ’s bearing of our sins, and His sacrificial work on the cross for us, and in the faith-creating and sustaining work of the Spirit,” Associate Director of the Deaconess Formation Programs at CTSFW, Deaconess Amy Rast, would write nearly a hundred years later. “Mercy is a way of life for God’s people, as they respond to His mercy in faith toward Him and in love toward one another. Therefore, mercy is central to the life of a deaconess as she attends to physical needs, shares God’s Word, teaches the faith, encourages believers in the Christian life, consoles the suffering, confronts the sinning, and tells the Good News of salvation. CTSFW Deaconesses teach, reach, and care—and that is a life of mercy.”

Years of writing letters, giving presentations, and persistently teaching the Biblical basis of the role of women in the Church and their work as members of the royal priesthood met with success. One hundred years and one month ago, on August 17, 1919, the Lutheran Deaconess Association was formed at a meeting held at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne. Diaconal training in the LCMS had begun.


Today’s history lessons was summarized with quotes ransacked (save for the quote from Deaconess Rast) from the first chapter of “In the Footsteps of Phoebe” by Cheryl D. Naumann (CPH, 2009).

The Seminary Guild’s 80th Donation Day

In a booklet for the 35th year of the Concordia Seminary Guild, 1974-1975, there is a note that reads:

“Concordia Seminary Guild was organized in February 1939 for the purpose of promoting the annual Donation Day and to further any other projects to materially aid the Seminary that the Synod could not provide.”

Meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month from October to May, excluding January, in Selcke Lounge.

The meetings are now held the second Tuesday of each month from September to April (still excluding January), but in Luther Hall at the Fort Wayne campus where the ladies begin with a devotion and a keynote presentation from a staff or faculty member before getting down to business. This month’s business is the same one for which they were formed: Donation Day.

Phyllis Thieme, president of the guild, addresses the 2018 Donation Day visitors.

This year’s Donation Day is coming up on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the 80th year of the Seminary Guild’s existence. Donation Day precedes the formation of the Seminary Guild by many years, but is directly responsible for it. As food and board costs rose for seminarians in the 1930s, the 1938 Donations Day Committee chairman, Mrs. Baepler, floated the idea of forming a new society to meet these needs. They held the first meeting of the Seminary Guild less than four months later, on February 1, 1939. Seventy-five women attended.

In the Guild’s 10th anniversary year, the Donations Day Committee reported record-breaking donations: 5,000 quarts of home-canned goods; 221 dozen eggs; 97 chickens; 57 pounds of lard; 50 pumpkins and squash; 106 bushels of potatoes; and cash donations totaling $1,500.

By the Guild’s 25th year of existence, the stereotypical seminarian had changed from young, single men (not allowed to date nor become engaged until after graduation) to second-career students, many married with children. Plans for a Student Adoption Program began. The Seminary Guild opened the first food and clothing banks for the students.

Their efforts thrived: last year, the CTSFW Food & Clothing Co-op fed 435 students and their family members, boasting even greater numbers of donations given over the 2018-2019 academic year through their generous supporters: 36,296 pounds of fresh produce; 626 pounds of hamburger (plus two and a half butchered cows, yielding an additional 2,159 pounds); 12,398 pounds of pork; 4,000 pounds of Brakebush Brothers Chicken; 6,000 pounds of food from the local food pantry; 500 dozen local farm eggs; 2,741 gallons and 878 pints of milk; and $12,225.06 spent at local grocery stores.

Through the support of local and national donors, many of them backed, encouraged, and promoted by our LWML sisters, the Seminary Guild and the entire wider community of the Church continues to feed, clothe, and care for her students.

All are welcome to join us in this endeavor. To learn more about the items that are in particular need at this time, to view the schedule for Donation Day on October 8, or to register for the annual gathering, CLICK HERE. You can also register by emailing [email protected] and paying the $15 fee (which includes lunch) when you come to campus for the day. RSVPs are due in two weeks, on September 27.

If distance prevents your presence, join us in prayer, in support, or as an associate member of the Guild. You can learn more about their work at www.ctsfw.edu/SemGuild.

Deaconess Katherine Rittner, Director of the Food & Clothing Co-op.

The historical information referenced in this article was discovered in the archives of the Seminary Guild, from the article “Through the Years…Guild helps students through thick and thin,” by Dorothy Klug. You can read the original article by clicking on the title. Written in 1992 and republished for use in a fundraising project in 1995, a year before the Seminary’s 150th anniversary, today’s article is written a year before the Seminary’s 175th anniversary. “We strive,” wrote Seminary Guild member Bonnie Hazen in September 1995, “to assist the seminary with the training of men for the holy ministry.”

May we strive to do the same. Thanks be to God.

The Seminary Guild and Disruptions in the LCMS

Rev. Fundum leads devotion.

The 2019/2020 academic year marks the 174th year of our existence, but it owns another significant milestone: it is the 80th anniversary year of the Seminary Guild. Yesterday was the first monthly meeting of the academic year for the women who work so tirelessly to support our students. Formed in 1939 in response to rising food and board costs, their support has been ongoing for 80 years.

Rev. Jim Fundum, admission counselor at CTSFW and spiritual advisor to the Guild, opened the meeting with a devotion, using Scripture passages that reference 80 years. Moses came up (he was 80 when God called to him from the burning bush) as did Barzillai from 2 Samuel 19 (verse 32, “Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old,” began the reading, but Rev. Fundum had to stop at this point in the verse as the Seminary Guild women in their 80s had a good laugh over the description). He finished with Psalm 90:10: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”

But Psalm 90 does not end there. Verse 12: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” and at the last, in verse 17: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”

“That’s why you’re here, serving the Guild,” Rev. Fundum said. “He establishes the work of the Seminary Guild’s hands.”

President of the Guild, Phyllis Thieme, sits in the foreground of this shot as they study God’s Word.

Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr., President of CTSFW, served as yesterday’s keynote speaker. A historian first and foremost, Dr. Rast spoke of the Guild in the context of church history, particularly that of the Lutherans in America, focusing around the three major “disruptions” that rocked the Synod’s history. These are times when all seems to be in flux. “We as a church body, as a seminary, as congregations, find ourselves in situations that are unique,” Dr. Rast explained. “We experience things we have never experienced before, that threaten to derail our work.”

These disruptions are a reality of the fact that we are a member of the church militant. “’Their span is but toil and trouble,’” Dr. Rast quoted, calling back to Psalm 90.

Yet through those disruptions, through the toil and trouble, next academic year CTSFW will celebrate 175 years of existence, grown from a class of 11 students in October of 1846. The following year, our entire church body will celebrate another 175th anniversary: that of the LCMS. “That really is something,” Dr. Rast said. “One hundred and seventy-five years. God continues to bless us.”

Lutheranism in North America officially set foot on the continent 400 years ago this month. A few days into September of 1619, Lutheran Danes attempting to find a route to China got stuck in Hudson Bay. Realizing that winter would soon set in, on September 7 they decided to make camp at what is now Churchill, Manitoba; an area famous (though unknown to the 66 sailors onboard their ship at the time) for polar bears. Their Lutheran pastor, Rasmus Jensen, held the first Lutheran services on the continent. Of the 66, three men survived the winter (Rev. Jensen not among them), most dead of scurvy or lead poisoning. The survivors returned to Denmark.

Nearly 250 years later, the LCMS formed on April 26, 1847, in Chicago. At the time, there were dozens of Lutheran synods. So why begin another?

When the LCMS started in 1847 as Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten, the “Deutsche” (“German”) was inclusive, not exclusive. Germany didn’t exist and wouldn’t until 1871. German speakers hailed from across Europe, from many smaller states and regions that fall under entirely different countries now. The first-generation of Dr. Rast’s family in America spoke German and are listed in the US census as either Prussians or Russians. Though that particular geographic area is now in the middle of Poland, the family remains emphatic: “NEVER Poland,” Dr. Rast insisted, laughing.

In 1847, including all German speakers was an important part of the church’s outreach strategy. Into the early part of the 20th century, Lutherans were the most ethnically diverse denomination in America. It wasn’t just the Saxon church or the Prussian church; it was the church for all German speakers. The language was central to the Lutheran church’s identity.

However, by 1917, that became a liability: WWI had begun. The “German” in “German Lutheran” was suddenly dangerous. For example, Dr. Rast’s vicarage church, Immanuel Lutheran in Terre Haute, Indiana, originally had a school. But in 1918, the school was forcibly closed when the town grabbed the school’s only teacher and threatened to tar and feather him for, as they claimed, “Teaching the children to be German spies.” He escaped tarring and feathering, but was driven from town. Immanuel Lutheran hasn’t had a school since. In Nebraska, new state laws demanded that the German Lutherans stop teaching in German. The Lutheran church fought the law on legal grounds, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. They won. “And then stopped using German a couple of years later,” Dr. Rast finished with a laugh.

Dr. Rast asked the women of the Seminary Guild to imagine how the transition, pressed on them by outside forces out of their control, must have felt to the founders and first generation. Their children were bilingual, many of whom favored English over their parent’s native tongue, but for that first generation of immigrants, German was their heart language.

By 1938, the LCMS had officially stopped using German as the Synod’s official language. “It was almost a non-event,” Dr. Rast said. In 1917, Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten dropped “Deutsche” from their name and thought that would be enough. It was not. In 1921, they officially adopted the English translation: “The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States.” Seventeen years later, at the 1938 Synod Convention in St. Louis, a delegate got up and suggested they no longer keep minutes in German.

Another delegate seconded, and that was it. “In 20 years,” Dr. Rast pointed out, “they went from a German Church to an American Church.”

The Seminary Guild came into existence in 1939, less than a year after Synod officially dropped German from their minutes and during CTSFW’s Springfield days. The Fort Wayne Seminary had already moved twice at that point, first to St. Louis in 1861 to study alongside their sister seminary (reputedly to keep their students from being drafted into the union army, “But I suspect that was just a smokescreen,” Dr. Rast added as an aside. “The frugal Germans wanted to save money. Two seminaries, one faculty.”), then to Springfield in 1875. Between the two seminaries they had run out of room and Concordia Theological Seminary decided to move to Milwaukee.

It was a practical choice: the area was filled with Lutherans and Lutheran churches, which offered plenty of fieldwork opportunities for their students. However, at almost the last moment they received an unbelievable deal in Springfield instead. The city had only one Lutheran church, but the campus and grounds were basically given to Synod. The frugal Germans were pleased. They taught seminarians in Springfield for 100 years, until Concordia Theological Seminary moved back to Fort Wayne in 1976.

Dr. Rast points out the Seminary Guild sign, recently discovered in the archives of the Seminary–meaning, he explained with a laugh, that it had likely been found and dug out of a closet.

The year that the Seminary Guild formed in 1939, the Wizard of Oz had premiered in Hollywood (asbestos served as the snow in the poppy field scene), the Girls Scouts sold Thin Mints for the first time (then known as Cooky Mints), and on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland; Britain and France would declare war a couple of days later. The longest-serving president of the Synod had recently begun his first term in 1935 (he would remain in office until 1962), just as WWII would bring a second wave of anti-German sentiment to America.

Known as one-eyed Jack (an accident with a baseball had robbed him of an eye when he was a child), the Rev. Dr. John Behnken was the first truly bilingual president. He was American-born and preferred English. Dr. Rast’s connection with Dr. Behnken is even more personal: One-eyed Jack (then serving as a District President) introduced his grandfather to his grandmother. Dr. Behnken asked two sisters to sing a duet at the young Rev. Rast’s ordination service, then gave this sage advice to the new graduate: “Choose one.”

He chose Edith. Then, twenty years later, the former district president found a place for one of their sons at Concordia River Forest. The young music teacher met a Chicago undergraduate. “My mother,” Dr. Rast explained. “I owe Dr. Behnken my life, not just once but twice.”

With these stories always come the “What if?” What if he’d missed the train? What if he’d worked somewhere else? What if Dr. Behnken hadn’t asked two sisters to sing a duet? “You all have stories like these,” Dr. Rast said to the women of the Seminary Guild. “Stories end up fitting together, working together. The Lord has put all these pieces together.” He has done so in the small, personal matters; He has done so through the disruptions that have shaken the LCMS throughout her history; He has done so on the cross, where justice and mercy at last met one dark Friday afternoon.

Dr. Rast’s concluding point: 80 years is something to celebrate, as is the ongoing impact of the Seminary Guild to the Seminary’s mission. “It’s huge!” he declared. The Seminary Guild serves in “small” ways. They provide snacks for the students during finals week, birthday cookies for the single students, homemade t-shirts and booties for the newborns, furniture projects in student services, a book project for the new students during fieldwork assignments, and the annual donation day to support the work of the Food & Clothing Co-op. “We can’t qualify [these tasks] from this side of heaven,” Dr. Rast said. Only when we step back—and perhaps only when we finally step back into eternity—will we see how the puzzle pieces all fit together, according to God’s good will and purpose and promises.

Members of the Guild register for the first meeting of the year. Deaconess Amy Rast (in black), Dr. Rast’s wife, greets the ladies.

From 1932-1962, the LCMS doubled in size from one to two million. This is not the trend we see today; we too are living through significant disruption as the world howls in hostility at the inerrant Word of God. “We remember the really good days, always,” Dr. Rast said. But the reality is that the golden years were probably not as golden as we imagine. “Don’t pine for a past that probably never was.”

Instead, we are simply called to be faithful. And so we pray Psalm 90, the only psalm attributed to Moses, a man of God whose life began, in many ways, at 80:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

Wyneken’s Journey Continues

Here is more from our librarian, Rev. Bob Smith’s, series covering the missionary work of Friedrich Wyneken, before the formation of the Seminary or the Synod. From the post:

“It broke [Wyneken’s] heart to have to ignore the many pleas to come and prepare children for confirmation and to meet many desperate needs. He could see whole villages sinking back into paganism. On his longer trips, sometimes four to six weeks from home, Wyneken had to depart settlement after settlement, sick with the knowledge that not even a survey missionary would minister in these places for the next few years. He could only promise to return from time to time and tell them of his many letters to Germany, begging for help.”

Friedrich Wyneken wrote the famous “Notruf,” or “The Cry of Need” (or even “Emergency Call”), which eventually spurred the faithful answer from Germany, who sent America her young men, still training to become pastors. You can see where Wyneken’s desperation came from as you read through his missionary journey in the Indiana area:

whatdoesthismean.blog/2019/01/29/friedrich-wynekens-far-flung-parish

Concordia Seminary History

Concordia Theological Seminary

This great article from the Sangamon County Historical Society tackles a subject dear to our hearts: the Concordia Seminary campus when it was in Springfield, Illinois. There’s a photo of the dedication of Luther’s statue (one of the largest items that moved with us to Fort Wayne), and a rather entertaining rundown on the strictly frugal Rev. Friedrich August Craemer, president of the Seminary when it moved to Springfield in the 1870s.

(Plus the bonus line: “Students were finally allowed to have automobiles on campus in 1941, but even then only under the condition that they ‘were not to be used to cart girls around.’”)

Wyneken’s Journey Continues

It’s been awhile since we checked back with Friedrich Wyneken, missionary pastor to Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, who was so instrumental to the formation of CTSFW. We’ve missed a couple of 180 year anniversaries of his missionary journey into and around Fort Wayne.

On October 2, 1838, Wyneken reported on a cholera epidemic, devastating the people: “On the whole, from a human point of view, the time in which I traveled was an unfortunate time to work for God’s kingdom. Sickness raged everywhere. Often I entered a town where not one house was without a sick person: In many homes, everyone was sick, so that often my gatherings were very small.”

The congregations that gathered to hear him were small, struggling with sickness and in need of organization. A couple of weeks later he visited an area where the German settlers “belonged to no church.” Wyneken tracked them down at the taverns, dragging them by verbal argument to an evening worship service, after which he lectured them into agreeing to gather in prayer on Sundays.

His journey took him along the Wabash-Erie canal and the present rout of US 12. Six weeks of traveling throughout northern Indiana and South Central Michigan to determine where congregations could be gathered and begun, he finally returned to Fort Wayne on November 16, 1838.

At that time he was told (via letter) by the Mission Society who had sent him to accept the call as pastor at St. Paul’s here in Fort Wayne and to simultaneously remain a missionary. At that point Wyneken knew it was too much work for one man, and suggested they find and call more preachers to the area, asking that he be dismissed from missionary service. Wyneken would spend that Advent and Christmas in the area, but only because his horse was lame.

It would be another 7-8 years before formal classes began for the Seminary in Fort Wayne, but you can see where Wyneken’s understanding of the deep need of the Lutherans in American started. In 1842 he would visit Germany and write the “Notruf” (“The Distress of the German Lutherans in North America”), which directly led to the formation of the LCMS and CTSFW as the practical seminary to help meet the desperate need of the German settlers. They were spiritually starving, and the laborers were too few.

This image created by Concordia Historical Institute (and held in their collection) was likely painted at Lesum, Germany in 1842. Friedrich Wyneken was on his famous tour of Germany–where he wrote the Notruf–to raise funds and recruit pastors for America.

This information gathered from the following posts, written by one of our librarians, Rev. Robert Smith. To read more about Wyneken’s missionary work in detail, go to:

Friedrich Wyneken’s Missionary Journey

Wyneken Heads South to the Wabash

Friedrich Wyneken Returns to Fort Wayne

Saarinen’s Legacy

Professor Roethemeyer, Director of our library and Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions, was invited to participate in a National Symposium on Design, Community, and Preservation in Columbus, Indiana, on September 27-28. A highlight for him was the opportunity to meet and interact with Eero Saarinen’s son and daughter, Eric and Susan. Professor Roethemeyer is pictured to the right of the Saarinen siblings at North Christian Church in Columbus, a church designed by their father.

Though most famous as the architect of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, we know Eero Saarinen more familiarly as the designer of our own award-winning Concordia campus. Dedicated sixty years ago on May 20, 1958, our chapel is one of five sacred buildings designed by the Saarinen family. Eliel Saarinen (Eero’s father) designed First Christian Church in Columbus, IN, dedicated in 1942, and Christ Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN in 1949. Eero also designed a church (North Christian Church in Columbus, IN in 1964, where this picture was taken) as well as two chapels: one at MIT in Cambridge, MA in 1955 and the other our own Kramer Chapel at Concordia Senior College (now CTSFW) in 1958.
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The two chapels by Eero are notable for their simplicity of design. The chapel at MIT is in the shape of a cylinder, giving us architecturally the circle and theologically eternity. The chapel at CTSFW is architecturally a triangle and theologically symbolizes the Trinity.
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Art, design, and creativity continues to run in the family. Eric Saarinen is a cinematographer and film director. He is the director of photography and co-producer of the award-winning documentary, “Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future.” Released this past December in the PBS American Masters series, the documentary explores the life and visionary work of Finnish-American modernist architectural giant Eero Saarinen. Now Eric is working on a documentary project that explores the work of his grandfather, Eliel Saarinen.
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Susan Saarinen is an artist, designer, and artisan comfortable working in many different media. She holds degrees in Fine Arts (weaving and ceramics) and Landscape Architecture. Her firm, Saarinen Landscape Architecture, concentrates on environmentally appropriate projects. She is presently writing her memoirs.‍‍‍‍‍‍ ‍‍


(With thanks to Professor Roethemeyer for writing today’s post.)

ILC Conference: Rast Presentation

President Rast presented at the International Lutheran Council (ILC) World Conference today in Antwerp, Belgium. This morning the ILC welcomed seventeen new church bodies into membership, ten from Africa, three from Europe, and four from Asia, bringing the total number of church bodies in the ILC to 54, now representing 7.15 million Lutherans.
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The ILC Executive Secretary, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver who is also Director of Church Relations in the LCMS and Assistant to President Harrison, introduced the conference theme of “Ecclesiology and Ecumenism,” followed by our own Dr. Roland Ziegler (Professor of Systematic Theology and Confessional Lutheran Studies here at CTSFW).
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President Rast later spoke on the topic “Turning Points: A History of the Fellowship Issue in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.” Papers from the World Conference will be published on the ILC website in October and rumor has it that there may be an audio recording available of President Rast’s presentation. However, as these are not yet available (we will let you know here on our Facebook page once we have links to share), the following is a small excerpt from his presentation:
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“[In the 1800s, America] was a radically “churched” culture and becoming more so all the time. In this peculiar context, so different than the one that we face today, first allow me to say what the Missouri Synod’s purpose was not. The LCMS was NOT formed to establish the truth of Christianity. For most Americans in 1847, Christianity was the true religion and its Bible was the Word of God. As such, Missouri was relieved of the burden of making arguments for Christianity’s truthfulness. Rather, what was thrust upon it and what it took up willingly and vigorously was to establish the superiority of the Lutheran confession among the various confessions of the churches. And then beyond that to demonstrate the superiority of its doctrinal understanding and practical application of the Lutheran Confessions among the myriad of Lutheran synods in the United States.
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“My point is this: we have struggled, are struggling, and will continue to struggle with the implementation of biblical truth within rapidly changing historical contexts. That has always been the Church’s problem and it will continue so to be until our Lord returns. What this small study hopes to do is to locate a portion of that tension in the question regarding church fellowship. It is perspectival and does not pretend to be exhaustive. It simply seeks to offer an overview with a few explicit examples of how the Synod has faced its ‘turning points.’”
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He then presented the following turning points:

1. Coming to America
2. Forming the LCMS
3. Working Toward Confessional Lutheran Union
4. Picking Up the Pieces after the Predestination Controversy
5. Riding the Ecumenical Roller Coaster
6. We have Met the Enemy…
7. Quo Vadis Missouri?
8. (Also titled Turning Point #?) What’s Next?
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President Rast concluded:
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“The [LCMS] was from its beginning committed…to unity in the truth. Church unity is bound to unity in doctrine and is possible because of the theological unity, which has its basis in the complete truthfulness and clarity of Scripture. False teaching…and false teachers have to be avoided. On this, there is agreement throughout the history of the LCMS. But there is also significant difference of opinion on how to carry that out. Too often we claim a simple historical consensus on the part of Missouri Synod on this question. The reality, not surprisingly, is far more complicated. It is always that way in families and, I expect, it will be that way until our Lord returns. For our part, we live in the here and now with hope and expectation, always relying on the mercy of our gracious God, who has provided salvation for us in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
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You can learn more about the ILC (and especially this conference, including the new member churches), on their news page at https://ilc-online.org/news/.

180th Anniversary: Wyneken’s Journey

It’s another 180th year anniversary in the life of Friedrich Wyneken, the Seminary’s first president. On September 20, 1838, the then-missionary reached the settlement of Friedheim (near Decatur, IN). From the writings of our electronic resources librarian (and historian), Rev. Robert E. Smith:

“The first German he met in Indiana received the missionary with suspicion. ‘If you are an honest pastor, then go to that house over there. A very sick man lies in it,” the woodman challenged. ‘If you are something else, like most pastors coming from Germany, then go over there to the rich wagonmaker!’ ‘Nevertheless, I’d love to see the sick man first,’ Wyneken quipped and then carried through. At this sick man’s home, he learned of Karl Friedrich Buuck, the leader of Jesse Hoover’s Adams County congregation and the pastor’s future father-in-law.”

As was his habit, Wyneken stayed in the area some days to minister to the people there before moving on to Fort Wayne and New Haven. The Wabash-Erie Canal (which made Fort Wayne a focal point in the nationwide water transportation system — in fact you can still walk along the remains of the canal, which serves as a popular bike and walking trail near the Seminary — and thus a good home base for Wyneken who had been assigned the task of surveying Indiana and its ministerial needs) had been completed to Logansport, IN only the year before.

To learn more about this leg in Wyneken’s missionary journey into Indiana, go to https://whatdoesthismean.blog/2018/09/20/friedrich-wyneken-in-indiana.