Al’s Posts

President Harrison Addresses Historic International Mission Meeting

At a historic five-day meeting of the Program and Regional Directors of the LCMS Office of International Mission the week of Nov. 14 in Raleigh, N.C., LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison outlined his vision and principles for LCMS mission work. He began by describing his pre-seminary experience serving as a lay missionary with the Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots (LAMP) among the Cree Indians in Ontario, Canada.  

“The first Sunday we attended church, I asked, ‘Who’s preaching?’ ‘You are,’ came the response. I did the best I could at the time. I gave these Indian people sermons of Law and Gospel for the remainder of the year,” said Harrison.   

Harrison recalled that his service there was much like that of a “Methodist” lay preacher, because in 20 years of work in Ontario, not a single Lutheran congregation had been established among the Indians. 

This experience helped define for Harrison that a primary goal for LCMS mission efforts is that the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus must lead to the formation of Lutheran congregations.

President Harrison then described how Lutheran mission leading to the formation of Lutheran congregations is done through the lens of the Synod emphasis of WITNESS, MERCY, LIFE TOGETHER: “The gift of Lutheranism,” said Harrison, “is that salvation comes through Jesus only, as He is delivered through the preaching of the Word and in the forgiveness bestowed in Absolution, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in His body and blood in Holy Communion.” Where there is not a Lutheran church, the goal of LCMS mission efforts should be to plant a church, he said.

“Because we want to plant churches, it is important that we have pastors there to preach, teach and deliver the sacraments. Thus, seminary education around the world is a very important goal for us,” Harrison emphasized. 

Director of Seminary education, the Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill echoed Harrison. “Establishing strong residential Lutheran Seminaries has always played a central role in Missouri Synod mission strategy,” Quill said.

“This will continue to shape how international mission is undertaken in the 21st century.  Our partner churches place a high value on preparing pastors who are thoroughly trained in sound Lutheran theology and practice. They are looking to the LCMS to send missionaries to teach overseas as well as to receive students for further studies at our seminaries in Fort Wayne and St. Louis.”

Strengthening partner churches is another priority for Harrison. “Answers to local problems are local. Our chief responsibility is to share Christ, give them the goods, raise up local indigenous churches and let them go,” said Harrison who cited his prior experiences as the executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. 

In regard to the mercy and human-care work of the LCMS, Harrison emphasized that it be done in close proximity to the altar and the pulpit. Mercy work done apart from the Gospel becomes humanitarian aid. 

Mercy work done in place of the Gospel becomes a social gospel that diminishes Jesus. “It is an art to show mercy so that the Gospel predominates,” said Harrison. Mercy and human-care work needs to keep the goal of planting or strengthening Lutheran churches and congregations in mind, he said.

As part of our Life Together and love for one another, President Harrison explained that it is important that we put people in places where they are cared for by clergy and have regular access to Lutheran worship and the Means of Grace. “Unless our missionaries are fed and sustained with the Word and Sacraments, they cannot effectively bear witness to the world,” Harrison said. 

President Harrison also described several values that mark our Life Together: fidelity, excellence, sustainability, capacity and joy. Fidelity is faithfulness to the Lord Jesus taught by the Holy Scriptures and expounded by the Lutheran Confessions.  Harrison urged the group, “Do not be afraid to be Lutheran!” and he emphasized that all LCMS mission and mercy work should be done with the highest excellence, with measurable goals, in a sustainable way so that it does not disappear like a flash in the pan. 

A primary goal is to increase both LCMS capacity and the capacity of our partner and sister churches: “We need to increase local capacity, work to assist the local community to make its own decisions, to become churches of witness and mercy.” Finally, he said, “all our work is characterized by joy.”

Interim co-executive directors for the LCMS Office of International Mission, Rev. John Fale and Rev. Dr. Dave Birner underscored the importance of this weeklong meeting. “This is a historic meeting,” said Birner. “The reason the LCMS was formed was to do together what individual congregations could not do alone.” 

Fale elaborated: “For the first time in remembered history, Synod’s leadership from World Mission and World Relief and Human Care sat down together to coordinate integrated ministry plans to support a common vision that was articulated by the Synod’s President. These are competent and committed leaders who are invested in working together to bring God’s gifts of eternal life and mercy in Jesus to the world.  We are thankful for our Lord’s blessings upon these meetings and continue to pray for His guidance and wisdom as we move forward.”

The Office of International Mission is a matrix of program areas and world regions. Program areas represented at the meeting in Raleigh included Deaconess Ministry, Disaster Response, Life and Health Ministries, Specialized Pastoral Care, and Theological Education. These program areas work across the five world regions: Africa, Asia Pacific, South Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America. In some instances, the program directors also will work in cooperation with the Office of National Mission, thereby including the region of North America.  

“The meeting in Raleigh was crucial. This was really a breathtaking move toward a holistic and unified strategy for our witness and mercy outreach. To have everyone at the table discussing was so refreshingly healthy for our organization and the future of our mission work,” said Maggie Karner, director of Life and Health Ministries.

The program and regional directors of LCMS International (OIM) plan to meet again in January 2012  for strategic planning and budget preparation.

—Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver
Director of Church Relations—Assistant to the President

To read the article, “Lutheran Missions Must Lead to Lutheran Congregations” by President Harrison, go to:
http://bit.ly/v1RTDA

Missouri Synod Undertakes Foreign Mission

In 1893, the Missouri Synod officially decided to undertake foreign mission. By then the Synod had been around 46 years. The fact that it took the Missouri Synod 46 years should not be construed to mean that the Synod was uninterested in foreign mission or that the people of the Missouri Synod were not “missional.” In the Missouri Synod’s original constitution, the second item reads, “The joint extension of the kingdom of God.” Koppelmann notes, “Thus the Missouri Synod became the first Lutheran church body in America to acknowledge mission work as a definite part of its program, rather than that of a society within the church.”

In the 19th century, church bodies (with the exception of Roman Catholics) for the most part did not do missions. Because of the lack of mission work by church bodies in Europe, various mission societies were formed in England, Germany, and Scandinavia. These mission societies sent missionaries around the world. Before the Missouri Synod formed its own foreign mission board, funds were collected for foreign missions and were sent to the orthodox Lutheran mission societies in Germany.

Between 1849 and 1868, there were 53 articles in Der Lutheraner, the forerunner to the Lutheran Witness on foreign missions. The Synod also was engaged in what became known as “home missions,” which included work among European immigrants, Indians, and “Negros.” In fact, the Missouri Synod had a shortage of pastors.

In 1893, F. Sievers wrote an article titled, “Shall We Not Begin Foreign Missions?” In his article, he wrote:

Is there not already a manpower shortage? Yes, but God might well make this even more severe if we refused to undertake this mission. Do we have men with the required gifts? Should ours be the only Church without such men when it is the largest Lutheran body in the world? Foreign missions cost very much money! They do, and God has given us enormously much money. Could we not do more with the same amount of money spent in home missions? Is that a fair measure? Those among whom home missions are carried on have some light available. The heathen have none! Do we not carry a double, even a tenfold, obligation to bring them the light?

At the Synod convention in 1893, the convention created a foreign mission board. The report to the convention read:

The Lord has His hour in which He moves hearts to agree to that for which He has sent His people. Until this hour has struck, no good work can be done by them. . . . For our Synod the hour is now come in which the Lord is directing us to a new activity in missions among the heathen. That for which individuals or small groups within our Synod have been sighing to God for decades, namely, that we might again have a mission of our own among the heathen, this it seems is being fulfilled in a most wonderful way. The Lord has newly warmed the hearts for missions among the heathen and shows us not only that the doors to the heathen have opened throughout the world, but has also poured into our laps the means for this new mission activity. Now one hears not only a few single voices among us that desire a genuine mission of our own among the heathen, but all synodical Districts have come into this meeting so that, besides other im- portant business, they might thoroughly discuss the establishment of the desired mission among the heathen. It is now a rather general desire of our Christians that a mission be begun in a heathen country. The General Mission Board brings this before General Synod as a definite resolution. Your committee believes that this desire should be heeded. 

The resolution passed. Soon thereafter the Missouri Synod had missionaries on the foreign field. After a failed attempt to send a missionary to Japan — in part due to war — the Missouri Synod turned her focus to India. The Missouri Synod went from India to Brazil and Argentina.  In 1936, missionaries were sent to Nigeria. After World War II, the Missouri Synod sent missionaries to Asia beginning with Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea.

The entire fascinating story on how the Missouri Synod began foreign missions in 1893 can be read in Koppelmann, Herman H. “Missouri Synod undertakes foreign missions.” Concordia Theological Monthly 22, no. 8 (1951): 552-566. The article is produced below in PDF.


— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations



Missouri Synod Undertakes Foreign Missions

Ephesians — "You were sealed."

Theater in Ephesus Where A Riot Started Due to Saint Paul's Preaching around 57 AD

I.N.I.
Ephesians 1:3 – 14
Pastor Albert Collver
LCMS International Center, 23 January 2012
Today, we begin a preaching series on the book of Ephesians. Saint Paul wrote to the saints in Ephesus around 60 A.D. Ephesus is the place where Saint Paul visited in Acts 19, where “some disciples” had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit because they had been baptized with John’s baptism of repentance. Saint Paul baptized these disciples in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the church was born in Ephesus. The book of Ephesians is a letter written from the Apostle to the Lord’s church; it is pastoral. At the same time the letter is challenging. Ephesians 1, verses 3 to 14 is one giant sentence, that a Greek scholar has called “the most monstrous sentence-conglomerate in all Greek literature.” If you ever studied German, you know that the verb is frequently at the end of the sentence. In Ephesians chapter 1, like a German sentence, the verb appears at the end of the sentence. The “action” of the sentence that extends from verses 3 to 14 is this: “you were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.” This sealing of the Holy Spirit, which like with the first Christians in Ephesus, happened at your baptism is the guarantee of all the other promises in Ephesians chapter 1. The Lord Jesus inspired Saint Paul to write to the Ephesians for their comfort and for ours, so that we can be certain the Lord, who planned salvation before the very foundation of the world, has called you through the waters of Holy Baptism and the teaching of all that he commanded to be his saint, a member of his holy Church.
Now, if you are like me, it is easy to doubt that you “have been sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit.” Quite often, it does not feel as if we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. There is still sin, sickness, and death in our lives. As Saint Paul writes, we still do the things that we do not want to do. Our lives do not live up to the Ten Commandments. There is strife within the church, strife within our families. In the midst of sin, strife, and suffering, it is hard to see that we have been given “every spiritual blessing,” as the Apostle says in verse 3. I imagine that the church in Ephesus felt the same way. This is precisely why the Apostle wrote to them and to us – to provide comfort for doubting consciousness, for people wondering if the Lord’s plan of salvation is for me. Jesus’ answer, “I have called you before the foundation of the earth and have sealed you with the promise of the Holy Spirit.”
The Lord is to be blessed because he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Today, in the field of cosmology, a big question is “what happened before the big bang?” Since in the scientific community, the “big bang” is understood to be the beginning of time, scientists and philosophers debate how can you talk about something before time began. This sort of question is not unlike that asked of Saint Augustine what the Lord was doing before creation. Here Saint Paul gives us a glimpse into what the Lord was doing before Creation. According to Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, he says that the Lord chose us before the foundation of the world. Before creation the Lord Jesus had you in mind. Imagine that! Talk about a life of significance. The Lord chose you his saints before the foundation of the world to be “holy and blameless.” In the Old Testament, to be “holy” is to be set apart. The Lord has set you apart; he has adopted you. In the ancient Roman world, a noble person would on occasion adopt another person as his son to receive his inheritance. Our Father in heaven has adopted you through His Son, Jesus Christ. The blessings and inheritance of Jesus now belong to you.
Around the time of Saint Paul, various pagan and gnostic sects claimed to have the wisdom of God to share with their initiates. In this letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that the Lord has lavished his Wisdom upon us. The wisdom of God is Jesus and the Lord’s plan of salvation, which is the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus proclaimed to the world and given out through the preaching of His Word and the dispensing of his forgiving gifts – Absolution, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. This wisdom that the Lord has lavished upon us is foolishness to the world. Because the world considers the wisdom of God to be foolish, we as recipients of the Lord’s wisdom at times feel as if the Lord’s Word lacks power, or that we are ineffective witnesses to him. Yet, because we have doubts, because we get beaten down, because we wonder why the world does not accept the Gospel … the Lord tells you that He has chosen you, that he elected you before the foundation of the world, that he has sealed you with the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Go boldly to your day and to your tasks, for your Lord has called you and made you his children. You have been sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit, given to you in Holy Baptism. You bear the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and have been called to be holy and blameless. In Christ Jesus, your sins have been forgiven; you are holy and blameless for his sake before your heavenly Father.
Go in peace.
Amen.
— Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations

Symposia Update and International Dignitaries

Snow Covered Kramer Chapel

Although the 27th annual Exegetical Symposium and the 35th annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions (17 – 20 January 2012) began with unusually mild weather on Monday, by Thursday, winter arrived in full force with blustery winds and snow coating the ground.

The theme for the 27th annual Exegetical Theology Symposium, January 17-18, is In Search of Jesus: Why History Matters. Main speakers include Richard Bauckham of Cambridge, England; Daniel Johansson of Gothenburg, Sweden; as well as Dr. David Scaer, Dr. Charles Gieschen and other CTS professors.
The 35th annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions has chosen Justification in a Contemporary Context as its theme and will take place January 18-20, under the sponsorship of the Department of Systematic Theology. Speakers scheduled to participate include Dr. Jack Kilcrease, Adjunct Professor of Theology and Humanities at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Dr. Erik M. Heen, John H.P. Reumann Chair in Biblical Studies, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia; along with Prof. Roland Ziegler and other members of the CTS faculty.
Kantorei in Kramer Chapel Balcony

One of the highlights of the Symposia Series at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne is the chapel services, in particular the celebration of the commemoration of the faithfully departed. This year the commemoration of the faithfully departed was held on the Confession of Saint Peter, 18 January 2012. Rev. Jon Vieker, Senior Assistant to the LCMS President preached.

Rev. Jon Vieker, Preaching at Commemoration of the Faithfully Departed

Rev. Vieker preached on the LSB Hymn 395, “O Morning Star How Fair and Bright,” Stanza 5 and Revelation 21:1 – 7.  The service closed with LSB Hymn 676, “Behold A Host Arrayed in White,” (Listen to it below).



The service bulletin from the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed is provided below.

Commemoration of Faithful Departed 18 Jan 2012

Another highlight of the Symposia is the opportunity to meet with church leaders from around the world. This year Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne invited 25 International dignitaries to attend the Symposia. Dignitaries from Russia, Latvia, Germany, Finland, Norway, Tanzania, Nigeria, Haiti, and Indonesia attended.

President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary Welcomes
International Dignitaries and Introduces President Harrison to them.

The International Guests reported that they found the theological lectures and the fellowship at the Symposia Series very encouraging.

Rev. Emmanuel Makala (Tanzania) and Dr. Timothy  Quill

Rev. Emmanuel Makala is the assistant to Bishop Andrew Gulle of the East Lake Diocese in Tanzania. He is a new doctorate student at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.

Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin and Adrian Dorr

Adrian Dorr interviews Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin from the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC).

Rev. Charles Wokoma, Archbishop Christian Ekong, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver

This was Archbishop Christian Ekong from the Lutheran Church of Nigeria’s (LCN) first visit to Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne. The Lutheran Church of Nigeria has been a partner of the LCMS for 75 years,  one of the LCMS’ oldest partners. Archbishop Ekong stated that the number one way that the LCMS could help the Lutheran Church of Nigeria was through theological education. Archbishop Ekong stated that Nigeria is the third largest English speaking nation in the world.

Adrian Dorr with International Deaconesses
A little update from wintry Fort Wayne.
CTS Campus in Winter

A view from the new CTS Library.

— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
Posted 19 January 2012.

Lutheran Village Dedication in Jacmel Haiti

People Gathered for Lutheran Village Dedication

Yesterday, Sunday, 15 January 2012, the Lutheran Village in Jacmel, Haiti, was dedicated. The Lutheran Village was conceived by Rev. Glenn Merritt, working with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH), after the devastating earthquake in Haiti on 12 January 2010. The Lutheran Village consists of cinder-block homes constructed around a Lutheran congregation. Hundreds of people attended the dedication on Sunday, including the mayor of Jacmel and two senators.

Rev. Marky Kessa, President of the ELCH, awards home to applicant

Senator Joseph Lambert was a government dignitary who attended the dedication of the Lutheran Village. Senator Lambert, himself, was personally trapped under concrete rubble after the earthquake of 12 January 2010. Thirty-nine others were trapped with him, only four, including him, survived. He recounted that when the earthquake struck, he was rendered unconscious almost immediately. Around 11 PM, some six hours after the earthquake, he awoke and thought that life was very short. The sounds of people crying for help brought him to consciousness. He heard people crying, “Senator, please help me, pull the board out that went through my stomach”; “Senator, help me, pull the concrete off my legs.” The Senator said he would spare those gathered from the other horrible sounds he heard as people died. His arm was broken behind his back and concrete pressed on his skull. He said with his good arm he reached back and grabbed hold of a board. Around 2 AM, he heard the voice of his younger brother calling his name. The rescuers pulled the Senator out of the rubble by the “board” he clung to. Once out of the rubble, the Senator saw what he thought was a board was in fact a crucifix. He said that he gives thanks to Jesus every day for delivering him from the earthquake. He thanked the work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod for its work to help the people of Haiti. He also thanked Glenn Merritt in particular for traveling to Haiti more than 20 times to make the dream of a Lutheran Village a reality.

A Home in the Lutheran Village

A distinguishing feature of the homes in the Lutheran Village from the homes constructed by some of the other relief agencies is the cinder block construction. The mayor of Jacmel contrasted the sheet rock and cardboard homes constructed nearby to the “real homes” constructed from concrete in the Lutheran Village. The quality of the homes in the Lutheran Village were greatly appreciated by Haitian government officials.

A Lutheran Congregation forms the heart of the Lutheran Village
Another distinguishing feature of the Lutheran Village is a Lutheran Congregation, which will serve the community with the Gospel of Jesus and serve as a gathering place, as it did for this dedication.
Sanctuary of the Lutheran Congregation

The people who received homes at the dedication service were very grateful to receive a home.

After the dedication people gathered for refreshments and discussion. It was the conclusion of a fine day.
People from the ELCH

After the dedication service, people rode home on the back of trucks.

A Common Mode of Transportation in Haiti

Below are pictured Dignitaries from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Haitian Government.

Dignitaries at the Dedication

It was truly a blessing to see the completion of the Lutheran Village.

— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations,
Posted 16 January 2012 in Miami, Florida.
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