WELS convention highlights

Delegates to the 65th biennial synod convention, held at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., three weeks ago, have much to remember and to share with others as they return to their home congregations.

Illustrating how our worldwide fellowship of confessional Lutherans continues to grow, our synod had the privilege of declaring fellowship with two overseas Lutheran church bodies. The Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ—Kenya is a relatively new Lutheran church body that is united with WELS in doctrine and practice. The Christian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Taiwan had its origin as a WELS mission in 1968 and has since become an independent church body. The convention formally declared fellowship with both Lutheran churches; delegates cast their unanimous votes with a standing ovation.

The convention approved the synod’s two-year ministry financial plan recommended by the Synodical Council. No changes were made to the plan that was proposed. This plan outlines the financial support that will be provided to all areas of ministry for the next two years.

Numerous changes to the synod’s bylaws were approved. Most of these changes involved bringing more consistency to the length of terms on various boards and committees. Nearly all positions are now four-year terms, with a person able to succeed himself twice.

Twenty memorials (requests for convention action) were acted upon by the convention via floor committee reports and resolutions.

Director of the WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling Rev. Jon Hein’s keynote presentation provided an honest evaluation of membership trends and the challenges posed by a changing culture. He outlined the synod’s plans to address these challenges making use of the means of grace and committing all results to the hands of the Holy Spirit.

After hearing reports from all areas of the synod’s missions and ministries, many delegates commented that for the first time they had a real picture of the scope and nature of the many things we are doing together as a synod. They expressed an eagerness to return home to share what they had learned with their congregations.

Rev. Joel Voss was re-elected as the synod second vice president and I was blessed and honored to be elected to serve another term as synod president.

The convention was another opportunity for WELS to acknowledge the amazing grace of God as he works through us to proclaim the gospel now and, as the convention theme stated, “for the generations to come.”

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Access all synod convention news and materials at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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Serving generations in the future through endowments

WELS Foundation announced it has distributed $2.9 million from more than 300 endowments through its endowment program this year. WELS ministerial education schools received $1.9 million, and WELS Missions received $508,000. The remainder was distributed to congregations, schools, or other WELS/WELS-affiliated ministries that benefit from donor-designated endowments.

WELS Foundation manages endowment funds established by individuals, congregations, or other WELS organizations for the benefit of Christ’s work. These donor-restricted gifts are invested with WELS Investment Funds into its endowment allocation (a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds; learn more here). Annual distributions from the endowment investment returns provide a source of ongoing financial support for WELS ministries.

But the support isn’t just for ministries; it’s for people like Mr. Jonathan Neumann, who is starting his final year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., and Rev. Adam Lambrecht, a 2019 WLS graduate and a new missionary in Laramie, Wyo. Both Neumann and Lambrecht received tuition assistance grants for their schooling from an endowment through their congregation Crown of Life, Pueblo West, Colo.

Mrs. Helen Kuehl, a WELS member who lived in the area, set up a charitable remainder trust through WELS Foundation in her will. In 2016, the Rev. Ernst Claus Kuehl Memorial Scholarship Fund—named in memory of Helen’s late husband—was established with the remainder of that trust to help local students studying for the ministry. Each year, Crown of Life receives a distribution from that fund to help pay college or seminary expenses for members who are studying to become full-time called workers.

“The people who knew her talked about how she had a passion for the synod and the long-range view of people sharing the gospel,” says Rev. David Wietzke, pastor at Crown of Life.

Neumann says it was a big relief to receive this help. “It’s peace of mind when it comes to you,” he says. “It also sets you up for the future. As you’re leaving school, you don’t have to be thinking about debt in the same way.”

But the funding doesn’t only help financially. Neumann says receiving a gift like this shows him how invested an individual and a congregation are in his future ministry, even if he may not be serving their church directly. “It’s a testimony to the power of the gospel,” he says. “It’s an encouragement of faith.”

Wietzke shares that if Crown of Life doesn’t have a member currently studying for the ministry, the congregation sends the money directly to WLS for needs-based tuition assistance. “It’s neat to know that we can make a difference,” he says. “And this isn’t a one-time thing. This is something we can do every single year.”

He continues, “It’s a great example of how people can be thinking past their own time on earth. They can be serving the gospel to generations in the future.”

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

 

 

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New Bible translation available

A new translation of the Bible—the Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV)—is now available from Northwestern Publishing House (NPH).

More than one hundred people—pastors, professors, teachers, and laypeople—have been working on the translation since 2013, all under the direction of the Wartburg Project, an independent Lutheran Bible translation effort by WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) pastors and professors. About 30 WELS and ELS pastors and professors were involved in translating and the technical review, and 100 people served as proofreaders and popular reviewers. “By the time it was done, at least ten people had read every book,” says Rev. John Brug, general editor and Old Testament editor. All are volunteers, except Brug, who worked full time.

The EHV aims to provide a balanced translation that is good for all uses in the church, according to Brug. This means it preserves traditional familiar biblical idioms while better clarifying some language that may be confusing in other translations. Being balanced also means that “sometimes you have to be a little more literal in your translation, and sometimes you have to be a little more free,” says Brug. “We tried to look at each passage in its own case and not have one rulebook that covered everything.”

While only WELS members and those in fellowship with WELS worked on the translation, Brug is quick to note that this is not a “WELS Bible,” and it is not just for Lutherans. “No one should be able to say there is a Lutheran slant in the translation,” Brug says.

The Wartburg Project is working on content for an EHV study Bible that will provide Lutheran commentary on the passages. It hopes to have an electronic version available by the end of the year.

A committee appointed by the Conference of Presidents has reviewed the EHV. In its report, it writes, “Several of our reviewers expressed the hope that the EHV will continue to go through an editing process in anticipation of future editions. . . . At the same time, we find the translation accurate and faithful, and can recommend it for use in our church” (2019 Book of Reports and Memorials, p. 8). Brug says that the Wartburg Project welcomes suggestions to improve the translation. He anticipates reviewing changes for revisions after three to five years.

The new edition of Luther’s catechism from NPH using the EHV translation is available for preorder. It also is available using the English Standard Version and the New International Version 2011 translations. This is an example of NPH’s use of the eclectic approach: offering multiple translation choices when possible for a single resource.

Brug says he has been blessed to have been able to take part in a project of this scope. “I certainly learned a lot, but the greatest thing is the spirit with which the participants worked,” he says. “To work together with my brothers and sisters in Christ on God’s Word—the whole Bible—intensely for five years is a great blessing, and we hope it will also be a blessing to those who use what we developed.”

Learn more about the EHV translation at wartburgproject.org. Order the translation at nph.net. Read the full review of the EHV.

 

 

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WELS VEBA offering full open enrollment

WELS Benefit Plans will offer a full open enrollment into the WELS VEBA Group Health Care Plan from Nov. 1 through Dec. 2, 2019. This means any eligible workers at WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) sponsoring organizations, including organizations that do not currently participate in WELS VEBA, can enroll for WELS VEBA medical benefits effective Jan. 1, 2020. Workers who are currently enrolled will also be able to add or remove eligible family members and/or change to a different deductible option during this open enrollment.

This year, the annual rate increase is only two percent, significantly lower than projected. This type of rate stability is possible because the cost of health care is shared across all participating sponsoring organizations. Grouping together all covered workers under one plan allows WELS VEBA premium costs to be as low as reasonably possible and stable over time.

“If an organization or worker has wanted to return to the VEBA plan or to participate in the VEBA plan for the first time, this will likely be the best opportunity for the foreseeable future,” says Mr. Joshua Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans.

He continues, “WELS VEBA is purposefully designed for workers serving at WELS and ELS ministries. As a plan sponsored by a religious organization, WELS VEBA is uniquely consistent with both God’s Word and the law.”

A full open enrollment is not guaranteed to be offered every year. Eligible workers will receive a packet of enrollment materials in late October. Currently, more than 80 percent of WELS calling bodies participate in the WELS VEBA plan. Learn more about WELS Benefit Plans and how to participate at welsbpo.net.

 

 

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Equipping women to be “living stones”

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4). This was the theme passage for the WELS Women’s Ministry Conference held July 18–20 at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis. More than 325 women attended to learn how women thrive in any circumstance when they understand they are part of the spiritual house God is building.

“No two women are alike, which meant we needed to design a conference that would nurture, encourage, and equip women with God’s Word to be ‘living stones’ whether that was at work, with friends, at the park, or in church,” said Dawn Schulz, a presenter and member of the Women’s Ministry team. “Christians are unique by God’s design and united by God’s purpose all at the same time. Like the New Testament Christians Peter was writing to, we need to be encouraged that we are part of something bigger than ourselves—God’s spiritual house. We also need the reminder to have confidence to use our unique gifts and talents because what we do is acceptable through Jesus Christ.”

To accomplish that, the conference explored how women can use their God-given gifts and talents to build up God’s kingdom and be a blessing to others around them, wherever that may be. Presentation topics included understanding your spiritual gifts, working in diverse teams, speaking your faith in love, supporting Christian students on the secular campus, understanding and supporting young adults, resources for teaching women’s Bible study, and godly characteristics in the workplace.

“The conference was stimulating,” says Gail O’Keefe from Waupaca, Wis. “There were many diverse topics to choose from, and I found many I was excited to sit in on.”

“I loved being at the conference with so many amazing women,” says Lori Lorig, one of the conference’s presenters. “My prayer is each woman feels empowered to boldly live out her personal calling and that we as individuals value one another’s uniqueness.”

Naomi Schmidt reminded the attendees of God’s purpose for their lives in her presentation entitled, “God Uses All of the Legos.” “Christian women are built and resting on the solid rock of Christ,” said Schmidt “Because of that, God uses the way he uniquely designed each woman to be an integral part of a holy temple he is building here on earth. Without understanding the big picture or final goal, our daily life and struggles can be overwhelming.”

Dinah Spurgin from New Ulm, Minn., was thankful for that message. “This conference was exactly what I needed, at exactly the time I needed it. . . . I get so trapped in my world of trying to problem solve everything, that I forget daily that I am not in control. I very much needed to be reminded that I am cut from the Living Stone, that is Christ. Because of him, I am precious, and I am chosen.”

WELS Women’s Ministry, part of the WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship, holds a conference every three years. Learn more about WELS Women’s Ministry. Access conference written presentations and video presentations.

 

2019 WELS Women's Ministry Conference 

 

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Delegates present reports and resolutions

Synod convention delegates concluded their work on Thursday morning by presenting, discussing, and approving reports and resolutions.

Floor committees began bringing their reports and resolutions to the convention floor on Wednesday morning. The first two resolutions were highly anticipated before the convention—resolutions to declare fellowship with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya and the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church in Taiwan.

Delegates continued to support world mission work by designating the opening worship service offering of $5,038 to WELS’ efforts for Hmong outreach in Vietnam. In addition, delegates approved a resolution encouraging congregations to schedule a mission festival, participate in a WELS Mission Journeys team, and to increase Congregation Mission Offerings to assist World Missions.

Teacher Jim Henrickson, chairman of the floor committee considering the work of the Commission on Lutheran Schools, presented two resolutions dealing with financial support for Lutheran Schools. The first resolution requests increased financial support for the 21st-Century Lutheran Principal Initiative, which helps to address the growing need for school leaders in WELS schools. The second resolution requests that the “Synodical Council give strong consideration to increased funding for the Commission on Lutheran Schools.” Delegates approved both resolutions.

Rev. Jay Bickelhaupt, chairman of the Conference of Presidents Floor Committee, presented a resolution titled “Encouraging education about the staff ministry program.” The resolution calls for the synod to publicize the staff ministry program more widely among local congregations and schools and that “congregations looking to fill vacancies or seeking to expand ministry be informed by their district president about the benefits and availability of staff ministers.” Delegates approved this resolution.

Teacher Paul Scriver, chairman of the Constitutional Matters Floor Committee, was the first chairman to present on Thursday morning. Scriver read 17 resolutions dealing with bylaw revisions. These changes were all recommended either by the Synodical Council, the Conference of Presidents, or the Board for Ministerial Education. Delegates approved all 17 resolutions.

Delegates also approved a resolution encouraging WELS members to support Martin Luther College’s two-year campaign titled “Equipping Christian Witnesses.” The campaign is focused on increasing enrollment and student financial aid as well as improving student facilities.

The final resolution of the convention looked ahead to the next synod convention in 2021. Delegates resolved that the 66th biennial convention of WELS will be held at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.

For a full list of all resolutions made at this convention, visit wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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New partners in Christ

Delegates welcomed two new church bodies—the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ—Kenya (LCMC) and the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church of Taiwan (CLEC)—into confessional Lutheran fellowship with WELS on Wednesday morning.

Representatives from both Kenya and Taiwan were present at the convention: Rev. Mark Onunda, chairman of the LCMC, and his wife, Grace, and Rev. Peter Chen and Mr. Michael Lin from the CLEC.

“My wife and I have traveled far to be with you these few days,” said Onunda when addressing the delegates. “Our short time together will secure a lifelong partnership to advance our positions in many fields of battle.”

The LCMC, a church body of 25 pastors, 46 congregations, and between 3,000 and 5,000 members, is relatively young. Registered as an independent church body in Kenya in 2013, it formed after several of its pastors and churches broke away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya because of false teachings. This fledging church body immediately began searching for like-minded confessional Lutherans. After they made contact with WELS World Missions in 2014, Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, visited Onunda for the first time in Kenya in 2015. The Lutheran Church of Central Africa—Zambia, WELS’ sister synod, declared fellowship with the LCMC last September.

“With our blessed partnership in place, your brothers and sisters in Kenya can now attend to our most pressing challenges,” says Onunda. “We want to be aggressive in our mission work. We want to be strong in our encouragement of the pastors and congregations already in our church body. . . . There is also the pressing challenge of human need and suffering among our Lutheran people in Kenya.” This includes partnering with WELS to serve South Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma, Kenya.

The Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church (CLEC) in Taiwan started as a mission of WELS, with missionaries serving there from 1979 through 2013. The CLEC is now an independent church body.

“We are happy to be united with WELS in faith,” said Chen to the delegates. “WELS is like a mother to us.”

Chen notes that church members were unsure about what would happen to their church when the missionaries left. “When I go back, I can let my members know WELS hasn’t left us!” he says. “Now they declare we are in fellowship with each other so even if there are no missionaries in Taiwan, it doesn’t make a difference. We are one.”

Chen was also impressed by the theme of the convention, “For the generations to come.” He is training Lin to be a leader for one of the four CLEC churches. Lin will finish his training this year. “This is a good chance to pass on the whole idea of who we are and who we belong to for the next generation,” he says.

This was Lin’s first trip to the United States. He was amazed by the opening worship service. “I will go back [to my congregation] with lots of pictures and stories. I can tell them this is the way our mother church is,” he says.

The CLEC has four congregations, one pastor (Chen), and about 100 members. Three men, including Lin, are training to serve congregations as tent ministers. It is reaching out in a country of 23 million people, of which 5 percent are Christian. “Please pray for us,” says Chen.

Delegates celebrated the declaration of fellowship by joining together to sing, “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” (Christian Worship 531).

 

 

 

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Delegates approve ministry financial plan

On Wednesday afternoon, synod convention delegates approved the Synodical Council’s proposed ministry financial plan—or budget—with no changes.

“This plan balances trust that God will continue to provide with the many mission opportunities that he is placing before us,” says Rev. Steven Gabb, chairman of the Ministry Financial Plan Floor Committee.

Rev. Jonathan Schroeder, chairman of the Synodical Council’s Ministry Committee, explains that the development of the ministry financial plan is a collaborative process between the areas of ministry, synod leadership, and the Synodical Council.

“It’s that collaboration that has impressed me most during my 10 years serving on the Synodical Council,” says Schroeder. “These groups work together to develop a plan that balances resources with priorities and emerging opportunities. President Schroeder and his advisory committee bring a kingdom-wide perspective to the task.”

The Synodical Council divides the responsibility for the ministry financial plan between the Finance Committee and the Ministry Committee. The Finance Committee determines the financial support levels and the total size of the budget. The Ministry Committee then allocates the resources to the various areas of ministry.

“The hardest part of the process comes when we have to determine which initiatives or projects won’t be included in the ministry financial plan,” says Schroeder. “For each synod convention we prepare a list of unfunded priorities to show the delegates the ministry programs we could accomplish if God blesses us with more resources.”

In a separate resolution on Wednesday, synod convention delegates also passed the unfunded priority list proposed by the Synodical Council.

“WELS is financially sound and the budget is balanced,” notes Mr. Todd Poppe, chief financial officer of WELS. “The increases in support that we have forecast are modest, so ministry opportunities have been left unfilled. If God blesses us with more than we forecast, we can begin to fund items on the unfunded priority list.”

Schroeder concludes by saying, “Every year God’s people provide these amazing gifts through Congregation Mission Offerings and individual offerings. It is a high privilege to be involved in organizing how they are implemented to fulfill Christ’s mission to call the elect to faith through the gospel.”

 

 

 

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New capital campaign for Martin Luther College announced

On Wednesday evening, delegates learned about a new two-year capital campaign for Martin Luther College (MLC) called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.” This campaign will help MLC celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020.

“Our gracious Savior, who ‘is not willing that any should perish,’ is opening mission doors beyond our imagination!” says Rev. Mark Zarling, MLC president. “As the WELS College of Ministry, we at Martin Luther College want to seize these opportunities—to his glory! Now is the time for all of us to equip even more Christian witnesses to share Christ’s love with the world. This is what this campaign is all about.”

Zarling shared that the three pillars of the campaign are student recruitment, student financial aid, and student facilities.

Currently MLC enrolls about 750 on-campus undergraduate students. The goal is to have 900 to 1,000 students eager to train for gospel ministry. Zarling reminded delegates that they can help recruit students—both traditional and second-career—to pursue the gospel ministry, both by encouraging young adults they know or by submitting names of potential future students to MLC at mlc-wels.edu/go/recommend.

To help students graduate with as little educational debt as possible, MLC is working to fully fund its Congregational Partner Grant Program (CPGP) Matching Fund for years to come. Through CPGP, MLC matches dollar for dollar, up to $1,000, the gift a congregation gathers to apply to the tuition of their student at MLC. MLC has a goal of raising $3 to $5 million for this second pillar of the campaign.

Finally, MLC wants to build a new residence hall and renovate its current dormitories to meet the need of the next generation. It also wants to construct a new turfed recreation facility so that students can participate in sports year-round. “For many years, we have not had adequate athletic space—for our student body, our teams, or visiting teams. The new Knight Center will meet these pressing needs of today and help us offer expanded health and wellness opportunities tomorrow,” says Zarling.

With the support of the Conference of Presidents, WELS is looking to raise $16 to $18 million in total through this campaign. Congregations have already received information about how they can participate.

After delegates learned about how they can be involved in the campaign, MLC staff offered tours of the campus so that delegates could learn more about the campus and plans for the future.

Learn more about “Equipping Christian Witnesses” at mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

 

 

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Congregational Services presents scope of work

WELS Congregational Services comprises several areas of ministry committed to guiding and assisting WELS congregations and schools in conducting local ministry.

The Commissions on Congregational Counseling, Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Lutheran Schools, and Special Ministries all provided overviews and updates from their respective ministries.

Rev. Jonathan Hein, Congregational Services coordinator, introduced the upcoming Lutheran Leadership Conference being held January 21-23, 2020, in Chicago. The conference will feature sessions that address issues many congregations face in local ministry and congregational operations. Find out more about the conference at lutheranleadership.com.

Congregational Counseling
Congregational Counseling (CCC) helps congregations assess their needs and develop strategic plans for local ministry. They accomplish this through a Self-Assessment and Adjustment Program; Ministry, Organization, and Staffing Evaluation; and the School of Strategic Planning. The CCC is working to train circuit pastors to proactively assist congregations in doing self-assessments and setting and meeting goals.

Evangelism
Evangelism aims to instruct members on reaching out in their communities by creating a congregational outreach culture. One resource to accomplish this is the upcoming C19 program. Much like the C18 program over the 2018 Christmas season, C19 resources will be developed and available to aid congregations in their evangelism efforts over the Christmas season. For year-round efforts, a video-based online congregational evangelism kit to train congregational leadership will be available on welscongregationalservices.net by early 2020.

Rev. Eric Roecker, Commission on Evangelism director, introduced the upcoming Let’s Go initiative, planned for summer 2020. This online training program is being developed to help any Christian become a more informed gospel witness by helping to remove fears and provide tools.

Discipleship
Rev. Donn Dobberstein, Commission on Discipleship director, presented Welcome Home, an effort to care for the 155,000 WELS members who don’t attend church regularly and “welcome them home” to active church life. Every member will be encouraged to attend on this special Sunday, which can be held on October 20 or October 27. Welcome Home includes a worship series that encompasses the season of End Times as well as elder training resources to assist church leadership in compassionately and zealously meeting the spiritual needs of delinquent members.

A new stewardship program, 10 for 10, suggested to start in September, is a three-Sunday emphasis on the biblical principles of giving. 10 for 10 is designed to incorporate Bible studies into the weekly worship service over three weeks, then for the next 10 weeks to challenge members to increase giving. 10 for 10 stands for tithing for 10 weeks.

Resources for Welcome Home and 10 for 10 are available at welscongregationalservices.net.

Future priorities include focusing on strengthening families and home devotional life, anchoring young people ages 14 to 24 to their church, encouraging small groups in congregations, improving Sunday schools, and creatively approaching adult instruction.

Also announced was the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally, June 23-26, 2020, in Knoxville, Tenn. More information will be available in upcoming issues of the WELS “Together” e-newsletter.

Worship
The Commission on Worship is assisting in the development of the new WELS Hymnal, scheduled to be introduced in 2021. Rev. Bryan Gerlach, Commission on Worship director, suggested congregations start budgeting for the new printed hymnals as well as the supplemental books and digital tools.

Lutheran Schools
The Commission on Lutheran Schools (CLS) provides resources, training, and support for WELS schools and teachers. Mr. James Rademan, Commission on Lutheran Schools director, discussed the changing landscape of Lutheran elementary schools. About 15 percent of elementary students and 29 percent of early childhood students are now from families without a church home, creating a tremendous outreach opportunity. To help meet this opportunity, CLS offers the Telling the Next Generation program to assist schools in creating outreach plans.

Looking ahead, CLS is focused on recruiting and training principals and early childhood directors to help meet vacancies as well as mentoring and supporting new principals and directors. This helps mitigate the number of new graduates stepping into these roles without appropriate training and experience.

Special Ministries
Rev. Jim Behringer, Commission on Special Ministries director, said Special Ministries is about compassion, outreach, and inclusion—removing barriers that prevent people from hearing the gospel. The Special Ministries umbrella covers eight specialized areas: Mission for the Visually Impaired, Care Committee for Called Workers, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry, Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Commission on Mental Health, Health and Wellness Committee, Military Services, and Prison Ministry, which is marking 25 years of ministry.

Special Ministries invites members to sign up to help meet the spiritual needs of those impacted by incarceration, those serving in the military and their families, and families with loved ones with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Go to wels.net/refer.

To learn more about the many ways Special Ministries serves congregations and members, visit wels.net/special-ministries.

 

 

 

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Delegates complete election of committee members

One of the responsibilities of synod convention delegates is to elect members and chairmen for a variety of synod committees and boards. On Wednesday morning, delegates completed their voting, and the names of those elected were reported by the Elections Floor Committee.

Rev. John Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior, West Palm Beach, Fla., was re-elected as chairman of the Commission on Discipleship.

“I consider it a great privilege to continue to serve our gracious God in this way,” says Boggs. “As chairman of the commission, I see myself partnering with our administrator, our commission members, and Congregational Services as a whole to get resources, encouragement, and ministry tools into the hands of leaders in our congregations.”

Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of Discipleship, also appreciates this partnership. He notes, “The ministry of Discipleship is so vast. A ‘just-me-and-no-more’ style of leadership would be at best a lonely way to do ministry and at worst a horrifying waste of the members of the body of Christ, which he loaded with gifts and abilities.”

“I believe it is critical for WELS leadership to continue to involve both called workers and lay leaders serving in congregations throughout our nation and the world to be involved in helping lead WELS forward in the blessed work our God has given us to do,” says Boggs. “Working together, I believe we can better understand the challenges before us as well as plan and implement ministry tools that address these challenges. We truly can accomplish more together than by ourselves.”

The full list of election results is available at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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Ministry presentations filled Wednesday

Throughout Wednesday, delegates heard about several ministries.

Rev. Keith Free, WELS Home Missions administrator, and Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn, Board for Home Missions chairman, provided an update on the scope of Home Missions’ ministry. Home Missions has provided support for 89 new mission starts and enhancements since 2011. In 2019, the Board for Home Missions approved three new starts and one enhancement. In addition to starting new churches and providing support for mission-focused ministry enhancements, Home Missions also supports WELS Campus Ministry and cross-cultural ministries serving Hispanic, Hmong, Korean, South Sudanese, and more. Learn more about Home Missions at wels.net/missions.

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) shared the history of the synod’s publishing house, from its beginnings in 1902 to its recent move to the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in May. Rev. Curtis Jahn, vice president of publishing services at NPH, provided a look at many resources NPH offers, ranging from children’s curriculum, devotionals, adult Bible study materials, music resources, and more. Learn what NPH has to offer at nph.net.

Rev. Joel Pless from the WELS Historical Institute invited delegates to learn more WELS history by visiting the first WELS church, Salem, in Milwaukee, Wis. The WELS Historical Institute exists to preserve and present the history of WELS. It works closely with the synod archives, located at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry. Learn more about the historical institute and the synod archives at wels.net/archives.

Chairman of WELS Christian Aid and Relief Rev. Robert Hein gave an overview of the type of assistance Christian Aid and Relief provides around the world, including relief following natural disasters and humanitarian aid that supports ministry efforts of world missions and congregations in North America. Christian Aid and Relief was able to grant $466,212 for humanitarian aid in 2019 for projects such as digging boreholes for fresh water, literacy programs, and health clinics. Learn more about Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving, spoke about trends in Congregation Mission Offerings. 2018 offerings totaled $21.1 million, which was 0.7 percent below commitments and 1.2 percent below prior year receipts. 2019 subscriptions point to a decrease of 0.9 percent from 2018 actual offerings. “We thank the Lord and commend his people for these gifts and commitments,” said Lueneburg. He encouraged congregations, “When setting CMO, aim for ten percent of offerings. If at or above this goal, encourage your congregation to maintain its generous support or consider increasing it as you’re able with God’s blessing.”

Rev. Jason Hacker, pastor at Grace, Waukesha, Wis., a board of directors member for the Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG), began his presentation recognizing veterans and service members serving as delegates. The LMSG supports the needs of our military veterans and our military families of both active duty members and veterans, working closely with WELS Military Services. The goal of the LMSG is to have a liaison at every WELS congregation to provide resources and ideas to minister to service members. Learn more about the group at lutheranmilitary.org.

Speaking about the new hymnal project, Rev. Michael Schultz directed delegates to welshymnal.com for the latest updates on the project. He said 80 to 100 volunteers on 15 different committees are working on different aspects of the project. When completed, it won’t be just the hymnal, but encompass 18 different hard copy books for various elements and musical arrangements as well as worship planning software. The committee is planning to complete the new hymnal in time for Advent 2021.

 

 

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Rev. Mark Schroeder re-elected as synod president

Delegates re-elected Rev. Mark Schroeder as synod president Tuesday morning.

“It is truly humbling that you have placed this trust in me again, and I can assure you that it is a privilege that I thank God for every day that I get to serve you as your synod president,” Schroeder said to the delegates as he accepted the call. “Please continue to keep me in your prayers and God’s church in your prayers.”

Schroeder was first elected as president in 2007. This will be his fourth four-year term.

Rev. Joel Voss, pastor at Resurrection, Centerville, Ohio, was also re-elected as the synod’s second vice president. He already has served in this position for two-and-a-half terms, elected first in 2009.

He too accepted his call. “For three decades of parish ministry and now a decade of serving our synod, I have experienced every day what you also experience—that when you serve the Lord Jesus out of love for him, you are always blessed back from God more than you gave,” said Voss. “It’s been a pleasure to serve our synod, and I appreciate your prayers and your support.”

Elections for members of various WELS boards and commissions will continue. Keep up-to-date on election results at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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Looking ahead for the generations to come

Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling, presented his essay topic following the theme of the convention, “For the Generations to Come.” In his presentation he provided an overview of current church membership trends, not just in WELS, but in Christianity across America, as well as the social and cultural factors that contribute to these trends.

The heart of Hein’s message focused on the real motivation for the work of WELS as a church body and its individual congregations—sharing the love of Christ, as Christ commanded in Matthew 28:19,20.

In examining membership decline, Hein noted that, if trends continue, WELS could lose anywhere from 260 to 400 congregations in the next 20 years. Hein attributes this decline to a few cultural shifts in recent years, including the acceptance of religious pluralism, secular humanism defining modern morality and ethics, the erosion of the traditional family, and increasing distrust in churches as institutions. Meanwhile, 25 percent of Americans in 2019 identify as having no religious affiliation, an increase of more than 70 percent in the last decade.

“We’re facing very real and large challenges, but the way the Lord always works, he takes things that look bad and makes them good,” says Hein. “We need to seek first that we’re glorifying Christ.”

He stressed the importance of creating a Christian community through relationships and building friendships with people God puts in our lives.

Delegate Daniel Douglas, principal and teacher at Mt. Olive, Overland Park, Kan., says, “It was comforting to reinforce my approach as a principal – that it’s about the importance of relationships. When you have a relationship with people, then that can open the door for ministry.”

Rev. Jim Strand, pastor at St. Paul, Bloomer, Wis., says the idea of encouraging members to let their light shine is critical to standing out today. “If you let your light shine, then people might ask why, and then you can proclaim Jesus. That’s the best evangelism program.”

In his presentation, Hein said: “We will help our members see the face of Christ in their neighbor. We will encourage them to build authentic friendships with those currently outside the church. Hospitality will be a core value among us. We will do whatever is necessary to knit our members into something more than acquaintances. They will have a family. We will zealously, almost recklessly, pursue the straying.”

“If we are doing all we can with the gospel, the numbers do not matter,” concluded Hein. “Only the gospel can create faith, but we need to do a better job of creating an audience for the gospel.”

 

 

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Presentations highlight mission opportunities

Delegates had several opportunities to learn more about mission work at home and abroad on this first day of the convention.

The morning started with women from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) presenting the 63 flags of the countries where WELS is actively partnering in gospel outreach. Ms. Emily Kom, who just completed serving as LWMS president, greeted the delegates on behalf of the 60 LWMS circuits around the U.S. and Canada.

Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, and Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of the Ministry for Christian Giving, then shared more about the amazing opportunity that WELS has to train Hmong pastors and leaders in the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam. Through a synodwide campaign called Grace—Hmong Outreach in Vietnam, congregations and individuals have given more than $1.5 million of the $2 million needed to support the building of a theological education center and ministry education costs for a two-year period­­­. This funding will allow WELS to provide seminary-level education for 350 pastors and catechism training for an additional 2,500 leaders, who will in turn share the gospel with the more than 120,000 members of the Hmong Fellowship Church.

Delegate Joel Bradtke, a member at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wis., was moved by what he heard about WELS’ work in Vietnam. He served for 14 months in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. “Like a lot of veterans, I came back from the experience uninjured physically yet still carrying the baggage of participating in a war,” he says. “It is healing for me to think about the door that the Lord has opened. We’re finally able to beat our weapons of war into plowshares—sharing the gospel—and into pruning hooks, pruning away the idolatry and misconceptions that some of the people we are reaching will have. I’m just grateful for the opportunity [for WELS] as well as for the healing that this gives me.”

Delegates also heard an overview of other exciting things happening in World Missions from Schlomer. Then they were able to dig deeper into several ministries at the evening’s missionary presentations. There they learned more about the work in Latin America, Hong Kong, and South Asia. They also heard about home mission outreach in Castle Rock, Colo., and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions, will present more about the opportunities in the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking West Indies in his report tomorrow.

 

 

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Rev. Schroeder delivers President’s Report

On Tuesday morning WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder provided an overview of the mission and ministry work WELS is privileged to conduct as well as some blessings and challenges the church faces.

Contemplating the idea of contradictions, Schroeder explained that what seems like a contradiction in a Christian’s life—or a church body—is no contradiction at all: “The details of our future may be unknown to us on the one hand, but on the other hand we know exactly what God has in store for us, since he himself has promised that all things—all things—will work together for our good and will be used by him to carry out his good and gracious will.”

Along with sharing highlights of the work of WELS Missions, Ministerial Education, and Congregational Services, Schroeder provided encouragement for the work the synod does and will do together and called for a recommitment to stand firm in the Word and share that message with the world, passing it along to the generations to come.

Here are some excerpts from his report:

“The Lord Jesus has entrusted his saving gospel, as well as all the truths of Scripture, to us believers and disciples. Our stewardship of those gifts involves two important and compelling responsibilities. First, we need to hold on to those truths for ourselves. That involves committing ourselves to remain faithful to the doctrines that we have learned. It involves defending God’s truth against all attacks from within and without the church. It means recognizing our Lutheran heritage, based solely on the truths of God’s Word, as a treasure to be embraced and retained no matter what the cost. But the second responsibility is one that flows from the faith and joy that the gospel has worked in us. That is the responsibility to share that good news with our children, with our friends and neighbors, with our communities and country, and ultimately with the world. And that message is not just for us and our families and for people today. It’s a message that we will want to preserve and proclaim for the generations to come.

“As part of a renewed effort to preserve God’s truth now and for generations to come, we have begun to focus our attention and efforts on how we can be more faithful in that stewardship of God’s blessings. The commissions of Congregational Services are leading the effort to focus our attention on encouraging faithful and zealous efforts to reach the lost, nurture the saved, regain the straying, enrich and preserve our worship, and grow in our practice of faithful Christian stewardship. At this convention, you will hear much about innovative new resources that will be made available to congregations as they strive to enhance their efforts in gaining and retaining members and in the area of faithful Christian stewardship. It is my prayer that you will take what you learn back to your congregations, circuits, and districts. We don’t know what God has in store for us if these efforts are carried out faithfully across the synod. But we know with certainty that he will bless those efforts in his own way and in his own time. His Word—and we depend only on his Word—will not return to him empty.

“Since we do not know exactly what God has in store for us, today is a day for recommitment. A recommitment to standing firm on his unchanging and powerful Word. A recommitment to sharing that message with the world and passing it along to the generations to come. A recommitment to live in the joy and freedom of the gospel. A recommitment to support the work with generous Christian giving. A recommitment to defend God’s truth when it is attacked and to witness to God’s truth when given the opportunity. A recommitment to support and encourage one another in Christian love and fellowship.”

Schroeder summed up his message, saying, “In a time when we worry about the future—at home, family, church, work—it’s really important that even though we don’t know what the future holds, God holds the future in his hands. That confidence guides the work we do as a church and gives us every reason to do our work with joy and leave the results to him.”

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Delegates learn more about WELS ministries

WELS delegates began hearing presentations on Tuesday. Some of the convention presentations help delegates as they work in their floor committees. Others give them a broader view of WELS ministries and the ministries with which WELS partners.

Rev. John Moldstad, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, brought his greetings from our sister church body and noted, “What a joy and privilege it is for us to be bound together in confessing the truths of God’s holy Word and also in putting doctrines into practice.”

Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, gave two presentations on Tuesday morning. The first centered on the amazing opportunity WELS has to train Hmong pastors and leaders in the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam. The second presentation focused on the many other areas where WELS is spreading the gospel around the world. Schlomer shared that WELS has a mission presence in 40 countries, with new mission opportunities in 25 additional countries. More than 700 people are enrolled in pastoral training programs around the world.

Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of WELS Board for Ministerial Education, gave an overview of WELS’ four ministerial education schools—Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. He emphasized the message that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Mr. Todd Poppe, WELS chief financial officer, detailed the ministry financial plan for the next biennium that has been submitted to the delegates for their consideration. He explained the process that WELS areas of ministry follow as they develop a ministry financial plan and the current financial realities and forecasts that were used to create this biennium’s plan.

Mr. Dan Johnson, president of Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., shared the college’s mission with delegates. He noted that Wisconsin Lutheran College is WELS’ college of lay leadership and said, “Wisconsin Lutheran College is as passionate about the cross of Christ as any other WELS ministry I’ve served. . . . The anchor of our school is the joy we have to promote spiritual growth to our students.”

Convention presentations will continue on Wednesday.

 

 

 

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WELS delegates now meeting in convention

WELS’ 65th biennial convention is now underway at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., under the theme “For the Generations to Come.”

“The theme of the 2019 synod convention emphasizes the privilege and responsibility that we have to hold on to God’s saving truth for ourselves and to pass it down to those who will come after us,” says WELS President Mark Schroeder.

The synod convention helps set the priorities and chart the direction of the synod’s areas of ministry in the coming years. About 400 delegates—including pastors, male teachers, male staff ministers, and laymen—have the opportunity to provide grassroots input about the work that we do together as a synod.

The convention opened with a worship service at MLC’s Chapel of the Christ on Monday evening, July 29. Nearly 700 people attended that service.

The first order of business at this year’s convention is the election for synod president, to be followed by the election of WELS’ second vice president. Delegates will also elect chairmen and members for various synod committees and boards.

Throughout the convention, the delegates will hear reports from WELS’ areas of ministry so that the delegates are well informed as they work in floor committees and present resolutions to the full convention. These reports also help the delegates as they come together to adopt a ministry financial plan for the synod for the next two years. This ministry financial plan will detail how WELS will use the financial resources God provides to carry out his work.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 30, Rev. Jonathan Hein will present his convention essay, titled “For the Generations to Come.” Hein will present on the challenges and opportunities facing WELS as it carries out God’s mission today and in the future.

Closing worship is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Aug. 1, and will include the installation of the synod officers elected this week.

Follow the convention from home by visiting wels.net/2019synodconvention. The majority of the convention will be streamed live. In addition, WELS will provide daily video and news updates along with photos from all the convention’s activities. As floor committee resolutions are presented, those resolutions will be posted to the convention website as well as daily convention minutes.

 

 

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Synod convention opens with worship

Nearly 700 convention attendees and visitors filled the Chapel of the Christ at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., Monday evening for the opening worship service of the 65th biennial synod convention.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder presided over the service and Rev. Jonathan Bauer, Good News Lutheran Church, Mount Horeb, Wis., preached a sermon themed “The bigger our picture of the Church, the bigger our prayer for the Church,” based on Ephesians 3:14-21.

Bauer says, “As we think about the work we do as a synod, it’s easy to see a much smaller picture than Paul does and, as a result, be filled with worry rather than confidence as Paul is. My hope is that the time we spend in these words gives us a sense of calm confidence as we remember Christ’s Church will never die or fall.”

About 65 choir members ranging in age from sixth grade and up from New Ulm-area congregations, along with 13 instrumentalists, including the piano and organ, led the service’s music. Many of the service’s liturgical elements, hymns, and instrumentation selections were a preview of the new WELS hymnal, which will be released in time for Advent 2021.

Mr. Earl Heidtke, a retired Martin Luther College professor who sang in the choir, says, “It’s a joy that the opening service is based on songs and liturgy from the new hymnal; it’s a great way to introduce it. And, the instrumentation is so broad.”

“For me it was exciting to hear the choir and voices together,” says Rev. Dennis Klatt, president of the Minnesota District and pastor at Holy Trinity, New Hope, Minn. “The Word was so crisp and clear from Pastor Bauer, reminding us that the big picture is about Christ and his Word worldwide.”

“That service – was wow,” says Mr. Gene Szaj, a lay delegate from Star of Bethlehem, New Berlin, Wis. Saying he was at a loss for words after the worship service, he plans to call his wife to tell her to watch it online tonight.

You can watch the entire worship service at livestream.com/mlc-streams.

 

 

 

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Hosting the synod convention

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is the host of this year’s synod convention. The convention site rotates between three of the WELS ministerial education school campuses: Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; and Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.

“Hosting a synod convention means that delegates and friends can explore their college and walk around their campus,” says Rev. Mark Zarling, MLC president. “The more they learn about MLC’s role in the Great Commission, the more people can pray for us.”

Planning already started for the convention in December 2017. Leaders and staff from MLC and the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry worked together to arrange all the details. “I love putting this puzzle together—from figuring out the right dorm room for a delegate, to the right shuttle for them to take from the airport, to providing the meals they need,” says Mrs. Michelle Gartner, MLC’s event coordinator.

Gartner says about 35 MLC faculty and staff are volunteering for the four-day event, doing jobs ranging from communion assistant to cafeteria greeter. “We are honored to host this convention and for the opportunity to welcome people from all over the country to our campus,” she says. “For many it will be their first time here, and we want to make them feel at home. We just love having company, and this and other events throughout the year afford us that opportunity.”

MLC hosts more than 100 events a year, everything from local business meetings to Children’s Theatre, which brings five thousand people to the campus over four days.

“It is a distinct privilege and blessing for MLC to host the synod convention,” says Zarling. “It is a great encouragement to me to see so many people who will return home with prayers for the kingdom work we do together.”

Learn more about Martin Luther College at mlc-wels.edu.

 

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Synod convention begins July 29

The 65th biennial convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod will be held at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., July 29–Aug. 1. The convention will be attended by over 400 voting and advisory delegates. Approximately half of the delegates are lay, with the other half being pastors, teachers, and staff ministers.

The opening service for the convention will be held Mon., July 29, at 6:30 p.m., in the Chapel of the Christ at MLC. The convention opens on Tuesday morning after the presentation of the flags by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society.

The first order of business is the election for synod president, to be followed as soon as possible by the election for the synod second vice president. Tuesday morning will also include an overview of the mission opportunity in Vietnam, a presentation of the synod’s ministry financial plan, and the report of the synod president.

After the election for president and second vice president is concluded, elections for other offices will take place whenever possible on the schedule.

Along with reports from all areas of the synod’s ministry, the convention will act on a recommendation for a formal declaration of fellowship with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya, and with a public affirmation of our synod’s fellowship with Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church in Taiwan, formally a WELS mission but now an independent synod.

Floor committees will prepare reports and resolutions dealing with all areas of ministry and support services. More than 20 memorials have been submitted for consideration. (Memorials are requests from individuals, congregations, or groups for convention action.) These memorials have been assigned to floor committees, which will then make recommendations to the plenary convention. In addition, numerous proposed changes to the synod’s bylaws will be considered by the convention.

Closing worship is scheduled to take place on Thursday afternoon and will include the installation of the newly elected officers.

The majority of the convention will be streamed live. The livestream can be found at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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First Taste of Missions a success

On July 13, more than 400 WELS members gathered for the first Taste of Missions hosted by WELS Missions. Held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., the event gave WELS members an opportunity to hear firsthand from WELS home and world missionaries, sample food from around the world, visit mission displays, and participate in a worship service during which three new world missionaries were commissioned.

“It was really wonderful to be able to meet and talk with so many people involved with missions as well as people who are so passionate about missions,” says Mr. Mark Blauert, school chaplain at Wisconsin Lutheran School, Racine, Wis. “The commissioning service was powerful and such a wonderful way to end the event. It was great to be able to see three missionaries being sent off to begin their ministries.”

The three missionaries who were commissioned include Rev. Bounkeo Lor, who is serving as the coordinator of Hmong Asia Ministry and is focusing on training the leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam; Rev. Abram Degner, who is joining the Latin America missions team and will be serving as a missionary based in Paraguay; and Rev. Dan Witte, who is joining the One Africa Team and will be serving as a theological educator based in Zambia.

Witte’s wife, Debbie, says, “The overwhelming encouragement and sense of support Dan and I got from that day has really served as a ‘booster shot’ for our resolve to embark on this new ministry opportunity.”

Mr. Sean Young, director of WELS Missions Operations, notes, “We wanted to invite our entire family in Christ for an opportunity to learn more about the exciting mission opportunities they’re supporting, and it was so encouraging to see how well received it was. Experiences like these remind our missionaries that their synod cares for them and is praying for them and at the same time puts a face and a name to those prayers for WELS members. We can’t wait to build on the success of this year’s event for the 2020 Taste of Missions.”

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

 

Taste of Missions 2019 

 

 

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New seminary planned for Indonesia

Groundbreaking for a new seminary facility for Gereja Lutheran Indonesia (GLI), WELS’ sister church in Indonesia, took place in May. This will replace the current seminary, which is on the island of Java.

“It is one of many steps in the process of indigenization and coming of age as a daughter denomination of WELS and a member church of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference,” says Prof. Gregory Bey, professor at Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Lutheran (STTL), GLI’s seminary. “It gives GLI a sense of stability and permanence.”

The new location will offer other advantages, including space for the students and professors to live on campus. Currently students commute back and forth from the dorm to the seminary classrooms, and the professors rent places to live. “A new campus will allow for one location with all the facilities in one place,” says Bey. The local community and its government officials also have approved this new building project.

Bey says that they pray construction will be completed in the next two years.

The new campus will be located close to one of GLI’s oldest congregations, which started nearly 30 years ago. “Initially the small band of believers met as a ‘house church’ as in the days of the apostles,” says Bey. “Eventually, nearby land was purchased, then a worship facility was erected, and finally a small ‘pastori’ or parsonage was added.” One of the sons of the congregation even served the church as its called worker. Having this congregation nearby will allow students to have a place for worship while they are away from home and a support group of like-minded Christians. It also will give them opportunities to gain practical ministry experience.

WELS first established a seminary to train Indonesian called workers in the mid-1980s. Classes were temporarily suspended in the mid-1990s for various reasons, but the seminary was reopened in 1998. Now almost all the classes are taught by national pastors, with Bey being the only full-time foreign professor. Currently seven students are enrolled, and three new students will potentially start in August.

WELS declared fellowship with the GLI in 2003. Twenty-five national pastors serve 1,239 people in 6 congregations and 23 preaching stations. This includes four pastors who teach full-time in the seminary.

Learn more about the work in Indonesia at wels.net/missions.

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WELS Night a hit

Despite watching a Brewers defeat, more than 2,400 WELS members enjoyed a beautiful summer evening of baseball and fellowship for the sixth annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Several WELS members took part in the game festivities including WELS First Vice President Rev. Jim Huebner throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. “Preaching to a crowd like that would have been less nerve-wracking than throwing a baseball, but it was fun nonetheless,” he says. “It was an honor to wear a WELS Night T-shirt and meet some of the kind and helpful Brewers staff.”

Wisconsin Lutheran High School recent graduate Fernanda Rocha did a beautiful job of leading the 41,000 fans in singing our national anthem.

During the fourth inning, eight-year-old Addison Bauer from Good News, Mt. Horeb, Wis., was invited to announce the Brewers batting lineup as the junior announcer.

WELS Night at Miller Park 2019

“The hundreds of WELS members wearing their bright blue WELS shirts really stood out in the near-capacity crowd, and it was great to greet them as I passed them in the concourse,” says Mr. Lee Hitter, WELS communications director. “Many of them suggested dates for me to consider when I schedule next year’s seventh annual WELS Night event.”

 

 

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WELS Christian Aid and Relief approves humanitarian aid grants

The administrative committee for WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved $466,212 for humanitarian aid work in fiscal year 2019-20. These are projects developed by WELS home and world missionaries to reflect Christ’s love to the people of their community and open doors to share the gospel.

Christian Aid and Relief Chairman Rev. Robert Hein, says, “Humanitarian aid projects help our missions put Christ’s love into action by meeting community needs. As missionaries develop relationships with the people they serve, they also find opportunities to tell people about Jesus. In some world mission fields, hostile to Christianity, humanitarian aid is essential to keep the doors open to share the gospel.”

All projects originate in the mission fields as the missionaries discover opportunities to help. Then the projects are brought to the Christian Aid and Relief administrative committee as well as to the WELS Missions administrators for approval.

Some of the approved projects are:

  • New or repaired water wells in Zambia and Malawi.
  • Medical clinic renovation in Zambia.
  • Rural medical clinic and medical care in Nigeria.
  • Food assistance for the poor in Indonesia.
  • Medical, vacation Bible school, and English training in Thailand.
  • Outreach programs in Bulgaria and Russia.
  • Assistance for war refugees, orphans, and the poor in Ukraine.
  • Food and transportation programs in Mexico.
  • Water projects and medical equipment in India.
  • Medical clinics, sewing classes, clothing for poor, and flood assistance in Nepal.
  • Medical assistance and skill training program in Pakistan.
  • African immigrant assistance in Las Vegas.
  • Welcome programs for immigrants in Toronto.
  • Various outreach and assistance programs in Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, College Station in Texas and Denver, Colo.

To view a complete list of humanitarian aid projects, visit wels.net/relief.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Work in Vietnam continues

WELS leaders traveled to Vietnam in June to continue the training of Hmong church leaders as well as to further plans for the theological education center being built in Hanoi.

Rev. Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, and Rev. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, taught 60 men from the Hmong Fellowship Church courses on the book of Isaiah, pastoral counseling and family ministry for missionaries, and dogmatics (teaching Bible truths).

“Our training session on Isaiah has helped the students in many ways,” says Lor. “I think especially important is that our instruction has helped our students learn how to interpret the Bible. We are talking about the law and the gospel in Isaiah. This approach to studying Isaiah is totally new to them. The law and the gospel are so clear in Isaiah. They are enjoying it very much.”

Mr. Sean Young, director of Missions Operations, arrived later in the trip to work through details regarding the building of the theological education center. Land has been purchased and cleared, and bids are being gathered for the construction project. Construction should begin later this year.

“There is a growing sense of excitement among the Hmong Fellowship Church about having an educational center of their own,” says Young. Classes currently are being held in a rented church owned by the Vietnamese Fellowship Church.

Lor, as Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, teaches many of the classes and oversees the education program, working closely with WELS Missions and the Pastoral Studies Institute. He also directs Hmong outreach in other parts of Southeast Asia. His original call was for two years, but it has just been made permanent as training continues for these Vietnam Hmong leaders and as new opportunities emerge. He will be formally commissioned at the Taste of Missions event, July 13.

Gifts for the building project have been received from hundreds of congregations and individuals, totaling more than 65 percent of what is needed to support the building project and ministry education costs for a two-year period.

“Please continue to keep this opportunity in your prayers as we look to bring the truths of the gospel to the 100,000-plus members of the Hmong Fellowship Church,” says Young.

Learn more about this opportunity at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

 

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WELS EdTechLead Summit connects leaders across disciplines

Held in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., June 25-27, the WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Conference (EdTechLead) brought more than 400 teachers, pastors, and other synod leaders together to explore ministry tools, techniques, and best practices.

The conference opened the morning of June 25 with worship and a formal welcome. Dr. Daniel W. Johnson, president of Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC), Milwaukee, Wis., shared the first keynote message under the theme “Press On!”

“We’re all coming here with our own experiences and states of mind to reflect on our vocational callings and journeys,” Johnson said. “God does not need us. We simply get to serve.”

John McHugh, director of Corporate Communications, Leadership, Development, and Training at Kwik Trip, Inc., La Crosse, Wis., provided the morning keynote presentation—called “Purpose and Compassion at Work”—on June 26. He encouraged attendees to promote and participate in a mission-driven culture at their organization.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday featured dozens of workshops on numerous topics, including student motivation, teacher evaluation, school safety, website design, social media, data management, leadership health, organizational communication, gospel outreach, and more. Additionally, a special event called an IGNITE session allowed seven presenters to share quick, practical, and inspiring ideas for ministry.

“I think at times you can work within your little bubble, just teaching a certain subject or working at a certain school,” said Mr. Dan Albrecht, teacher at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Jackson, Wis. “Here you can meet others in related fields. By learning from their experiences, you can implement what they’re doing. You can share your own stories as well.”

“I appreciate the fellowship,” added Mr. Jarred Beduze, vice principal at Northland Lutheran High School, Kronenwetter, Wis. “I appreciate knowing we all share that common goal of sharing Jesus with everyone we can.”

WELS EdTechLead was formed as a combination of the School Leadership Conference and the WELSTech Conference. It was created to be more sensitive to the time and funds of those who may have been interested in attending both conferences.

“It seemed that the thirst to learn and improve for the sake of the gospel was at the heart of everybody who was there,” said Mr. Martin Spriggs, WELS chief technology officer.

Visit welsedtechlead.com for more details about the events of the summit.

 

 

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LWMS convention highlights mission projects

The Wild Rose Circuit of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) welcomed nearly 950 attendees from 821 WELS congregations to praise God and show their support for WELS mission work. “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus in the Heartland” was the theme for the 56th annual LWMS convention, held in Des Moines, Iowa, June 27-30.

During the convention, attendees learned about the expanding outreach efforts by missionary teams in Latin America and Africa and about the continuing growth of the mission field in East Asia. “My wife and I have known over the 12 years we’ve served in a mission field that the ladies of LWMS were praying for us and sending us letters, but to be here and meet them face to face and receive their hugs is something we definitely miss when we are serving overseas,” says Rev. Joel Sutton, missionary to Latin America. “It is very encouraging for us to see these wonderful people who are passionate and have a big heart for missions.”

In addition, home missionaries shared their experiences with outreach in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Workshops included topics of new mission opportunities in Vietnam, the WELS Mission Journeys program for short-term mission trips, and a panel discussion by missionary wives who shared their experiences.

Each year the individual LWMS circuits gather offerings for several Home and World Mission projects. This year $41,204 was given to both the East Asia Outreach and Campus Ministry projects. LWMS also raised $49,938 for kids c.a.r.e.—kids’ summer Bible camps. “The support LWMS provides Home and World Missions is a huge boost and extremely important for our outreach efforts. The people behind those gifts praying for us and the knowledge they take back home and share with their congregations is vital to our ministry,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions.

Betty Schwede was one of 138 first-time attendees to the convention and was impressed with the missionary presentations. “It was so exciting to see all of the amazing things happening at home and around the world. The fellowship and support are so encouraging—I can’t wait to go back to my home congregation to share what our synod is doing around the world and hopefully encourage even more outreach into our community.”

Next year’s convention will be held June 25-28, 2020, in Athens, Ga., under the theme “2020 Vision for Missions.”

Learn more about LWMS at lwms.org.

LWMS Convention 2019

 

 

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MLC online courses bolster local ministry

This fall, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is offering online courses toward its Chaplaincy and Evangelism certificates. These courses are intended for both WELS called workers and lay members who wish to further their knowledge and skill in conducting local ministry.

Class participants can earn certificates in Evangelism and Chaplaincy, indicating they completed the course work. Particularly for chaplaincy work, the certificate from an accredited institution like MLC, better enables members to enter institutions like jails and nursing homes to reach those thirsting for the gospel.

“The courses are designed to deepen a person’s understanding of those they serve and to help them to have a Christ-centered response,” says Dr. John Meyer, director of graduate studies and continuing education at MLC.

Registration and courses are online. The Chaplaincy certificate requires 10 credits, and the Evangelism certificate requires three one-credit courses. Prospective students also can enroll in courses that interest them without pursuing a certificate.

Four three-credit courses toward the Chaplaincy certificate are scheduled this fall. They include: Communicating Forgiveness, Ministering to the Incarcerated and Their Families, Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry, and Grounded on Scripture. One one-credit course for Evangelism, Friendship Evangelism, is being offered as well.

These courses are conducted in partnership with the WELS Commission on Special Ministries (Chaplaincy) and WELS Commission on Evangelism (Evangelism). They were started to utilize the educational foundation of MLC for the training of members for ministry.

“Our mission at Martin Luther College is to train a corps of witnesses for the ministry needs of WELS. These courses fit exactly into our mission. We are assisting called workers and lay leaders in communicating the gospel and sharing the Word of God with people,” says Meyer. “We’re all called to serve in one way or another, and these courses provide a deeper understanding and practical ways to do that.”

This year Martin Luther Elder Care Ministries is providing a full scholarship to any WELS member interested in taking “Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry.” This class will provide both knowledge and skills for congregation members to provide spiritual care for the homebound and institutionalized. Visit mlecm.org to learn more about this opportunity.

To see the full list of available courses and descriptions and to register, visit mlc-wels.edu. It is recommended that interested students should enroll by Aug. 5, 2019.

 

 

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New President at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

At the end of this month, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., will experience a change in leadership. Seminary President Rev. Paul Wendland will be stepping down as president and will move back into the role of full-time classroom professor. Seminary Vice President Rev. Earle Treptow has accepted the call to serve as the seminary president and will officially begin his duties on July 1, 2019.

The role of the seminary president is an important one. It’s been said that “as the seminary goes, so goes the synod.” The seminary is the place where nearly all WELS pastors are trained, so it goes without saying that for the synod to remain faithful to God’s Word, the seminary will need to remain faithful to the doctrines of Scripture. It is the responsibility of the seminary president to ensure that the seminary carries out that responsibility.

The seminary president is also the spokesman for the seminary. Our synod looks to the seminary faculty to provide guidance and input on doctrinal matters. The Conference of Presidents often consults with the seminary faculty when discussing doctrinal issues. It is the role of the seminary president to speak for the faculty when discussions on doctrinal matters take place.

President Wendland first joined the seminary faculty in 2001 after serving in both world and home mission settings, in an established congregation, and as a professor at Northwestern College and Martin Luther College. He has served as seminary president since 2004. We are thankful for the years in which President Wendland has faithfully carried out these important responsibilities and pray for God’s continued blessings on his new role in the classroom.

Prior to coming to the seminary in 2016, President-elect Treptow served as a pastoral recruiter at Martin Luther College, as a pastor in British Columbia and Denver, Colorado, and as the president of the Nebraska District. As Treptow begins his role as seminary president, we can be thankful that God has blessed our seminary in the past and that those blessings will continue under the leadership of President Treptow.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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