President Harrison Video on HHS Ruling

 

Download this video or watch President Harrison give live testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on Thursday, February 16, 9:30 a.m. EST.

Haiti Visit Continued — LCC and LCMS

In Jacmel, Haiti, President Robert Bugbee of the Lutheran Church Canada (LCC) and President Marky Kessa of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH) stand in front of a medical clinic donated to the ELCH by LCMS World Relief and Human Care after the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and severely damaged Jacmel and also Leogane.

Two years after the earthquake, this historic street in Jacmel is still badly damaged. This was a section of town with some of the oldest buildings dating to the time of the French occupation in the late 18th century.

A United Nations tent city still remains in Jacmel. Two years ago when I visited the tent city in Jacmel, Canada United Nations forces provided security for the earthquake survivors. In a blogpost, I wrote:
“The children being children made toys from discarded bicycle tire rims and a stick. A few other children made kites from scraps of plastic wrap or bags and a few sticks. The kite string was dental foss. In the midst of the disaster, the children can still play.”
Today, the children still play and there has been improvement to the city of Jacmel… Not to mention the completion of two Lutheran Villages.

Pastor Willy Gaspar and Ulna, the manager of the medical clinic in Jacmel, look over a list of needed medications.

Dr. Collver stands with Sydney Kessa in front of the Lutheran Guest House in Jacmel. A couple of short term teams from the LCMS stayed in the guest house this past month as they volunteered in Haiti.

Driving back from Jacmel to Port-au-Prince, a several hour drive through the mountains, we saw evidence of the challenges which beset Haiti. The problems and challenges of Haiti were only exacerbated by the earthquake. Nearly every SUV type vehicle was branded with the logo of one of the ten thousand non-governmental organizations (NGO) that operate in Haiti. Yet unbridled charity from the United States and other countries will not solve these problems.

On the way back to the hotel in Port-au-Prince, we drove past the collapsed presidential palace so that President Bugbee could see it. Our Haitian driver mentioned that every American wants to see the collapsed palace. I asked him, “Do you think it will be repaired?” He responded, “They will try to do something. This is our 9/11.”

President Bugbee reflecting on the trip remarked, “When we think of the sorrow and other human tragedies brought on by the earthquake here, I can’t help but think of that mighty refrain from Psalm 46, ‘The Lord of hosts is with us.’ In the middle of all their sorrow, our friends n Haiti are finding that He is with them in a big way in the faithful preaching of the Gospel. I can only hope that the Missouri Synod and the LCC can be the Lord’s instruments to deepen these wonderful people in their commitment to Christ, His Word, and our Lutheran Confession.”
Kyrie Eleison.
— Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Update on the Future of LCMS Campus Ministry

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.  His praise endures forever!” (Ps. 111:10).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Many throughout the Synod have expressed great concern for the future of campus ministry. I want to update you briefly concerning the plans underway through the Office of National Mission (ONM) to increase Synod support for that ministry.

At the beginning of this year, the ONM hosted a Think Tank on Campus Ministry made up of campus pastors, workers and other invested parties from throughout The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. By every standard, the meeting was a great success.  I was deeply impressed with the passion and dedication of everyone involved in campus ministry.  These individuals and the countless others whom they represent are intensely dedicated to campus ministry.  They deserve our thanks for all that they have done to support this important work, especially since the Synod’s Campus Ministry Office was closed in 2002.

Over the two days together, we were able to develop an understanding of the purposes, unique needs and support required for the ongoing work of campus ministry.  While there are many things to work out, it is clear that the Synod once again needs to provide direct coordination and support.

In order to build on this consensus and chart a common path forward, President Matthew C. Harrison and I have requested a follow-up meeting with representatives from each of the four main groups involved in Synod campus ministry circles: Christ on Campus (Higher Things), International Student Ministry, Lutheran Campus Mission Association and Lutheran Student Fellowship. That meeting will hopefully take place in March and will provide us with direction as we move forward.

There is a fifth critical partner in campus ministry: districts of the Synod. Many districts continue to work and fund campus ministry despite diminishing congregational support. Another important task for the ONM will be to coordinate closely with districts who are involved in campus ministry. Working together we can accomplish all that our Lord has given us to do.

At the same time, the committee tasked to put on a national campus ministry conference is hard at work. In the past, such conferences provided opportunities for students and staff to get to know one another and engage in dialogue about topics facing our young people on campus and worship the triune God they proclaim together. I am confident that this conference will accomplish all that and more.

The efforts of all of these devoted individuals represent a rekindling of our Synod’s desire to make campus mission and ministry a substantial part of the Synod’s future.  Among the many things learned at our January meeting is the truth that campus ministry is not just an essential part of the Church’s mission, but it is also one of the most strategic mission and ministry outposts that we have today. We are in a unique moment in time. The need and opportunity to be present on our college campuses is greater than ever. It is time for the LCMS to be a leader in campus ministry.

We still have work to do. As we move forward together, I am heartbroken to hear that even more LCMS campus ministry properties are being put up for sale. The actions to sell these facilities are sending mixed messages to those who work in campus mission and ministry as a labor of love. Our campus pastors, workers and volunteers are growing discouraged, and the college students they seek to serve are dismayed to hear these reports.

I beseech these districts’ Boards of Directors, the congregations and pastors of the districts and others who may be considering similar action to collaborate in researching other alternatives. While I recognize that there may be a time for the sale of campus ministry properties, the sweeping nature of that which is taking place is simply unprecedented.  The sale of these properties in such prime locations is irreversible and will greatly diminish the Synod’s presence on these college campuses. We as the Church can’t support campus ministry while at the same time defunding our campus ministries or selling their facilities.

Please, let us slow down and find solutions together.  I challenge all of our congregations and pastors in every district to consider how we might, by the mercy of God, work together to increase our support for Word and Sacrament campus ministry. Yes, we know these are challenging times financially. Yet the time our young people spend on campus provides a golden opportunity to help strengthen them in the faith of our Lord, Jesus Christ, an opportunity we must not allow to slip through our fingers.

May God grant us the foresight equal to those who have gone before us who built these campus ministry facilities for the sake of the spiritual needs of our Lutheran college students and for reaching the lost on the secular universities of our nation.

It is clear that campus ministry in our Synod is at a crossroads.  The opportunities are as great as ever. Please know that we are doing everything we can to support campus ministry going forward. We are more committed than ever to support campus ministry through the ONM and to do so as soon as possible.

While we work toward this end, please continue to join all of us in praying for those who labor in campus ministry and especially those dear ones whose souls we desire to seek and save. May God, the source of every good and perfect gift, grant us a full measure of wisdom as we deliberate on the future of campus ministry in the LCMS.

Peace,

Rev. J. Bart Day
Executive Director of National Mission
bart.day@lcms.org

 

LCC and LCMS Visit to Haiti

President Robert Bugbee (LCC), Pastor Willy Gaspar, Dr. Albert Collver in Haiti

On Saturday, 11 February 2012, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, President of the Lutheran Church Canada (LCC) and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations, arrived in Port-au-Prince Haiti. They were met by Pastor Willy Gaspar of the Dominican Lutheran Mission and Mr. Lophane Laurent at Toussaint Louverture International Airport.

Mr. Lophane Laurent Sporting the WMLT Disaster Shirt

On Sunday, 12 February 2012, the group traveled to Gonaïves to visit the headquarters of the Lutheran Church of Haiti (LCH). The Lutheran Church of Haiti is not in church fellowship with either the LCMS or the LCC, nor is it a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC); however, a number of mission societies within the LCMS and the LCC support the Lutheran Church of Haiti. The President of the LCH is Rev. Revenal Benoit.

Pastor Benoit standing next to Pastor Gaspar (playing drums) after the service

The Lutheran Church of Haiti (LCH) is a break-away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH), which is in fellowship with the LCMS and a member of the ILC. A number of mission societies affiliated with either the LCMS or the LCC have been working with the LCH. Ironically, very few of the Haitian mission societies work with the LCMS’ partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH). Part of the reason for the visit was to check on reports from the various mission societies. This is President Bugbee’s first trip to Haiti.

Worship at the main Church of Haiti in Gonaïves. The musicians were very skilled, but the music was not what we were accustomed to using in worship.

View from the top of Lutheran Church of Faith, headquarters of LCH, in Gonaïves. The other floors of the church building contain class rooms, a computer / business school, and a recording studio that serves the FM radio station and Channel 6 on the television.

The Broadcasting equipment and transmitter equipment was donated from the United States.

After visiting the church building, we traveled a short distance to a center for street boys. Approximately 25 boys, ranging in age from 4 to 12 are cared for at the center. The boys parents either had died, were unable to care for them, or put them out on the street like strays.

A stray dog wanders outside the rescue center for boys.

The remains of a fortress used by the Haitians to defend against Napoleon’s attempts to retake Haiti after its revolution in 1804. Haiti has truly suffered from the time the French occupied the island in the 17th century until the present.

President Bugbee meets with Pastor Benoit of the Lutheran Church of Haiti (LCH).

Children who attended the church service.
Today, we travel from Gonaïves to Jacmel, where we will meet representatives from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti (ELCH).
— Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations

Fifth Annual Emmaus Conference

President Matthew C. Harrison (LCMS), President Mark Schroeder (WELS),
President John Moldstad, Jr. (ELS) at Emmaus Conference in Tacoma, WA

The Fifth Annual Emmaus Conference on “The History and Prospects of Lutheran Free Conferences” was held at Parkland Lutheran Church and School in Tacoma, WA, on 9 – 10 February 2012. While this is the fifth annual free conference, it is the second time the presidents from The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and The Evangelical Lutheran Synod met together “to share information on a selected topic of interest to confessional Lutheranism in a setting outside the realm of church fellowship…. The conference is not to be viewed as having any official status of formal doctrinal discussions between church bodies.” The organizers of the Emmaus Conference did express the desire that this conference in Tacoma might lead to “the establishment of such official free conferences among confessional Lutheran church bodies in America.”

In 1856, Dr. C.F.W. Walther, President of the Missouri Synod, first proposed the idea of free conferences to “bring together American Lutherans who unreservedly confessed the Augsburg Confession.” The proposal of free conferences was Walther’s “first major ecumenical effort.” President Harrison noted, “The now famous free conferences were proposed by Walther in Lehre und Wehre in 1856, and actually held during: October 1856 at Columbus; October 1857 at Pittsburgh; August 1858 at Cleveland; and July 1859 at Fort Wayne.” Unfortunately, Walther was unable to attend the fourth free conference. A large section of President Harrison’s paper addressed the historical trifecta that threatened Lutheranism: Reformed Theology, Pietism, and Rationalism. This “three-fold battering ram,” manifested as Samuel Simon Schmucker’s Definite Synodical Platform – An American Recension of the Augsburg Confession of 1855,  threatened Lutheranism in America and was the impetus for the free conferences based upon the Augsburg Confession.
In the above video clip, President Harrison described the sentiment at the time of the “forced” union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia by Friedrich Wilhelm III on 27 September 1817. President Harrison also described why one should be “wary” of Reformation anniversaries and Reformation commemorations. President Harrison concluded his paper with a statement by F.C.D. Wyneken, who attended all four of the original free conferences. Harrison said, “I offer it here as my deepest prayer and personal confession, as my deepest longing over against you who are my separated brethren.”

“Then why, beloved brothers, do we stand by one another? Why can’t we leave one another? It is because we cannot let go of the one truth that we, in fellowship with all the saints, have acknowledged, believe, and confess as it is in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. These Confessions bear witness to the truth clearly, plainly, and powerfully on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, against all the desires of Satan, to the whole world. And why do we hold so firmly to our Confession such that we happily endure the hatred of the world and also of the rest of Christianity, which is difficult to bear? Why, with God’s help and grace, would we suffer persecution and death before we would give up even a small part of that Confession? We do so because we have come to make the truth set forth in that Confession our own, not in times of good leisure and rest, like we might appropriate other natural or historical truths. The Holy Spirit has revealed this truth to us in the midst of the burdens of troubled consciences as our only salvation. Through the Word, the Spirit has borne witness to the truth in broken and troubled hearts. Our consciences are bound to the Word and therefore to the Confession of the Church. As poor, forlorn, and condemned men, we have learned to believe in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The peace of conscience, the peace of our souls, the hope of eternal blessedness, our very being and life hang on this truth. To surrender it would be to surrender our salvation and ourselves for time and eternity. Therefore, neither can we let go of the most insignificant portion of the Confession because the entire series of the individual teachings of the faith are for us one chain. This chain not only binds our understanding in the truth, it binds our consciences and lives. The loss of an individual part of the same would break this chain, and we would be torn loose from Christ, tumbling again into the abyss of anxiety, doubt, and eternal death. Therefore we hold fast to our Confession, as to our very life’s life.”

Photo Showing A Well Attended Conference

After President Harrison finished his paper, the presidents from The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) responded. ELS President John Moldstad, Jr., responded first. He began by saying how refreshing it was to hear such a paper. Moldstad said, “While the early set of free conferences did not bring about the desired unity of doctrine sought by Walther, they did serve as a catalyst for a highly treasured blessing. A second set of Waltherian conferences (1860s) led to the formation of the solidly confessional and endearing Synodical Conference of 1872.”

President Mark Schroeder (WELS) Offers Response

President Schroeder from the Wisconsin Synod responded second. He began by greeting his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and thanking President Harrison for his paper and offering thanks to the members of the Missouri Synod, for the many blessings that benefit “other Lutherans, even in those synods such as mine which are not now in fellowship with the LCMS.” Schroeder concluded his remarks:

“Those who would claim the label ‘Confessional’ today have an ongoing responsibility and opportunity to define carefully what that term means, and what it means for the person and synod wanting to wear the label. If free conferences and other discussions can help to clarify and solidify what it means to be truly Confessional, then such discussions should take place with the prayer that God would use the power of his Word and the working of the Spirit to encourage faithfulness to the doctrines of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. It is only such faithfulness, confessed and practiced, that holds the promise of true unity and full fellowship. That is a noble and God-pleasing goal which all Confessional Lutherans can strive to reach.”

The conference attendees were greatly encouraged by President Harrison’s paper and the responses of Presidents Moldstad and Schroeder. The emerging friendships developed and the clear confession of the Lutheran Confession at the Emmaus Conference is helping to overcome tensions that developed between the three Synods after the breakup of the Synodical Conference in the mid-20th century. Ultimately, every Reformation of the Lord’s church, every reconciliation and restoration of relationships, involves repentance and absolution. May the Lord grant repentance and his forgiveness to us!
The Emmaus Conference Brochure.

Fifth Annual Emmaus Conference 9-10 Feb 2012

Eventually, the papers presented should be available at the Emmaus Conference website.

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations for the LCMS
10 February 2012