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Sabbatical Week Addresses Lutheran Identity in New Millennium

“Being Lutheran in a Post-Denominational America: A Confessional Proposal” was the title for the Fall Sabbatical Week held October 18-22, 1999 on the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis campus. Twelve pastors, including one from as far away as Japan, took part in the Sabbatical Week activities. All indicated that the Sabbatical Week encouraged them to “stretch their thinking” and grapple with tough questions.

Three members of the Seminary’s department of systematic theology served as presenters at the Sabbatical Week. Dr. John F. Johnson, President of Concordia Seminary, discussed the challenges within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod that threaten to undermine its confessional witness within Christianity. Dr. Charles Arand, chairman of the Seminary’s department of systematic theology, examined the ecclesiological implications of being a confessional church. Dr. Joel Okamoto considered the confessional task facing Lutheranism today in the light of the post-liberal thought of the Yale School.

“In the new millennium, cultural and ecumenical forces threaten to marginalize the confessional witness of Lutheranism,” commented Dr. Charles Arand of the Seminary faculty. “Many, unsure about their Wittenberg roots, are moving toward Constantinople and Rome, or Geneva and Pasadena. American individualism has joined with post-modernism to produce a post-denominational environment in which it is no longer important to identify with a denomination. Personal confessions of faith have taken priority over public confessions of faith. This Sabbatical Week helped us answer the questions, ‘What does it mean to be Lutheran?’ and ‘How do we raise a Lutheran voice?'”

Sabbatical Weeks are designed to allow pastors and others the opportunity to spend time in study, reflection and discussion on the Seminary campus. Participants also are encouraged to worship with the Seminary community in daily chapel services and to devote significant time to prayer and personal devotional reading. Past participants have commented on the benefit they received from taking time away from their normal routines to be enriched through the Sabbatical Week experience.

On-campus meal and lodging packages are available for participating pastors. Congregations are encouraged to consider the gift of a Sabbatical Week to their pastor.

Additional information concerning Sabbatical Weeks can be obtained by contacting the Office of Continuing Education, Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Avenue, St. Louis, Mo. 63105; (314) 505-7105; ce@csl.edu.