The Rev. Theodore N. Swanson's preaching highlighted Christ the King service at LTSP

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The Rev. Theodore Swanson’s preaching highlighted the Christ the King service during which Dean J. Jayakiran Sebastian and others were installed to new seminary responsibilities

The Rev. Theodore SwansonThe Christ the King worship celebration of Holy Communion at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) on November 28, 2012, featured the installation of new board members and officers, new student body officers, new seminary Vice President for Mission Advancement the Rev. Louise Johnson, and the seminary’s new dean, the Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian, who wanted to be installed as dean in the company of all the above.

The preacher for the occasion was the Rev. Theodore N. Swanson, a retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America missionary who taught Sebastian when the new dean was a student at the United Theological College in Bangalore, India. The two were later faculty colleagues.

Swanson recalled in his message that 33 years ago he and his wife, Joanne, were missionaries in residence for a year (1978-79) at LTSP during the period of time the then Lutheran Church in America was introducing the green worship book and when faculty members Foster McCurley and John H.P. Reumann were introducing an intensive Bible study initiative called “Word and Witness,” which Swanson contended is still appropriate for today. He said that, during his time in Bangalore, visiting professors from Philadelphia Seminary included past dean J. Paul Rajashekar, late library director David Wartluft, and current professor Robert B. Robinson. 

Pr. Swanson and Dean SebastianReferencing the Gospel for the day (John 18: 33-37), Swanson spoke of the interaction of Jesus with Pilate in which Jesus states his kingdom is “not of this world,” and that he has come to testify to the truth and that whoever listens to [his] voice shall know the truth. These verses have Jesus uniquely revealed as the One who knows and speaks the truth, Swanson said.

“That seems to me what a seminary is called to do, proclaiming to men and women their role as leaders, active in sacrificial love — love that is truth, is life, eternal life, not just for the future but which begins now,” Swanson said. 

“Board members and other leaders here face financial constraints, I am sure, and they need to meet ATS [Association of Theological Schools] standards, engage in curriculum revision — when is curriculum not being revised? They face student indebtedness, and an uneven process for placing pastors that leaves some without a call for months and years. Then there is the elephant in the room — a shrinking [membership] base. For the first time we have a youth culture where many have grown up without [knowledge of] God. They never had a church or were turned off by it.”

He subsequently challenged leaders assembled in the chapel to help peers in the communities where they serve or will serve “to see how God is at work in our lives and in our time. We need a new Word and Witness, and we need to grasp the revolution in communication, to harness the technology of today to witness to the truth as Jesus did.” He also urged Lutherans to work together with other denominations and the gifts they bring to the table — Roman Catholics, Baptists, United Methodists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Mennonites, United Church of Christ traditions. “We need each other,” Swanson said. “We must be careful we do not become arrogant with our partial view.”

By working together through ecumenical dialogue and other means, “we will be better equipped to bring the truth to our way of life,” Swanson said.

LTSP staff, student and board leader installationIn addition to Sebastian and Johnson, others were installed at the conclusion of the service. Dr. Michael Krentz, director of the seminary’s music program and worship cantor, was installed as Instructor, non-tenure. The Rev. John V. Puotinen, the seminary’s vice president for philanthropy, was installed as president of the LTSP Foundation. Officers of the seminary board of trustees installed were Chair the Rev. Dr. John C. Richter, Vice-Chair the Rev. J. Elise Brown, Secretary the Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Krommes, Assistant Secretary Dr. Addie J. Butler, and Treasurer Fred Risser. Four new trustees were installed: David L. Hinrichs, the Rev. Charles S. Miller, Fred E. Risser, and Bishop Samuel R. Zeiser, along with re-elected trustee the Rev. J. Elise Brown.

Installed as Student Body Executive Committee members were Lauren Finnila, Amanda Nesvold, Daniel Spigelmyer, Lauren Blatt, Alina Gayeuski, Tim Ness, Rachel Anderson, Elyssa Salinas, and John Eskate.