The idea of establishing a Lutheran Study Center at Sabah Theological Seminary emerged in late 2010 and was mooted by Dr Victor Pfitzner after having identified the need to enhance Lutheran Confessional identity in this region. The idea was later taken up for discussion at the FELCMS meeting which was held on 17 January 2011 and the Heads of the FELCMS churches had in principle agreed to the setting up of the Lutheran Study Center at Sabah Theological Seminary.
Following the resolution from the FELCMS meeting held on 17 January 2011, the proposal was taken up at the LWF Asia Church Leadership Consultation which took place in Kuala Lumpur on 8 March 2011. The idea was unanimously accepted and the international partners who were present agreed to support the initiative. Further, as a sign of encouragement, various Lutheran churches in South East Asia too agreed to support the proposal. Following the endorsement and support from the stakeholders, namely, FELCMS member Churches, STS and International Mission Partners; Dr Victor Pfitzner of the Lutheran Church of Australia together with the Sabah Theological Seminary were entrusted with the responsibility of drafting the details of the LSC project and related operational policies and procedures.
Subsequently in June 2011 following Dr Victor Pfitzner’s visit to Sabah Theological Seminary, a memorandum of understanding was crafted, incorporating the operational policies and procedures, budget (operational and capital) and renovation plans for the Lutheran Study Center. Following this a LSC Task Group was formed as an interim committee to follow up on joint report by Dr Victor Pfitzner and STS. The Task Group was mandated to work out the organizational and implementation details to be presented to the FELCMS and mission partners.
The Task Group included Dr Thu En Yu (Principal), Dr Wilfred Samuel (lecturer), Dr Thomas Tsen (lecturer) and Dr Michael Press (visiting professor). This Task Group met again on 25 August 2011 to finalize the report before it was tabled at the joint meeting of the FELCMS and the Lutheran Church of Australia which was to be held at the Faith Lutheran College in Barossa Valley, Adelaide, Australia, on 14 October 2011.
The Task Group report identified 6 key areas:
At the Barossa meeting, which was chaired by Rev Dr Thomas Tsen, the Lutheran Church of Australia had committed AUD $ 50,000 for the first five years to support the operational needs of the LSC. The Barossa Meeting held on 14 October 2011 was attended by Rev Dr Thomas Tsen (BCCM), Bishop Terry Kee (LCS), Dr Thu En Yu (Principal STS), Rev Jimmy Asam (PCS), Rev Dr Steven Haar (ALC), Rev Dr Victor Pfitzner (LCA), Rev Dr Jeffery Silcock (ALC) and Rev Neville Otto (LCA/BFM). During this meeting, the following seven (7) important resolutions were adopted:
Following the dinner for the participants, the inauguration service commenced at 7.30pm at the grand auditorium of the Sabah Theological Seminary. Rev Dr Pfitzner gave an inspiring and challenging sermon about “the treasures of the gospel.” He reaffirmed the theological position of Saint Paul and Martin Luther that the gospel is about forgiveness of sin, even though we live in a society which does not like to talk about guilt and which has lost the radical nature of the grace of God. We live in a world where achievements count, but “to put one gram of our achievement together with a ton of grace is to destroy the weight of grace.” We are justified by faith alone. “The end of having to achieve with God is the beginning of works that glorify God.”
Bishop Solomon Rajah (ELCM) inaugurated the Lutheran Study Center with a solemn payer. Bishop Thomas Tsen (BCCM) installed Michael Press as coordinator of the LSC on behalf of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Malaysia and Singapore.
The principal of STS, Dr Thu En Yu expressed his appreciation to all supporters and partners, so that the LSC can build a strong partnership for the benefit of the Lutheran community in the region. He said our common endeavor is to dig out this treasure in the local soil in order to translate its theological implication relevant to the local context.
Rev Dr Franklin Ishida expressed the greetings and the commitment of ELCA to strengthen the Lutheran churches and leadership in the region by sending a full time faculty to LSC and STS in 2012.
On behalf of the FECLMS Bishop Philip Lok (ELCMS) confirmed the commitment of the regional churches to the LSC. Lutheran Theology is not meant to divide denominations, but as a gift to the ecumenical churches in Malaysia, Singapore and beyond.
After the benediction by Bishop Terry Kee, Singapore, the STS Chorale, the Rungus dance group of the Protestant Church of Sabah and a group of Students from Sarawak performed traditional music and dances. Finally, the ribbon was cut by Dr Vic Pfitzner and Dr Thomas and the Lutheran Study Center officially opened its doors for the use and benefit of all Lutheran Churches.
Between 9th March 2012 and 9th March 2023, within a lapse of 11 years, the Lutheran Study Centre has grown by leaps and bounds. It has also seen a transition of 3 directors; Dr Michael Press from 2012-2015, Dr Eric Trozzo from 2015-2019 and currently the position is being held by Dr Wilfred Samuel, since 1 January 2021. In-terms of its organizational structure, resources and functionality, the LSC has been well guided with the integration of clear operational policies and procedures. Further with the support of our international mission partners and the commitment of the all the FELCMS member Churches, has paved the way for the steady development of LSC.
Apart from the Lutheran research modules offered at STS, Lutheran distinctive initiatives among the FELCMS member Churches was also intensified. In order to improve the Lutheran research base, special focus is given to increase the library acquisitions. Currently we have 700 titles covering various aspects of Lutheran theology and history. Similarly, to reach out and engage the grassroot congregations in the FELCMS with Lutheran distinctive, the publication desk was activated. Key focus here was on the production and distribution of tracts, translation and publication of Lutheran study material, distribution of the book of Concord to pastors and organizing computer assisted learning programs, such as webinars. In order to keep the connections and communication ongoing with the local churches, initiatives to preach at FELCMS congregations and promote the LSC ministry is ongoing. since 1 January 2021. In-terms of its organizational structure, resources and functionality, the LSC has been well guided with the integration of clear operational policies and procedures. Further with the support of our international mission partners and the commitment of the all the FELCMS member Churches, has paved the way for the steady development of LSC.
Lutheran Study Centre