Biographies: Essayists, Preachers & Chaplains
Biographies are available of the essayists, preachers and chaplains serving at The 66th Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on July 9-14, 2016, in Milwaukee.
Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray Jr.
As director of Black Ministry for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray Jr. provides leadership and direction for LCMS districts, congregations, schools and related organizations as they minister to minority groups in their communities across the country. The long-established LCMS ministry serves in predominantly black communities and African immigrants.
Gray also serves as a liaison to the churchwide Black Clergy Caucus and oversees the development of resources to support LCMS Black Ministry throughout the Synod.
Prior to joining the staff of the LCMS International Center in St. Louis, Gray accepted a call in 2001 to serve as assistant to the President for Missions/Evangelism in the LCMS Michigan District. He served as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church and Lutheran City Ministries in Detroit, Mich., from 1997 to 2001; director of Admissions, Recruitment and Vicarage at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., from 1994 to 1997; and as pastor at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas, from 1988 to 1994.
Gray completed a bachelor’s degree in printing production and management from Alabama A&M University, Huntsville, Ala, in 1977, and he graduated with a Master of Divinity from Concordia, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1988.
Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa
The Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa has served as the general secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) since 2009, and he is the chairperson of the Fellowship of the Ethiopian Evangelical Churches. Since 2008 he has also served the church of Ethiopian immigrants in Columbus, Ohio, known as Ebenezer Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Active in promoting mission work among African immigrants, Ofgaa served as Missionary-at-Large under the LCMS Ohio District from 2001 to 2006.
A native of Ethiopia, Ofgaa graduated with theological degrees from Mekane Yesus Theological Seminary in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1981 and earned a Master of Sacred Theology from Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, in 1992. Ofgaa was colloquized into The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 2002. He completed his doctoral studies in Missiology from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2009. His dissertation is entitled “The Impact of Ethnic Homogeneity on Outreach: Study on the Organization of the Ethiopian Evangelical Diaspora Congregations in the United States.”
Previously, Ofgaa served in the Central Ethiopian Synod as president from 1983 to 2000, as executive secretary from 1982 to 1983, and as principal and teacher of the Central Ethiopian Synod’s Christian Education Center, a center for ministerial training, from 1981 to 1982.
Ofgaa is married to Gennet Mulugeta, and they are blessed to have a son, Tsega Ofgaa.
Rev. Daniel Preus
The Rev. Daniel Preus is serving as the third vice-president and member of the Praesidium of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). He was elected as fourth vice-president in 2010, and he was re-elected and ranked as third vice-president in 2013. He represents the LCMS Central Region.
A native of Mayville, N.D., Preus served congregations in Hobart, Ind.; Truman, Minn.; Oak Park, Ill.; and Colorado Springs, Colo., from 1975 to 1995. He served as the LCMS Director of Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis from 1995 to 2001.
From 2001 to 2004, Preus served as the Synod’s first vice-president. From 2005 until 2012, he served as director of Luther Academy, an organization devoted to promoting confessional Lutheran theology. Preus has served on the LCMS Board for Parish Services, and he also served on the Board of Directors for the LCMS and Lutheran Church Extension Fund.
In other areas of church leadership, Preus served from 2003 to 2004 as a leader in discussions resulting in the declaration of Church Fellowship between the LCMS and the ELCK (Kenya). He was a liaison between Concordia Historical Institute and the Federal Republic of Germany from 1995 to 1996, when he worked for the return of the Luther Manuscript “Wider Hanswurst.” He is the author of Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center (CPH, 2004), a book which explains the foundational teachings of the Christian Church.
Preus graduated from Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1971, and from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1975 when it was located in Springfield, Ill. He also holds a Master of Sacred Theology, which he received from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1989, and he received a Doctor of Divinity degree Honoris Causa in 2015 from the same institution.
Preus and his wife, Linda, live in St. Louis, Mo. They are blessed with three sons, two daughters and nine grandchildren.
Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr.
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. serves as the 16th president of Concordia Theological Seminary (CTSFW), Fort Wayne, Ind., and he is a professor of American Christianity and American Lutheranism. Rast joined the Department of Historical Theology in the fall of 1996 after serving as pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church, Madison, Tenn., from 1992 to 1996.
Rast received his Bachelor of Arts in Theological Languages from Concordia College (now University), River Forest, Ill., in 1986. He earned a Master of Divinity in 1990 and a Master of Sacred Theology in 1995, both with a major in Historical Theology and a minor in Systematic Theology, from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. In 2000 he earned a Master of Arts, and in 2003 he earned his Ph.D. in American Church History from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
Rast is a member of the Board of Directors for the journal Lutheran Quarterly. He is the chairman of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Commission on Theology and Church Relations, on which he has served since 2006.
Rast has authored numerous articles on a wide range of topics with special interest in the growth and expansion of Lutheranism in the United States in the mid- to- late 19th century. He is also working on an ongoing oral history project dealing with African-American ministry in both the LCMS and the old Synod Conference. He is currently writing a history of the Synod for Concordia Publishing House.
In addition to serving at the Seminary, Rast regularly presents at workshops, retreats and conferences around the United States. He has represented the Seminary and Synod at numerous international conferences and by teaching in Argentina, Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana Russia, Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic and elsewhere throughout the world.
He and his wife, Amy, are blessed with three children: Lawrence III, Karl and Joanna.
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Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr.
As first vice-president and a member of the Praesidium of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr. assists the president in carrying out his responsibilities and oversees the colloquy program. Mueller was first elected to this position in 2010 and was re-elected in 2013.
Previously, Mueller served as president of the LCMS Southern Illinois District (1994-2010). Prior to that, he held district offices from 1988 to 1994, including serving as secretary, second vice-president and first vice-president. Between 1979 and 1994, he served as a pastor at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Chicago, Ill.; Zion Lutheran Church, Bethalto, Ill.; and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Waterloo, Ill.
A native of Grand Forks, N.D., Mueller graduated from Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1973; the former Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1975; and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1979. Mueller received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2012.
Mueller served on the LCMS Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support from 1998 to 2007, the Synod Colloquy Committee from 1999 to 2000 and the Council of Presidents Program Committee from 2003 to 2009. Between 1997 and 2010, Mueller participated in six mission trips to southern Africa.
Mueller and his wife, Faith, live in Waterloo, Ill., and they are members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Columbia, Ill. They are blessed with two grown sons, one grown daughter and four grandchildren.
Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz
The Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz is speaker of “The Lutheran Hour”® radio program, a position he has held since February 2011. He is the featured speaker on Lutheran Hour Ministries’ flagship Christian outreach radio program, which airs on more than 1,600 stations across North America as well as on the American Forces Network.
Seltz also serves as the organization’s spiritual leader, evangelist, and ministry emissary with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and Lutheran Church—Canada.
Before joining Lutheran Hour Ministries, Seltz served as the director of the Cross-Cultural Ministry Center and professor of Theology at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif.; executive director of Life’s Journey Ministries, an urban, not-for-profit evangelism ministry in Manhattan, N.Y.; founding pastor of the first new Lutheran mission start in New York City in more than 40 years (Church for All Nations—LCMS); and pastor of congregations in Dallas and Tampa.
Rev. Christopher S. Esget
The Rev. Christopher S. Esget is senior pastor of Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Va., and superintendent of Immanuel Lutheran School. He also serves the Synod as sixth vice-president, representing the East-Southeast Region. He previously was pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Quoin, Ill.
Active in the pro-life movement, Esget leads Immanuel as it hosts the annual gathering of Lutherans before the March for Life in Washington, D.C. A member of the LCMS Sanctity of Human Life Committee since 2009, he also serves as the Southeastern District’s Life Coordinator. He was a 2015 Washington Fellow of the National Review Institute.
In 2015, Esget taught intensive classes for pastors, evangelists and church musicians of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Yesus (EECMY) in Addis Ababa. He has been invited to return in the fall of 2016 for additional teaching, preparing the way for a new hymnal for Ethiopian Lutherans.
Esget has served as chaplain for numerous Synod events, including the 2013 and 2015 LCMS Life Conferences, the 2014 LCMS Institute on Liturgy, Preaching and Church Music, and the 2015 Free to Be Faithful conference. He was conference chaplain for Higher Things in 2006 and 2007 and served as their worship coordinator from 2007 to 2008. He is a regular contributor to the Lutheran Witness Blog.
A classically trained pianist, Esget studied piano performance with teachers at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota. He graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music (Boston, Mass., now merged with Boston Conservatory) with an emphasis in film scoring. He received Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Esget lives in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Kassie, and their son, James.
Rev. Nabil S. Nour
The Rev. Nabil S. Nour is fifth vice-president and a member of the Praesidium of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Elected to the position in 2013, he represents the Synod’s Great Plains Region. He also serves as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Hartford, S.D.
Previously, Nour served the Church by holding several positions in the LCMS South Dakota District: circuit counselor (1998-2006), second vice-president (2006-2012) and first vice-president (2012-2013).
Born in Nazareth, Israel, Nour moved with his family to Haifa when he was 3 and lived on the very slopes of Mount Carmel where Elijah once hid from Jezebel. Nour immigrated to the United States when he was 16 and eventually became a naturalized citizen. He also underwent adult instruction in the Lutheran faith.
Nour graduated in 1978 from Huron College, Huron, S.D., with a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Sociology and minors in psychology and gerontology. He worked in the construction industry before entering Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1989. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1994 with a Master of Divinity, he was called to Redeemer Lutheran Church, Armour, S.D., and served there from 1994 to 2015.
Nour is completing studies for a doctorate in Homiletics at the seminary and writing two books and a Bible study on the book of Ruth. He is a trained reconciler, and he travels widely to preach and teach, including speaking on how to live a Christian life in a postmodern world and witnessing among Muslims.
Nour and his wife, Jean, live in Sioux Falls, S.D. They are blessed with three grown sons, two daughters-in-law and six grandchildren.
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
The Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray is the fourth vice-president and a member of the Praesidium of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He was elected fifth vice-president in 2010, and he was re-elected and ranked as fourth vice-president in 2013. He represents the LCMS West-Southwest Region. Murray serves as the senior pastor of Memorial Lutheran Church and School in Houston, Texas, where he was called in 1996.
Murray served St. Paul Lutheran Church, Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, from 1983-1985, and he was pastor at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, La., from 1985 to 1996. He served as a member of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations from 1995 to 2001 and as a vice-chair from 1998 to 2001. He also served on the board of the Lutheran Education Association of Houston from 2001 to 2007, and he was chairman of the Luther Academy Board of Directors from 2012 to 2015.
Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Murray graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1980, and he earned a Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1983. He also holds a Master of Arts from Loyola University and a Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Murray is the author of numerous journal articles and two books: Law, Life, and the Living God (CPH, 2002) and A Year with the Church Fathers (CPH, 2011).
God has blessed Murray with Maryann, his wife of 32 years, and with their two daughters, Anastasia and Hilary.
Rev. Laokouxang (Kou) Seying
The Rev. Laokouxang (Kou) Seying is the Lutheran Foundation Professor of Urban and Cross-Cultural Ministry and associate dean for Urban and Cross-Cultural Ministry at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Seying, the first ordained Hmong pastor in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, has been a faculty member at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, since 2015.
He previously served the California-Nevada-Hawaii District (CNH), starting in 2004 as a deployed mission developer/strategist of for Joy of Harvest Ministries through St. Paul Lutheran Church in Merced, Calif., and Greenhaven Lutheran Church in Sacramento, Calif.
Besides serving in the LCMS CNH District for more than a decade, he served as pastor of Hmong Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn., from 1991 to 1995. He also taught religion and theology at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn. (1992-2004), and he was the Missionary-at-Large for the LCMS Minnesota South District (1995-1998).
Seying holds a Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. (1991) and a Bachelor of Pre-Seminary Studies from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis. (1987).
Seying has studied Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul (1995-1998), and he is a doctoral candidate in Missiology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. He was involved in early discussions within the LCMS that led to pastoral training programs for immigrant and nontraditional students. In addition to writing devotional materials, mission articles and frequently giving presentations on missiology, he is the editor-in-chief for various major theological works in the Hmong language.
He and his wife, Maykou, are blessed with four children: Grace, Sarah, Seth and Malachi.
Rev. Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr.
The Rev. Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr. is second vice-president and a member of the Praesidium of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, a position to which he was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2013. He represents the Synod’s Great Lakes Region.
He serves as editor-in-chief for the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, and he is an adjunct instructor at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., and Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill.
Previously, Wohlrabe served as third vice-president of the LCMS (2007-2010). He also was regional chaplain for Naval District Washington (2007-2009). He retired with the rank of captain in May 2009, having served as an active duty U.S. Navy chaplain for 22 years. Prior to that, he was in the Naval Reserves and served as an enlisted sailor on active duty.
His tours of duty in the Navy included the USS John F. Kennedy (1973-1976); various Naval Reserve units (1976-1987); Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Forty (1987-1990); Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme, Calif. (1990-1992); Naval Facility Brawdy, Wales, U.K. (1992-1995); Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill. (1995-1998); USS Blue Ridge and Commander Seventh Fleet (1998-2001); Naval Air Station, Brunswick, Maine (2001-2004); and First Naval Construction Division and Naval Construction Force (2005-2007). He has received numerous military awards.
In addition, Wohlrabe has served as pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Fort Lupton, Colo. (1982-1984); guest instructor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (1984-1986); assistant director of Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis (1986-1987); and pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, Geneseo, Ill. (2009-2012).
A native of Mankato, Minn., Wohlrabe earned a bachelor’s degree from Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1978. He also received a Master of Divinity in 1981, a Master of Sacred Theology in 1982 and a Doctor of Theology in 1987 — all from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He has published numerous articles for theological journals, church and military publications, and books, including Ministry in Missouri until 1962 (1992) and Soli Deo Gloria: Essays on C.F.W. Walther in Memory of August R. Suelflow (CPH, 2000).
Wohlrabe and his wife, Julie, live in St. Francis, Wis. They are blessed with three grown children: one daughter and two sons.
Rev. Allan R. Buss
The Rev. Allan R. Buss grew up in Watertown, Wis., and he attended high school at Lakeside Lutheran High School in Lake Mills, Wis.
Buss graduated from Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., in 1986, and he graduated with a Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1990.
Buss has served two parishes: St. Peter Lutheran Church in Gilberts, Ill. (1990-2000) and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Belvidere, Ill. as senior pastor (2000 to present).
Most recently, Buss has served on various boards and committees of the LCMS Northern Illinois District, including West Region vice-president and as first vice-president for nine years.
Buss has been married to Marie for 28 years. They are blessed with four children: Josiah and Marjorie, students at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis.; and Naomi and Jesse, students at Rockford (Ill.) Lutheran High School. His service in the community includes the role of chaplain for the Belvidere Fire Department.
Rev. Dr. John C. Wille
The Rev. Dr. John C. Wille has served as president of the LCMS South Wisconsin District (SWD) since 2006. As part of the Council of Presidents, he serves as the chairman of the Clergy Call and Roster Committee, and he also serves on the Board of Regents of both Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis., and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Wille has served congregations in Ohio, central Illinois and south Wisconsin. Immediately prior to being elected president of the SWD, he was the church planter and founding pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Tomah, Wis., where he served for 16 years.
He has served the Church as a parish pastor, circuit counselor, district vice-president, trained Synod reconciler, church planter, and as part of the Critical Incident Stress Management team from South Wisconsin that was deployed to Alabama and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina.
As the president of the SWD, Wille is responsible for ecclesiastical oversight of 214 congregations, multiple schools, high schools, Concordia University Wisconsin, and the ordained and commissioned church workers residing in south Wisconsin. As the SWD district president, Wille is also part of a unique partnership to support and expand the LCMS mission in the Dominican Republic.
Wille has completed Pastoral Leadership Institute plus two additional years of governance training, and has participated in DOXOLOGY. He has also been trained in various methods of conflict resolution, including LCMS training for reconcilers, Peter Steinke’s ‘Bridge Builders' and Ambassadors of Reconciliation.
Wille has been married to his wife, Lynette, for 38 years. They are blessed with three daughters, two of whom are married, and six grandchildren.
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Rev. William C. Weedon, chaplain
The Rev. William C. Weedon serves as chaplain and director of Worship at The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod International Center in Kirkwood, Mo.
As director of Worship, Weedon is responsible for proposing and creating programs that carry out the purposes and aims of the Synod in matters of worship.
As chaplain, he works with the Office of the President in planning and supervising all chapel services at the IC (1333 S. Kirkwood) and the nearby Lutheran Church Extension Fund building. He also offers informal chaplaincy and counseling services to employees upon request.
Weedon brings more than 25 years of ministry to this position. Most recently, he served as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Ill. from 1992 to 2012. From 1986 to 1992, he served as pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Burlington, N.C.
He is an author, contributor and reviser for Concordia Publishing House (CPH). His most recent works include writing Celebrating the Saints (CPH, 2016), being a contributor to The Apocrypha: Lutheran Study Edition with Notes (CPH, 2012), and authoring numerous sermons and studies in Concordia Pulpit Resources.
Weedon’s service to the Church also includes presenting at conferences on preaching and on the liturgy and hymnody. He hosts a daily radio show on KFUO called “Thy Strong Word” that explores a chapter of the Scripture each day with assistance from various pastors and professors around the Synod.
Weedon holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia College–New York, Bronxville, N.Y., and Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Weedon and his wife, Cynthia, reside in Hamel, Ill. They have three grown children: Lauren (and husband, the Rev. Dean Herberts); David (and wife, Meaghan); and Rebekah. They are also blessed with five grandchildren.
Rev. Peter C. Bender, assistant chaplain
The Rev. Peter C. Bender has been the pastor of Peace Lutheran Church and Academy in Sussex, Wis. since 1991. In 1995, he led the congregation in forming the Academy, a classical elementary school in the Lutheran and liberal arts traditions.
Bender is also the founder and director of Concordia Catechetical Academy, and he is an adjunct professor in catechetics for the deaconess program at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.
He received his Bachelor of Music Education from Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill. in 1983, and he completed a Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1987.
Bender has done extensive work in the area of Lutheran catechesis, which he defines as: “God’s way of teaching the new life in Christ and His forgiveness to sinners.” He is the general editor of The Lutheran Catechesis Series and the author of a number of volumes in that series, including Lutheran Catechesis, Catechumen Edition: A Guide to Catechesis for the Lutheran Catechumen and Family (Second Edition) and Lutheran Catechesis, Catechist Edition: A Comprehensive Guide to Catechesis for a Lutheran Congregation (Second Edition).
Bender also served on the Agenda Committee for Lutheran Service Book. His particular areas of responsibility were the membership rites, including the rites of Holy Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and Guidelines for Pastoral Examination of Catechumens. He also did extensive work on Lutheran Service Book: Pastoral Care Companion.
Bender is married to Elizabeth. They have four sons and four grandchildren.
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