The Synod’s first national conference in 10 years for college students and others in LCMS campus ministries is set for Jan. 3-5, 2013, at Saint Louis University (SLU) in midtown St. Louis.
Sponsored by the Synod’s Office of National Mission (ONM), the conference will have as its theme “Unwrapped.”
“If Christmas is God the Father giving His Son as a gift to the world, Epiphany is God the Father unwrapping that Gift and holding Him up for the whole world to see,” said the Rev. Marcus T. Zill, an LCMS campus pastor in Laramie, Wyo., and chairman of the six-member conference planning committee.
“What a joy it is to unwrap presents, to both give and to receive,” said ONM Executive Director Rev. Bart Day. “While the rest of the world is putting away their lights and taking down their Christmas trees, we look forward to beginning 2013 unwrapping God’s Word together so that we might share the gift of Christ with others.”
“The planning committee is seeking to help equip today’s college students to ‘always be ready to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15),’ ” Zill said, “so that they can show forth the light of Christ and His Word.”
Conference details will be made available as they become firm at a new dedicated Web page: www.lcms.org/campusministry.
Registration through that site is expected to open this fall.
A preliminary list of the conference’s plenary presenters includes:
- Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.
- Craig Parton, Esq., of Santa Barbara, Calif. — a Lutheran layman and trial lawyer who is author of The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer’s Quest for the Gospel and Religion on Trial. He also is the U.S. Director of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
- the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, associate professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and its director of Theological Resources and Continuing Education.
“In addition to the great plenary speakers and topics related to apologetics,” Zill told Reporter, “college students and other participants will be treated to a variety of sectionals on a whole host of topics of interest to and related to college students.”
He said that conference worship will take place at the university’s St. Francis Xavier College Church, “and a lot of great fun activities are being planned for in and around downtown St. Louis.” A nighttime activity at Concordia Seminary also is in the planning.
“There will also be some surprises,” Zill added. “You can’t unwrap all the gifts at once.”
SLU’s Busch Student Center will be the main venue for conference program activities and housing will be at a downtown St. Louis hotel.
It has been some 10 years since the most recent synodwide campus-ministry conference sponsored by Lutheran Student Fellowship (LSF), the Synod’s college-student organization. That also was about the time the Synod’s mission department closed its campus-ministry office. Since then, three campus-ministry-related LCMS Recognized Service Organizations and LSF have been separately conducting various aspects of campus ministry.
At a Jan. 3-4 campus-ministry think tank in St. Louis involving representatives of those four stakeholder organizations and others, the need to coordinate efforts in providing resources such as the upcoming conference was a main topic of discussion.
“I think it is significant that all of the conference committee members were a part of that think tank,” Zill wrote in an email. “We began our initial work before the think tank, yet much of this conference is being shaped by what has come out of the think tank.”
To read the Reporter story about that think tank, click here.
Two other members of the planning committee — Deaconess Shaina Mitchell and Phillip Fischaber — also shared comments about the conference.
Mitchell, who serves full time in campus ministry at Grace Lutheran Church, Muncie, Ind., said, “This conference is for the entire synodical campus-ministry community. Various sectionals will speak to the needs of students, pastors, campus workers and congregational leaders engaged in campus ministry.”
“So many students go to colleges with very few other Lutherans,” said Fischabler, a student at the University of Tulsa (Okla.) who is on the LSF national board. “It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to interact with other college-age Lutherans and know that you’re not alone.”
Concerning the conference’s aim of helping students defend their faith, Fischaber noted, “So many professors, even at supposedly Christian universities, are hostile to Christianity. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to learn a defense of Christianity from some of the best scholars in the world.”
The other members of the planning committee are Andy Bates of Wildwood, Mo.; the Rev. Max Mons, Iowa City, Iowa; and the Rev. Jay Winters, Tallahassee, Fla.
Day wrote in a Feb. 13 “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” post that such campus-ministry conferences in the past “provided opportunities for students and staff to get to know one another and engage in dialogue about topics facing our young people on campus and worship the Triune God they proclaim together. I am confident that this  conference will accomplish all that and more.”
Day also pointed out that his office’s sponsorship of the upcoming conference is “part of the overall effort on the part of the Synod to provide leadership once again to national campus ministry in the Synod” — echoing the following point that President Harrison made in a “Pastoral Letter Regarding Campus Ministry” on Oct. 13, 2011:
“After too many years of being distant from campus ministry, the Synod is prepared to take leadership once again. The Synod cannot do campus ministry, but we can give voice to the importance of campus ministry, encouraging, supporting and coordinating it wherever it is taking place.”
In addition to information about the 2013 conference being shared via the www.lcms.org/campusministry Web page, a Facebook connection also is available at www.facebook.com/unwrapped2013.
For additional information, contact Zill via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted March 5, 2012/Updated March 6, 2012