Frequently Asked Questions (Updated January 5, 2017)

 

What is ‘The Wittenberg Project’?

The Wittenberg Project is a joint effort by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia Publishing House and Germany’s Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church (SELK) to nurture and strengthen the faith of Christians, particularly from the global confessional-Lutheran community, and to introduce the Christian faith to non-Christians living in or visiting the former East Germany.

The Wittenberg Project establishes an orthodox, faithful Lutheran presence in the center of the old town section of Wittenberg, Germany, the place where Dr. Martin Luther ignited the Reformation nearly 500 years ago.

 

Isn’t the “project” the renovation of a building in Wittenberg, Germany?

The renovation of the Old Latin School, which is adjacent to the town church, St. Mary’s, in the heart of the oldest part of Wittenberg, is the means by which The Wittenberg Project can begin attaining its goals. The renovated building is not an end in itself, but rather an instrument through which the project’s objectives can be accomplished. The reconfiguration of the facility into a Christian education and outreach center located in the very heart of the Reformation’s birthplace is already attracting students and visitors, promoting confessional-Lutheran theology, and opening doors to Gospel outreach and works of mercy in the city and surrounding region.

 

What is the Old Latin School?

The Old Latin School is a historic four-story building immediately adjacent to St. Mary’s Church (Stadtkirche Sankt Marien), the congregation where Dr. Martin Luther most often preached. The first two stories were built in 1564; the second two stories were added during a renovation and expansion in 1828. Abandoned and in decay after the fall of communism, the building was acquired through a gift from the Synod’s Central Illinois District Church Extension Fund and transferred to the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg. This historic school building has undergone a transformation into a Lutheran welcome, retreat and education center to serve as a mission outpost for the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 0197 IMG_3524 - Copy
Before (2012)
After (2015)

 

Where is the Old Latin School?

View in Google Maps Opens in a new window

One can see the relationship between St. Mary’s Church and the Old Latin School using the Google Sphere feature:

Photo Sphere 1 Photo Sphere 2
Once you are in the sphere view, click and hold on the image to rotate or pull the image around to view the relationship of the Old Latin School to St. Mary’s and other surrounding buildings. If you are using a wheel-mouse, the wheel can be used to zoom in or out.  Images are from pre-renovation days (2013).

 

How much did it cost to purchase the Old Latin School?

The building became available when a German bank offered it for sale for about $45,000.

 

What will actually happen under the banner “The Wittenberg Project”? Or, how will my support make a difference in people’s lives?

Three main emphases mark The Wittenberg Project: education, Gospel outreach and a confessional-Lutheran presence centered in the Gospel and based in the heart of historic Wittenberg.

The EDUCATION component will provide opportunities for college and seminary students (including students from the 10 LCMS colleges and universities and two seminaries), LCMS laity of all ages and LCMS partner churches, and researchers to study the Reformation and Luther’s influence in Wittenberg and other Reformation cities as an immersive “classroom.”

The GOSPEL OUTREACH component will carry the Gospel of Jesus to residents of Wittenberg and the surrounding region in partnership with SELK and LCMS missionaries in the region.

The PRESENCE component will afford visitors to Wittenberg, especially those expected for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, a special venue to learn the true history of Martin Luther, the Reformation and the Gospel he vigorously taught and defended.

 

How will the renovated Old Latin School support these three emphases?

The renovation has transformed the Old Latin School into a home for the International Lutheran Welcome Center, equipped with a chapel/lecture hall, small bookstore, foyer/classroom, comfortable guest rooms with private bathrooms, two apartments, a “group” (or gathering) room, and two offices. Already the city of Wittenberg is an expansive learning environment and the Center will serve as a home base for learning, research, community engagement and Gospel-centered outreach.

 

You mean to tell me, it’s not a museum?

No. It’s not.  It’s a place for education and bold Gospel outreach, and a strong Lutheran presence in Martin Luther’s city of ministry.  The city of Wittenberg is already a living museum, the place where the Reformation began.

 

How much will the Old Latin School renovation finally cost once everything is finished?

It is expected that the renovation effort will cost between $4.5-$4.9 million, an amount that fluctuates as the conversion rate (from dollars into Euros) moves favorably or unfavorably against the U.S. dollar.

Based on a December 30, 2016 conversion rate, the projected cost of preparing the building for use is $4,164,396.

Again, this figure is not static.  Back on November 30, 2014, the projected cost was $4,634,491 due to the higher cost of the Euro versus the U.S. Dollar on that date.

This amount includes the cost of purchasing the building ($45,000), feasibility/planning/design work, renovation preparation and archaeological expenses ($300,000), demolition, interior and exterior reconstruction in Euros (€2,445,088), essential furnishings and equipment in Euros (@€379,000), program start-up costs ($250,000) and related campaign (fundraising, donor care and communications) expenses.  The last item was limited or capped at no more than 15% of all donations received. Annual outreach and education fundraising expenses are limited to no more than 10% of the donations received.

 

Who funded the renovation of the Old Latin School?

The cost of the full renovation and initial interior furnishing was graciously funded by charitable contributions from willing donors through a special fund-raising campaign led by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW) and a group of dedicated volunteer leaders. The LCMS is providing ongoing logistical fundraising and promotional and awareness support through its Mission Advancement and Communications units.

 

I’ve heard Synod diverted unrestricted budget dollars and mission offerings to pay for the renovation. Is this true?

Nein! (No!) The LCMS Board of Directors approved the renovation effort under the condition that no unrestricted funds, which come primarily from worship offerings sent via district offices, would be used.  Funding has come solely from designated, or restricted, gifts from people who want to be a part of this historic effort. The LCMS Office of the President, a volunteer fundraising committee and LCMS Mission Advancement solicited or facilitated these restricted donations on behalf of the project. The project’s original manager, the Rev. David Mahsman, was a Synod missionary in eastern Germany and the current project manager (Kristen Lange) is also a Synod missionary. Those costs were and are funded by a network of donors who are aware of David’s and Kristen’s involvement and leadership role in the project. No unrestricted budget dollars or general international mission gifts are used to fund this missionary position.

The LCMS honors the intent of donors regarding ALL restricted gifts, including those provided to fund international and national mission efforts. This includes donations restricted for the support of specific missionaries, regional operations and administration, and mission projects. We do not ‘divert’ gifts designated for one purpose by a donor to fund something else. Verification of this practice is provided both by the internal controls on expenditures and by the annual external audit of revenues and expenses conducted by the LCMS Board of Directors through the Synod’s chief financial officer.

 

Why and how is the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) involved?

Donors, especially those who pledge to contribute over time, give or send pledge payments when it is most convenient for them rather than convenient for the project. Gifts came in clusters and there were periods when gifts are scarce. As a strategic partner, LCEF graciously supplied a “bridge loan” that provided cash to pay bills as they come due. LCEF supplied this loan “at lender cost” meaning LCEF made no profit off the partnership – their “gift” to the effort.

On January 4,2017 the outstanding balance of the bridge loan was retired and the balance of the loan is zero ($0.00).  Retiring the loan fully completes the fundraising campaign for the renovation

We are especially grateful for the partnership of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, and its investors, in making possible this trans-formative renovation.

 

Why did the LCMS and the ILSW not wait to start renovation work until all needed donations were secured? Why borrow from LCEF?

Circumstances in Germany demanded that the renovation work be initiated before the fundraising campaign was complete, primarily to limit cost increases.

First, the plan was to open the facility well ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation celebrations in Wittenberg that are already underway. Thousands of visitors are expected to come to Wittenberg from all over the world, and many other renovation projects beyond the Old Latin School had either been completed or were under way, including a major renovation of the Castle Church and St. Mary’s Church, where Luther regularly preached.  Similar renovation projects are happening in other cities in Germany which played a role in Luther’s life and the Reformation. Competition for labor and construction materials in Germany was steadily increasing labor rates and prices as the 500th anniversary approaches.

Compounding the problem of rising construction prices, damaging fooding in 2013 (click for more information) in towns and cities along the Elbe River intensified the local demand for construction laborers and building materials. By signing a contract and initiating work, both labor and material costs were “locked in,” saving the Synod and ILSW hundreds of thousands of dollars compare to tying the work too closely to the fund-raising campaign’s progress and available cash. This was a stewardship decision.

 

How much has been raised thus far?

Through December 30, 2016, a total of $4,164,396 has been contributed and pledged toward the renovation of the Old Latin School building, including the original purchase of the building and donations to support design planning and advance prep work.

 

How many congregations and groups have joined the Reformation 500 Club? How many individuals and families are Solo Verbo donors?

As of January 3, 2017, 279 congregations, schools and church-related groups have pledge or given at the $500 level or higher, qualifying them as members of the Reformation 500 Club.  For Solo Verbo (Word Alone), 213 individuals and families have pledged or given support at the $500+ level. Many others have requested information and are considering their participation.

 

What will the Synod’s obligation for ongoing operational funding be once the building renovation is complete?

A portion of the annual operating and maintenance costs of the building itself will be self-funded through registration fees, room rentals and other strategies presented in the project’s official business plan.

Restricted contributions donors excited about the Project will be accepted to support the outreach (evangelism) and education components, in harmony with the long-range plan for Gospel-centered work in the region.  Donations for the building will continue to be accepted to help offset repairs, necessary improvements and upkeep.

 

Are contributions tax-deductible?

Yes, to the extend allowed by law.

 

Are brochures or other materials available for me to share with interested friends?

With the conclusion of the renovation campaign, current brochures are obsolete.  Materials and resources for the education and outreach components are in the early stages of development.  You can also encourage them to contact LCMS Mission Advancement.

 

If I/we plan to travel in Germany, and will be in Wittenberg, how can I/we arrange a tour of the Old Latin School?

It is best to contact our LCMS missionary in Wittenberg, Managing Director Kristen Lange, well in advance of your trip and ideally while you are still in the planning stage.

Email Kristin  Office Phone Number+49 03491 454 6226

 

How can we find out if guest rooms are available on the dates we plan to travel?

You will need to contact our partner in Wittenberg,  Colleg Wittenberg, who manages the availability and reservations for guest housing.  Not all requests can be accommodated.

E-Mail: info@collegwittenberg.de

Phone: +49 (0)3491 507 950

Fax: +49 (0)3491 507 9555

Learn more about Colleg Wittenberg: http://www.collegwittenberg.de

 

 

Have other questions you’d like to see included on this FAQ page? Send them to patty.mainer@lcms.org or call Patty toll-free at 800-248-1930, Ext. 1661.