As part of the requirement for graduation, each senior completes a thesis—a capstone paper in an area of his choosing. “You spend so much time poring over ancient texts,” said President Paul O. Wendland. “The essay gives you an opportunity to discover something new for yourself, to investigate a problem or issue and write something about it.”
During the first two seminary years and during the vicar year, students look for an area of theology or ministry that interests them. Throughout their senior year, under supervision of an advisor, they research and write the thesis.
In April, the students presented their research and papers to the students on campus. The diversity of the theses reflects the diversity of the students’ interests within the body of Christ.
Each year, the faculty also gives the Timothy and Titus Awards for two of the papers. Both Timothy and Titus were “sons in the faith” to the Apostle Paul, and the awards reflect how the seminary continues to train the next generation of those who will preach the gospel. This year, the winners were Erik Janke and Scott Henrich.
Janke’s paper was titled “From Sola to Soli: Focusing Faithfulness for Excellence in the Pastoral Ministry.” In it he explored the pastor’s weekly question, “Have I been faithful?” He discussed the concept of faithfulness in the ministry and paired it with the concept of excellence to help shape a healthy ministry.
Henrich’s paper, titled “Race and the Lutheran Pastor,” underscored the importance of discussions about race and the necessity of careful communication between the pastor and his members regarding race. He based his paper on interviews with African Americans as they relate to their white pastors in WELS churches.
In addition, Dean Ellis received special recognition for his paper, “Applying the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM) to the Text of the Old Testament: An Evaluation.” For his project, he developed software algorithms to align the Hebrew text and perform the CBGM analysis, which is useful in determining the original version of the text.
All the senior theses are available at http://essays.wls.wels.net/.