Archive for February, 2012

That Other Convention Change

Most of us are aware by now of most of the major changes that were adopted by the 2010 convention in Houston. Among the most major are the new manner of electing circuit counselors, the  pre-convention election of the President of the Synod, the election of five regional vice-presidents and some board members, and the restructuring of the operations of the Synod.

That Other Convention Change

One additional major change, however, intended to permeate the entire life of the Synod, can easily escape attention. It was prompted by the structure task force’s interest in having congregations and visitation circuits play a greater role in the life and direction of the Synod. Agreeing with this interest, the 2010 convention created a new process for “grass roots” input into “mission and ministry emphases” that will direct the course of the Synod’s mission and ministry activity.

The end result of the convention decision is not some highly noticeable governance change that will immediately attract attention. Instead it is a relatively quiet seven-step process that begins with the Synod’s 6,200 congregations and in due time affects the entire life of the Synod during the following triennium.

How It Will Work

It may be helpful to outline the process:

  1. Each triennium, suggestions for mission and ministry emphases are discussed by congregations in preparation for their pre-district-convention circuit forums, this at the same meeting that they also select representatives to their forums and nominate pastors for their circuit’s circuit counselor position.
  2. The suggestions from congregations are discussed by their circuit forums, and one or more are submitted by overture to their 2012  district conventions.
  3. District conventions receive and discuss overtures from circuit forums and vote to send two or three mission and ministry emphasis proposals to the Synod convention.
  4. The Synod convention receives and processes overtures from district conventions and votes to adopt the Synod’s mission and ministry emphases for the next three years.
  5. The President of the Synod, in consultation with the Council of Presidents, identifies from these mission and ministry emphases specific goals for the national office to support ministry on the congregational level.
  6. The President, officers, Board of Directos, and mission boards and offices receive triennial focus from mission and ministry emphases and goals.
  7. District presidents encourage congregations and schools to embrace mission and ministry emphases adopted by the convention for the triennium.

 The Time is Now

For congregations to participate in this process, now is their time to discuss the mission and ministry areas that they believe should be emphasized during the three years following the 2013 convention. There will be no opportunity outside of the process outlined above. Now also is the time for circuit counselors to include this discussion on their circuit forum agendas so that suggestions can be forwarded to district conventions. Circuit counselors, check your agendas.

District conventions are required by bylaw to include consideration and a decision regarding mission and ministry emphases on their agendas. Quote: “The district convention shall, through delegate vote, forward to the national convention a list of two or three triennial mission and ministry emphases for consideration by the national convention” (Bylaw 4.2.1 [d]). District presidents, check your agendas.

The Synod convention and Synod leadership are also required by bylaw to take this process and its end product seriously—evidence of the serious intention of the 2010 convention to provide for greater involvement from the grass roots in providing direction of the mission and ministry of the Synod. Synod leaders, check your agendas.

There is, after all, that other convention change to think about, right about now.

Ray Hartwig

Williamson Fills Historic Role

williamson.gifThere are no precedents set for Chaplain (Col.) Rev. Gregory Williamson, no shoes to fill, no heels on which to follow. That’s because Williamson’s call to be the Synod’s Chief Mission Officer makes him the first man in the history of the LCMS ever to hold the position. 

Mandated by the Synod in convention in 2010, the role of Chief Mission Officer (CMO) requires Williamson to report directly to the president on a variety of fronts. His responsibilities include overseeing the Office of International Mission, the Office of National Mission, Communications, Fund Development and the Department of Pastoral Education, not to mention serving as the president’s liaison to Synod commissions and corporate entities.

Despite braving uncharted waters, Williamson is undeterred. Recently retired from the military as the command chaplain at United States Army Garrison-Yongson Seoul, this pastor in uniform is no stranger to the demand for strong leadership and assertiveness combined with pastoral care in the Church’s life together. “Military chaplaincy is a unique ministry environment,” Williamson explains. “Although those diverse experiences and education are not perfectly paralleled in the Church, they do provide a background for strategic ministry planning and execution.” 

Only days before he was to begin his new assignment, Williamson explains the way in which he already sees the Lord at work in the Church’s life together.

WMLT: What is your prayer for the Church as you prepare to fill the function of Chief Mission Officer?
GW: My first prayer is one of thanksgiving for the men and women who have been, and many who still are, an important part of my life. I am grateful for all the good folks who mentored, coached and taught me—often with great patience—to trust in God and His people. Their faithfulness continues to inspire me. 

I also pray that the Church cultivates a humble confidence that every believer is making life-changing contributions in the world. I pray that every pastor, teacher and deaconess experiences a daily confirmation of how precious they are to our Church, and I pray that the laity realize their vital roles in bringing Christ to families, communities and the world.

WMLT:  How do you foresee your military chaplaincy background—with its emphasis on Christ and His Word combined with leadership and administrative skills—being helpful in your new position?
GW:  My experience as a Lutheran chaplain provided me an opportunity to introduce other clergy and military professionals to our Lutheran confession of faith via problem-solving in the context of tactical and strategic mission environments. These complex mission environments afforded me opportunities to supervise diverse communities and to learn leadership from extraordinarily gifted men and women. 

WMLT: What blessings and challenges do you expect to see in filling a role that has never before existed in the LCMS?
GW:  The blessings are, without a doubt, to continue to share ministry with the men and women of the Church and to see from a very different place how good people can accomplish so much for the kingdom of God. I am encouraged by the diversity of abilities and talents among our members, and I can think of no greater blessing than to participate in an unprecedented focus of faithful men and women to make disciples of all nations.

The LCMS has enormous latent capabilities for which the world is in desperate need. President Harrison identified three priorities to address all these needs—WITNESS, MERCY and LIFE TOGETHER. They are profoundly on target in our contemporary world, and we must determine how to seize this moment of opportunity.  

For more on Chaplain Williamson, go to

–by Adriane Dorr

Helping Pastors Be Better Pastors

Neither a vacation nor a pastors’ conference, DOXOLOGY retreats help pastors be better pastors.

By Adriane Dorr

Pastors spend their days caring for others: praying, counseling, writing sermons, picking hymns, visiting the sick and shut-ins, studying Scripture, catechizing, penning newsletter articles and answering phone calls. But when the day is done, the coffee pot is empty and the narthex is dark, who cares for the pastors?

DOXOLOGY, a Recognized Service Organization of the LCMS, took on the profound task of pastoral care for pastors in 2007 in a new and innovative way. Neither a vacation nor a pastors’ conference, DOXOLOGY exists to strengthen, encourage and equip pastors, often emotionally and physically exhausted from giving so much of themselves, for intentional, faithful ministry in the Church. In short, DOXOLOGY helps pastors pastor others.

Clergy surveys completed over the last 40 years indicate that pastors struggle to find ways to best serve their congregations and are often at a loss as to how to resolve conflict and concern within their parishes. They “also noted frequent disagreement between pastors and lay leaders regarding their unique responsibilities in the church’s life and mission,” Dr. Beverly Yahnke, co-founder of DOXOLOGY, says. “They observed that pastors worked diligently but did not always find joy in their service. … Parishes had the desire to move beyond dissonance or dysfunction but were unclear how to do so.” In short, pastors were asking for advanced training and practical ministry tools to keep them from burning out.

Caring for the whole person

The Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, an LCMS parish pastor for more than 30 years and former associate professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Yahnke, an LCMS member and clinical psychologist, came up with a solution. Senkbeil noted the necessity of theological care for men in the ministry, while Yahnke pinpointed the practical need to tend to their personal well-being and to better understand the emotional issues underlying the spiritual needs of others. In short, they determined, the Church must find a way to care for the whole person, encouraging men in their identity as pastors while simultaneously realizing the importance of receiving care themselves, even from their own brothers in the pastoral office.

Grounded in Scripture, the innovative program consists of three components: the Gathering, the Encore and the Reunion. The first immerses participants in theology and training on self-care and is only for pastors. Central to the weekend are worship services where, instead of leading, pastors are able simply to receive God’s good gifts from the event chaplain. 

“DOXOLOGY focuses on helping pastors develop advanced skills for the care of the souls entrusted to them and those in the community who do not yet know the Lord Jesus,” explains Senkbeil. “Pastors can only give what they themselves have received. Our DOXOLOGY chaplains provide Christ’s gifts to those called to bring those same gifts to others.”

“Many pastors also make frequent use of these chaplains for personal consultation and pastoral care,” says Senkbeil. In addition, the men partake of sessions by theologians that assist them in examining their own theological and spiritual well-being. Throughout the weekend, Senkbeil and Yahnke are on call to provide counsel to the pastors. 

Later in the year, the Encore brings together the pastors and one lay leader from each of their congregations. Time is set aside for purposeful conversation, encouraging attendees to discover and discuss ways in which pastor and parish can come to a robust understanding of caring for one another in the Church’s life together. 

The Reunion, the final of DOXOLOGY’s three parts, culminates in a retreat weekend for pastors and their wives. Worship, fellowship, refreshment and theological encouragement are offered both for the couple jointly and individually.

The added bonus? Pastors seeking the Doctor of Ministry degree from either LCMS seminary can earn graduate credits in counseling or pastoral theology for completion of the DOXOLOGY program.

Real life, up close and personal

Topics discussed at DOXOLOGY retreats are difficult, hitting close to home for many pastors who have experienced similar complex situations in real life, either through members of their parishes or in their own lives. Discussions range from recognizing depression and combating pornography to overcoming compassion fatigue, identifying pastoral ethics, treating sexual addictions and preventing suicide. In each case, pastors learn how to recognize the warning signs in members of their own congregations and how to prevent or heal those hurts in their own lives and in the lives of their brother pastors.

Being fed to feed others

Participants are frank about DOXOLOGY’s benefits. “The pastor is placed in a congregation by the Lord as a servant of the Lord,” says the Rev. Lucas Woodford, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church and School, Mayer, Minn. “DOXOLOGY refines pastors in the way they think and act as pastors. It facilitates healing for pastoral hearts that have been broken. In short, it frees pastors to embrace the care and cure of souls in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“There are many pressures that I and many other pastors feel in regard to what we supposedly need to be and do to make ourselves and our church a ‘success,’ ” says the Rev. Paul Dare, pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Saint Cloud, Minn. “These pressures often rob a pastor of his joy in ministry and his identity as a called servant of the Word. DOXOLOGY has helped me and other pastors to have a good conscience before God and to have joy in ministry restored to us by renewing in heart and mind God’s model and desires for pastoral ministry.”

Rev. Tom Schmitt, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Omaha, Neb., noted, “When I signed up for DOXOLOGY, my tank was empty. When I finished DOXOLOGY, not only was my tank filled, but I found my ministry suddenly had more gears to use! DOXOLOGY connects the caregiver first to the care of his great Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and then to a network of wonderful servant-minded pastors for additional support.”

Women in the church have benefited from the program as well. “DOXOLOGY has provided me with a better understanding of the challenges pastors face as they shepherd souls,” says Deaconess Kim Schave, who attended with her husband, the Rev. Steven Schave. “The access we both had to spiritual counsel as well as a newly-acquired support system made up of other pastors and pastors’ wives has helped us both better deal with some of the challenges unique to our roles.”

Duke Consults with DOXOLOGY on Clergy Wellness Data

DOXOLOGY’s rich theological care has piqued the interest of those beyond the LCMS. The program’s unique focus on the spiritual care of the pastor created helpful discussion with Duke University researchers who consulted with Senkbeil and Yahnke regarding the program’s combined attention to pastoral care and Christian psychology. 

The program, which “has gathered data from every pastor enrolled on three occasions over a one-year period,” according to Yahnke, needed proof that pastors who attend DOXOLOGY retreats saw verifiable, impactful changes. “Research was essential to determine exactly what the program provided for pastors and congregations and to what extent there were measurable benefits,” said Yahnke. 

Compiling the research involved delving into pastors’ emotional, interpersonal, mental and spiritual health. But the subsequent data gave a telling glimpse into how pastors function and what the Church can do to enhance their capabilities. “ The earliest findings of the research provide compelling evidence for congregations, districts and foundations alike that DOXOLOGY’s advanced training program has a clear and measurable benefit for pastors, laity and pastors’ wives as well,” Yahnke says. “Research data indicate that the completion of the DOXOLOGY program results in dramatic improvements in many areas for pastors and their people.”

The groundbreaking study indicates that areas of measurable improvement for pastors who have attended DOXOLOGY retreats include the following:

• Lay leaders become more attuned to the work of the pastoral office, and the congregation better supports the pastor in that work.
• Pastors learn how to set boundaries, balance their time and care for both their parish and family. 
• Pastors find renewed joy and contentment in the Office of the Holy Ministry.
• Pastors work more efficiently and effectively.
• Pastors relearn the importance of a rich devotional life that leads them deeper into the mysteries and treasures of God’s holy Word.
• Pastors are able to seek counsel and spiritual care in their own struggles from other men in the office. 

“Additional research is being processed in the months ahead that will determine pastoral gains in the areas of interpersonal functioning and emotional well-being,” Yahnke notes. “DOXOLOGY assists pastors to be the best pastors that they can be, and now the data have been gathered to prove it.”

Hofman Begins New Position

hofman.gifMark Hofman understands President Matthew C. Harrison’s call to action more keenly than most: “It’s time for us, together, to get our financial house in order” (May 2011, The Lutheran Witness). As the Synod’s new executive director of Mission Advancement, Hofman works in the world of dollars and cents, major gifts and direct-response appeals, campaigns and special programs.

“The choices we make as stewards ultimately either lift up Christ for the world to see, or they hide Him from the view of others,” says Hofman candidly. “The same holds true of the material things God has entrusted to us. Ultimately, a Christian steward is motivated to make good choices by the empty cross and tomb of our Lord Jesus who even forgives us when we make poor choices.”

Mindful of this, Hofman sees his role as one that engages the Church in her life together so that she can remain a vibrant and faithful source of witness and mercy. Read now, in his own words, about the Church’s understanding of stewardship and the way in which God continues to care for His children.

WMLT: When it comes to raising money, meeting budgets and giving, what is your prayer for the Church?
MH:  My first prayer is that the Holy Spirit would help us live out the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed. Luther explains that all we truly need comes from the loving hand of God, yet we so often think that it’s up to us to scrape together what we need and want. My second prayer is that all of us would give serious thought to what the word stewardship really means. We’ve somehow reached a point where it is perceived as only being about money. Stewardship is how we use all of God’s gifts, not simply the gift that comes in the form of dollars and cents. Luther tells us that God gives us our clothing, shoes, food, families, vocations, all of it. My responsibility as a manager of those gifts is to use them in ways that thank, praise, serve and obey Him.

WMLT:  What blessings have you already seen in this role?
MH:  All those who support the Synod’s national and international ministries—regardless of how they route that support to the field—are the biggest blessing.

WMLT:  What are some of the challenges?
MH:  Membership in the LCMS is declining, so there are fewer households who can support the work. Congregation and district resources are strained. Engaging more people and inviting them to join us in supporting ministry efforts is the first order of business. It comes at a time when the national economy has instilled a real sense of fear and uncertainty about the future. That uncertainty and fear also increases the demand for witness and mercy work, so it becomes cyclical. Then, there’s the reality that our opportunities to witness will always demand more in resources than our fund-raising efforts can supply. This reality draws us back to the meaning of stewardship, which is the discerning use of limited resources to achieve God’s marvelous purpose for His Church.

For more on Mark Hofman, go to

(Interview and article by Adriane Dorr)

Colloquy for the Nations

Shown here are those present for the colloquy interview of Freeman Li at the CNH District Office January 30th, from left toright: Pastor David Wilson, Mission Pastor, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Fremont, CA (Freeman Li’s mentor); Colloquy Committee Chairman, First Vice President Herbert Mueller; Freeman Li; Rev. John Whaley, Assistant to the President, CNH District; Pastor Shiu Ming Lau, Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, San Francisco, CA, interpreter.

One of the things I “get to” do as First Vice President is to work with the Colloquy Committee as its chairman.  In that capacity, sometimes we bring the Chairman of the Colloquy Committee for the Pastoral Ministry to the person who has finished a course of study, especially if interpreters are needed.  By way of example, we recently held an interview for Wenbin (“Freeman”) Li, a colloquy applicant from China living in the San Francisco area.  Freeman Li is working with an LCMS pastor and congregation in the Bay Area and was ready for his interview.  Once the process is completely finished, he will be called, God willing, into a Chinese ministry in the same area.  The questions were asked in English, explained in Mandarin, answered in Mandarin and then interpreted back into English for the members of the interview committee who don’t know Mandarin.  For the convenience of everyone else, the interview was held at the offices of the California/Nevada/Hawaii District in Livermore, California. 
On this same trip to California, we also interviewed five colloquy applicants who have been prepared for the process in the Korean language by Korean speaking pastors led by Dr. Shang Ik Moon at Concordia, Irvine, CA.  These interviews, held at Irvine, CA, were conducted in Korean, with interpretation into English. We also interviewed an applicant from the Mekane Yesus Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ethiopia, conducting this interview in one of the languages of Ethiopia, Amharic.  Soon these pastors will be called to pastoral work in their native languages among various immigrant groups in the USA. 
Colloquy is for ordained pastors from other churches who are interested in becoming pastors in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (see Bylaw 3.10.2ff).  Much depends on the individual circumstances as to what might be required, but the Colloquy Committee goes to great lengths to ensure that those who are approved for colloquy share with us in confessing Biblical teaching according to our confessions and are prepared to be pastors in the Synod.  Men certified for colloquy become members of the Synod after they are placed in their first call by the Council of Presidents.  Most of the time, applicants are interviewed in St. Louis, but when interpreters are needed, we may makearrangements to go to the applicants.  If you have questions about colloquy, email Vice President Mueller at  Thank you.
We praise God for providing workers for his harvest field, in this case, for people in our country whose first language is not English.  Christ tells us to pray for workers because He has promised to hear!

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