New home mission plans approved

The WELS Board for Home Missions met Sept. 16-17 and approved financial support for three home mission locations.

A new home mission plant was approved in Collinsville, Ill. Christ Our Savior in Collinsville has served as a preaching station of Martin Luther in St. Louis, Mo., since 2002. The core group has maintained an average of 25 to 30 people attending worship through the years. The core group is increasing its outreach efforts, including reaching students at a local college and workers on a nearby military base, as well as offering services for the deaf in their community. Martin Luther has committed time, manpower, and financial assistance to help Christ Our Savior grow and become its own congregation. Home Missions funding will allow Christ Our Savior to call a full-time pastor to assist in this effort.

Home Missions is also providing financial support to two existing ministries:

  • Crossville, Tenn.: Crossville is a growing area of eastern Tennessee that is attracting many retirees thanks to the retirement communities and activities in the area. A core group at Ascension Lutheran Church is committed to restarting the church and expanding gospel outreach. More and more visitors are coming to church, and its Bible information class had six people in it this past year. Home Missions funding will allow the congregation to call a full-time pastor to help kick-start this ministry.
  • Las Vegas, Nev.: Summerlin Lutheran Church was originally approved to receive three years of financial support in spring 2021 to restart its congregation, which already owned a large facility in a growing suburb of Las Vegas. Situations have changed, and a number of leaders within the core group have moved away. Home Missions is providing the congregation additional funding with the optimistic anticipation of great blessings from the Lord.

Home Missions also approved unsubsidized mission status for Good Shepherd in Beloit, Wis. Home Missions provides assistance to unsubsidized mission congregations through its district missions boards, mission counselors, synodical support staff, and special project funds, but does not provide direct financial support. Learn more about all of WELS Home Missions work at wels.net/homemissions.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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New mission opportunities in Europe

A new mission in London is one step closer to reality. After a trip to England earlier this month, Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of the Board for World Missions, is recommending that the board call a full-time missionary to London.

During his trip, Schlomer met with a group of WELS families in London to talk about the possibilities. These members will serve as the “core group” for this mission and its work. “They are more than excited,” says Schlomer. “A couple of the members even shared with me that they have been praying for a pastor.”

In the past, this group in London—about 30 people—has been served with the Word and sacraments by the WELS European chaplain, who travels monthly from Germany where he is based. The chaplain, part of WELS Military Services, ministers to WELS military personnel on large bases in Germany as well as serves civilians and troops in Germany, England, Switzerland, and scattered throughout Europe. Currently Rev. John Hartwig fills that role.

According to Schlomer, besides serving current members weekly with the Word, a new missionary will be able to explore opportunities for reaching out to the many immigrant populations that settle in London. WELS already has connections with several groups, including members and pastors from WELS’ sister synod in Hong Kong who have recently relocated to London. Once initial exploration has been completed, a second missionary may be called to work specifically with these immigrant groups. Funding has already been approved for both positions. “Right now our priority is to get someone there with this group of believers, and we’ll let the Spirit guide it as the Spirit will,” says Schlomer.

Phil and Sandy Parker, who have been members of this group in London since 2000, are excited about the possibilities. “London is such a multicultural area, and we think that the field amongst these immigrant populations will be particularly ripe because we can offer useful services, such as English as a foreign language classes, that can benefit them as they try to integrate into their communities,” says Sandy.

They also recognize the need for their English friends and family to hear the pure gospel message, something that is in short supply in London. “We know that the Holy Spirit is stronger than even the most stoic Englishman, and so, with a missionary here to help us with these conversations, we might be able to rest assured that our loved ones know God’s salvation too,” says Sandy.

During Schlomer’s visit, Hartwig led worship in person for the group for the first time since he arrived in Germany in June 2020. COVID-19 had made it impossible for him to travel to England, so the group had been worshiping through Zoom video meetings.

“It was such a happy experience,” says Hartwig about the service, which included communion and a baptism affirmation. “And on top of that, seeing that we may have an opportunity to have a permanent pastor—we’re definitely excited about that.”

He continues, “The European Chaplaincy has been thankful to have the opportunity to work with the military and the civilians in the U.K. for many years. We’re excited about the new turn this is taking and want to do everything possible to help that to happen.”

London is one of five new world mission opportunities being explored by WELS Missions. Learn more.

 

 

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The new hymnal has arrived

Northwestern Publishing House, in partnership with WELS Commission on Worship, is sending two copies of the new WELS hymnal and one copy of Christian Worship: Psalter to every congregation. These free copies were shipped late last week. Congregations that preordered hymnals should see deliveries begin this month.

Additional supporting resources for pastors, musicians, and worship planners will be available to congregations and WELS members, including 17 books, 3 digital products, and multiple accompaniment volumes. Nearly 100 volunteers served on 12 committees for the last 9 years as part of the WELS Hymnal Project. Learn more about the hymnal at christianworship.com.

To help introduce congregations to the new hymnal and celebrate the blessings of worship, WELS Commission on Worship is providing resources for congregations and individuals to observe National Hymnal Week, Sept. 19–26:

  • A worship service for Sunday, Sept. 19. This service will be based on the new lectionary readings of the day and include hymns and music from Christian Worship: Hymnal. Materials have already been sent to those who signed up for worship resources.
  • A hymn sing. A video recording of various choirs will lead members through hymns from different seasons of the church year. Some congregations are offering this during the Bible class hour on Sept. 19. The video will be available by Sept. 10 to assist with final planning. A promotional video preview was just released.
  • Presentations. Throughout WELS National Hymnal Week, WELS members can watch video presentations on new hymnal resources as well as on broader worship topics. Members can meet in small groups to view and discuss the presentations or watch them at home on their own.
  • Concert. A pre-recorded online concert featuring a children’s choir, chamber choir, college choir, and liturgical ensemble will be available for viewing beginning Saturday, Sept. 25.

Resources will be available at welscongregationalservices.net/national-hymnal-week.

Congregations will make their own decisions whether or not to use the new hymnal. It’s my prayer that they do. I believe that it will be a rich resource that will keep us unified in our worship and will be a blessing to all who use it.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

 

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WELS Endowment Fund again receives accolade

For the second year in a row, the WELS Endowment Fund’s net investment return placed in the 90th percentile of the foundations that participated in the 2020 Council on Foundations—Commonfund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community Foundations®. The investment returns for the WELS Endowment Fund were 22.39% and 21.22% in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

“This is a tremendous blessing to WELS organizations that have an endowment fund through WELS Foundation, because the distributions from the endowments help fund ministry,” says Mr. Jim Holm, WELS Foundation executive director. “This year, WELS Foundation distributed a total of $3.5 million to gospel work from more than 350 endowments. We praise God for his blessings!”

The 2020 study marks the ninth year that Commonfund Institute and the Council on Foundations have partnered to produce this research. With 260 participating private and community foundations representing combined assets of $115.4 billion, the study is believed to be the most comprehensive annual survey of its kind.

The WELS Endowment Fund is one of four portfolios managed by WELS Investment Funds, a self-supporting subsidiary of WELS. Synodical endowments, along with endowment funds benefiting WELS congregations and WELS-affiliated ministries, are invested in the WELS Endowment Fund.

To set up an endowment fund or learn how an endowment fund can support your ministry for years to come, contact Jim Holm at jim.holm@wels.net or 414-256-3206. Learn more about WELS Foundation at wels.net/foundation.

 

 

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Thoughts on the recent synod convention

The format was different, but the purpose and results were unchanged.

The 66th Biennial Convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod was held at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., on July 26-28. Last January, the potential restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic led the Conference of Presidents to alter the format and location of the convention. The location was moved from Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich., to Luther Preparatory School because of the more stringent restrictions existing in Michigan at the time. The format was changed to a include about 20 percent of the delegates as in-person delegates, with the remaining delegates participating virtually. Elections and floor committee work was done via videoconference prior to the convention.

All things considered, the convention itself took place without significant problems with communication or participation by the virtual delegates.

The opening worship provided an inspiring start to the convention and focused on the convention theme “Here we stand.” The convention theme recalled the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s bold stance on the Scriptures at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Rev. Joel Voss, second vice president of the synod, preached the sermon.

Some significant items of business that were addressed:

  • Rev. James Huebner was reelected to another four-year term as the first vice president of the synod; Rev. Robert Pasbrig was reelected as the synod’s recording secretary.
  • President Earle Treptow of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary delivered the convention essay reviewing the significance of Luther’s confession and its importance for the church today.
  • The convention approved the synod’s Ministry Financial Plan, which outlines the financial support for the work of the synod for the next two years. Chief Financial Officer Mr. Kyle Egan also reported that the synod ended last year in very good financial shape in all areas.
  • The proposed change in the synod’s pension plan from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan was approved and will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022.
  • The convention endorsed an ambitious plan by the Board for Home Missions to open 100 new missions over ten years, beginning in 2023.
  • The convention was introduced to the new WELS hymnal and formally adopted it as the synod’s hymnal. The new hymnal will be available in early fall.

Many other reports outlined and celebrated the many blessings that God has graciously given to our synod during the past two years and the many opportunities he is giving us for continuing to spread the message of Christ to the world.

The next convention is scheduled to be held at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich., in 2023.

Find all the convention news, archived livestream video, and photos at wels.net/2021synodconvention.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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WELS celebrates milestone in endowments program

This year WELS Ministry of Christian Giving and WELS Foundation are celebrating 16 years of God’s blessings—and the generosity of God’s people—through the WELS endowment funds.

In 2005, synod convention delegates prayerfully considered how WELS could help support gospel ministry in a predictable and ever-increasing manner. One answer was to establish the WELS endowments, which benefit the Lord’s work in WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions and at our four ministerial education schools. Out of gratitude for God’s love and a desire to help more people know Jesus as their Savior, WELS members have faithfully contributed to these endowments over the last 16 years, resulting in more than $100 million in gifts received ($36.7 million) and expected ($68.9 million).

“We praise Jesus for guiding our synod’s plans and prompting our members’ gifts so that we’re now able to distribute more than $1 million from these endowments for greater tuition assistance for ministerial education students and the funding of mission work to people groups located both in the U.S. and in foreign fields,” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving.

In addition to the two synod endowments, WELS Foundation also manages endowments that are set up by individuals, congregations, and other WELS ministries. In total, WELS Foundation distributed $3.5 million to gospel work from more than 350 endowments this year, providing ongoing financial support for gospel work throughout WELS.

One of the endowments managed by WELS Foundation was established by WELS members David and Lynette Buss, longtime supporters of Jesus’ work through their local congregation and area Lutheran high school. “We read an article about Martin Luther College in a flyer from WELS,” says David, “and we knew we needed to distribute [our blessings] to people in the ministry field.” The Busses are helping reduce the burden of tuition costs for students so they can focus on training for the ministry.

The Busses understand that an endowment fund is an ideal way to support MLC students for years to come. “This fund will grow as long as we are on this earth, and it will continue to grow and help hundreds of students in future years,” says David.

“An endowment is a great way to create a lasting legacy of Christian faith while carrying out the Lord’s work,” says Mr. Jim Holm, executive director of WELS Foundation, “and there are a variety of ways to set up an endowment: cash or appreciated assets; or through a will, trust, beneficiary designation on a retirement account, or insurance proceeds.”

To learn more about adding to an existing endowment or setting up an endowment for a ministry close to your heart, contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor at wels.net/giving-counselors or call 800-827-5482.

 

 

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WELS Historical Institute celebrates 40 years

The WELS Historical Institute will be marking 40 years of preserving WELS history at an event Sept. 25, 2021, at Salem, Milwaukee, Wis. Salem Landmark Church, the synod’s museum run by the WELS Historical Institute, is located on Salem Lutheran Church’s property.

The event, beginning at 1 p.m., will open with a message from WELS President Mark Schroeder. In addition, the event will feature a panel discussion with former WELS Historical Institute presidents; a presentation by Prof. John Brenner, the current editor of the Institute’s journal; a cemetery or Salem Landmark Museum tour; a presentation on the history of the Institute; and a hymn sing.

“This event demonstrates our synod’s commitment to appreciating the way the Lord has blessed our congregations, schools, and other organizations and used them to promote the gospel of our Lord,” says Mr. Dan Nommensen, vice chairman of the WELS Historical Institute. “I pray this event will lead us to see how dedicated volunteers have overseen the process of preserving our past so we can celebrate our blessings and appreciate how the Lord continues to lead us through challenges.”

Nommensen says the event is open to “anyone who desires to learn more about our history and how we have sought to preserve and present the story of God’s grace in our WELS.” The event will be livestreamed. Find out more at wels.net/events.

 

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Delegates work together at hybrid convention

Three hundred thirty voting delegates attended WELS’ 66th biennial convention. This included 156 lay delegates (118 virtual, 38 in person), 71 teachers/staff ministers (58 virtual, 13 in person), and 103 pastors (76 virtual, 27 in person). The chairman, secretary, and two lay delegates from each floor committee were invited to attend the convention in person. Others were then encouraged to attend online as virtual delegates.

The work of the convention delegates looked different for this convention than it did in the past. Because most delegates were not at Luther Preparatory School but attended virtually from home, much of the convention business was conducted before the convention.

Most floor committees met in June via Zoom to discuss the ministry that was assigned to them. During these meetings, members discussed the ministry and its corresponding report in the Book of Reports and Memorials, heard from representatives of that ministry so that questions could be answered when needed, and then crafted reports and resolutions for delegates to consider during the convention.

“I saw definite advantages to doing a lot of work ahead of time in our floor committees,” says Prof. Steven Pagels, who served as chairman of Floor Committee #10: Ministerial Education. “We were then able to make more efficient use of our time during the convention. The downside was not getting to know fellow committee members as well, but we did take time to introduce ourselves at our first meeting, which helped.”

Elections also took place before the convention began via online ballots. During the convention, online participants could vote via online voting on resolutions presented to delegates.

James Lake, a virtual delegate from Grace, Falls Church, Va., says that the technology he needed to participate worked well and notes, “Participation in the convention from a practical standpoint was pretty seamless. It was very interesting to learn more about how the business of the synod is carried out. I loved seeing the earnestness of the participants. Even though most voting seemed to be almost pro forma, it seemed more to be due to unity of purpose rather than any sort of complacency.”

To see all the reports and resolutions presented to the delegates during the convention as well as election results and other convention business, visit wels.net/2021synodconvention.

 

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Working with congregations for ministry

WELS Congregational Services addressed convention delegates this year via a video summary of the work it’s doing to help congregations carry out local ministry.

Mr. Jim Rademan, director of the Commission on Lutheran Schools, began by thanking educators and families for their dedication to sharing Jesus with the 41,000 students in WELS’ early childhood ministries, Lutheran elementary schools, and high schools during the particularly trying year.

In his update he reported that recently retired principal Jim Sievert accepted a call to serve part time in leading school consulting services for congregations seeking to start a school or to shore up a school that is struggling. In addition, he shared a new opportunity for school leaders: “I’m excited to announce new partners who assist us with providing skills and support for current school leaders. Through a generous grant from the Kern Foundation and partnership with Milwaukee School of Engineering, early childhood directors, principals, and school leaders can earn a business certificate designed specifically for school leaders. We pray this unique program will enhance their leadership skills; increase leader retention; and God-willing, grow their school’s impact in their community.”

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the Commission on Special Ministries, followed. He began by saying, “Special Ministries helps congregations serve individuals with disabilities, struggles, and special circumstances, people who can’t be served in the usual way churches function. We encourage Christian love in action.”

Behringer reviewed the myriad ways groups within Special Ministries carry out this calling. This includes the Mission for the Visually Impaired producing materials in digital audio formats and Braille; WELS Military Services reaching more service members due to an increased response to the online referral form; a new group, Light for Parents, formed for parents of children with extraordinary needs; and Freedom for the Captives encouraging all churches to adopt abuse prevention policies and take the Standing Up For Children Training to recognize and prevent abuse and protect children.

Introducing the Commission on Evangelism, Director Rev. Eric Roecker says, “Our culture is experiencing a radical shift in its attitude towards religion. Fewer and fewer people are growing up as active members of a Christian congregation. More and more people see the church as irrelevant at best, harmful at worst. We believe this means it will be even more important going forward for the members of our congregations to be encouraged and equipped for personal evangelism. The reason? While unchurched people may not trust churches, they do tend to trust their Christian friends and neighbors.”

To help congregations and members cultivate a culture of personal outreach, WELS Evangelism has made a number of resources available.

  • Everyone Outreach is designed to help a congregation build a culture of outreach so that every ministry and every member is thinking about and participating in outreach.
  • Let’s Go encourages and equips Christians to become more comfortable and confident in their personal witnessing. Let’s Go dials in the conversation from “what can the congregation do for outreach” to “how can I talk to my friends and neighbors about Jesus.”
  • The One by One Bible study is based on Rev. David Rosenau’s keynote presentation at the 2020 WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership.

Roecker also announced a new Bible study, titled In Season and Out of Season, will be released this fall. Using St. Paul’s evangelism efforts in Philippi as an example, this Bible study encourages Christians to be ready to share their faith whether it is convenient or inconvenient, expected or unexpected.

Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of the Commission on Discipleship, describes what discipleship is: “It’s a believer’s walk in Christ, from life’s first cry to final breath. It’s the life of the Christian whether at their home or at their church. It’s our unique callings as men and women, children and teens, and young adults. It’s singles, parents, spouses. It’s healthy living in Christ.”

Resources range from the brief, weekly Marriage Moments videos to youth Bible studies to Catechism class models to women’s ministry resources.

In response to how worship life changed during the pandemic, Discipleship released God’s People Gather. The pandemic forced many congregations to pivot to online worship. God’s People Gather provides resources that help churches put together a congregation-specific plan that reaches out to the various types of members who have not yet returned to church. Access videos, elder encouragement, Bible study, worship plan, and event ideas at welscongregationalservices.net/gods-people-gather.

A God-Lived Life is a whole-life challenge to God’s people to live the life to which he has called them. The hope is that being challenged in specific ways will urge them to put into practice a closer walk with God and a life of love toward others. The goal of A God-Lived Life is to encourage greater growth in four key areas: a life of being a disciple, a life of service for others, a life of hospitality for all, and a life lived shrewdly.

Rev. Bryan Gerlach, director of the Commission on Worship, reported on its work for the soon-to-be-available Christian Worship: Hymnal.

Gerlach introduced Year C planning tool to coincide with the new hymnal. “It gives guidance on introducing new liturgy songs and hymns that fit the new lectionary. The Year C planner will also save time for pastors. It provides both seasonal themes and themes for each Sunday. The planner is coordinated with comprehensive resources for worship, evangelism, and discipleship.”

He also reported on the upcoming National Hymnal Week, Sept. 19–26, which has been designed to celebrate worship and introduce churches to the new hymnal. The new hymnals are not needed to participate. Resources are available at welscongregationalservices.net/national-hymnal-week. Congregations interested in participating can subscribe to receive updates.

Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of the WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling, reports, “In 2020, for the first time in American history, the number of Americans who claimed they had a church home dropped below 50 percent. Virtually every Christian denomination is in statistical decline. We are not immune. Last year, one WELS church closed about every five weeks. How do we face these challenges? What is our strategy for conducting ministry in a post-Christian America? What, if anything, can we do about the growing hostility toward religion? Those are the types of topics we will be discussing at the second WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership, which we are planning to hold in Chicago in January of 2023.”

WELS Congregational Services is committed to building a library of resources to strengthen WELS congregations’ ministries and members. More information can be found at welscongregationalservices.net.

 


 

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World Missions shares updates and blessings

WELS World Missions has been able to continue the Christian’s Great Commission to spread the Word throughout the world, even during a global pandemic, reported WELS World Missions Chairman Rev. Paul Janke and WELS World Missions Administrator Rev. Larry Schlomer.

While COVID-19 certainly impacted in-person mission work and travel, Janke says, “To paraphrase Isaiah, this has been a time for strengthening the stakes so we can lengthen the cords. So when things open up it can be a time of sharing the gospel with more and more people. Because so much of our work these days has been able to go online, this has actually been a time when world mission work has been able to flourish through vehicles like Academia Cristo and TELL, the English-language version of Academia Cristo.”

Janke says the number of people being reached through these two gospel and outreach training apps from Multi-Language Productions—more than three million—is “evidence that the Lord is using these difficult times to turn people to his Word and to the living hope that we have in Jesus Christ and his resurrection of the dead.”

Janke concludes, “I want to speak a word of thanks for the generous offerings that come from congregations and individuals, even during this time of pandemic. Because of the generosity of WELS people, World Missions is well funded and can take advantage of the numerous opportunities that have been handed to us by the Lord.”

Schlomer continued the World Missions presentation by providing an overview of the work and blessings around the world.

He reported that in East Asia, a particularly dark place for the gospel where few people have heard the Word, the number of house churches has doubled—throughout the pandemic.

In Vietnam, more than 60 future pastors are being trained to reach the Hmong people in that country. Throughout the shutdowns, these men were able to continue their training digitally. This first group of pastors is about a year away from graduating. There are about 135,000 members that make up the Hmong Fellowship Church.

In Latin America, online outreach efforts through Academia Cristo have connected the Latin America missions team with potential church planters in many different countries. Additional manpower is needed to follow up with these contacts and continue training new Christians in grace-starved Latin America. Plans are underway to add up to five new positions to the team, which could be made up of pastors, staff ministers, teachers, and laypeople.

World Missions has plans to send missionaries to two new fields, London and Senegal. The London area is already home to more than 50 WELS families who could serve as a nucleus for outreach. In addition, due to government policy changes, more than 20 percent of members from WELS’ partner church in Hong Kong have moved to the United Kingdom, including two pastors.

Schlomer says Senegal is a “raw” mission, but it appears that the country is open to missionaries and mission work. “We are not going here because we have a contact; we don’t have an invitation. We are going because we know those people don’t have the gospel.” Two missionaries will go to learn the language, meet the people, and seek opportunities to share the gospel.

Schlomer says that it is possible, especially with the growing church in Vietnam, that the number of Christians in our fellowship around the world could exceed the number of members in North America.

“We think this is significant for us as a confessional Lutheran church body, standing on the rock-solid Word of God, and now with the privilege of having these connections all around the world.”

 

 

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New WELS hymnal presented

“I present to our church body Christian Worship: Hymnal for the glory of God and the edification of his people.”

Rev. Michael Schultz, director of the WELS Hymnal Project, said these words as he presented the first copy of the new hymnal to Pres. Mark Schroeder Wednesday morning.

It has been 28 years since a presentation like this happened and 10 years since the 2011 synod convention resolved to establish the WELS Hymnal Project committee. This fall, the new hymnal, psalter, and multiple supporting resources for pastors, musicians, and worship planners will be available to congregations and WELS members. In September, Northwestern Publishing House will send every congregation two copies of Christian Worship: Hymnal and one copy of Christian Worship: Psalter as a preview.

Schultz called for a celebration as he shared more about the 17 books, 3 digital products, and multiple accompaniment volumes that are part of the Christian Worship suite of resources—resources that the WELS Hymnal Project states are “for a generation yet unborn.”

“These are books that will put our worshiping church body in a good place for the next 20 to 30 years,” said Schultz.

He stressed that these resources are a careful collection of materials, not “everything under the sun.” Said Schultz, “We’re confident in commending these resources to the church body that they’re going to see these things and they’re going to hear about Jesus Christ, our Savior, and God’s love for the world in Christ.”

Schultz thanked the 90 to 100 volunteers who served on 12 committees for the last nine years as part of the WELS Hymnal Project. He also highlighted the work of Northwestern Publishing House in the production of the suite of resources and acknowledged the support and partnership of the Synodical Council and WELS Congregational Services throughout the process.

As part of his presentation, Schultz announced the first major release for the hymnal project: a limited release of the new lectionary through the Christian Worship: Service Builder electronic resource. Access the lectionary at builder.christianworship.com.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder asked delegates to resolve to thank all who worked on the project to the glory of God and to formally accept and adopt Christian Worship: Hymnal as the official hymnal of WELS. He also encouraged all congregations to use this resource not just in their churches but also in their homes.

The presentation ended with delegates praising God through the singing of the Doxology.

Watch a video sharing more about the hymnal or visit christianworship.com.

 

 

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Delegates endorse new retirement plan for synod workers

Mr. Joshua Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans, presented the findings of the WELS Retirement Benefit Strategy Committee to delegates on Wednesday morning. This included the details of the proposal to change WELS’ current Pension Plan to a defined contribution plan for future worker retirement benefits.

“There are three main advantages to the change,” notes Peterman. “First, workers will receive meaningful contributions for retirement benefits. Then, workers will have more flexibility to provide for their retirement income needs and to share savings with their survivors. Finally, sponsoring organization costs will remain more stable over time.”

As the WELS Retirement Benefit Strategy Committee worked on developing a future retirement program that would best serve the synod, sponsoring organizations, and workers, it sought input from called workers across the synod as well as experts in benefit plans and finance. It also developed tools to help workers and sponsoring organizations understand how the changes will affect them. In addition, Peterman answered questions from delegates today to make sure that the new plan is well understood.

The final proposal that was passed by convention delegates approves the Pension Plan to be frozen on Dec. 31, 2021, which means that no new benefits will be earned under the Pension Plan for any service performed after Dec. 31, 2021. Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, eligible workers will be provided with contributions to be used for retirement benefits through a defined contribution plan that will be administered through the Shepherd Plan, which is the name of WELS’ retirement savings plan for synod workers.

Learn more about the plan. Calculate retirement benefits for synod workers using the newly passed defined contribution plan.

 

 

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New Home Missions goal set for 2023–2033

On Wednesday morning, delegates approved an ambitious new Home Missions initiative that will begin in 2023.

“Being fully convinced that grace received is grace to share,” reads the resolution, “we commemorate the 175-year milestone of our synod’s history (1850–2025) by challenging ourselves, under God’s grace and with his blessing, to set a goal of establishing 100 new missions and 75 new or enhanced ministries throughout North America over the next 10 years, starting July 1, 2023, under the auspices of Home Missions, working together with WELS areas of ministry and their traditional mission partners.”

A task force of WELS Home Missions is exploring the challenges and opportunities that this initiative presents.

“The task force’s work has already been rewarding,” says Rev. Mark Gabb, chairman of WELS Board for Home Missions. “It’s clear that we have men and women in all areas of ministry of our synod who are dedicated to this initiative. They want to do their part in reaching more souls with the gospel. In fact, we can see how we stand on the shoulders of present and past leaders who have encouraged and supported worker training, home missions, world missions, and all the other important areas of our synod.”

“Starting and supporting missions in North America doesn’t just happen through the efforts of those in Home Missions,” notes Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions. “Home Missions needs and appreciates the support of many in WELS to reach many outside of WELS with God’s Word.”

To learn more about WELS Home Missions, visit wels.net/homemissions.

 

 

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Serving the hurting with ministry of compassion

On Wednesday morning, WELS Christian Aid and Relief Director Rev. Daniel Sims reported about work carried out over the past year, which is supported fully by the generous offerings of God’s people. Sims emphasized that Christian Aid and Relief strives to imitate and reflect Christ’s compassion, carefully assess needs and opportunities, personalize relief efforts, and, above all, seize every opportunity to proclaim the gospel. Volunteers are utilized whenever possible to carry out its mission.

After showing a video to introduce delegates to Christian Aid and Relief, Sims spoke about three main areas of this compassion ministry: disaster relief, humanitarian aid, and personal grants.

In the area of disaster relief, $774,766 was utilized during fiscal year 2020-2021 to support areas like Midland, Mich., which was devastated by a flood caused by the failure of two dams. Working with Holy Scripture, an Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregation in Midland, Christian Aid and Relief coordinated volunteer efforts and equipment to help clean up the affected areas in addition to offering financial assistance.

During the pandemic, Christian Aid and Relief also provided over $400,000 in pandemic relief grants (to date) to congregations to enable them to support their communities. Light of the Valleys, Reno, Nev., was a recipient of one of the grants. Their pastor, Joel Heckendorf, is grateful for the opportunities it gave his congregation to share the love of Jesus with their community. He is also grateful to his brothers and sisters in Christ who made the grant possible: “I can’t say thank you enough to the individuals, to the congregations, to the organizations that make programs like this available.”

In fiscal year 2020-2021, Christian Aid and Relief approved $515,789 for humanitarian aid projects in WELS mission fields throughout the United States and worldwide. Projects are developed by WELS home and world missionaries, who continually look for opportunities to serve people in their communities with ongoing basic needs. Sims said, “These acts of compassion provide for people’s basic needs, build trust and goodwill with local missionaries, and lead to many opportunities to share the gospel.”

The humanitarian aid granted through WELS Christian Aid and Relief takes many forms, including providing smokeless stoves to safely heat homes in Asia, medical clinics, assistance for legal immigrants, vocational training, and backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged kids.

In fiscal year 2020-2021, Christian Aid and Relief also awarded $275,098 in personal grants to members and prospects of WELS congregations experiencing a great need, like a medical emergency or a financial crisis. “It might be an elderly couple in need of a new roof, or a child who needs expensive surgery that his parents simply can’t afford,” Sims reported. “In such cases, we partner with the local congregation to raise the necessary funds and meet the need.”

Sims touched on some upcoming initiatives, like the creation of a devotion book entitled An Ever-Present Help in Trouble. The audience of the book is twofold: people who have been through a disaster and people who don’t know much about Jesus. “We hope to give these books away to those we are serving in a disaster to encourage them with God’s truth and connect them both to their Savior and the local congregation,” said Sims.

Sims concluded his report by talking about future goals: “One of our major goals for the next few years is to expand our disaster relief efforts by establishing district disaster relief teams across WELS. It is our dream to have a curated library of disaster training materials and a well-trained corps of leaders and volunteers who are prepared to provide relief in every disaster situation. Our Disaster Relief Task Force will begin meeting this fall to begin this work in earnest.”

Learn more about the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

 


 

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Preparing and supporting future called workers

Rev. Paul Prange, Rev. Duane Rodewald, and Rev. Richard Gurgel spoke to convention delegates Tuesday afternoon about the blessings and goals of WELS Ministerial Education as it prepares candidates for the public ministry as well as provides continuing education to those who are already serving.

Prange, administrator of the Board for Ministerial Education, highlighted the four schools that the synod supports: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.; Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.; and Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., and Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., the synod’s two preparatory high schools. About 1,400 students attend the four schools, and 2,000 current ministers of the gospel are in continuing education courses provided by MLC and WLS.

Rodewald, chairman of the Board for Ministerial Education (BME), talked about a special task force that was recently created to improve the retention and better support men who are training to be pastors as a second or third career. “We recognize the challenges and unique sacrifices that need to be made,” says Rodewald about these students and their families. The task force will present its first report to the board in October.

After commenting on all the different educational areas the board maintains, Prange revealed another area the BME is focusing on: student educational debt, especially for MLC students.

Providing financial aid for MLC students is one of the three pillars of the ongoing “Equipping Christian Witnesses” (ECW) campaign. Rev. Richard Gurgel, MLC president, shared more with the delegates about this campaign, including that more than $7.5 million has already been donated or pledged. Construction also has begun on the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse, one of two facilities MLC is looking to build from donations to this campaign. Student recruitment is the final ECW goal. “ ‘Equipping Christian Witnesses’ is about building a foundation for years to come,” says Gurgel. “We want to renew and reinvigorate our investment as a synod to raise up future generations of faithful and qualified staff ministers, teachers, and pastors.” A video shown to delegates highlighted each pillar of the campaign, which will continue through June 30, 2022.

Following the presentations, delegates showed their support for the focus on reducing educational debt by approving a resolution that allows the WELS Ministry of Christian Giving and the MLC Mission Advancement office to continue to seek donors during and after the “Equipping Christian Witnesses” campaign who are willing to make major gifts to MLC student financial assistance.

Watch a video to learn more about “Equipping Christian Witnesses” or visit mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

 

 

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Special guests offer greetings

Presidents of two U.S.-based Lutheran church bodies addressed convention delegates on Tuesday.

Rev. Glenn Obenberger brought greetings from WELS’ sister synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). Obenberger became ELS president after former president Rev. John Moldstad Jr. unexpectedly passed away in January. “We still grieve but do not grieve without hope,” said Obenberger. “John shall rise again for Jesus’ sake, so we go forward.”

Obenberger encouraged the synod to continue to stand on God’s Word. “WELS, like the ELS, is committed to carrying out the mission of the church which Jesus has given us, making the same bold confessions based on the Word of God: That grace alone is the truth which sets sinners like us eternally free,” he said. “May God grant you the strength and wisdom to continue taking that bold, old Lutheran stance in the face of all opposition.”

He then presented Pres. Mark Schroeder a commemorative book on the history of Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), also addressed convention delegates, calling it an honor and privilege to attend and speak at a WELS synod convention.

WELS, ELS, and LCMS representatives have been meeting annually for informal doctrinal discussions since 2012. This is the first time that Harrison has attended a WELS synod convention.

In his historic address, Harrison brought up “tragic things” in the synods’ past, referring to the break in fellowship in 1961 and events that occurred following the break. Yet he stressed the Missouri Synod’s stance on the Word: “The Missouri Synod confesses Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture. And the Lord blesses us despite ourselves.”

He also expressed appreciation for the continuing dialogue among the three church bodies, even though significant issues still separate the synods. “I thank you, Mark [Schroeder], for reaching out to me and the Missouri Synod, despite our challenging past,” he said. “We deeply appreciate your prayers and you have ours.”

Following Harrison’s address, WELS President Mark Schroeder mentioned the importance of these informal doctrinal discussions. “From the start, we believed that it was a debt of Christian love that we needed to pay for us to be talking with our friends in the Missouri Synod about important issues in doctrine and practice. I think you can sense from what Pres. Harrison said that it has truly been a mutually encouraging and beneficial set of conversations, and we pray that they will be able to continue.”

Harrison and Obenberger are two of five special guests at this year’s convention. Rev. Paul Tiefel representing the Church of the Lutheran Confession and two other representatives from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shaw and Rev. Dr. John Wohlrabe Jr., also are attending.

 

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Standing for the gospel

On Tuesday afternoon, Rev. Earle Treptow, president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., presented his convention essay titled, “Here We Stand: Imitating Luther’s Faith.”

Each synod convention, a pastor is invited to write and present an essay on the convention’s theme. “I considered it a great honor to be asked to serve as essayist. Since I could have quickly identified many who could have handled this assignment better than I, I also considered it a great privilege. While saying no to some opportunities to serve is necessary and wise, there are times when a person simply must say yes. This, for me, was one of those times,” reflects Treptow.

The essay walked delegates through the time in Luther’s life that led to his invitation to the Diet of Worms, his time in front of the dignitaries where he made his famous statement upon which the theme of this convention is based, and the aftermath of the stand he took facing the emperor—the stand he made for the gospel.

“Stories are powerful. And this story is particularly powerful for those who love the message of forgiveness full and free in Christ,” says Treptow. “Most Lutherans know what Luther said on April 18, 1521—at least the “Here I stand” portion—but they may not be as familiar with what led up to it and what followed after it. By telling the fuller story and sharing some details, I am hoping for a couple of things. First, I am hoping that people might be identifying lessons for their lives as Christians on their own as they hear the story and reflect on it. Second, I want to ground the lessons I identified in the story itself.”

Treptow then applied this chapter of Luther’s life to how Christians today should approach the gospel and the truth and blessing of God’s Word.

“I want to draw lessons from Luther’s appearance at the Diet of Worms that has application for us as individual Christians and as a synod,” explains Treptow. “Whenever I preach for Reformation or teach about Luther’s life, I remind myself: The hero of this story is the Lord of my salvation. Luther was an instrument in the Lord’s hand. The best instruments only produce good sound when talented musicians use them. You could put me at the bench of the most impressive grand piano ever produced and it wouldn’t sound very good at all. But a master musician can make an instrument sing. While I am not Luther and you are not Luther, the Lord can work in us and through us in ways that we cannot imagine. As the gospel of Christ dwells in us richly, the Lord strengthens us in faith and empowers us for service, just as he did with the Reformer. We imitate Luther’s faith in the Lord’s promises, confident that the Lord will enable us to stand firm and to be a blessing to others.”

To dive into the history as Treptow did required a lot of research and reading. “One of the nice things about being asked to serve in this way was that I got to do some reading and reflecting that I wouldn’t otherwise have done. I’ve been greatly blessed by the time I spent on the essay,” he says. “I committed to a lot of reading. All the while I was thinking about applications for life and ministry today. Once I had completed the reading I had time to do—there’s always more to be read—I outlined the essay. I specifically noted lessons I wanted to highlight and identified passages of Scripture that connect to those lessons.”

The essay illustrates Martin Luther’s passion for the gospel and notes that the same Lord who empowered Luther to confidently, yet humbly, profess his faith, continues to work in the hearts of believers today.

Treptow summarizes his main theme: “I want convention attendees to follow in Luther’s footsteps, in his passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ. His greatest concern was that the gospel be proclaimed clearly to all, so that consciences are comforted and God is glorified. Let’s stand for the gospel because the gospel has seized our hearts. . . . We proclaim God’s law for the sake of the gospel. Our desire is that all would know Jesus as their Savior.”

To download and read the essay or to watch the archived livestream of the presentation, visit wels.net/2021synodconvention.

 

 

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Delegates approve balanced ministry financial plan

“WELS is financially strong,” says Mr. Kyle Egan, WELS’ chief financial officer. “God continues to bless WELS with the financial gifts needed to maintain current ministry levels and to develop a well-balanced ministry financial plan for the next biennium.”

On Tuesday morning, Egan shared WELS’ recent financial information with synod convention delegates and explained key elements of the proposed ministry financial plan for the upcoming biennium of 2021–23. Following his presentation, delegates approved the ministry financial plan.

Prof. Daniel Balge, a pastor delegate from the Minnesota District, served as chairman of the convention floor committee that dealt with the ministry financial plan. Balge notes that “the plan reflects God’s financial blessings to the Wisconsin Synod. With gratitude for the recent past and with thoughtful confidence for the near future, our synod’s leaders have put forward a plan that energetically supports the sharing of the gospel.”

The plan includes support for WELS ministerial education, Missions, and Congregational Services. For details, see Egan’s full presentation, which is available at wels.net/2021synodconvention.

 

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First vice president, other synod position members elected

Election results for various synodical positions—including first vice president and recording secretary—were announced Tuesday morning. Elections were conducted electronically prior to the convention, making it easier for virtual delegates to participate.

Delegates reelected Rev. James Huebner to his fourth term as the synod’s first vice president.

“It is a privilege to be able to continue serving as WELS’ first vice president, a very humbling privilege at that,” says Huebner, pastor at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve our Savior and our synod as we stand together on the Holy Scriptures and go forward together in our mission to proclaim Jesus’ forgiving love to all.”

They also reelected Rev. Robert Pasbrig as recording secretary. He has served in this role since 2005.

Various other synodical positions—14 in all—also needed to be filled. These positions ranged from chairman of the Board for Home Missions (BHM) to members (pastor, teacher/staff minister, and layman) of the Board for Ministerial Education (BME) to at-large representatives on the Synodical Council.

Members of synodical boards and commissions provide valuable input to administrators as they make important ministry decisions. “When the leaders of our boards are people active in parish and school ministry, it keeps the whole ministerial education program up-to-date in addressing the needs of the church body,” says Rev. Paul Prange, BME administrator.

Rev. Keith Free, BHM administrator, stresses the importance of the partnership between the board chairman and the Missions staff, which includes weekly phone calls and multiple meetings throughout the year. “The BHM chairman role is not a figurehead role,” says Free. “There is real time and input these men offer in support of Home Missions. We are grateful to their spouse and the church they serve for allowing these men to have the time to serve in this ministry role.” Rev. Mark Gabb, pastor at St. Paul, Beverly Hills, Fla., was elected as chairman for the Board for Home Missions.

View remaining election results

 

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Schroeder delivers President’s Report

On Tuesday morning WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder addressed the delegates, beginning his report by recalling Martin Luther’s stance in the face of demands to retract his position against the unscriptural actions of the church of the day. Luther had boldly proclaimed, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

Schroeder then connected the stance taken by Luther with the stance we as Christians take today in a culture that will attack the truth of God’s Word: “The theme of this convention presents us with an opportunity—as individuals, as congregations, and as a synod—to stand exactly where Luther stood, on the unchanging Word of God as proclaimed in the Scriptures.” He added, “Our only defense against these attacks is to do what Luther did: To stand boldly on the truth of God’s Word.”

Schroeder continued by recounting some of the challenges congregations faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also listed some of the blessings that God provided throughout the pandemic, including the steadfastness of WELS members in supporting gospel work: “God’s people remained faithful in bringing their offerings during the past year and, in fact, were even more generous than before. That was true for the offerings received by the synod and, in many cases, for congregations. With those increased offerings, no reductions in mission or ministry were required by the synod. In fact, the Synodical Council was able to approve additional resources for previously unfunded ministry.”

The results of these blessings on ministry include a planned increase in the establishment of home mission congregations and more opportunities to share the gospel in new world mission fields. In addition, Schroeder spoke about the blessings of funding for new facilities at Martin Luther College, a variety of new resources and assistance for congregations through Congregational Services, and the production of a new hymnal.

Schroeder then addressed some of the other challenges to the synod, including the shortage of called workers. He urged, “It’s important that we rededicate ourselves as a synod, as congregations, and as individual called workers and lay members to recruit young people for ministry as diligently and energetically as we can. The fields are indeed ripe for harvest. Workers are needed to go into those harvest fields. Pray that God will provide workers who will serve God’s people and reach the lost.”

Schroeder also spoke about the impact the proposed Federal Equality Act may have on Christian churches and religious organizations: “As a church we do not express opinions on purely political matters. However, the concern in this case is that aspects of the Equality Act could make it very difficult for the church to carry out its mission and could jeopardize our religious freedom to preach and teach God’s Word faithfully.”

At this point, it is not known what potential effect the Equality Act will have on religious organizations, but Schroeder talked about how the church body is to respond: “Our desire and responsibility . . . is to continue practicing our faith in humility and love, as we share with ourselves and others what God says in his Word for our eternal good.” He continued, “We further encourage your prayers that the Lord would give us the boldness and courage to be faithful to him, no matter the earthly consequences, as we work together as brothers and sisters in Christ to continue to carry out our Savior’s mission. The work of God’s kingdom will always move forward.”

In conclusion, Schroeder urged the synod to remain as faithful as possible, even in light of a small but steady decline in membership: “First, we strive with God’s help to remain faithful to the Word (not changing the message to become more appealing or attractive). Second, we ask God to move each of our congregations and each of us as individuals to share the gospel whenever and wherever God gives the opportunity. Third, as we strive to be faithful to the Word and to our God-given mission, we trust firmly that God will work through his Word in the ways and places that he determines best—accomplishing his desire and achieving his purpose.”

View the full report

 

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2021 synod convention opens with worship

Around 200 convention attendees and guests filled the chapel at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., Monday evening for the opening worship service of the 66th biennial convention.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder presided over the service and Rev. Joel Voss, WELS second vice president and pastor at Resurrection, Centerville, Ohio, preached a sermon themed “By God’s Grace, Here We Still Stand” based on Colossians 3:15-17. Rev. James Huebner, WELS first vice president and pastor at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis., was the cantor for the service.

Voss says, “Our Lord’s encouragement in Colossians chapter 3 is to let his Word dwell in us richly. That Word led Luther to take his stand at the Diet of Worms 500 years ago, and, by God’s grace, that’s where our beloved WELS still stands today. That’s all due to the grace of God. May we ever cherish it!”

Worship during the convention is crafted around the themes covered in the convention essay entitled “Here We Stand: Imitating Luther’s Faith.” Rev. Bryan Gerlach, director of the WELS Commission on Worship, says, “There is no bravado in the convention theme. So it’s good to reinforce the foundation of Word and sacrament. Here we stand! And the remaining worship services during convention emphasize additional essay themes: humility in service, joy in all circumstances, and confessing the gospel with boldness.”

Gerlach continues, “It can be a challenge to gather a choir in summer for convention—even more so after the pandemic challenges of the past year. So, I was pleased that Rev. Huebner agreed to be cantor for the service. This also had the advantage of modeling to delegates and to all those watching online how to introduce material from the new hymnal. Furthermore, it meant that the opening service was led by the synod president and two vice presidents.”

The opening service was planned to provide a balance of familiar hymns with some new content introduced in a way to make participation comfortable for most people.

Even though fewer people attended in person than usual, it was still a moving service, especially for delegates from smaller churches. The impact of strong singing accompanied by a quality pipe organ and brass ensemble made the service a memorable and joyful worship experience.

Rev. Bruce E. Schwark, who serves Christ/Rockwood/St. Peter in the Manitowoc Conference, Wis., was moved by the music. “I always enjoy singing Thy Strong Word with the fanfare of the trumpets and as a tribute to Professor Franzmann, who wrote the words. The sermon also hit the point about what we are all about: preaching the Word. That’s what I do as a pastor. The service motivated me to keep doing that.”

“I was amazed at how great the hymns sounded and how great the preachers were,” agreed Mr. Kenneth Stephens, first-time lay delegate from Zion, Valentine, Neb. He says, “The singing was so joyful. The service was so impressive, and it really gets to my heart. I’m glad I’m here.”

You can watch the entire worship service at wels.net/news-media/2021synodconvention/convention-livestream.

 

View photos from Day 1 and the opening worship service

 

Preconvention & Opening Worship - 2021 Synod Convention

 

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Amazing blessings

God’s people of our synod provided faith-filled gifts in support of the mission we carry out together. Fiscal year 2021 ended with an incredible month of June. Total Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) for the month was $1.82 million, which is 1.6% higher than June 2020. This was $191,000 more than the amount that congregations had committed.

On a calendar year-to-date basis through June 2021 (6 months), total CMO was $10.3 million, up 8.9% ($846,000) over the prior year and 7.2% ($697,000) over projected receipts.

On a fiscal year-to-date basis through June 2021 (full year of 12 months), total CMO is $22.59 million, up 5.4% ($1,160,000) over the prior year ($21.4 million for FY20). This is first time that fiscal year CMO exceeded $22 million, the largest fiscal year total for CMO in the synod’s history.

These results, a wonderful blessing from God, are encouraging news as we look to seize the many new opportunities that God is placing before us.

A sincere thank you to the members and congregations of our synod for your gifts of faith and love.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Providing care through humanitarian aid grants

WELS Christian Aid and Relief announced it has approved $470,882 for humanitarian aid projects in WELS mission fields throughout the United States and worldwide for fiscal year 2021-22.

Projects are developed by WELS home and world missionaries, who continually look for opportunities to serve hurting people in their communities with ongoing basic needs, like food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Rev. Daniel Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, says, “When our missionaries can assist people in this way, it also helps to build trust and leads to many opportunities to then share the life-changing news of the gospel.”

The humanitarian aid granted through WELS Christian Aid and Relief takes many forms, including providing smokeless stoves to safely heat homes in Asia, medical clinics, assistance for legal immigrants, vocational training, and backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged kids.

One of the most recent aid projects was supporting the digging of five boreholes in Zambia to provide clean and safe drinking water. “Here in the United States, we take fresh drinking water for granted, but in Africa access to fresh, clean water is often severely limited,” says Sims. “These boreholes, which are often built near our churches, provide our missionaries a point of contact and an opportunity to talk to people about Jesus. The care and compassion shown by the gift of the borehole means that many are more willing to listen.”

Sims continues to be thankful for God’s blessings on these projects, which are supported through the generosity of God’s people. “Even though our ministry is not part of the synodical budget, we are able to carry out this vital ministry of compassion. God’s people, moved by his love, are generous.”

WELS members can support the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief through prayers and offerings. In addition to humanitarian aid grants, the organization also provides disaster relief and medical financial emergency grants to people in need.

View a complete list of humanitarian aid projects supported by WELS Christian Aid and Relief through your offerings.

 

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Convention elections updates

Elections for the 2021 synod convention are already underway. The election process is taking place electronically, and all delegates are taking part.

In the first election, Rev. James Huebner was re-elected to his fourth term as the First Vice President of the Synod. As First Vice President, Huebner will continue to serve on both the Conference of Presidents and the Synodical Council.

The election for the Recording Secretary of the Synod is currently taking place; the final results are not yet in. Rev. Robert Pasbrig currently serves as the Recording Secretary.

Later this week, elections for all other synod positions will be held. The results of those elections will be available prior to the start of the synod convention on July 26.

Please pray that God would guide the delegates as they make their selections and that he would bless those who are elected to serve on our behalf.

Find everything you need to know about the synod convention at wels.net/2021synodconvention.

Serving together with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Taste of Missions starts July 11

Taste of Missions starts this Sunday, July 11, and runs through July 17! Get to know our synod’s home and world missionaries and get a closer look at their mission work through short video updates, activities and recipes for the entire family, daily devotions, and multiple live events during which WELS members can come together online and interact with missionaries. Make sure to register for this free event at tasteofmissions.com!

Here’s everything you need to know about Taste of Missions:

Join us for these live events

  • Sunday, July 11, 1 p.m. CT: Event kick-off and introduction from WELS Home and World Missions administrators
  • Tuesday, July 13, 7 p.m. CT: World Missions Q&A webinar (registration required)
  • Thursday, July 15, 7 p.m. CT: Home Missions Q&A webinar (registration required)
  • Saturday, July 17, 6 p.m. CT: Closing worship service, featuring the commissioning of five new missionaries immediately followed by a Q&A with new missionaries

Access the live events.

Watch on-demand video updates from missionaries

Enjoy daily video devotions from WELS Home, World, and Joint Missions representatives, and use the personal reflection questions provided as you consider how to be a missionary in your own backyard.

Get to know some of your synod’s 123 home missionaries and 44 world missionaries that are dedicated to sharing the gospel message around the globe in short Moments with Missionaries video updates.

Check out the on-demand videos.

Have fun with the entire family

Have you ever made Dal Bhat from Nepal? Tasted Pen Patat from Haiti? Savored Doro Wot from Ethiopia? Try your hand at making one or more of the ethnic recipes shared by missionary families and national church partners.

You can also get the entire family involved in learning about mission work through coloring pages, word searches, and more. By completing a Taste of Missions scavenger hunt (coming soon!), kids can be entered to win a Taste of Missions t-shirt, and we’ll mail all who participate a Taste of Missions sticker.

Join the activities.

Help us reach our offering goal

WELS mission work is happening in new communities in the United States and around the world every day. WELS Missions appreciates your prayers, special gifts, and congregational offerings. There is always a need to help the hurting, and together with God’s blessing, we can do more.

As part of this year’s Taste of Missions event, it is our goal to collect $25,000 in offerings to support future mission work. A generous group of sponsors has pledged to match every dollar up to $10,000! A gift of $100 will translate to $200 for ministry tomorrow, doubling your impact. This Taste of Missions offering will be divided evenly between Home and World Missions on July 31. Learn more about this special offering and how you can support it at tasteofmissions.com/give.

We are excited to join you as we connect with brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe and learn how we can all play an important part in the gospel outreach occurring through our synod!

 

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Synod Convention update

You’re probably aware that the synod convention is scheduled to meet at Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wis., on July 26-28. What you may not know is that the convention business has already begun.

Last January, because of the many unknowns caused by COVID-19, the Conference of Presidents changed the location and the format of the convention. The location was changed to Watertown from Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, Mich. (since Michigan restrictions were tighter at the time and anticipated to be tighter in July). Instead of the normal 400 delegates attending in person, the Conference of Presidents decided that about 100 delegates would attend in person, and the remaining delegates would attend virtually. A plan is in place to enable remote delegates to vote on reports and resolutions that come before the convention.

This means that floor committees, which address all of the various areas of the synod’s work, would need to do their work virtually in advance of the convention. Many of those committees have already begun their work, and all committee work will be done by July 3. The committee resolutions will then be presented to the convention in July for discussion and action.

In addition to committee work, elections for various synodical positions will also be done electronically in advance of the convention. All delegates will participate in these elections, scheduled to begin on Monday, June 21, and conclude on Tuesday, July 13.

Even though the format is different, the Conference of Presidents has worked hard to make both the election process and the convention business process as normal as possible.

You are welcome to review convention information, including the Book of Reports and Memorials, the slate of candidates for elections, and delegate information, at wels.net/2021synodconvention.

Serving together with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Encouraging and equipping congregations and members

WELS Congregational Services’ mission is to encourage and equip WELS congregations for faithful and fruitful ministry. It does this by identifying trends and needs in local ministry and offering free resources to assist congregational ministry. WELS’ global mission of spreading the saving gospel message to all nations begins with healthy congregations.

In addition to the long-term trends the broader Christian church has seen in North America, congregations are also facing the collateral from the past year of pandemic upheaval. Doors are opening again, neighbors are gathering again, and WELS Congregational Services has released a suite of resources to help congregations seize the opportunity for outreach and growth. “These are the kinds of resources that in the coming year, or years, are going to be able to feed a congregational hunger, if congregational ministries have stalled, to get ministry up to speed again,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of the WELS Commission on Discipleship.

God’s People Gather
Already before COVID-19, some churches were utilizing video and streaming technology for worship and Bible study. The pandemic forced many more congregations to make this pivot. In much of the country, in-person worship was prohibited for months. As lockdowns lift, congregational leaders are wrestling with two key questions:

  1. How can we encourage our members to return to in-person worship?
  2. How should we think about virtual worship post-pandemic?

The first is a timely, virus-related question. That second question is timeless, something churches may be asking until Jesus returns.

Dobberstein says, “How do we keep that balance between realizing that while electronic/virtual/digital ministries are definitely a blessing from God, they are not meant to replace God’s good intent for us to be gathered.”

He continues, “God’s People Gather was created to help congregations as they’re coming out of COVID. If congregations are going to make a splash, to celebrate the fact that we have the ability and we can re-gather like we once did, it’s flexible so that congregations can pick the right time to celebrate depending on where they’re at.”

God’s People Gather provides resources that help churches put together a congregation-specific plan that reaches out to the various types of members who have not yet returned. Access videos, elder encouragement, Bible study, worship plan, and event ideas at welscongregationalservices.net/gods-people-gather.

A God-Lived Life
A God-Lived Life is a whole-life challenge to God’s people to live the life to which he has called them. The hope is that being challenged in specific ways will urge members to put into practice a closer walk with God and a life of love toward others.

There’s a double meaning in “God-lived.” God lived for his people. His life is now theirs. And that produces in Christians a life lived for God. When the Word touches people, it changes them forever. It changes how they view everything God gives them. Jesus talked a lot about money, but it was never far apart from a greater conversation about life and things that have a pull on hearts and minds.

The goal of A God-Lived Life is to encourage greater growth in four key areas:

  • A life of being a disciple.
  • A life of service for others.
  • A life of hospitality for all.
  • A life lived shrewdly.

“It’s not just talking about money. As we come back post-COVID, it addresses how we demonstrate what God looks like in our lives, how he lives in our lives, and how that shows God to others. I think that’s going to be huge in the coming years,” says Dobberstein.

The program is designed to last four months with a variety of resources to bolster each monthly emphasis. View and download the resources at welscongregationalservices.net/a-god-lived-life.

For WELS Commission on Evangelism, the focus for its latest programs is on personal evangelism. Rev. Eric Roecker, director of the WELS Commission on Evangelism, explains why: : “The number of never-churched people in our country has gone up dramatically in the last 20 years. Because they’ve never been churched, they have zero interest in church; it’s not even on their radar. Because the way the church is portrayed in media a lot of times, it’s a negative. Fewer and fewer people in our culture are churched. Some have never been churched, which means that traditional methods of outreach like corporate outreach events and inviting people with postcards is becoming less effective. At the same time, studies are showing that people in our country don’t trust the church as much as they used to, but they do trust their Christian friends. So, while they probably won’t come to church because of a postcard or an advertisement, they might check it out if a friend brought them, not necessarily because they’re interested in the church, but because they trust their friend.”

Everyone Outreach
Everyone Outreach is designed to help congregations build a culture of outreach so that every ministry and every member is thinking about and participating in outreach. The Everyone Outreach workshops are designed to reveal the unconscious and invisible thought habits people hold and provide participants with unique insights to help begin the journey of transformation.

“Everyone Outreach is a culture-shaping program. If a congregation is not outreach minded, if it’s just not part of who they are, it would be great for them to use this program to shape the way they think so they think more about outreach,” says Roecker. “And then, after that, they can use some of the personal witness training Bible studies, like Let’s Go, so now that members are fired up to [reach out], they can become equipped to do it.”

All members of a congregation are encouraged to attend. Learn more or sign up your congregation to host a workshop at everyoneoutreach.com.

Let’s Go
While Everyone Outreach is designed to develop an outreach culture congregation-wide, Let’s Go is designed to encourage and equip Christians to become more comfortable and confident personal witnesses. The course is divided into seven lessons, each consisting of a video and an accompanying study guide and leader’s guide. The lessons are designed to be used by either large or small group Bible study gatherings as well as by individual Christians. Let’s Go dials in the conversation from “what can the congregation do for outreach,” to “how can I talk to my friends and neighbors about Jesus.” Get the resources at welscongregationalservices.net/lets-go.

The WELS Congregational Services website, welscongregationalservices.net, has a host of additional resources, including National Hymnal Week (Sept. 19-26, 2021) information; Marriage Moments videos; Marriage Maintenance Bible study; One By One personal witnessing Bible study; compassion ministry resources about ministry to military members, learning to be a recovery-friendly church, ministry to the deaf and hard of hearing, and training to identify and respond to child abuse; resources for different aspects of worship and worship planning; and much more.

 

 

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Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference meets

WELS is part of an organization called the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). Founded in 1993 with 13 members, its members today include more than 30 confessional Lutheran church bodies from around the world. Some of the members are church bodies and synods that originated as WELS or Evangelical Lutheran Synod missions; others are church bodies that were established independently. All members of the CELC are in fellowship with WELS and with one another and are united in doctrine.

The CELC meets every three years in different locations, with representatives from the member church bodies attending. Last year, the meeting was scheduled to be held in Seoul, South Korea, but it had to be canceled because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. As a substitute for that meeting, this year a virtual conference is being held. The meeting is being held throughout six days over a three-week period. The first sessions were held last week.

The CELC plays an important role. It provides an opportunity for our sister church bodies to become familiar with each other, to provide mutual encouragement, and to grow in our understanding and appreciation for the truth of the Scriptures. Since many of these church bodies are rather small, and since some of them are very young in terms of being independent church bodies, these meetings provide an important forum for discussion and spiritual growth. We may think that WELS, as the largest church body in the CELC, would provide encouragement to smaller churches—and it does—but the CELC is also an encouragement and blessing for WELS as we witness these churches’ strong faith and commitment to the Word in challenging situations we do not face.

Please keep the churches and your fellow believers of the CELC in your prayers as they faithfully carry out their mission.

The CELC plans to hold an in-person meeting in Seoul, South Korea, in 2023. Learn more about the church bodies that make up the CELC at celc.info.

Serving together with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Teachers and staff ministers assigned at Martin Luther College

The synod Assignment Committee met last week to assign teacher and staff minister candidates from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., to the places where they will serve. Assignments included first-time calls, calls made permanent, and re-assignments to those called to serve an additional year.

About 160 assignments were announced at the call service at MLC on Sat., May 15. Assignments will continue next week and in the weeks to follow for candidates who are limited to a specific location, such as those female candidates whose spouses will be assigned this week as vicars or pastors at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s graduation and call service.

If you look at the list of assignments, you will notice quite a large number of candidates who have been assigned for one year. One-year assignments include those who have been assigned as dormitory supervisors, those who are assigned to a position where the grade levels or duties are somewhat outside of what was recommended for the candidate, and those who are assigned to a location where the needs of the calling body are uncertain for the following year. As you will see from this year’s assignments, many, if not most, of those assigned to one-year calls will be assigned permanently next year.

Even though many teaching vacancies remain, we are thankful that the Lord of the church has provided another group of well-trained and willing workers who will soon begin their ministry in God’s harvest field.

View the assignment list

Serving together with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Book of Reports and Memorials available online

The 2021 Book of Reports and Memorials is now available online. This book summarizes the activities of each area of ministry over the last year and contains the proposed ministry financial plan for the next biennium. The information in the Book of Reports and Memorials will help guide the delegates of WELS’ 66th biennial convention, which is being conducted in an altered format this year.

The in-person convention is being held at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., July 26–28. Only the chairman, secretary, and two laymen from each floor committee will be present. Floor committees will conduct their business and adopt their reports and resolutions via virtual meetings in advance of the convention. Elections will also be held electronically in advance. Delegates who are not attending in person will be able to vote on convention resolutions remotely.

The entire convention will focus on the theme “Here we stand.” This theme reminds us of Martin Luther’s willingness to risk his life with his bold stand on the Word of God 500 years ago at the Diet of Worms. Our convention will focus on this theme to remind us that for the Christian church today to carry out its mission faithfully, the same bold stand on the Word of God is necessary.

Major items for consideration at this convention include:

  • the proposed ministry financial plan (budget) for 2021–23,
  • increasing opportunities that God is giving our synod to proclaim the gospel to a growing number of people around the world, and
  • a recommended change in the WELS Pension Plan.

More details on the proposed changes to the WELS Pension Plan are available at www.welsbpo.net.

Six memorials are also included in the Book of Reports and Memorials. A memorial is a formal request to the synod convention for specific action.

One printed copy of the Book of Reports and Memorials is being mailed to each delegate, congregation, and male called worker. These printed copies should arrive by the first week of June.

To view the online version of the Book of Reports and Memorials, visit wels.net/2021synodconvention.

You can also see details of the proposed change to the pension plan at https://welsbpo.net/proposed-changes-to-wels-retirement-program-2021/.

Serving together with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

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