Witness in the Public Square

Save the Date!

This year's "Witness in the Public Square" will be held on October 22, 2019.
Please save the date and plan to attend!

The “Witness in the Public Square” is the primary mission funding event of the Atlantic District. It has provided over 2.3 million dollars of support to mission endeavors throughout the Atlantic District and around the world. These funds have supported work among many Chinese, Korean, Bengali, Liberian, Pakistani, and others in our midst in New York; feeding people in Liberia during the Ebola crisis; social ministry efforts in Far Rockaway after Superstorm Sandy and many more ...

The “Witness in the Public Square” honors those who have provided an exemplary witness in bringing Christian values to the public square through word and deed. Honorees can come from all walks of life: Edwin Meese, 75th US Attorney General; “Coalition of the Willing”, people involved in Superstorm Sandy Response; Gerard Arpey, CEO of the parent company of American Airlines; Gloria Edwards, LCMS & LIRS & LWR Board of Director member; Kathy Funfgeld, Atlantic District Lay Deacon, support of her church and the Atlantic Distirct; among many others.

The“Witness in the Public Square”is more than an event. It is a commitment to continuing the ministry of Jesus, Paul, the saints who have gone before us, and all who bring the love of God to bear, outside the sanctuary into their communities for the sake of the world. It is about “Engaging the World with the Gospel of Hope.”

The catalyst of the event was President/Bishop David Benke’s “Prayer for America” at Yankee Stadium following the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. This public act of prayer brought comfort and hope to thousands and thousands of people locally and across the country, including most importantly the families of the victims. Atlantic District leaders determined to memorialize this opportunity for Christian witness in conjunction with multiple endeavors in global mission taking place in New York.

2019 Nominees

James Sanft
James Sanft

James F. (Jim) Sanft has served as President and Chief Executive Officer for Concordia Plan Services since 2008, having joined the organization in 1999.

Concordia Plan Services designs and administers the employee benefit programs of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and serves over 6,000 congregations, schools, universities, seminaries, and other church-related organizations in the United States and in mission fields worldwide. The employee benefit trusts cover 31,000 active workers plus retirees and dependents, and have assets in excess of $4.5 billion.

An active leader in the church benefits community, Jim serves as Chair of the Church Alliance. The Church Alliance is a coalition of the chief executive officers of 38 church benefit programs including mainline and evangelical Protestant denominations, branches of Judaism and Catholic dioceses, schools and institutions. Collectively, these benefit programs provide retirement and health benefits to more than 1 million clergy, lay workers, and their family members. Sanft has represented the Church Alliance as a member of the Policy Board of Directors of the American Benefits Council. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the Church Benefits Association.

Jim has a B.S. in Education from Concordia University, Nebraska and a M.S. in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and is a Member of the American Academy of Actuaries. Prior to joining CPS, Jim worked as an actuary for Minnesota Life in St. Paul, Minnesota and for Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. in Lincoln, Nebraska. He began his professional career as a mathematics and computer science teacher at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Jim and his wife Janell have three sons, two daughters-in-law and one incredible grandson! They make their home in Columbia, Illinois and are members of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dusan Toth
Dusan Toth

The Reverend Dusan Toth, Assistant Equipping Pastor, Church of St. Luke – Lutheran, North York, Ontario, received his BEd at J.A. Comenius University in 1954 and his MA from the School of Arts, Comenius University in 1967. Dusan attended the Lutheran School of Theology, Modra, Czech., graduating with a B.A. in 1959. Reverend Toth was ordained and installed as a pastor through the colloquy program of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in 1969.

The Reverend Toth served as pastor at Holy Trinity, East Chicago, IN. from 1969-1971; St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Toronto, ON. From 1971-1990; and Church of St. Luke – Lutheran, North York, ON., from 1993 to the present. Reverend Toth also enrolled in the CPE program at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON., from 1991-1992. Reverend Toth served faithfully in Mission Outreach with International Lutheran Hour Ministries and served as a volunteer Chaplain at North York General Hospital.

Reverend Toth’s service to synod involves broadcasting and meditations through Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, Radio Canada. Reverend Toth began broadcasting through Radio Free Europe the second day he arrived in the United States, February 4, 1969. In 1975, he began broadcasting church services every second week. He and his wife, Valeria, recorded the music and liturgy in church and the sermons in their basement. The broadcasting of the services continued until 1990.

In 1990, the organizers of the Velvet Revolution in Slovakia, recognizing Dusan’s popularity during the years when listening to the free world broadcast might lead to imprisonment, invited him to speak at a public meeting. Dusan and Valeria had to obtain clearance from the Canadian government and were assured by the then Czechoslovak government that they would be allowed to leave again. They were the first people from the West to be invited to assure the Slovaks that the world knows about their struggle and prays for their victory. When Pastor Toth arrived in Bratislava to the chants of “Welcome home, Dusan,” the newly elected President, Vaclav Havel, invited Pastor Toth to Prague and revealed to him that for all the years the new President had been in prison, he listened to Dusan’s sermons and meditations on various radio stations. The President said that some of his supporters smuggled a radio into the prison, which was extremely dangerous. President Havel appointed Pastor Toth to his personal advisory group along with Jaroslav Pelikan.

(Reverend Toth’s biography continues on the back)

After the Velvet Revolution, Radio Free Europe wanted to broadcast services from local congregations in Slovakia and Pastor Toth was asked to prepare weekly meditations. He has a collection of about 1,100 meditations that he broadcast throughout the years for various radio stations. After the Velvet Revolution, Pastor Toth’s collection of meditations were published in book form (2000). In 2001 a second printing was needed to fill the demand. Pastor Toth continues to write Christian meditations for several publications in Slovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia.

While working with the International Lutheran Hour Ministries to the Communist Countries, Reverend Toth helped establish offices in Bratislava, Slovakia; Moscow, Russia; Tallin, Estonia; Almathy, Kazakhstan; Helsinki, Finland; Kiev, Ukraine; Novi Sad, Yugoslavia and Riga, Lithuania. Reverend Toth helped to find a location for the office, interview staff, train and help staff prepare the first programs in those regions.

Reverend Toth was also an assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, The Rev. Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, and led a synod delegation on their first trip to the post-Communist countries of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. This was followed by a series of projects the synod initiated to help the churches which had suffered 40 years under dictatorship.

Reverend Toth’s service to the community involved serving as Secretary General of the Slovak World Congress. It was the largest Slovak organization in the free world counting about one million members. The aim of the Congress was to preserve the Slovak culture, monitor the human rights violations in Slovakia and inform the world about it.

Reverend Toth also served as founder of the Canadian Slovak Immigrant Society; as board member of the Ontario Multicultural Theatre Association; Co-Chair of the Inter-religious Task Force for Christians and Jews; President of the Slovak Canadian Benefit Society; and organizer of star visits of officials from Czech and Slovak Federal Republic to Canada and the United States of America. During this week of the English District Convention, Reverend Toth has welcomed the new Slovak Bishop of Yugoslavia to the United States.

Marcia Steiner
Marcia Steiner

Marcia (Marcy) Steiner resides in New York's Capital Region and is president of Zion Lutheran Church in Schenectady.