Lutheran Ministry in Wittenberg

I was in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany, in September serving with the Wittenberg English Ministry.  I question Pastor Torgerson when he says it will be wonderful when someone can say, “There is a Lutheran church here” (Lutheran Witness, October 2007).

There is a strong Lutheran presence in Wittenberg now. The congregations of St. Mary’s (the Stadtkircke) and the Castle Church (Schlosskircke) are Lutheran congregations. This was confirmed in conversations with Pastor Andreas Volkmann, pastor of St. Mary’s. Synod’s partner church, the SELK, also recognizes this. The Wittenberg English Ministry, focusing on visitors from all over the globe, is directed by LCMS Pastor Keith Loesch with the help of three on-site directors–each a distinguished LCMS educator or mission executive. This was begun at the request of the Lord Mayor and with the concurrence of local clergy.

Luther Hall, Luther Zentrum, and the ELCA Study Center are three highly respected efforts which organize religious, cultural, and research programs for pilgrims, scholars, and visitors. They do not seek to duplicate current pastoral ministries. INITIATIVE, a group of German business persons begun by a German Lutheran business man who has taught at Harvard’s School of Business, has the intentional goal to rebuild the Church in countries formerly under Communist rule and to respond to human care needs.

Questions: Has the LCMS effort coordinated with these entities and, if so, how? Pastor Torgerson identifies himself publicly as “the Missouri Synod chaplain in Wittenberg.” Is this his sanctioned role? With only 15 percent of the former East Germany churched, why not invest mission funds in larger cities with either no Lutheran presence or only a minimal one? Does the LCMS have such a surplus of mission and human care funds that we can afford to duplicate ministries? Would it not be wiser to encourage existing ministries? Who knows better how to minister — on the basis of knowing what it was like to live under Communism – than those Christians who lived through that time and are already responding?

Pastor Arnie Voigt
Littleton, Colorado


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