Early reflections from President-Elect David Lose include recalling his seminary days. His tenure as president begins with the 151st academic year.

President-Elect David Lose

President-Elect David Lose

Minutes after he was named President-Elect of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, the Rev. Dr. David Lose, a seminary alumnus, reacted to the unanimous recommendation of the Trustees to appoint him.

“For a moment I was absolutely speechless,” he said. “Not because I was surprised. Any time you get so far in a process like this you shouldn’t be surprised, but because this seminary is a place I care so deeply about, a place that has been so incredibly formative in my life, a place that has shaped so many leaders that have come before and after me – teachers, preachers, directors of youth groups and Christian education, leaders serving the public square.  It is an incredible honor … humbling, daunting … to consider the challenges and opportunities ahead and to discern with others the vision God has for this place. I am so grateful that all of my experiences have come together to make this opportunity possible. And I can’t wait to address those challenges and opportunities.”

Lose, who comes to the seminary having served at Luther Seminary as the Marbury Anderson Professor of Homiletics, and a former Academic Dean of that school, says part of his inspiration to consider a teaching role in the church, came to light for him during his first week of classes at LTSP in 1989. “I was watching Professor (John H. P.) Reumann teach us New Testament, and I remember thinking, ‘That is something I would like to do someday’.”

Lose comes from a family of several generations of pastors, including his Dad. He says that when he was a child he memorized “all the parts of the worship service my Dad recited.” He says his path toward discernment to become a Lutheran pastor “was a long journey, but when it (the direction to attend seminary) dawned, it became clear.” When he taught a year at a private school in Indiana, a chaplain there invited him into leadership of religious and worship life at the school “and I was given the chance to practice the kind of role I was thinking about,” he says.

“I always tell people who are discerning any role in life to try it out, practice the role ahead of time, do those things that people do who you want to be like. If your heart sings while you are doing those activities, then that is the direction you want to take.”

Lose, who earned both his M.Div. and STM degrees at LTSP in the 1990s, recalls several milestone memories from his seminary days. On one occasion he was invited to Chapel during orientation, having just attended a service the evening before. “We just attended Chapel last night,” he said with some surprise. “We have Chapel at the seminary every day,” he was told, and decided to attend once more. “Chapel became for me a formative and important part of my seminary education,” he recalls. “Seeing my professors interpreting scripture from the pulpit became an indispensable part of my education. I loved it.”

During orientation several faculty members who would be teaching their first year classes addressed the new class. Lose said he has never forgotten initial remarks given by the Rev. Dr. Philip D. W. Krey, himself in his first year of teaching history at the seminary.  “A lot of theological ideas are heretical,” Krey told the class.  Heretical ideas, Krey said, can come from wrong doctrine leading to actions that can “do damage to the church…But none of you is in a position to do damage to the church,” he said with a smile.

During his college years, Lose had been influenced by the conservative Intervarsity Fellowship, which he says “did a lot for me.” During his early seminary days as he absorbed the theological teachings of the faculty, Lose said he began to wonder if he belonged at a Lutheran seminary. He sought out the Rev. Dr. Gordon Lathrop, his advisor and retired Professor of Liturgy and Worship, discussing several ideas with his advisor including raising questions  about Baptism and the real presence of God in the sacrament. “Do I belong here?” Lose asked Lathrop. Lose recalls Lathrop removed his glasses and leaned forward sympathetically. “You may not be Lutheran,” the Professor said, “and that’s OK.” Lose remembers thinking, “It’s not OK! I’m from six generations of Lutheran pastors!” But Lose remembers the remark created space for him to think about his faith. “By thinking it could be possible I was not a Lutheran gave me space to realize that I was a Lutheran and that resonated as deeply true for me.”

He came to appreciate the humor of recently retired Professor Timothy Wengert, recalling his teaching of the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion in a lecture he entitled “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”  “Professor Wengert made the point that God comes to meet us where we are,” Lose recalls. Wengert told the class about his last Sunday serving a congregation in Roberts, WI, where Wengert had served as pastor for six years prior to embarking on his seminary teaching career. “He told us about how personally he had come to know the stories of the people in the pews that Sunday, and how knowing the stories of all those people made theology real for him and them. He noted that God knew all their stories and that God was coming to them, present in the bread and wine of communion, loving them unconditionally in their brokenness and hope.”  Lose said that Wengert’s teaching “brought tears to my eyes” and says that from that point on he began looking at the world “through Lutheran glasses. I began to see the whole world differently. That would be my wish for all seminarians here from all kinds of backgrounds, that it may be possible through our teaching for them to see the world in a new way…”

Reflecting on vision and goals for the seminary, Lose reminded that now is “before the game has started” for his new duties. “I expect to bring ideas to the table,” he says. “But I consider myself to be simply a steward of those ideas, fashioned in conversations with others. I will have remarkable colleagues here – Faculty, staff, students, Trustees. I intend to invite us all to be part of the conversation. Collectively we will have sufficient gifts to bring about the kind of vision God wants for us.

“But in a rapidly changing world we need to be prepared to learn on the go, and we need to teach our students about the importance of continuing to learn throughout their lives as leaders.”

Watch the extended interview

originally published in PS Portions, June 2014