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Symposium Emphasizes Hope for Next Millennium

“The Next Millennium: Church on the Brink” was the theme for the 10th Annual Theological Symposium held September 21-22, 1999 on the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, campus. The largest number of participants ever; more than 600 pastors, Seminary students, pre- seminary students and professors from Concordia University System schools and other guests were present. The Symposium emphasized the Christian message of hope and gave direction as to how this message can be articulated by the church at the dawn of the new millennium.

One pastor who attended the Symposium commented that it “provided major clarifications on the confessional and biblical foundations for who we are, what we do and how we do it.” Another pastor commented that the plenary session presentations “were outstanding, not only because they were done with excellence, but because they led the way to quality discussions among the participants.”

This Symposium was the first to be held in September at Concordia Seminary. Previous symposia took place in May. In addition to making it easier for Concordia University System students and professors to attend, the September date also coincided with a meeting of the Missouri Synod’s Council of Presidents (district presidents) in St. Louis and a meeting on the Seminary campus of the pastors who supervise vicars (third-year seminarians who are engaged in a one-year internship called vicarage). As a result, many Missouri Synod district presidents and vicarage supervising pastors stayed two additional days to attend the Symposium.

Dr. John F. Johnson, President of Concordia Seminary, introduced the symposium theme with an opening address titled, “The Need for Hope in the Next Millennium.” He cited many of the changes in global demographics, intellectual currents and technology taking place as the new millennium approaches. Johnson called for a “courageous confessionalism” which is confident in the content of its confession and does not isolate itself from others who may disagree, but engages them in a vigorous dialogue.

Four major subdivisions of the schedule served to emphasize the theme of hope as the church faces the new millennium: (1) “Eschatology: A Theology of Hope for the Next Millennium,” (2) “Missiology: A Word of Hope for the Next Millennium,” (3) “Ecclesiology: A Church of Hope for the Next Millennium,” and (4) “Christology: The Reality of Hope for the Next Millennium.”

Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs delivered the plenary address for the eschatology section of the Symposium, and Dr. Henry Rowold delivered the plenary address for the mission section. These Concordia Seminary faculty members had as their topics “Infinite Hope for a Finite World” and “A Word of Hope for a Hopeless World” respectively.

The ecclesiology section featured a discussion of the topic, “A Church of Hope for the Next Millennium.” Discussion participants were Dr. Charles Arand of the Seminary faculty, Rev. Stephen Hower, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Ellisville, Mo., and Rev. Scott Bruzek, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Wheaton, Ill.

Dr. Louis Brighton, professor emeritus at Concordia Seminary, delivered the plenary address in the Christology section, titled “The Book of Revelation: A Vision for the Next Millennium.” Dr. Brighton is recognized as the leading authority in The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) on the book of Revelation and is currently writing the commentary on Revelation for the Concordia Commentary series.

Rev. Arleigh Lutz, President of the North Wisconsin district of the LCMS, and Chairman of the Synod’s Council of Presidents, delivered the final address, “Our Church on the Brink: Response and Reflection.”

Some of those who attended the Symposium stayed one additional day in order to attend a special workshop titled “Hope in the Neighborhood.” Dr. Victor Raj, mission professor at Concordia Seminary who was the presenter for the workshop sessions, commented, “The American neighborhood is fast-changing. This nation of immigrants invites people from all over the world to make their home here. As Christians called to witness the Gospel, we recognize the opportunity God is bringing to our doorstep. This workshop provided approaches to witness to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

For more information on the Symposium or any continuing education opportunities provided by Concordia Seminary, contact Dr. John Oberdeck, Director of Continuing Education, Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Ave., St. Louis, MO 63105; 314.505.7105; or by e-mail (