Pictured (Left to Right): Dr. Collver, Rev. Nathaniel Bol, Rev. Russell Shewmaker
On 30 July 2015, Rev. Nathaniel Bol, the leader of the SSELC, visited the International Center to present his request for fellowship with the LCMS. The South Sudan Evangelical Lutheran Church (SSELC) was formed on June 12, 2011 in Bor, Jonglei State, South Sudan.
Prior to June 2011, Rev. Nathaniel Bol was an Anglican priest and theological educator for 27 years in the the Episcopal Church of Sudan. He and 16 other ordained Anglican priests left the Anglican church to form this emerging Lutheran church body. The group did not attempt to take their congregations with them, but rather formed a small congregation consisting of 21 people at the church’s founding. Rev. Nathaniel Bol and the 16 other ordained pastors left the Anglican church over matters of Biblical interpretation, particularly the sexuality decisions made by the Anglican church. Rev. Nathaniel Bol also found the ecumenicalism of the Anglican church, particularly, worshiping with Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, to be unionistic and syncretistic. The reason this group departed the Anglican church according to them was for doctrinal reasons and no other reasons. Rev. Nathaniel Bol indicated that prior to departing the Anglican church, they studied what church body might hold a similar view of Scripture and an understanding of doctrine as they did. As a result, they found the Lutheran church, the mother of the Reformation, Eventually, over the internet they located the Missouri Synod. Today, the church has about 3,000 members.
In December 2014, there was a conflict in Bol, South Sudan. many of the church members had to flee from the rebel fighters. The church members scattered to places in South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya.
It was good to meet the leader of an emerging church in South Sudan. The fellowship request goes to the CTCR for further discussion in September.
— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) held their 63rd biannual convention at the Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, MI, from 27-30 July 2015. The Convention theme was “One in Christ.” The Wisconsin Synod invited LCMS observers to attend. The WELS convention is reminisce of how the Missouri Synod used to conduct their conventions. For instance, nominations for the president happened from the convention floor and elections were conducted with paper ballots. The convention by all accounts has been peaceful with the delegates enjoying visiting with one another.
Opening worship was held at St. Paul’s in Saginaw. The service was completely packed with standing room only in the narthex of the church and in the basement of the church. President Mark Schroeder served as the presiding minister, while Prof. Paul Koelpin of Martin Luther College served as the preacher. The sermon text was based off of the Easter propers in particular 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. Pastor Paul Koelpin is an excellent preacher. A particular poignant line from his sermon was, “The greatest irony of Jesus’ life is the more Jesus loved, the more Jesus forgave, the more he was hated.” Pastor Koelpin not only divided Law and Gospel in his sermon but he captured the theology of the cross, and the victory of Christ’s resurrection.
The convention proper began the next day with the “Presentation of the Flags” by the Lutheran Woman’s Missionary Society. The WELS LWMS is similar to the LCMS’ LWML group. The “Presentation of the Flags” highlights the states and the countries where the Wisconsin Synod is active in Mission. As each flag is presented, the women relay the story of how the flag relates to mission work. It is a very nice ceremony and a good way to remind delegates of the mission work of their church.
The Wisconsin Synod has been active in worldwide mission work for over 100 years. Back in the days of the Synodical Conference, the LCMS and WELS did cooperative and joint mission work. The Wisconsin Synod has engaged in missionary work in places where the LCMS currently does not have a mission outpost such as Pakistan, Nepal, and Ukraine.
During the convention, I had the opportunity to meet Bishop V’yacheslav Horpynchuk from the Ukraine. Over the years I have had the opportunity to correspond with Bishop Horpynchuk about developments in Lutheranism in the Ukraine and regarding the struggles of the Lutheran church in Ukraine. Many in the Missouri Synod know of Bishop Horpynchuk due to the decade long “Russia Project” at Concordia Theological Seminary. It was a pleasure to see Bishop Horpynchuk face to face, with the hope of visiting in the Ukraine in the future.
Other good news from the Wisconsin Synod convention was the reelection of President Mark Schroeder. President Schroeder has severed as the WELS President for the past 8 years. He has been instrumental in beginning the informal decisions between the LCMS-WELS-ELS over the past four years.
President Schroeder and the WELS CICR (the equivalent of the LCMS’ CTCR) presented to the convention the informal discussions between the Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Wisconsin Synod.
During the report about the information conversations between the former synodical conference members, the photo from the third meeting was displayed with the comment, “Our conversations are informal and so is the dress.” The Wisconsin Synod expressed how much it appreciated contact with the Missouri Synod.
Of course, every convention has business and reports. A significant report was on the financial condition of the Wisconsin Synod, which over all is good. The report noted how the “Ministry Financial Plan” formerly was “resource” driven but now is “ministry” driven. Given the size of the Wisconsin Synod, approximately 400,000 members, the church gives about $10 million for international mission and about $9 million for domestic mission each year. This is a tremendous stewardship commitment. The WELS also faces challenges similar to the Missouri Synod such as declining demographics and flat offering plate giving. WELS and Missouri face the same social pressures and potential restrictions in religious freedoms as well. All of these items were discussed at the convention.
Another highlight of the convention was the Convention Essay, “One in Christ” based on the book of Ephesians by Rev. James Huebner. Pastor Huebner has been a part of the group having informal discussions with the MIssouri Synod. He has a vibrant intercity ministry in Milwaukee and is an excellent preacher and speaker. The WELS press described his essay as follows:
The essay focused on the book of Ephesians. “In my work as a parish pastor, I have taught Ephesians often enough, and that book is really about being one in Christ,” says Huebner. “As diverse as that congregation in Ephesus was, we are also diverse. And yet the apostle wrote that you are one—thanks to Jesus—with your God and in faith and in purpose.”
Huebner says he decided to design the essay to be more like a sermon than a formal scholarly essay. For that reason he memorized his hour-long presentation. “From my heart to yours, this is what God has to say for you to think about,” he says.
It truly was an inspirational and excellent essay.
The WELS convention “One in Christ” was a pleasure to attend. The Wisconsin Synod folks showed great hospitality to the Missouri Synod observers. The convention also featured “branded” water bottles for the delegates. May the Lord bless WELS.
LCMS individuals meet with the Mekane Yesus Fellowship board
and LCMS pastors who originally came from the EECMY.
The Ethiopian LCMS Annual Pastors’ Conference and the Mekane Yesus Fellowship Board meet at the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Retreat Center in Newhark, Ohio, from July 22-26, 2015. Approximately, 150 people attended the conference mostly consisting of LCMS Ethiopian pastors and their families. Four delegates represented the EECMY from Ethiopia also attended.
Attendees at the conference engaged in worship, fellowship, and discussion. Ethiopia is the second largest African nation by population after Nigeria and is expected to become one of the most populous nations in the next 50-100 years. Unlike some African nations, the Ethiopian diaspora is well organized in the United States and in other parts of the world. Ethiopians constitute the second largest African immigration group in the United States after Nigerians. As both the white and african american population declines demographically, the Ethiopian population increases in the United States (See article “As Black Population Declines, Little Ethiopia Increases.”) The large number of Ethiopian immigrants makes it an important focus for the LCMS national mission as well as a potentially significant population group for Christianity in the West.
Dr. Yared Speaking About the Importance of LCMS Support for the EECMY
The group had the goals of exchanging ministry experiences, organizing the diaspora community, and to strengthen the LCMS-EECMY relationship. Items discussed the working relationship between the EECMY and the LCMS, the EECMY’s Diaspora Mission Awareness and Opportunities strategic conversation, Raising awareness and support in the diaspora community, and confessional and theological discussions toward the future. LCMS representatives included (in alphabetical order): Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations; President Terry Cripe, Ohio District President; Rev. Bart Day, Executive Director of the Office of National Mission; Rev. Roosevelt Gray, Director of Black Ministry for the Office of National Mission; Dr. Detlev Schulz, Director of Graduate Studies Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne; Dr. Brent Smith, Representative from the South East District; Rev. Mark Wood, Director of LCMS Witness & Outreach Ministry.
Pastor Wondimu Mathewos, Dr. Albert Collver, and Dr. Tilahun Mekonnen Meet before Conference
Pastor Wondimu Mathewos is the Director of the International Mission Society (IMS) for the EECMY in Ethiopia. The EECMY is best known for its domestic mission which has taken the EECMY from about 25,000 members in 1959 to about 7.2 million members in 2015. Until recently, the EECMY had been focused on domestic proclamation of the gospel. The formation of the EECMY International Mission Society mark the Mekane Yesus’ church’s effort to proclaim the gospel internationally.
Dr. Detlev Schulz listened to the needs to train EECMY pastors both at the B.TH and Masters level in Ethiopia. Dr. Schulz spoke about his experience teaching in Ethiopia and about the Ethiopian students who are attending LCMS seminaries in the United States.
President Abraham Mengesha
Pastor Abraham Mengesha, President of the Central Ethiopian Synod, presented a paper at the LCMS’ mission summit in November 2014 on the “Factors That Contributed to the Growth of the EECMY in General and the Central Ethiopian Synod in Particular.” The paper may be helpful to those in the LCMS desiring to understand some of the history and background to the Mekane Yesus Church, the largest Lutheran church in the world. The EECMY report 7.2 million members. The paper was published in the Journal of Lutheran Mission (JOLM). The paper was published in the June 2015 issue found here. A copy of the paper is provided below:
Note: The following sermon was preached in the Chapel at The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s International Center on July 23, 2015, by Rev. Kevin Robson, Synod’s Chief Mission Officer, for the installation of Rev. John Fale as Executive Director of the Office of International Mission and Revs. Ed Grimenstein and Dan McMiller as associate executive directors of that Office. The text was Isaiah 52:7-10. + Herbert Mueller.
+ JESU JUVA +
Let’s face it! You are podiatrically challenged! I mean … have you considered your feet lately? They are not those cute, cuddly little piggly-wigglies that you were born with. Now it’s calluses and corns. Hangnails and hammer toes. Hairy digits that splay out in every direction, looking more like they belong on a chimpanzee than a human being. Cracked heels and fallen arches. Skin so thick and rough that it would make an alligator’s mama proud! Cracked nails, yellowed nails, missing nails. Tired, achy, sweaty … and pungent. Yeechh!
But here’s the thing: God’s man, Isaiah, is given to see things in a different way — a much different way. And over seven centuries later, Saint Paul picks up from the same cue sheet: beautiful. Something lovely to behold. Completely fitting the intended use. The feet of the messenger, fleet and strong, running, flying like the wind, ascending effortlessly upon the lofty mountain. Feet simply beautiful …to the eyes of the one who beholds them.
So … do you? Do you behold such beauty — with the eyes of faith?
Bring it, O Herald of the Almighty. Publish your message of peace among us who continue so selfishly, so egotistically, so sinfully to wage war against one another. Fighting still, and still destroying. In this corrupted worldly life — war never ending, another war still and still yet another, war never ending, war always beginning. Bring your good news, O Sent One, and let our gaze be lifted up to that which is so lovely and beautiful. Lift up our eyes to the mountains upon which You intently travel, the hills from where our help comes. Set our vision upon Your humble Servant and Him alone … this Prince of Peace, the One who suffers alone upon the mountain called Calvary, in our place, on our behalf, the One who finally keeps us from all evil, yes, keeps our very lives in the peace that surpasses our human reason.
Bring forth your powerful Word, and preach the fitting good news, O Divine Evangelizer. The beauty of Your return, Your resurrection in victory, speedily, thankfully overtakes us who were trodden down in the dust of today’s Babylon, Babylon here and now, a contemporary exile of our own making. Let us convicted sinners hear this Gospel again and again: Yahweh has redeemed His chosen people, His Israel. Let us redeemed sinners simply shout out in sheer joy, as watchmen from the rooftops, with one voice — “Our God reigns.”
Where once all appeared lost, where we exiles had plunged ourselves into the deepest depths of darkness, where we had been drowning in a self-made cesspool of rebellious transgression and chaos, where hope was seemingly absent, where we were dead … the Son, in Jesus Christ, has joined us, stood in solidarity with us, and now, in Him, a new and confident hope, genuine hope, appears. We were outcasts, and so is He. We were faced with a quagmire of unfamiliar surroundings, and so is He. He stands with us in the cauldron of our wounds and sadnesses, our fears and losses. And although He is sovereign and free, He has willingly submitted Himself, entered into our marginalized community, and has led us, walked us out, to the Promised Land, once again.
Announce it, O “Gospel-er.” Publish this good news of salvation so that every corner of the earth can see it. Your saving us. Not us saving ourselves; that was never in us. Lay bare your holy arm, and let the world see Your muscle, but not in the way that the world expects. Let them see Your bared arm … extended, stretched out in willing obedience, nailed upon that horrible instrument of humiliation, punishment, and death. For in this way, You have “brought down the rulers from their thrones and lifted up those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52). In this way, in this way of Your holy cross, and this way only, what was utterly ruined is restored, finished, perfected, complete. Behold, it is good, it is very good, it is … beautiful.
Today we are given to behold something like this, something beautiful: the prayerful consecration of three men, a triad called by our merciful Lord, to go forward in their performance of sacred duties given them as heralds, evangelists, “gospel-ers.” Under the watchful eye of Yahweh, strengthened by His Spirit, their running task under God’s grace is to continue to support and further the proclamation of the peace that has come in Jesus Christ: to publish His salvation quite literally to the ends of the earth, that all might be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
Dear brothers, it has so happened under God’s foreknowledge and plan that your feet have been rather well-traveled in the years that He has already granted you. You’ve stepped upon distant continents. You’ve been given to walk in many different places and through varied circumstances that at times, I’m sure, have either wildly joyful as if in a dream … or tragic and terrifying, as if in a nightmare.
The road has been easy in some places; hard, lonely, exasperating, and perplexing in others. Such is life in this mortal flesh. We have not walked in your shoes, but we know what it is to follow together in the footsteps of Jesus, and we are all continuing, day-by-day, to learn what it means to sojourn through this life (and our new identity given us in Holy Baptism) under His cross.
So please, dear heralds, evangelists, “gospel-ers.” In all your leading, in all your contending for the faith, in all your planning, in all your labors, please be sure to keep on telling us the story. Bring it. Announce it. Preach it. Publish it. We who hope, we who are awaiting the return of our King, need to be reminded.
Please know that we are praying for you, in compassion, as you go about this most sacred task. And please know something else. Your feet — though they bear the marks of the fallen-ness and corruption that we all share — your feet have been made beautiful. Fitted to the task. Tireless, nimble, speedy. Turned toward their intended purpose, that for which they were created, that which was ordained by God from before time ever began.
Your feet are beautiful, not in and of themselves, but because of the beautiful path upon which they have been set — because of the beauty of Him who has stooped down to wash them — because of Christ’s beautiful, brutally bruised heel, driven through by the serpent’s bite, a fiery iron spike forged in the crucible of our transgressions, the very same heel of our almighty Savior that came down to deliver the singular, final death blow upon the head of our greatest enemy. And thus, “Our God reigns.”
“How beautiful the feet that ran
To bring the great good news to man” (LSB 834).
Something beautiful, indeed, in the name + of Jesus. Amen.
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +
Note: The following sermon was preached this morning, June 22, 2015, at the LCMS International Center in St. Louis by the Reverend Doctor Edward Grimenstein, associate executive director for the Office of International Missions, for the opening of Missionary Training for the current cohort of missionaries to be trained and sent into the worldwide mission fields of our Synod. By God’s grace, we are very close to the goal of doubling the number of missionaries sent into the field, a goal adopted by the 2013 Synod Convention. God be praised! + Herb Mueller
“God does not do things lightly”
God likes Words — He called creation into existence through Words. God loves water, because He destroys our flesh with it, while delivering us as newborn babes in Christ through it. He is very pleased with bread and wine because He cradles His flesh within His promise so we may taste and see how good the Lord truly is. But what God loves most, what He cares for most — is you.
God loves people. He loves you; made in His image, in His likeness, reborn in the likeness of Christ. Because through you, He still speaks His Word of salvation into this world. Through the mouths of preachers people believe, through the conversations of a wife over coffee with a neighbor tears of comfort can freely pour, through a simple child’s witness some of the greatest saints have believed.
And this brings us to some very special guests with us this morning. Welcome to our Summer Missionary class of 2015; our missionaries, spouses, and children. We are very pleased to have you join us here for the next two weeks during orientation.
It has been awhile now since you first started this process hasn’t it? But now the long deliberations are over. Your church has called you, God has called you, and you accepted that call. It is time to be like Abraham, and to follow where God has called you — not knowing everything, but knowing your God would never steer you wrongly. You go to minister and love a people you do not even know yet, all the while leaving people you already know and love — but don’t worry, God knows all and knows whom you are to love.
Big changes, lots of changes. But remember, your God is the One true God who does make big changes, who does do things greatly, and is the One who risks everything to go after that One lost sheep. That is your God. That is who He is. And so He has called you into a life that mirrors the very nature of God Himself — He does big things.
This morning God spoke through the prophet Isaiah to you. And He said to you, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel, I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Your God does not do things lightly. He doesn’t take the easy way out. He is a God who takes the long road, He is a God who stays the course no matter what, He is the God who is willing to go through for Himself a suffering and a death, so that there could be a resurrection.
God doesn’t take the easy way out. Whether He is cradling you and your life, or desiring to draw the whole world under His wing – God doesn’t do things lightly. God is not satisfied with staying in one corner of the world – that would be too light a thing. God refuses to close His mouth and speak to only one race of people – that would be too light a thing. Your God just doesn’t do things lightly. He never has and He never will. It is not in His nature. The whole world is His and all that is in it, and He desperately wants that world and her people to come back under His protective wing.
Each of you here have been called by name to also never live your lives lightly. Whether you are a missionary, or a spouse, a child, whether you are someone who is working here in this building in the International Center — you have all been called by name. God knows who you are. He knows how you are attacked. He knows who attacks you. And our God does not abandon you to be ravaged by your flesh — because that would be too light a thing — He gives us a new life in Christ.
Our God doesn’t abandon you to be a people who see no hope from day to day — that would be too light a thing — you have a lasting hope in Christ that no one and no thing can ever take away from you. When we sin, God does not turn His face away from us embarrassed — that would be too light a thing — He looks us square in the eyes and says, “I forgive you.”
And when we die, and after the memory of who we are has faded from our friends and families minds, after our tombstones themselves have turned to dust by rain and wind and time, even after our bones have reverted back to dust — your God will not forget you, He will not abandon you — your God will never, never forget you or the promise He made to you that whoever has been united to Christ in His death through baptism … will also be united to Christ in His resurrection from the dead.
Today is a day of celebration for all of us here whether serving as missionaries or working here in the International Center. Because today we see how our God acts — He doesn’t act lightly, He goes big, He goes for the whole world to bring His light to all the nations. And He goes really big by going really small; He knows your name, He knows your illness, He knows your sin, He knows what tempts you and who tempts you … and your God stakes His claim upon your life and your future just as much as He has staked a claim upon this whole world so that neither death nor suffering nor all the powers of Hell can ever pluck you out of His hand … because, let’s face it, we worship a God who does not do things lightly. Amen.
And now may the peace of our God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.