Archive for May 2012
We have recently finished the spring placement season for graduates of the two seminaries of our Synod. Commissioned minister placement is an ongoing process through the winter, spring and summer, as congregations continue to call workers into the harvest field. Recently, the Board for International Mission of our Synod called 16 workers into the international mission fields of our Synod. We are thankful that God provides workers for His Church – places for graduates to serve and pastors and commissioned ministers to bring God’s Word to calling congregations.
With that fresh in our minds, the days after we have celebrated the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost seems a good time to repeat a commonly asked question: how do we know the call into ministry is from God? The process seems very human. Congregations meet and vote. Placement directors and congregations interview. District presidents talk and work the lists over. The Council of Presidents meets and votes to place the graduates. Where is God in all this?
On the Second Sunday of Easter in our churches, we heard Jesus say to His disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive anyone their sins, their sins are forgiven them. If you retain them, they are retained” (John 20:21-23). Among other things, this passage promises that the Church has the Holy Spirit. Jesus pours out His Spirit on His Church. That’s the miracle of Pentecost continued today!
The apostles of Jesus were called directly by Him as He came to them personally, just as He came to Matthew in his tax office and said, “Follow Me!” (Mark 2:14). That was an immediate call, a call directly through the voice of Jesus.
Today pastors and teachers (yes, the Council of Presidents is also part of commissioned minister placement) are called mediately. That is, the Lord Himself still calls, but He calls through the instrument of His Church. But still, how do we know the call is from God? The Church has the Holy Spirit, as Jesus Himself promised.
So, when congregations pray for the guidance of the Spirit in the calling process, when pastors and commissioned ministers considering calls pray for the guidance of the same Spirit, when placement directors and district presidents invoke the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and direction in their deliberation, we can be sure that God hears and answers those prayers. The call is divine because the Church has the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gives His bride, the Church, the command to set apart for service, men who are prepared to be pastors (Titus 1:3ff), as well as men and women to teach in our schools. God’s people are called to receive them for what they are – gifts of Jesus to His Church (Ephesians 4:11ff).
This call is from God Himself, through the Church. We know it is from God, because the Church has the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God! May God grant every graduate a spirit of joyful service and every receiving congregation a spirit of thankful partnership with those whom Christ has called through His Church.
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President – LCMS
Confession and Mission – The Graduation Address delivered by Rev. Herbert C. Mueller, Jr., First Vice President of Synod, on May 18, 2012 at the Graduation Exercises for the 166th Academic Year of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Read it here.
+Herbert C. Mueller
First Vice President
Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.
Proverbs 23:22-25 ESV
Americans celebrate Sunday, May 13 and celebrate Armed Forces Day Saturday, May 19. These two events commemorate and celebrate service to our nation. Mothers send their sons and daughters to war knowing full well the price that they may pay. Yet, without their sacrifice, all would suffer. Some mothers have suffered much that all may live in peace.
Gold Star Mothers are a select group. These Mothers suffer the loss of sons or daughters in war. They gave their most precious treasures to sustain and protect our nation’s freedoms and liberties. They, more than others, bear the cost of securing the peace that citizens enjoy every day. Gold Star Mothers hang the “Gold Star” symbols of their losses in their homes in order to remind the world of the sacrifice paid for freedom.
Mothers suffer the burden and pain of loss, and society shares in their sacrifices. No other role shapes society more than does a mother. Mothers are the most intimate, influential, and transformational care providers of the young. They birth, feed, nurture, teach, protect, and mentor the next generation.
Christian mothers not only provide their children with emotional and physical care, but they provide for their children’s eternal well-being. They pray for their young disciples; they teach them of the Savior; they tell of the gift of life in the waters of baptism. Every day they manifest the love of Jesus in life and living.
Unfortunately, women receive mixed messages. Many women report that their roles as mothers compete unfavorably with career and professional success. Some share that they feel a bit uneasy among their peers unless they identify themselves as career professionals. Yet, what role in society is more valuable than a mother?
Society cannot pay enough for the losses that some mothers suffer; neither can society ever replace the roles that mothers fulfill generation after generation. It is well that the Church honors mothers, encourages them, and respects their sanctifying effects upon the Church.
The Church refers to St. Mary as the Theotokos, the Mother of God. She bore the Savior, nurtured Him, rejoiced as He grew in years and the knowledge of God, and ultimately watched with sorrow as He was sacrificed for the sins of humanity. The Church forever pays honor to Mary, the most blessed virgin.
Mary’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered much that the world would be saved from sin, death, and hell. St. Mary suffered a “Gold Star” loss as her Son’s sacrifice was for the peace of many. Her loss was the world’s gain—and her own. Humanity’s eternal freedom was won through the atoning death of the Savior. Jesus’ sacrifice rang in a new time of freedom that the Christian Church celebrates today. It is our season of freedom to bring the life-saving message of Christ’s atoning work to a world in sin and darkness.
Let us celebrate Christian mothers and the gifts that they bring to our Church.
Alleluia, He is risen!
Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
LCMS enters fellowship with church in Liberia By Adriane Dorr LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison declared fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL) May 10. This declaration followed the Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ (CTCR) action on April 26 in which recognition of full agreement between the LCMS and ELCL was approved.
“To its great joy, the CTCR discovered that doctrinal agreement exists with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia,” said the Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, CTCR chairman and president of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. “It was our privilege to recommend that President Harrison declare fellowship with these fellow Christians.” In his official letter to ELCL Bishop Amos Bolay, Harrison wrote, “Church fellowship is not something created by us, but it is a gift from our Lord Jesus that our Lord uses to mutually encourage each of us.” Extensive theological discussions between the LCMS and the ELCL officially began in December 2011, when four LCMS representatives — the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of Church Relations; Dr. David Erber, LCMS missionary to West Africa; Dr.
Mike Rodewald, LCMS Office of International Mission regional director for Africa; and the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer — visited Bolay and other ELCL church officials in the capital city of Monrovia, Liberia.
“The LCMS is in a position to help us bear witness to our nation,” Bolay told them. “We believe that the LCMS teaches the Bible correctly and holds to the Confessions. We want to have fellowship with the LCMS because we believe the same. If our teaching is not the same as the LCMS’, we seek correction and instruction.” The LCMS and ELCL have young but strong connections. LCMS missionaries first began witness and mercy work in Liberia in the mid-1970s. When the country’s first civil war broke out in 1989, the missionaries and many members and leaders of the ELCL were forced to flee the country, and the LCMS missionaries lost contact with the Liberian Lutherans with whom they had shared a Gospel-centered life.
During this time, however, Liberian Lutherans continued to gather together and also to share the Gospel with others. Four primary groups of Lutherans endured and even grew, despite the devastating effects of the war. These groups were formed when, due to the Second Liberian Civil War (1991-2002), Liberians were scattered about the region, coming into contact with other Lutherans and Christians from other backgrounds who also had been forced to flee their homes. The solid, biblical teachings of the Lutheran churches provided consolation and encouragement for their own members and for others who came to share their convictions.
(One of those new Lutherans was Bishop Bolay). After the fighting ceased, the amalgamation of these four groups formed the basis for the ELCL, which officially formed in 2009.
That church’s difficult start, however, has not been quickly forgotten. Recent media coverage of the trial of Charles Taylor, the former Liberian dictator, brought to light the suffering and persecution the people of Liberia experienced during the war.
Taylor was found guilty of committing war crimes against the Liberian people April 26, 2012.
The ancient church father Tertullian wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The ELCL is proof of this, believes Collver: “The Liberian civil war, which brought much harm and evil, was used by the Lord for good. The dispersion of Lutherans during the civil war actually spread the church by putting people in contact with others.” The church now includes about 150 congregations, 16 schools and an estimated 5,000-6,000 members.
The relationship between the ELCL and the LCMS remained strong following the war — so strong, in fact, that Bolay explained, “We in Liberia feel we are a LCMS church. You ask why? You are the church that started us.” More recently, church officials in the ELCL requested that LCMS pastors ordain Liberian candidates for the Office of the Holy Ministry. “We were told that LCMS missionaries could not conduct the ordinations because we were not LCMS,” said Bolay. “This hit us hard because we thought we were LCMS. It was an awakening for us and made us desire even more to join the LCMS in partnership.” On behalf of the ELCL, Bolay then officially requested fellowship talks during his visit to St. Louis for the International Disaster Response Conference for Lutherans in October 2011. Those very discussions, which took place in December 2011 and concluded in January 2012, became the subject of an official report prepared by Collver and Lehenbauer. The report was presented to the CTCR at its April 26-27 meeting in St. Louis, and the commission voted unanimously to recommend that the LCMS enter into fellowship with the ELCL.
The process by which churches such as the ELCL can potentially enter into fellowship with the LCMS has changed substantially due to a bylaw amendment passed at the 2010 Synod convention. Instead of waiting for approval by vote at the next convention, a “small, formative, or emerging confessional Lutheran church body” may now request fellowship, and “after consultation with the Praesidium and approval by the commission [CTCR], such recognition may be declared by the president of the Synod subject to the endorsement of the subsequent Synod convention” (LCMS Handbook, 22.214.171.124.2c).
The CTCR, too, looks forward to working together with the ELCL for the sake of the Gospel. “We are excited to cultivate a sense of walking together and working together side by side,” noted Lehenbauer.
Harrison’s declaration of fellowship between the two churches was met with great thanksgiving by the leadership of both the LCMS and the ELCL. “This is joyous time for the Lord’s Church when unity of confession is recognized,” said Collver.
“This is joy unspeakable and full of glory,” agreed Bolay. “The church of Liberia had long desired this fellowship and wishes to extend grateful thanks to all of you who helped to make this possible.” Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted May 11, 2012.
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Archive Date: June 11, 2012 Prepared by the Division of News & Information, LCMS Communications
FridayMay 11, 2012 Search Reporter
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