Any educational institution needs to stand firmly on its feet to be able to look confidently into the future. The Theological Seminary of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, also referred to as the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia, is no exception. A few years ago this Seminary came under increasing financial pressures and is now teetering on the edge of survival.
One may think, “So what?” Seminaries open and close all the time in today’s world, especially in the mission setting. There were at least 10 attempts to establish Lutheran seminaries in various post-Soviet countries, and most of them were never followed through. It is not quite like that with the Seminary in Novosibirsk.
Think of this Seminary as a plane that has taken off from the ground and currently is flying higher and higher. While still in need of manual operation, it is somewhat close to the level of the clouds. Yet the take-off continues, and so it is still too early to put the plane on autopilot (of course, the main pilot, the chief Shepherd, is always on guard).
Think of this Seminary as being like some of the classical Lutheran Seminaries, such as Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, or Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, in their first decades of work. That is, from the very beginning our vision of the future was of a Seminary that would be here to stay. A seminary that would be able to offer something to the global Lutheran community, especially that part of the community that uses the Russian language as one of its working languages.
In the first months of its operation the Seminary depended upon rented facilities to conduct classes and provide living quarters for the students. That is no longer the case. The Seminary has an adequate building with classrooms, a library, a dining room, and a worship facility, as well as places for the students to stay.
In the first years of its existence the Seminary critically depended on short- or long-term teachers to come from abroad. Had these teachers not come in any given year, no classes would have been possible. That is no longer the case. Ours is a fully established Seminary operating in the unique context of the major Academic community in Russia east of the Ural mountains. The Seminary’s resident faculty currently meets the demands of its 5-year curriculum and also successfully teaches in other areas of the world.
In its first decades, the Seminary wholly depended upon financial support from the outside. This critical financial dependence remains until now, but the financial situation changes for the worse whenever there are adverse external factors. At this point there is a growing discrepancy between the concept of the Seminary as a long-term project with a global vision for the future and its very short and quickly-changing projected life span when the survival of the Seminary may be assured only on a half-year or even several months basis. For the Seminary to fully realize its raison d’être it must also have financial stability. If the Seminary were to shut down, its faculty and staff would be able to provide for themselves on an individual level in secular jobs. But the Seminary as an institution with significant potential for the future would become a thing of the past, and so those far-ranging efforts already invested in its establishment would have become futile.
As the Rector of the Seminary, for whom the building of this Seminary has become a life-long project, I cannot allow this. I am prepared to fight for the Seminary, as I believe that this is indeed a worthwhile and noble cause to fight for. And so I ask you to join me in this fight. I believe that the creation of a specialized endowment will provide the capability of long-term financial sustainability for the Seminary and thus resolve the current problems, and will thus allow the Seminary to more fully realize its potential.
Christians form a family, and so it is good to get to know more about your relatives who happen to be far away from you physically, yet who are very close through the bond of Baptism. That is why in future messages I will make an effort to share with you some of my thoughts and observations that you may find of interest.
In a family, relatives usually help each other. If you are concerned for the continuous spread of Christianity in the 21st century, especially as it pertains to its Lutheran confession, I ask you to consider supporting our Seminary in Siberia. Your donation will make a difference.
Please mail donations to:
The Siberian Lutheran Mission Society
Bob Kiefer, Ascension Lutheran Church
8811 St. Joe Road
Fort Wayne, IN 46835
(Please designate for “Save a Seminary” on your check)
For more information concerning donations please contact:
Dr. Timothy Quill (Endowment Committee Chairman)
Mr. Bob Kiefer (SLMS Treasurer)