Saturday, December 15, 2012

Renewed denominational cooperation needed to testify to the truth today as Jesus taught it, preacher says

The Rev. Theodore Swanson’s preaching highlighted the Christ the King service at LTSP during which Dean J. Jayakiran Sebastian and others were installed to new seminary responsibilities at LTSP
The November 28, 2012 Christ the King worship celebration of Holy Communion at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) featured the installation of new Board of Trustees members and officers, student body officers, new seminary vice-president for mission advancement the Rev. Louise Johnson, and the seminary’s new Dean J. Jayakiran Sebastian, who wanted to be installed as Dean in the company of all of the above.
Preacher for the occasion was the Rev. Theodore N. Swanson, a retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America missionary who taught Sebastian when the new dean was a student at the United Theological College in Bangalore, India. The two were later faculty colleagues.
Rev. Swanson and
Dean Sebastian
Swanson recalled in his message that 33 years ago he and his wife, Joanne, were missionaries in residence for a year (1978-79) at LTSP during the period of time the then Lutheran Church in America was introducing the green worship book, and when faculty members Foster McCurley and John H. P. Reumann were introducing an intensive Bible study initiative called “Word and Witness.” Swanson contended this is still appropriate for today.  He said that during his time in Bangalore visiting professors from LTSP included Professor and former Dean J. Paul Rajashekar, late Krauth Memorial Library Director David Wartluft and Professor Robert B. Robinson.
Referencing the Gospel for the day (John 18: 33-37), Swanson spoke of the interaction of Jesus with Pilate in which Jesus states his kingdom is “not of this world” and that he has come to “testify to the truth and that whoever listens to my voice shall know the truth.” These verses have Jesus uniquely revealed as the One who knows and speaks the truth, Swanson said.
“That seems to me what a seminary is called to do, proclaiming to men and women their role as leaders, active in sacrificial love – love that is truth, is life, eternal life, not just for the future but which begins now,” Swanson said.
“Board members and other leaders here face financial constraints, I am sure, and they need to meet ATS (Association of Theological Schools) standards, engage in curriculum revision – when is curriculum not being revised? They face student indebtedness, and an uneven process for placing pastors that leaves some without a call for months and years. Then there is the elephant in the room – a shrinking (membership) base. For the first time we have a youth culture where many have grown up without (knowledge of) God. They never had a church or were turned off by it.”
He subsequently challenged leaders in the chapel to help peers in the communities where they serve or will serve “to see how God is at work in our lives and in our time. We need a new Word and Witness, and we need to grasp the revolution in communication, to harness the technology of today to witness to the truth as Jesus did.” He also urged Lutherans to work together with other denominations and the gifts they bring to the table – Roman Catholics, Baptists, United Methodists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Mennonites, United Church of Christ traditions. “We need each other,” Swanson said. “We must be careful we do not become arrogant with our partial view.”
By working together through ecumenical dialogue and other means, “we will be better equipped to bring the truth to our way of life,” Swanson said.
Installed at the conclusion of the service in addition to Sebastian and Johnson were Dr. Michael Krentz, director of the seminary’s music program and cantor, installed as Instructor, non-tenure, and the Rev. John V. Puotinen, the seminary’s Vice President for Philanthropy, installed as President of the LTSP Foundation. Officers of the board installed were: Chair – the Rev. Dr. John C. Richter, Vice-Chair – the Rev. J. Elise Brown, Secretary – the Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Krommes, Assistant Secretary – Dr. Addie J. Butler, and Treasurer – Fred Risser. Four new trustees were installed: David L. Hinrichs, the Rev. Charles S. Miller, Fred E. Risser, Bishop Samuel R. Zeiser, and re-elected trustee the Rev. J. Elise Brown.
Installed as Student Body Executive Committee members were Lauren Finnila, Amanda Nesvold, Daniel Spigelmyer, Lauren Blatt, Alina Gayeuski, Tim Ness, Rachel Anderson, Elyssa Salinas and John Eskate.

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