2011 Symposia Reflections

I recently got back from the 2011 Symposia at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.  I was only able to attend the second half of the week, so I will not be able to give comment on the Exegetical lectures.

The Symposia website is here: http://www.ctsfw.edu/Symposia

This year there were 650 people in attendance, from what I hear, that is one of the larger crowds in recent years.  I believe that the topic covered was one of the reasons, although there may be a renewed interest in our seminaries as well that helped to contribute.

Some thoughts on the experience:

First of all, it was good to be on campus once again, I had missed chapel.  I would encourage anyone who visits the seminary to attend chapel services as they are the heart and soul of the seminary.  The two days I was able (Wed & Thurs) I will note that there were special vespers services, one involving the seminary choirs singing chorales, and the next day the vespers service was followed by an organ recital.  As always, the vespers services are not as widely attended as the main chapel service in the morning.  On Thursday, President Harrison was the preacher.  An often overlooked gem in the Fort Wayne chapel experience is morning prayer at 7:30, which is just a great way to start the day.

The banquet on Thursday night was quite enjoyable.  Of special note is that since this is President Wenthe’s last symposia (as President) there was a decent amount of ribbing and roasting in his honor.  Dr. David Scaer moderated and managed to make jokes for the whole evening.  There was also a lot of recognition given to the many guests from foreign countries.  This is the worldwide influence of our seminaries at work.  We can’t find a quantitative number to reflect the impact of these faithful men of God who come and learn and then go back and teach.  President Harrison also wrote a wonderful ballad or poem which he spoke in rhythm (not rapping) which honored Dr. Wenthe and denigrated himself (of course).  The meal and the conversation at the table was excellent.

The presentations were also good.  The topic for the Confessions half of the week was C.F.W. Walther.  The presentations engaged contemporaries of Walther and gauged their interactions.  It was good to hear some honest evaluations of Grabau, Loehe, and Kliefoth which actually went back to the original documents (instead of age-old stereotypes).  It was also good to hear from a descendant of Martin Stephan about the incidents around his removal.  Dr. Martin Nolan also gave a wonderful presentation on the rise of confessional movements which included a great overview of the confessional methods of Chemnitz and Walther.  Dr. Masaki’s presentation on Kliefoth was first-rate, and we all hope that more of his work gets into English soon.  Professor Pless’ paper on Loehe was also well done, although the presentation was trimmed for time limitations.  Dr. Mark Braun of the WELS gave an excellent analysis of Walther and also shed some light on the divisions between LCMS and WELS.  Dr. Scaer’s presentation was excellent as well, although I had to miss the first portion of it.  Dr. Rast of course did a great job of covering American Lutheranism and Walther.   Two really excellent papers were presented on Friday morning by Dr. Mackenzie and Prof. Ziegler.  Dr. Mackenzie, true to his reputation as a historian of the first rate, gave an excellent paper on Walther’s use of Luther, in which he showed that most of the time Walther stayed true to Luther’s original meanings, but he also pointed out a couple of occasions where Walther didn’t use Luther properly.  Professor Ziegler’s presentation was a great overview of the Eduard Preuss (note the two s’s) scandal of the LCMS.  Preuss apostatized to the Roman Catholic Church not long after writing one of the best volumes on Justification of the 19th century (for a copy of his book which has been recently re-released see: http://lutheranlegacy.org/publications/justification.aspx).  Prof. Ziegler’s paper was a great warning cry for pastors who think they can deal with their situations “alone” and not look for the mutual conversation and consolation of the brothers.

ONE MORE THING:  During one of the breaks, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Library Expansion project that is going on.  The tour was led by Dr. Roethemeyer, who has put in many hours of work and really been at the head of the project.  The new Library will be an excellent addition to an already great campus.  One of the best things about the Fort Wayne Campus is that the two greatest buildings are their Chapel and their Library (it says something about what we as Lutherans believe).  The new addition is looking good and some of it will be ready by this summer.  There is still a great need for further funding to help the expansion, and I would encourage anyone interested to look into it.  For more information, go to:  http://ctsfw.edu/Page.aspx?pid=360 (there is even a walk-through online).  Contributing to the library would be a great way to continue the seminary’s great legacy.

That is my very long “summary” of the Symposia week, I would encourage anyone who attended to add your comments as well.

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