Last month, four new men were elected to serve as presidents of their respective districts. Three chose to retire from their office. One accepted a call to serve as professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.
A turnover of one-third of the district presidents is rare. It seems good to step back and review exactly what the role of the district president is and what weighty responsibilities are entrusted to these men.
The district president is, in many ways, the pastor of his entire district. He is elected to his position at a district convention by delegates who represent every congregation in the district. His election is not just a selection by called worker and lay delegates. It is, in fact, a divine call from God himself.
First and foremost, the district president is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the doctrine and practice in the congregations of his district. Doctrine is what is taught; practice is how doctrine is applied and carried out. For a synod to remain faithful to the Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions, its doctrine must faithfully reflect scriptural truth, and its practice must carefully apply the teachings of Scripture in the life and ministry of the congregation. The district president carries out his responsibility of overseeing doctrine and practice in two ways: proactively, as he sets the tone by his words and example, and reactively, as he addresses situations in which false teaching may occur or in which the practice of a called worker or congregation departs from faithfulness to the teachings of the Bible.
If a called worker or even an entire congregation begins to stray from the truth, it is ultimately the responsibility of the district president to provide evangelical admonition and correction. Circuit pastors and district officers assist and advise him in this, but ultimately, faithful teaching in his district is a responsibility that rests on his shoulders.
The district president has an important role in the call process. When congregations experience a vacancy—of pastors, teachers, or staff ministers—it is the district president to whom they turn. He consults with the congregation to determine its specific needs, and then he provides the congregation with a call list. The district president places candidates on that list because he is convinced each candidate can meet the needs of the congregation.
The synod’s constitution has charged the Conference of Presidents with encouraging congregations and individuals to provide the financial support necessary to carry out the work we do together as a synod. In that role, the district president is the primary voice in the district making congregations aware of the financial needs of the synod and then encouraging congregations to support that work through their Congregation Mission Offerings.
The 12 men who serve as district presidents receive no additional compensation for their important work. They have been asked by God and his people to fill a very important role. They do so with a deep sense of awe at the trust that people have placed in them, and they carry out their duties faithfully, spending many hours in meetings and many days on the road. And we would not want to neglect the faithful support of their wives, who provide encouragement and support to their husbands as they carry the weight of their office and who willingly sacrifice time with their husbands for the good of God’s church.
Take a moment in prayer to thank God for these faithful servants and to ask God to give them wisdom, strength, and joy in their service.
Look for news from the 2016 district conventions and information about the new district presidents in upcoming issues of Forward in Christ.
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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016
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