By Pamela Nielsen
Under some dozen tent canopies to shield them from the bright African sun, nearly 700 dignitaries, guests, pastors and many congregation members from across the country began a day of festivities in Accra, Ghana, on Sunday, Feb. 2, for the dedication of a new building housing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana’s (ELCG) Lutheran Theological Seminary.
The worship service leading off the day of thanksgiving and celebration began as church leaders and choir members processed while those gathered sang “The Church’s One Foundation.” Remarks, musical performances, dancing, food and tours of the new multi-story seminary structure followed the service.
“Jesus ye oudia” (“Jesus is for you!”) was the theme of the sermon preached by LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, who noted that Jesus taught His disciples for three years.
“This is the purpose of the seminary,” Harrison said in the sermon. “[It is] to teach men to become pastors, so that they can teach others the Holy Scriptures. So that they can teach that Jesus is the God-Man, who became incarnate in the flesh. This must be taught! That babies need to be baptized, this must be taught! That Christ gives his true body and blood in Holy Communion, this must be taught! The creed, the catechism, the church’s worship, these must be taught!”
Harrison underscored that the Word of God is not merely information but actually delivers forgiveness and eternal life.
ELCG Bishop Rev. Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn and Harrison cut the ribbon to officially open the new seminary building. In his comments, Fynn told the story of the seminary that previously operated out of the church body’s headquarters building and how he had dreamed about this dedication day for 25 years. Recounting the many challenges and delays that hindered its construction, Fynn pointed to Satan, “who hates the Gospel and wants to prevent its preaching in the world.”
At one point in the seminary building’s construction, the work was halted for several years due to challenges that included lack of funds. Construction resumed and was finally completed — through the efforts of the determined Fynn, the LCMS Office of International Mission and generous LCMS donors including the Lundstrom family in Houston.
Terry Biesboer, the LCMS mission advocate who worked with all the building project’s donors, said, “I was especially affected by the love Orville Lundstrom had for his wife and the church. After his passing, it became a focus of my efforts to assist his family in completing such an important project with an enormous impact on the seminarians and ELCG church body.”
Also participating in the dedication service and the day’s events were the Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, president of Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS), Fort Wayne, Ind.; the Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill, LCMS director of Theological Education and director of International Studies for CTS; and the Rev. Robert Roethemeyer, director of the Walther Library on the CTS campus. They were integral to the completion of the Ghana seminary building, providing hands-on library and accreditation consultation through the Chemnitz Library Initiative, a joint partnership between CTS and the International Lutheran Council. Roethemeyer and his wife, Kay, spent several weeks in Accra prior to the dedication, working with the ELCG to set up the seminary library.
“Concordia Theological Seminary has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana and God has blessed us through it,” said Rast. “Now, as the ELCG begins this new era of service through its seminary, we look forward to continuing to walk alongside our partners in Ghana as we proclaim Christ throughout the world.”
The ELCG was formed in 1958 with just one pastor, as a result of LCMS mission efforts. It became a full LCMS partner church in 1971. Today, the ELCG has 1,000 congregations and preaching stations and 150 pastors — and needs many more pastors. The ELCG tasks each new seminary graduate with planting a new Lutheran church.
“What an honor and pleasure to see the joy of our partner church in finally having its own seminary,” said Harrison. “I wish all our LCMS people could witness the joy and gratitude that was evident here today.”
Fynn reflected on the day and what the seminary means for his church body. “We are grateful to God for the good relationship we have with LCMS and CTS. Fort Wayne,” he said, “especially the training of our pastors to be able to combat the false doctrine in this country. Ghana is almost eaten away by false doctrine, customs, culture and traditions which have taken deep root in the country. As a result, many people are condemned to hell. But the special training we are receiving is helping to overcome the devil through the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
To see more photos from the seminary dedication, click here.
Deaconess Pamela Nielsen is associate executive director of LCMS Communications.
Updated Feb. 4, 2014 / Feb. 5, 2014 / Feb. 27, 2014