May 29, 2002 Print This Article

Symposium Addresses Pastoral Ministry in 21st Century America

“In _______ We Trust: The Public Ministry in the Public Realm” is the title of the 13th Annual Theological Symposium to be held Sept. 24-25 on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. The Symposium is a deliberate effort by the Seminary faculty to offer an opportunity for frank and open discussion concerning the relationship between the spiritual and civic realms in 21st-century American culture, and the effects of this relationship on pastoral ministry practices. The Symposium will be the first to be held in the Seminary’s newly-renovated Clara and Spencer Werner Auditorium, featuring state of the art seating, lighting and multi-media capabilities.

“This is one of the most eagerly-anticipated of all the symposia we have offered,” commented Dr. Andrew Bartelt, vice president for academic affairs at Concordia Seminary. “This Symposium will consider the public ministry in the public square. It will address the complexities confronting our pastors as they attempt to make God-pleasing decisions regarding their practice of the public ministry in the context of the pluralistic society in which we live. We are excited about the opportunity provided by this Symposium for our church.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the Symposium will begin with Dr. Joel Okamoto, assistant professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary, offering a plenary session address, “Filling in the Blank: American Religion and Biblical Christianity.” Two sets of sectional presentations will follow, with six options available during each set.

The next plenary session speaker, Rev. John Nunes, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Dallas, Tex., will present “Filling in the Blank: Confessing Christ in a Pluralistic Culture.” Two more sets of sectionals will follow.

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, a panel discussion titled, “Filling in the Blank: Ministering in the Midst of Civic Crises” will be held. Panel participants will include Rev. David Benke, president of the Atlantic District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS); Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care Ministries; Rev. Mark Steiner, a Lieutenant Commander and LCMS Chaplain in the United States Navy; and Rev. Robert Fleischmann, national director of Christian Life Resources, Inc. (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod).

A service of morning prayer in The Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus will follow with Dr. John F. Johnson, president of Concordia Seminary, serving as preacher. After the service, two additional sets of sectionals will be offered.

The Symposium will close with a summary by Dr. Dale Meyer, professor of practical theology and occupant of the Greg H. Benidt Memorial Chair in Homiletics and Literature, who will reflect on his own years of being a public figure in ministry (former Lutheran Hour Speaker) in a presentation titled, “Filling in the Blank: Dale, I Have a Question.”

In a new practice, Symposium participants will be invited to take part in one of three study groups to be formed by Concordia Seminary faculty members during the Symposium. The groups will continue to meet on a regular basis. Dr. Kent Burreson, assistant professor of systematic theology, and Dr. Joel Okamoto, assistant professor of systematic theology, will convene a group that will study “Gospel, Liturgy, Character: The Formation of Community.” Dr. Glenn Nielsen, associate professor of practical theology, will convene a group that will study “Preaching to a Changing Public.” Dr. Paul Raabe, chairman and professor of exegetical theology, will convene a group that will study “Reading the Bible as a Lutheran: Toward a Lutheran Hermeneutic.”

Following the symposium, Dr. Victor Raj, mission professor of exegetical theology and assistant director of the Institute for Mission Studies, will present a workshop titled, “Witnessing Beyond the Walls.” The Sept. 25-26 workshop will study the biblical models that speak directly to the opportunities and challenges of living as witnesses to the Gospel and sharing the Gospel with people in 21st century American culture. Lessons will be drawn from Acts and the gospels.

Parish pastors, district and synodical officials, seminary and Concordia University students and faculty, and interested laypersons are all welcome to attend. One CEU is available for attending the Symposium, and one-half CEU is available for attending the post-symposium workshop. For information and/or registration information, contact the Office of Continuing Education and Parish Services at (314) 505-7105; or visit the Seminary’s Web site at