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Record Number Attend Theological Symposium

More than 700 attended the 13th Annual Theological Symposium, “In _______ We Trust: The Public Ministry in the Public Realm,” held Sept. 24-25 on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. This year’s attendance was the largest ever for the Symposium and included more than 50 young men from the pre-seminary programs at Concordia University System schools.

The Symposium offered an opportunity for frank 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. Audio files of the Symposium are available in Real Audio® format on the Seminary’s Web site ( for online listening and for downloading and offline listening.

Dr. John F. Johnson, president of Concordia Seminary, welcomed the overflowing crowd of participants and stated, “I believe that a variety of factors today tend to move biblical and church discussions from the theological realm to the purely emotional or pietistic realm, and to cloud judgment at those moments when judgment needs to be clearest….The Seminary as an intellectual center may not untie all of the ‘Gordian knots,’ but it should help the church define the questions and see the full scope of the issues, including pastoral involvement in the public realm. For this Seminary, this is central to its theological leadership, including the gift of this symposium.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, Dr. Joel Okamoto, assistant professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary, offered a plenary session address, “Filling in the Blank: American Religion and Biblical Christianity.” The next plenary session speaker, Rev. John Nunes, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Dallas, Tex., presented “Filling in the Blank: Confessing Christ in a Pluralistic Culture.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 25, a panel discussion titled, “Filling in the Blank: Ministering in the Midst of Civic Crises” was held. Panel participants included 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; and, Rev. Mark Steiner, a Lieutenant Commander and LCMS Chaplain in the United States Navy.

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 reflected 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, many Symposium participants joined one of three study groups 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, convened a group to study “Gospel, Liturgy, Character: The Formation of Community.” Dr. Glenn Nielsen, associate professor of practical theology, convened a group to study “Preaching to a Changing Public.” Dr. Paul Raabe, chairman and professor of exegetical theology, convened a group to 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, presented a workshop titled, “Witnessing Beyond the Walls.” The Sept. 25-26 workshop highlighted 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 were drawn from Acts and the gospels.

The Fourteenth Annual Theological Symposium is tentatively scheduled to take place Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 23-24, 2003.

For more information, contact Seminary Relations, Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63105; 314.505.7370;