Update on Our Seminary Program

“God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the Word of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:19).

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In these words of the Apostle Paul given by inspiration of God, in this blessed sedes doctrinae or Scripture prooftext, we find the clear, concise and indisputable doctrine of objective justification set forth for our comfort and assurance, including the efficient cause of it in the vicarious atonement of our Savior and the result of God’s unilateral reconciliation of sinful mankind unto Himself, namely, that He does not impute men’s sins unto them, having already imputed them to and punished them in Christ.  “The Word of reconciliation,” the glad tidings of this Gospel, God has “committed unto us” to proclaim in all the world, that all men might repent and believe it, and thus have for themselves the blessings of redemption and justification unto salvation.

This was really the sum and substance of our work this year in the chief courses of our third year curriculum.  Professor Robert J. Lietz taught Dogmatics III, which covered the doctrines of Soteriology (including the proclamation of divine pardon for Christ’s sake in the Means of Grace, the creation of faith by which the sinner accepts and receives the blessings of salvation, and sanctification which follows faith as the result and effect of justification), Saving Faith, Conversion to Faith, and Justification by Faith.  He also taught Symbolics I, the confessions of the Lutheran Church from the Ecumenical Creeds through the Smalcald Articles —which also centered chiefly upon the doctrines taught in the Dogmatics course.  Professor Mensing taught Church History II, specifically the history of the Lutheran Reformation, in which the doctrines of God’s Word were by His grace returned to the light of day, and the chief doctrine of justification by grace for Christ’s sake through faith was restored to the world.  Also covered were the history of the controversies that followed the Reformation, the history of the Confessions that resolved them according to Scripture, and the so-called “Counter-reformation” consisting of efforts on the part of the Papacy to do “damage control” in Europe by means of the Council of Trent and also by means of personal and military intimidation and persecution of Lutheran Christians.  Professor Mensing also taught Homiletics I, the principles of textual study, sermon construction, and outlining for the propagation of the Gospel and instruction in righteousness, and a one-semester course on the Exegesis of Romans, the study in Greek of the epistle which, also in the reliable English translation of our King James Version, faithfully sets forth in clear and certain terms the very doctrines taught in the Dogmatics and Symbolics courses.  Thus, in reality, ALL of the coursework this year (with the exception of Biblical Hebrew also taught by Professor Mensing) centered to a greater or lesser degree upon the chief doctrine of the Christian faith, namely, how a poor sinner is justified in the sight of God and is made an heir of everlasting life in heaven.

Last September, the students began a schedule of classes that ran six days a week —on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from nine o’clock in the morning to three o’clock in the afternoon and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from ten in the morning to two o’clock in the afternoon.  The Practicum course (our on-going internship in the local congregation, which takes the place of the single year’s “vicarage” in other institutions) met in a weekly consult on Saturday mornings.

The present academic year came to a close ahead of schedule this year when little Lydia Mabe (at sixteen months) successfully underwent open heart surgery for the correction of a serious defect evident already at birth, and Missy Mensing, Dave’s wife, was experiencing some tenuous times in her high-risk pregnancy with twins due this summer.  Those critical complications, together with the need for extensive doctrinal study in special sessions supplementary to our regular classes, made it impossible to complete the coursework of the second semester in the time allotted and to administer final examinations as originally scheduled.  Therefore, following the convention, a special summer session of four weeks will convene on July 9th to finish up our work and to write and score the requisite final exams.  And even with that planned session, a week’s hiatus may be needed in the middle of it when the twins are delivered by C-section —and that date has not as yet been determined since it depends in large part on the course of the pregnancy.  We beseech all of our people to keep both little Lydia in her convalescence and Missy in her pregnancy in their daily fervent prayers to the Throne of Grace.

We are anticipating that, because of the special circumstances experienced this year, the pastors of the Conference may not be able to conduct their usual colloquy of our students over all of the coursework that they would ordinarily have completed by the time of our 61st Annual Convention in Seattle.  Therefore the Pastoral Conference will have to determine how they wish to proceed and when and how the students will be evaluated.  The Committee on Theological Education, together with the faculty, will no doubt have some specific recommendations to set before the pastors at Convention-time.

Since the Conference continued this past year to underwrite the work of full-time students with a subsistence-level stipend each month, none of our students were compelled to hold down secular employment in addition to their studies; and this contributed in large measure to their success under the Lord’s blessing.  For this continued blessing from the Lord of the Church through the generous, Gospel-motivated sacrifices of the members of our constituent congregations, both the students and their professors are truly grateful.  May the Lord continue to work in our people both to will and to perform the doing of this much-needed support to His glory!

With the wedding of Dan Mensing and his bride, Megan Dierking, in July of 2011, all of our students are now married with families.  Especially regarding married students, it is gratifying to note that understanding, dedicated, and committed Christian wives truly contribute to their success, cheerfully holding up their husbands’ hands, lending a sympathetic ear to their frustrations, insulating them from as many distractions as possible, and supporting them in their desire for the pastoral office.  We share with our students their gratitude for their exemplary Christian spouses — dedicated and committed Christian wives, faithful, patient, loving and steadfast to the glory of God, serving the Lord Christ to the praise of His grace (Colossians 3:24)!  Moreover, their dear children, little lambs of the Savior, add to their abundant joy in the Lord every day (Psalm 127:3-5).  Let us continue to remember these precious families in our prayers!

We earnestly beseech all of the brethren to bring the Seminary program of our Conference daily to the Throne of Grace, that the Lord bless abundantly the faithful labors of both of the professors and their students, that He endue them with energy and zeal, health and strength, with diligence and patience, with tenacity and endurance, that, at the conclusion of their training, our students will be properly equipped and “able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2) and, at the call of the Holy Spirit, be fit and prepared to undertake the ministry of the precious Word of God and the Holy Sacraments as shepherds of Christ’s flocks, “that the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children, that they might set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:6-7).  We pray also that the members of our congregations Conference-wide, motivated by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of His Word, cheerfully and enthusiastically continue to support our joint work with their generous gifts and sacrifices, always abounding in the work of the Lord, that none of our precious flocks may ever lack a faithful shepherd’s leading.

— Professor David T. Mensing