Posts tagged Convention
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.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today is Ash Wednesday, when the Church begins her slow and measured journey to the cross, where we see Jesus: the Savior who hangs — bloodied and scourged — for us. It is a time of reflection and repentance for me and also for you, for all of us as the LCMS, and for the Church throughout the world.
And yet in the midst of our dusty Lenten ashes, we also look forward to Easter, when our Lord is raised from the dead, triumphing over sin and Satan, all for us. Yes, even during our Lenten fast, joy abounds!
That’s why I want to share two important things with you, so that you may see and know that our Lord is at work in and among each one of us, and is using us collectively as the LCMS to bear witness to Him.
First, our Synod treasurer, Jerry Wulf, shared at our Board of Directors meeting last weekend that together as the Synod we have reduced internal borrowing of restricted funds to cash flow operations from some $16 million four years ago to zero. You read that correctly. Zero! And we’re not stopping there. To get our financial house in order, we have also achieved a three-month cash reserve for operations, which is the minimum for a responsible non-profit.
Second, I’m delighted to announce that we are closing in on doubling the number of career missionaries internationally, which is a goal set by the Synod in convention in 2013. We are working to find a measured pace that will ensure that a sound system of missionary care remains in place but, by God’s grace, will also enable us to continue to add men and women, lay and clergy, to our worldwide mission team. The international moment unfolding worldwide before us as the LCMS is truly astounding!
So, thank you. Thank you for taking part in getting our finances in order so that we may be hearty stewards of all our Lord has to give. And thank you for being a part of our church’s mission work, that our fellow members may go to the ends of the earth to bear witness to Christ to those who have not yet heard that they are loved and whole on account of His death and resurrection.
Thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s Word and to the Lutheran Confessions. Lay people, thank you for loving your pastors. Pastors, thank you for loving your people.
Thank you for living boldly as the baptized children, loved by God, that you are. And thank you for the privilege of serving you. I covet your prayers and promise you mine, this Lenten season and always.
Under the cross,
Pastor Matt Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
On a recent trip I noticed the roadway sign “CONTINENTAL DIVIDE,” the point where the flow of North American rivers changes direction from eastward to westward. I happened to think that our Synod right now is crossing its own “contiventional divide,” the time when the flow of our Synod-wide activity changes directions from backward to the 2013 convention to forward to the 2016 convention.
Yesterday (March 1) marked the final official action remaining from our Synod’s 2013 convention, i.e., the deadline for congregational ballots to determine whether the constitutional amendment changing the word “counselor” (as in “circuit counselor”) to “visitor” (as in “circuit visitor”) throughout our Handbook was supported and ratified by two-thirds of the congregations that returned ballots. All that remains now is to prepare the report and announce the results, a first order of business this coming week.
But already during the past two weeks the Board of Directors and the Council of Presidents, turning their attention forward, have met to determine the designation of regions for the 2016 convention elections (a determination to be made at least 24 months prior to conventions). The board and council agreed that the same regional boundaries designated for 2013 convention elections will also be the regional boundaries for the 2016 convention.
And so we begin our sometimes-whitewater journey toward the convention of the summer of 2016. Already meetings are taking place to determine how better or best to navigate the flow of pre-convention requirements provided in our Synod’s Bylaws. My intention is again to alert the congregations of the Synod via a series of appropriately timed postcards of the next turns of events that will require their participation.
We have managed this flow of events once before, and we have learned a few things that should be helpful in making our way even more smoothly through certain frothy areas. But the entire process is still quite new and begins with expectations that will beg our attention almost immediately, as districts prepare for their own conventions in 2015. Let’s enjoy the ride.
That’s our theme for the convention of the Synod set to take place here in St. Louis, July 20-25, 2013. The Southern Illinois District of our Synod will be our host district as we come together to worship, to study God’s Word and to discuss various aspects of our life together as the Synod. Whatever our past, we have been “baptized for this moment” (see Acts 2:38-39). We are members of Christ, incorporated in His body, baptized in His name. He turns our faces to the future for He forgives, renews, restores and sends us for witness, mercy and life together.
If you are going to be anywhere near St. Louis the evening of Saturday, July 20, come on by the America’s Center in downtown St. Louis for the opening service. If you are a delegate of any kind, we are praying for you and seeking to prepare this opportunity for you to serve the Lord and to serve your fellow members of the Synod by your participation. As the convention approaches, you will receive mailings and emails from the President’s Office to help you prepare. Delegates should look for this material soon.
We ask you as well to keep the convention in your prayers. Pray that God would give unity in His Word both to the convention and to the Synod as a whole. Some time ago I read August Suelfow’s biography of C. F. W. Walther, Servant of the Word, in which he has this quote from H. C. Schwann, who followed Walther as president of the Synod in 1878:
What has kept us together until now was not our Constitution, as good as it is, not the personality of those who bear the highest synodical offices. No, it was something radically different, something which God Himself has given us. This was the unity of spirit and faith. We remain together outwardly because we are one inwardly. Because of this, districts, congregations and individuals can never be careful enough in whatever they are doing to maintain the bond of unity. Even though they may have the best intentions in undertaking certain items, if these are not properly thought through, and are not properly considered on the backdrop of love to others and with due respect to the welfare and furtherance of the whole [this unity cannot be maintained]. As long as we by God’s grace remain one in heart and soul through the Word and faith, our bond of fellowship at the continued existence of the Synod will not be seriously challenged. If this [spirit] is ever lost, then no constitution will coerce those who rebel, and the resulting cooperation will be of no value. (p. 133)
In that light, here is a prayer for our Synod: “O Lord God, our heavenly Father, you have given Your one and only Son to be our Savior by His death and resurrection and have gathered the Church by means of Your Word and Spirit. You have brought us together by our baptism into Christ’s body. You send the Spirit to renew and refresh Your Church. Look with favor, we pray, on the congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, whose representatives are meeting in convention this summer. Strengthen our leaders so that we may be faithful to Your Word and zealous for witness and mercy in Your name. Heal any divisions in our life together by calling each of us back to Your Word, to the preached Gospel and the Sacraments done according to Christ’s Word. Keep our pastors, teachers and all our church workers focused on You. Give us a passion for Your Gospel and for people, that we may do everything possible to bring Jesus to them in Word, at the font and His table, through teaching and pastoral care wherever they are. Make our people bold witnesses of the hope You have given them in Jesus. Guide the convention delegates in their decisions so that everything Synod does will support our congregations in witness, mercy and their life together and give glory to Your most holy name, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President
With many district conventions meeting this month, we are close to reaching the first milestone in preparation for the 2013 convention. This is already quite an achievement, given the activity required by changes adopted by the 2010 Synod convention. I take this blog moment to thank at least some of the people most responsible for successfully reaching this milestone.
A word of general thanks…
- …to the Synod’s 6,000+ congregations, all of whom were required to meet to select representatives to their circuit forums, to nominate candidates to serve as circuit counselors, to consider mission and ministry emphases for the Synod for the next triennium, and to elect delegates to their district conventions;
- …to the Synod’s 600+ circuit counselors, each having to arrange circuit forums to select circuit counselors for the new triennium, to help their circuits identify mission and ministry emphases to propose to their districts for the Synod’s next triennium,, and to assist their circuits in contemplating other business to send to district and Synod conventions; and
- …to the Synod’s 35 district presidents, whose extra-ordinary efforts to keep their congregations and circuits aware of the many significant changes in bylaw expectations adopted by the 2010 Synod convention played a key role in reaching this first milestone.
A word of more specific thanks…
- …to the administrative assistants of our 35 district presidents for their tireless efforts to bring district rosters up to date with increased Synod expectations, thereby to foster uniform delegate representation at all 35 district conventions, critical for the election of the President of the Synod four weeks prior to the 2013 Synod convention;
- …to these same administrative assistants plus district secretaries and registration officials for their cooperation in developing district convention registration procedures to incorporate additional expectations associated with developing an accurate voters’ list for the 2013 presidential election; and
- …to the Council of Presidents for willingly undertaking the sometimes difficult and unpopular task of consistently applying new standards for voting representation that have directly affected multiple-congregation parishes and congregations served by retired pastors.
And a word of personal thanks…
- …to my office staff for their tireless labors to provide order to the huge task of providing the 35 districts with timely information and materials required to develop the 2013 presidential election voters’ list, this in addition to the host of other ongoing responsibilities associated with the Secretary’s Office;
- …to the Rosters and Statistics Department for developing a reliable process to obtain and maintain a credible and dependable presidential elections voters’ list, again in addition to their considerable other responsibilities for maintaining the official lists of the Synod; and
- …to the design, copy center, and mailroom staff of the International Center for their timely assistance in publishing and mailing the postcards that have and will continue to alert congregations to essential changes adopted by the 2013 Synod convention.
Finally, thanks in advance to all of the above…
…for we have only just begun. Still to come, along with the usual Synod convention preparations, will be significant changes to the nominations and elections processes, as well as the preparations required to carry out the presidential voting process. These will require continued attention and cooperation as we make our way down the pre-2013-convention path, one milestone at a time.
Ray Hartwig, Secretary of the Synod