These are big days on campus, days of high energy with optimism for the future. We just finished our annual Multiethnic Symposium, stimulating plenary and sectional presentations under the overarching theme, “Shame and Honor: Gospel Proclamation in the Majority World.” Ninety-seven percent of the least evangelized countries are in the “10/40 Window,” between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator in northern Africa and Asia. Unlike Western Europe and North America where we present the Gospel as forensic justification, people in the 10/40 window think in terms of shame and honor. Presentations showed us how the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks also to people who understand life through shame and honor. And that shame/honor view of life is increasing in the United States.
Couple that with the decline in membership and attendance of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). A serious historian, President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., has documented the steady growth of the Synod from 1847 until 1970. Then losses began, going from 2.8 million to 1,968,641 in 2017. Among other effects, that decline has shrunk the pool of pastors for the future if — and this is a big if — if we continue to think of future clergy as white Lutherans of European descent. We certainly do need these candidates for the future; they can invigorate and grow by the Spirit’s grace congregations in communities where the LCMS traditionally does well, but how will ethnic communities in the United States “hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14 ESV). Many of the millions of people of various ethnicities living here think in terms of shame/honor. Increasing our number of ethnic pastors will help us reach these communities that otherwise may well not be blessed with our wonderful Lutheran Christocentric understanding of Law and Gospel, that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13 ESV). Your Seminary is committed to increasing pastors and deaconesses for mission to first generation ethnics through the Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology and the Center for Hispanic Studies, and then recruiting second generation ethnics to study in our residential Master of Divinity Program. This is our vision, and I pray you and your congregation will find it invigorating.
Wednesday, May 1, is Call Day. That big day is also forward looking. Young men and women will receive their first placements in our Lord’s church. They go forth with optimism. Many of us who are older grieve the changes we’ve seen in America and the church over the decades but not our graduates. Most of them were only a few years old on 9-11. Please welcome these hopeful new workers into your circuits and districts. Draw beside them with your experience and encouragement in the Gospel. Our Multiethnic Symposium and Call Day are speaking a strong message on campus, it’s a great time to be the church of our Lord Jesus Christ! Help share the joy.
Dr. Dale A. Meyer, President
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis