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Rast called as 11th Seminary president

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis has extended a call to Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. (CTSFW), to serve as the 11th president in the school’s 181-year history.

The call was extended Saturday after a unanimous vote on the first ballot by the electors, including unanimous support from the Seminary’s Board of Regents, and following interviews with the final slate of six candidates.

Rast, who would assume the presidency July 1 upon formal acceptance of the call, was elected to succeed Dr. Dale A. Meyer, who retires June 30 after serving 15 years as president. Rast has 15 days to deliberate the call.

“Dr. Rast has come to us with a lifetime of service to the church, and nearly all of that time has been in the work of training and forming pastors,” said Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn, chairman of Concordia Seminary’s Board of Regents. “God is good and merciful, and continues to care for His church and our Seminary. I would invite you to join us in a prayer of thanksgiving, and that we ask for wisdom to Dr. Rast as he considers this call.”

Peperkorn made the announcement via a video message, which included a statement from President-elect Rast.

“I am deeply honored by this opportunity,” Rast said. “During my presentation at the president’s orientation for Synod officials last September, I shared that I was convinced that we were in the midst of a disruption unlike any we’ve experienced in more than a generation. That was before COVID-19. Now things have intensified and every aspect of the Synod’s life together is affected: Synod Inc., institutions (including seminaries, universities and schools), districts, congregations, and professional church workers and members alike. The next five to 10 years are going to define the future of our church body — and the seminaries are going to play a crucial role in determining the direction we will take. There is an urgency today for the saving faith, healing and comfort that only Jesus can bring.

“Please continue to pray the Lord of the harvest will raise up future workers for the church,” Rast said. “And please pray for me, my family and both seminaries as I discern where and how the Lord wants me to serve. If you have any thoughts you’d like to share with me, please send them to president@ctsfw.edu.”

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Rast has served as president of CTSFW since 2011, and been on its faculty since 1996. He also previously served Concordia Seminary as an adjunct professor of historical theology. Before joining the CTSFW faculty, he was the pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Madison, Tenn. (1992-96). He received his bachelor’s degree in theological languages with a minor in theology from Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill., (1986), and his Master of Divinity (1990) and Master of Sacred Theology (1995), both with a major in historical theology and a minor in systematic theology, from CTSFW. In 2000, Rast received his master’s degree and, in 2003, he successfully defended his dissertation, “Joseph A. Seiss and the Lutheran Church in America,” earning his doctorate in American church history from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

Rast is the chairman of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), on which he has served since 2006. He also serves as president and member of the Board of Directors for the journal, Lutheran Quarterly. He and his wife, Amy, have three children: Lawrence III, Karl and Joanna.

The electors who voted to issue the call during an online meeting Saturday are:

  • The members of the Seminary’s Board of Regents, who voted collectively with one vote
  • The LCMS District President elected to the Seminary’s Board of Regents, Dr. John Wille of the LCMS South Wisconsin District
  • LCMS President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
  • Chairman of the LCMS Board of Directors Dr. Michael Kumm

The Seminary’s presidential search committee prepared research and recommendations from the original list of 44 nominees, which was released in January.

The committee included:

  • Professor of Exegetical Theology and Dean of Ministerial Formation Dr. Timothy Saleska, co-chairman
  • Louis A. Fincke and Anna B. Shine Professor of Systematic Theology, and Dean of Chapel Dr. Kent Burreson
  • Waldemar and Mary Griesbach Professor of Systematic Theology, and Chairman of the Department of Systematic Theology Dr. Joel Okamoto
  • Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of Faculty Dr. David Peter
  • Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Student Life Dr. Peter Nafzger
  • Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology and Chairman of the Department of Exegetical Theology Dr. Jeffrey Oschwald
  • Gregg H. Benidt Memorial Professor of Homiletics and Literature, and Chairman of the Department of Practical Theology Dr. David Schmitt

Also included on the committee are the following members from the Seminary’s Board of Regents:

  • Vice Chairman Rev. W. Max Mons, co-chairman
  • Paul Hegland
  • Rev. Bruce Keseman
  • Dr. John Lang

“I have been praying that this earthly process will accord with God’s eternal will for the growth of His kingdom,” Meyer said. “Congratulations, Dr. Rast! Here we pursue the vigorous life of the mind in the service of the Gospel. We hope you’ll join us in this corner of God’s kingdom in the energizing mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Updates related to the presidential election are available at csl.edu/president-search.

About Concordia Seminary

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis provides Gospel-centered graduate-level theological education for pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and other leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, visit csl.edu.

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