Teaching an intensive on the book of Romans: 24 April – 4 May 2017
I have had the privilege of teaching Romans (selections) for two weeks (24 April – 4 May 2017) at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa. This is my ninth teaching trip to South Africa and funding this venture has always been a challenge. This trip was financed by left over monies from a two year grant financed by the Elm Grove Lutheran Foundation (Elm Grove Lutheran Church, Elm Grove, WI; Rev. Eric Skovgaard) two years ago, and two lesser gifts from the Extended Ministry Endowment Fund (Blessed Savior Lutheran Church, New Berlin, WI) and the Board of Evangelism (Elm Grove Lutheran Church, Elm Grove, WI).
Instruction for the Romans class consisted of roughly 3 hours of instruction per day, three hours in the morning on MWF and three hours in the afternoon TR. This time I taught 10 male senior students from South Africa and other African countries. As in former years, I projected the Greek text of Romans onto the wall of the LHF Room and worked through selections of the material exegetically and theologically. I certainly could not cover everything, but I am pleased to report that we touched on those portions of Romans that most pertain to the doctrine of Justification in this the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: the life and travels of Paul, the wrath of God, righteousness through faith, the example of Abraham, Adam and Christ (Rom 5), dead to sin/alive in Christ in Baptism (Rom 6), slaves of sin/slaves of righteousness (Rom 6), struggle against the sinful nature (Rom 7), life in the Spirit (Rom 8), subjection to the governing authorities, the deaconess Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), etc. I quizzed the students 8 times on this material, had a two-page Romans hand-out for them to complete during the first weekend I was there, and a final exam to write on the last day of the class. I had already exhausted my book budget by buying copies of Martin Franzmann’s commentary on Romans back in early February, as requested by Dr. Weber. Therefore, I made copies of Dr. Gieschen’s Notes on Romans that were written some time ago for DELTO students. These Notes help students to come to terms with the Greek text they are to be reading and work quite well for teaching Romans in the field, as I have discovered in other mission settings.
Here are the assignments I expected from each student in the Romans class:
- 8 quizzes (approx. 1 quiz per day) 50%
- Assignment Sheet on Gieschen (due over the weekend) 20%
- Class participation (attendance, questions) 10%
- Final Exam 20%
- Total 100 pts possible
In addition to teaching the two week intensive Rector Weber requested my preaching at Chapel during the 10:00 a.m. services on 26 April and 3 May. During the first first two Sundays of my stay (23 and 30 April) I worshipped with the Webers at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, just two blocks from the seminary on Arcadia Street (Rev. Martin Paul). On the plane to Johannesburg from Atlanta I met Rev. Jacob Corzine who asked me to preach at the student service on the evening of Sunday 23 April. Then on the evening of Tuesday 25 April I attended, and took minutes for, the meeting of the LTS Board of Directors at which were present Dr. Gunther Rencken (Chairman), Rector Weber, Rev. Matthias Albers, Mr. Michael Grosse, Mr. Berno Niehbur, Mr. Ruben Dlamini, and Mr. Ben Mokopanele (student representative). This meeting was noteworthy for two reasons: first, Mr. Grosse has spear-headed an initiative to buy the adjacent Rose House (Bed & Breakfast) in order for the seminary to grow dramatically in future years; and second, the Board faced a determined effort on the part of the Members to remove Dr. Weber from his rectorship after 17 years of service. I cannot go into detail here, but suffice it to say that most of the members of the Board of Directors are firmly in favor of keeping Dr. Weber as Rector of the seminary and prevailing upon the Members to cease and desist from what they suppose is a malicious attack against the Rector. It was moved and seconded that the Directors and Members have a joint meeting in order to clear the air and set at naught the many rumors and innuendos that surround this situation. Nonetheless, Rector Weber has faced the possibility that his days at the seminary could end soon.
The trip was significant for other activities as well: during my first weekend there I accompanied Dr. Weber to the ELCSA Akasia Prayer Men’s League Parish Conference (29 April) in order to inform the men—pastors and lay leaders—just why the Lutheran Reformation remains significant and to answer questions. A van-load of our students came from the seminary and it seemed a good way to inform many laypeople just why the Reformation remains important, 500 years after the fact. During my final weekend (5-7 May) I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying Wilhelm and Angelika to the Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge—to go birding and simply enjoy the pristine hinterland of the northern Drakensbergs east of Polokwane. The accommodations were first-rate and we had a marvelous time. This part of my trip I finance myself, but find it well worth treating myself to an authentic African vacation after working hard for two weeks before boarding the plane for home. Also, this is a perfect time to be traveling and spending money in South Africa: the exchange rate was 13.4 Rands per 1 U.S. dollar (sometimes the rate is 7 to 1), so I was able to take the Webers out to dinner a couple of times and buy gifts for my return journey home.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Wilhelm Weber, Jr., his wonderful wife Angelika, and two of their four children (Frederika, Detlev) who so kindly hosted me in their home throughout the entire two-and-a-half week period. Every day I’d wake at 6 a.m., breakfast, and accompany Angelika and kids in rush-hour traffic to our respective places at the University of Pretoria or the seminary. Then when the day was over we’d retire to the Weber home where I’d relax: check my e-mails, drink Windhoek Beer, decompress, and generally enjoy myself. I should also mention in this connection that I received a free and nutritious lunch every day with the students at LTS prepared by Emily Ngubeni, a local African. Also, during my two weeks there, I was invited to dinner by Dr. Karl Boehmer (teaches at LTS), and Rev. Martin Paul (pastor of St. Paul’s, the FELSISA Lutheran Church just down Arcadia Street from the seminary). Another couple that had me over to their place for wonderful German cuisine was Rev. and Mrs. Guenther Hohls, who was a pastor in the FELSISA until his retirement. Rector Weber has been to me a great host over the years and a real brother in Christ. It is vital that the LCMS continue to support LTS with our offerings and prayers, even as we respond to dramatic requests for assistance elsewhere. I welcome this opportunity to have served the Lord and his church by teaching at LTS in April-May 2017 and hope, by God’s grace, to return to teach next year in April or May.
Dr. John G. Nordling
Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
6600 N. Clinton Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46815