The Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) in Tshwane –Looking Ahead
On 3rd December 2018 the Members of the LTS, consisting of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA), the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) and the Mission of Lutheran Churches (MLC), met for its end of year meeting. It was a time to reflect on the past year and to reconsider the objectives and aims of the LTS going ahead.
With the appointment of a new rector, Dr Walter Winterle, a new treasurer, as well as various new members on the Board of Directors (BOD), 2018 in many ways marked a new beginning for the LTS accompanied by what at times seemed insurmountable problems. Most challenging was that much of the past funding was no longer provided and that regulations in South Africa made it a necessity that any institution involved in higher education needs to obtain proper accreditation. To address the challenges the Members of the LTS and BOD had joint meetings throughout 2018. Much work was done, with most of those directly involved in the running of the LTS, working excessively long hours, constantly depending on God’s providence and rejoicing in what was indeed the provision of our daily bread. Students graduated at the end of the year, staff members could take a few days off before focusing on 2019 again.
But what is the way forward for the LTS? Some major policy decisions were made:
- The accreditation of the LTS is an absolute priority. The process is led by Mr Shole, a BOD member from the LCSA. Based on the number of accredited staff members and facilities at the LTS it has been decided to
register the LTS at a diploma level, which would, for example, no longer include the study of ancient languages. The diploma level, however, is to
be seen as the first stepping stone leading to higher accreditation in
future. Should the LTS become a sustainable institution with more staff members and expanded facilities, it would seek to register at a degree level. This, in turn, would pave the way for postgraduate studies possibly in conjunction with the University of Pretoria.
- Churches that enrol students at the LTS will have to decide whether the present level of education at the LTS suffices for ordination. Such a decision may be guided by what the LTS is presently able to offer and options of further studies available to the churches. A bar set at the diploma level could then be raised to the degree level, once the LTS has obtained the necessary accreditation.
- A funding model whereby students obtain a 100% grant to study at the LTS is not sustainable. This became most apparent when in 2018 most of the funding for the LTS was raised by the three-member churches although most students studying at the LTS come from other Lutheran Churches in Africa (and some independent Lutheran congregations).
A funding model is envisaged whereby the funding is shared by the students and their sending churches, the members of the LTS (who will be responsible for fundraising), other donors, and rental income generated by the LTS. This would lead to a funding model where students pay a certain percentage of the tuition and boarding fee, but can also apply for “study aids” made available by donations received.
- Prospective students are to be affiliated to a properly constituted church body. Such a church body is to provide the necessary support during the studies and seek to ensure that on graduation such a student receives a proper call to serve as a pastor (or make the student available to serve in another church body).
- The LTS continues to share the vision of being a Confessional Lutheran Seminary that provides quality theological education for students throughout Africa. This vision is rooted in the fact that the student numbers in South Africa are limited and the desire of the Confessional Lutheran Churches in South Africa and its partner churches to be involved in the Mission of Christ by preparing Christ-centred and well-educated, confessional Lutheran pastors for the ministry of the Gospel.
The renewed commitment of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) is very encouraging to the LTS. Rev. Peter Lange, Kansas District President (and father of Kristin Straeuli), has been designated to represent the LCMS on the LTS BOD and will attend at least one BOD meeting annually.
What does all of this mean for the FELSISA? To have its students study at the LTS is a long expressed desire and has been formulated as a clear vision. At the LTS the FELSISA students can study theology within their own context. Studying together with the students from its partner church the LCSA, they can foster good lasting relationships. A prerequisite for FELSISA students, however, has always been the study of the ancient languages and a standard of education that equals that of a university degree. As this prerequisite has not changed, the FELSISA endeavours to help the LTS to received degree accreditation in what will hopefully be a not too distant future. Even as it tries to realise this goal with the help of active participation on the various boards, the
appointment of a lecturer (and part-time lecturers) as well as consistent funding, it rejoices now already in being involved in God’s Mission in Africa and is grateful for the fruits of having qualified theologians at the LTS who can serve its congregations and Synod in general.
The FELSISA congregations and individuals are encouraged to continue with their wonderful support of the LTS, trusting that God will bless the LTS and the givers with the abundance of his grace.
Bishop Dr Dieter Reinstorf, Pietermaritzburg