Reformation 500 celebrations across the synod

It would be impossible not to have noticed that this October will mark the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. A variety of special events have been planned throughout the synod: Reformation tours, books and essays, presentations, the Return to Grace Luther movie, and most important of all, special worship services.

Since October is fast approaching, we encourage you to visit the special Reformation section of our synod’s website to learn about events taking place near you.

If you are aware of a special event to be held in your area and want it included in the list, you can send the information to sarah.proeber@wels.net.

Serving you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

Evaluation of relief opportunities continues

Pastors and leaders from Florida and Texas are continuing to meet and evaluate the needs of their members and communities following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Florida pastors and South Atlantic District President Chuck Westra met with a representative from WELS Christian Aid and Relief Mon., Sept. 18, to assess the needs and discuss opportunities.

Local volunteers have deployed the Christian Aid and Relief trailers, outfitted with tools and supplies for relief work, to the Jacksonville, Fla., area to help with cleanup efforts. A group of Christian Aid and Relief volunteers will be arriving in Florida on Fri., Sept. 22, and staying for a week to tackle cleanup projects in Merritt Island and West Melbourne, two of the harder hit areas.

So far, reports of damage to WELS churches and members’ homes have been minimal from Irma. Minor roof damage and downed trees account for the majority of the reports. Local groups have come together to clean up the most urgent areas, including members from the churches in the Divine Savior school association getting together to help clean up trees and debris around the school.

“It was pretty exciting that as we’re starting this new association with one another we see a firsthand account of brothers and sisters in Christ joining together to do a bigger, better job than we could’ve done ourselves,” says Rev. John Boggs, Hope, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Rev. David Rosenbaum, Redeemer, Merritt Island, Fla., said that while he and his members were spared major damage, there are several homes in the surrounding community that were destroyed by winds and tornadoes.

In Texas, a representative from WELS Christian Aid and Relief met with Houston-area pastors and lay leaders and South Central District President Rev. Don Patterson on Sept. 6 to assess the situation in that area. The district has established a local committee to continue to assess needs and coordinate relief opportunities.

Patterson reports that many congregations have already been working to help members and friends clean up damage to their properties and homes caused by the flooding. Rev. Matthew Brown from Abiding Word, Houston, Tex., says that more than 40 Abiding Word members mobilized as soon as flood waters receded to help the five member families whose homes were badly damaged in the flood. Other members went door to door in their neighborhoods to see if people needed help. “It was Christians serving and trusting that God provides those opportunities to give the reason for the hope that we have,” Brown says.

Several different groups from the area also traveled to Christ our Savior, Angleton, Tex., the last few weekends to help clean out and strip down the parsonage, which was flooded with eight inches of water that didn’t recede for a week.

Along with the relief trailers with tools and supplies, Christian Aid and Relief has provided more than $65,000 to help address immediate needs of the congregations and members affected by the hurricane and the flooding in Texas. Some of this funding is being used to help congregations and schools reach high deductibles for their insurance as well to provide gift cards for supplies to members and prospects as cleanup efforts continue.

Local district leaders and Builders For Christ are also discussing the possibility of working together on rebuilding homes damaged by the hurricane.

Boggs says, “Hurricane Irma has come and gone, and its affects are being felt everywhere. There are still parts of our state that are without power. There’s a lot of devastation and issues that need to be resolved. But, we stand amazed at how the Lord spared our people, how the Lord spared our buildings, how destruction was very minimal to our WELS churches, and how our brothers and sisters in Christ have rallied around each other and their common faith to support one another and help wherever possible.”

Christian Aid and Relief Chairman Rev. Bob Hein thanks WELS members for their outpouring of prayers and support, saying it’s encouraging for people who have been affected by these storms to know they have brothers and sisters in faith thinking of them.

Learn more at wels.net/hurricaneupdates.

 

 

 

 

CEF special rates ending soon

Earlier this year, the WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF) announced special rates for new investors to help meet the funding needs of new and growing missions in North America. CEF makes loans below or at market rates for WELS churches that are either new missions and building for the first time or established congregations with a new mission-focused initiative.

CEF funds these loans through WELS congregations’ and members’ investments in CEF products. With the need for funds increasing, CEF has been offering special terms and rates for new investments to raise an additional $8 to $12 million in investments.

Members have far exceeded the goal with more than $18 million in new investments. CEF plans to retire the special rates on Sept. 30, 2017, but there is still time to invest. Investment options include expanded terms for loan certificates and retirement/IRA certificates. One of the features of this special offer includes an annual interest rate that is distributed and compounds quarterly.

“CEF wants to thank everyone who has invested in 2017. If you are not an investor in CEF, this is a great opportunity to support ministry. If you are already an investor, this is a great opportunity to increase your support of ministry by increasing your investments” says Mr. Scott Page, director of WELS CEF. “Congregations are eager to grow, and now’s the time to fund that need.”

Investing in WELS CEF is not only a smart way to manage personal finances; it also supports the mission of the church. Rev. Keith Free, administrator for WELS Home Missions, says, “The continued investments of more WELS members and congregation gives CEF additional funds to support missions and mission-minded congregations.”

Rates vary by the initial investment amount and term length. View rates online. Plus, investors can manage their accounts and invest online.

 

 

 

Special Forward in Christ issue celebrates the Reformation

In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the October issue of Forward in Christ (FIC), the synod’s official publication, will focus on Martin Luther and the biblical teachings he rediscovered—grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, in Christ alone.

“This anniversary is not just a review of past events. It’s different,” says Rev. John Braun, executive editor of Forward in Christ. “We thank God for the gospel we still possess today—a power that sustains us just as it sustained others throughout history. It’s all about Christ! We still treasure his grace, and we desire to share that grace with the world.”

Special features include a look at Luther’s far-reaching influence, a history lesson on Katie Luther, and a focus on the heart of the Reformation message: We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ. Another feature highlights comments about being Lutheran from leaders of churches around the world that are in fellowship with WELS.

Monthly columns and features will also have a Reformation theme. The “Confessions of faith” article introduces a woman born in Eisleben, Germany, when it was communist-controlled and tells her journey of faith. The “Heart to heart” parenting column shares perspectives from two dads about ways to teach children about the Reformation.

Besides the normal 36 pages, the issue features an added keepsake pull-out insert that includes a timeline on the development of Lutheranism as well as quotes from FIC readers about what it means to be Lutheran.

“As I read all of these comments, I stand in grateful praise to God for what he has done in bringing these believers to be signposts pointing to Christ,” says Braun. “As you read their comments, I suggest you consider how many times they point to the certainty of salvation in Christ. That’s a message we strive to share in every issue of Forward in Christ.”

If you would like to subscribe to Forward in Christ, contact Northwestern Publishing House at 1-800-662-6093, ext. 5613; nphperiodicals@nph.wels.net. Or order online at nph.net.

 

 

 

Seminary to celebrate Reformation

To observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., is hosting a Hymn Festival on Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Open to all, the festival will feature 15 of Luther’s hymns. Seven will be sung by the congregation; seven will be sung by the Seminary Chorus, the Wisconsin Lutheran College Choir, and the Lutheran Chorale of Milwaukee; one will be featured in an organ solo performed by Rev. Aaron Christie, pastor at Trinity, Waukesha, Wis. A host of accompanying musicians will also be included.

Then, on Oct. 2-3, the seminary will hold its annual symposium for pastors. The symposium on Reformation 500 will include four essays on Luther and the Standards, Luther and the Scriptures, Luther and the Saints, and Luther and the State.

The Hymn Festival and all symposium presentations will be streamed at https://livestream.com/WLSLive.

 

 

 

New directors begin their work

One of the main purposes of the synod as described in its constitution is “to extend and conserve the true doctrine and practice of the Evangelical Lutheran church by assisting and counseling in every appropriate way the pastors, teachers, and congregations” of the synod. One way in which this is done is through the various commissions that are a part of Congregational Services.

Two of those commissions have recently been blessed with new directors who will serve at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry. Rev. Jon Hein, who has served as the director for the Commission for Congregational Counseling (CCC) but has been located at the congregation he had been serving, is completing his move to the Waukesha, Wis., area where he will continue his work as director of the CCC. In that role, he will serve not only as the director of CCC, but also as the coordinator for all the commissions of Congregational Services as they work together to help congregations carry out their local ministries.

Two other commissions (Adult Discipleship and Youth and Family Ministry) will also welcome a new leader who will serve as the director of both commissions. Rev. Donn Dobberstein recently accepted the call to serve as the Director of Discipleship and will be relocating to the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in the coming weeks.

These two calls demonstrate the importance of the role that the synod plays—not in carrying out the actual ministries, which are done at the local level, but in helping congregations to evaluate their ministry needs and in providing the resources that will help them do that. The CCC will be instrumental in helping congregations assess ministry needs, challenges, and opportunities. The Commissions on Adult Discipleship and Youth and Family Ministry will focus on helping congregations address ministry needs to adults, families, and children.

As our synod strives to help congregations to serve people of all ages with the saving gospel, we pray that God would bless the work of these new leaders and their commissions.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

Relief efforts underway in Texas

Pam Noldan, a member at Risen Savior, Austin, Tex., was excited that there was something she could do to help. “When I saw the request for volunteers, I thought we can actually do this. Yes, we can help!”

Pam and her husband Lars are two of the more than 35 WELS members from the greater Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth area who traveled to Edna and Victoria, Tex., Aug. 31-Sept. 3, to offer support and relief to those communities which were affected by Hurricane Harvey.

“God has visited us with a burden in our region, and we want to fulfill the love of Christ by carrying each other’s burdens,” says Rev. Donald Patterson, South Central district president.

These volunteers partnered with members of Redeemer, a dual-site ministry with worship in both Edna and Victoria, to address the critical needs of the congregation’s members, their friends and family, and also the community. Wind damage, downed trees, and loss of electricity for a long period of time are just some of the issues these communities are dealing with.

“We’re there to help the local congregation. But they don’t just want to serve their own; they want to impact the community—to shine Christ’s light,” says Rev. Daron Lindemann, pastor at Holy Word, Pflugerville, Tex., and district relief coordinator.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief is assisting with this local effort, including sending several Christian Aid and Relief trailers filled with generators, chain saws, and other relief supplies and equipment to use for the clean-up. Local Texas congregation members donated water, cleaning supplies, and food to help those in need in those communities.

The relief team responded to over 50 emergency requests in Edna and Victoria. While many came from Redeemer members, the word spread quickly that their church was actively responding with a relief team. Friends, neighbors, and members of the community called in requests as well.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief also has already sent $25,000 to help address immediate needs of the congregations and members affected by the hurricane and the flooding.

Lindemann says, “Thank God for our eager and willing volunteers, for safety throughout the weekend at relief sites, and for our witness to Christ’s love. The effort in Edna and Victoria is winding down, and our need to respond to Houston is us upon us. This is the next area of relief work.”

This is just the start of the relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey; as flood waters recede allowing access into the Houston area, efforts will be focused on Houston-area congregations that are dealing with the effects of catastrophic flooding in the area. Some locations got more than 50 inches of rain from Harvey.

A representative from WELS Christian Aid and Relief will be meeting with churches and leaders in the affected areas this week. “After the meetings, then we’ll determine who needs help and what help that would be,” says Rev. Robert Hein, chairman of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “Texas helps Texas. They’re not waiting for us to come and rescue them; they are already reaching out to help their brothers and sisters in need. We always prefer to do a local relief effort and give these people the resources and the tools they need.”

As Christian Aid and Relief considers how to best mobilize volunteers as they meet with local leaders, Hein says those who are interested in volunteering can sign up online at wels.net/relief or contact Rev. Richard Warnecke, a WELS Christian Aid and Relief committee member, at 262-424-8792; pastorwarnecke@christpewaukee.org.

To promote good coordination of efforts, please direct questions about hurricane relief to Warnecke or to Hein, 262-334-7881; revrhein@gmail.com, rather than to local Texas congregations

Hein says WELS Christian Aid and Relief is not shipping supplies or donated items to Texas at this time. “If you wish to support this relief effort, the best way is to direct financial gifts to WELS Christian Aid and Relief and designate the Hurricane Fund,” he says. WELS Christian Aid and Relief will then provide funding for supplies and relief efforts in coordination with the local pastors in the affected areas.

Donate to Hurricane Harvey relief online at wels.net/give or by sending checks earmarked for WELS Christian Aid and Relief Hurricane Harvey to WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Dr., Waukesha, WI 53188.

View previous WELS updates about Hurricane Harvey.

View a slide show from our congregations and volunteers.

 

 

Luther movie to get national exposure

Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World, a version of the popular film A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy, will premiere on PBS at 7 p.m. CT, Sept. 12. Three hundred sixty PBS stations across the United States will show the film. The film will also be shown throughout Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to share more about Luther’s story to a broadly targeted demographic,” says Mr. Mike Trinklein, writer and co-producer of the film. “This version’s script was carefully written to be accessible to people who are not familiar with church language. The overall goal is to let Luther’s theology flow naturally from the story.” The A Return to Grace version of the film was produced for confessional Lutherans to offer a deeper dive into theological matters. Commentary from additional WELS scholars was included to further illuminate finer points of confessional Lutheran doctrine.

This is just one way congregations can see the film. Since February, at least one thousand WELS churches and other groups around the country have hosted screenings of A Return to Grace at local theaters, making it the #1 movie distributed by Tugg in 2017. More than 150 additional showings are scheduled through the end of October.

“We are very grateful to Mike Trinklein and Steve Boettcher for their efforts in producing a film that not only highlights Luther’s contributions to church and secular history, but also beautifully and accurately depicts the heart of his theology and the blessings that God brought to the church and the world through his work,” says WELS President Mark Schroeder.

Marcus Cinemas also will be hosting general admissions screenings of the film at 7 p.m., Oct. 23, 25, and 30, in more than 40 cities in eight states. Marcus will work with local schools and congregations in those areas to set up showings at different dates and times and will discount ticket pricing for groups. More information will be available soon.

You can preorder your own copy of the film through Northwestern Publishing House. Copies will be available in early November.

Learn more about the film at wels.net/reformation500.

 

 

 

Next Interactive Faith features Martin Luther

The next Interactive Faith online Bible study will begin Wed., Oct. 4, and run every Wednesday through Nov. 8. The study will stream live twice each Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central). The online Bible studies are a great opportunity to get together as a group or to participate individually in a synod-wide Bible study.

The upcoming study is titled “Luther’s Lasting Impact,” and will be led by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Professor Joel Otto.

Otto says, “The fact that the world is marking the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses says something about the lasting impact of the Reformation. This is especially true for us who call ourselves Lutherans. What we understand—and the world often misses—is that Luther’s Reformation was theological. Luther recognized that the problems in the church stemmed from faulty teaching.”

This Bible study will examine some of Luther’s key theological emphases and note how they impacted the life of the church in areas like his translation of the Bible into the language of the people, education and his catechisms, worship, and everyday Christian living.

“Luther’s theological emphases, rooted in Scripture, continue to impact the life of the church today and the way we, as Lutheran Christians, live our faith in the face of 21st century challenges,” says Otto.

To join the study, visit wels.net/interactivefaith.

 

 

 

64th biennial WELS convention concludes

The synod convention has come and gone, but what happened there will continue to provide direction and encouragement for our synod’s work for the next two years.

With the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation taking center stage in worship and in presentations, the Reformation themes of “grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone” were never far from the minds of the delegates. The convention was an opportunity for our synod to thank God for what he did through Martin Luther and to recommit ourselves to the truths that Luther taught.

All would agree that one of the high points was the formal declaration of fellowship between our synod and three Lutheran church bodies from around the world. Delegates heard and saw presentations by representatives of the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia, the South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission, and the East Asia Lutheran Synod. After the three resolutions declaring fellowship were approved, the delegates rose to sing, “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage.”

In this edition of Together, you will see reports and articles detailing the actions and decisions of the convention. You can read about the ways that God has blessed our synod in the past two years and learn about the opportunities that he continues to place before us.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

MLC highlighted during WELS Night at Miller Park

More than 2,600 WELS members and their guests–including several hundred from Minnesota—converged on Milwaukee for the fourth annual WELS Night at Miller Park. “Since the Brewers were playing the Minnesota Twins, it seemed only fitting to showcase Martin Luther College (MLC), the WELS college of ministerial education located in New Ulm, Minn., during the pregame festivities,” says Mr. Lee Hitter, WELS director of communications.

MLC Vice President Steve Thiesfeldt, wearing an MLC Knights baseball uniform, threw a looping curve-ball for his ceremonial first pitch. “The opportunity to interact with family, friends, and WELS members before, during, and after the game was something I’ll never forget,” says Thiesfeldt. “Even conversations with strangers provided a chance to share who we are as a church body. I hope this excellent fellowship and outreach opportunity continues for years to come.”

After Thiesfeldt’s pitch was thrown for a strike, four students from MLC were invited to sing the national anthem. The quartet members of Four Times the Charm—which included Nicolas Gartner, Carl Boeder, Luke Dorn, and Jacob Ungemach—harmonized their beautiful rendition of the anthem before a crowd of 34,000 fans. “I never could have imagined representing such a wonderful school and synod by using my God-given talents in this way. Even days afterward, we’ve been showered with compliments, blessings, and well wishes. Words could never describe how blessed we’ve been through this experience,” says Gartner. The positive reaction to their performance on social media overwhelmed the group. “This was a dream come true for our group. It was just a wonderful night to catch up with other WELS members, enjoy the ballpark experience, and cheer for your favorite team,” says Dorn.

Another highlight of the evening was the more than 1,000 members wearing WELS Night at Miller Park t-shirts. “To see so many members proudly wearing their WELS shirts in the stands was a terrific opportunity to let the people of Milwaukee know and ask about WELS,” says Hitter. “We plan to offer the same royal blue shirt again for next year’s game.”

The Brewers junior announcer for the evening was 10-year-old Noah Bauer, a fifth grade student from Our Redeemer Lutheran in Madison. After his stellar performance on the microphone, he may have a promising future in broadcasting. “I was a little bit nervous about being in front of that many people, but once it got started I was fine. It was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the chance to do,” says Bauer.

The Brewers ended up being the perfect hosts to our Minnesota neighbors, losing to the Twins 7-2.

WELS Night at Miller Park 2017

 

 

 

 

Delegates view new Luther film

Delegates enjoyed a special screening of the popular Martin Luther film, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy, Wednesday evening.

Produced by Boettcher+Trinklein Television Inc., this full-length film explores the life of Martin Luther and his quest for truth, bringing to life the 16th-century events of the Reformation. Funding from Thrivent Financial made it possible to produce the movie. Since February, at least one thousand WELS churches and others around the country have hosted local screenings of the film, making A Return to Grace the #1 movie distributed by Tugg in 2017.

Mr. Danny Wehmeyer, a lay delegate from Good Shepherd, Deltona, Fla., appreciated seeing all the scholars share insights on Luther, as well as the strong emphasis on grace seen in the movie. “To understand the man [Luther] and how he literally changed Christianity and to understand that it really is grace from God—it’s like the biggest weight of the world off of everybody’s shoulders once they understand it,” he says.

A question and answer session with the film’s executive producer, Mr. Steve Boettcher, and author of the companion book Luther’s Protest, Rev. John Braun, followed the screening.

Boettcher shared how one mission congregation in Michigan that normally has 40 to 50 people in worship had more than 150 people come to the movie—providing a whole new set of prospects.

At the session, Boettcher also announced that a version of the film will be airing on PBS at 7 p.m. CT, Sept. 12. Three hundred sixty PBS stations across the United States will show the film. The film will also be shown throughout Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Marcus Cinemas also will be hosting screenings of the film in October at 50 theaters across eight states.

Congregations and WELS organizations are continuing to use the movie as an outreach tool. One hundred congregations have screenings planned in September and October. St. Paul and St. John, congregations in New Ulm, Minn., have already shown the film to a sold-out theater in New Ulm. The congregations plan to host another screening for their members and then partner with Martin Luther College (MLC) in New Ulm to host a screening on MLC’s campus for the local community. “With MLC being a landmark in New Ulm, it’s also a way we can show the community the connection between the churches and MLC,” says Mr. Brad Price, a member at St. John.

Congregations still can host local screenings of the film. Find out how at wels.net/reformation500.

 

 

 

Hosting the synod convention

For the 64th biennial convention, delegates enjoyed the beautiful campus of Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., one of WELS’ four ministerial education schools. The convention location rotates between three of the school campuses, Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; and Luther Preparatory School.

“It’s important for [ministerial education schools] to host [the conventions] because these schools are owned and operated by WELS so all of these delegates here—this is their school. They support it in every way,” says Rev. Matthew Crass, LPS president. “And then they come to these schools for these conventions and they get a taste for what ministerial education is all about and how we are doing what the Lord Jesus asked us to do—bringing the reapers into his field for the harvest.”

The LPS staff works closely with leaders and staff at the Center for Mission and Ministry to plan the convention. Rev. Roger Kobleske, an LPS professor, has served as the school’s convention coordinator since 1999. This will be his last time serving as convention coordinator due to his retirement this year. WELS President Mark Schroeder publicly thanked Kobleske for his service Thursday morning.

Kobleske says he has been happy to be able to serve the synod in this way. “Leaders lead, but there’s always someone helping the leaders,” he says. “In the body of Christ, that’s how it’s supposed to be. If we all do our part, then things go well.” He shared how school staff and volunteers worked together to set up the campus, to provide meals and snacks, to coordinate the technology, to shuttle delegates to the airport, and to ensure that the convention runs smoothly.

His favorite part of the convention? “It’s being able to see all these people from different places come together and to be able to talk to them. I’m grateful to have the privilege to serve this way.”

The next synod convention will be held at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., in 2019.

 

 

 

Convention resolutions set direction for the future

On Wednesday afternoon, delegates heard the first reports and resolutions from the convention floor committees.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved the resolutions to declare fellowship with three international church bodies—the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia, East Asia Lutheran Synod, and South Asian Evangelical Lutheran Mission.

Discussion ensued when a resolution was presented to require all early childhood and Lutheran elementary schools to annually require a $7.50 fee per student and all high schools to pay a $4.00 fee per student to help support the work of the Commission on Lutheran Schools. Since 2007, schools have been encouraged to give a voluntary supplemental contribution to assist with Lutheran Schools’ operating costs. Delegates who spoke against the motion believe that these costs should be included in the WELS ministry financial plan (budget). The motion was defeated. A motion did subsequently pass encouraging delegates to “strongly encourage all of their schools to participate in the voluntary supplemental contribution.”

On Thursday, floor committee chairmen continued presenting their reports and resolutions. Most resolutions passed with little or no discussion, including resolutions to support the synod’s new long-range plan; to adopt the Synodical Council’s unfunded priority list, which helps allocate additional resources received above those projected by the ministry financial plan; and to revise the called worker compensation guidelines as recommended by the Compensation Review Committee.

Delegates did discuss the resolution to adopt the Synodical Council’s proposed ministry financial plan. Some concern was expressed about the amount of support for the Board for Ministerial Education, particularly for Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. The amount of debt for Martin Luther College graduates has been an issue of concern in recent years. Other delegates noted that adding support to one area of ministry means that support would need to be removed from another area. The resolution was adopted.

Synod leaders will now move forward during the next biennium to help carry out the direction that was supported by convention delegates.

The new long-range plan, the unfunded priority list, the recommendations of the Compensation Review Committee, and details of the ministry financial plan are all included in the 2017 Book of Reports and Memorials.

 

 

 

A growing Lutheran family

On Wednesday, the synod in convention had the joy of officially welcoming three Lutheran synods from around the world into our fellowship. All three synods were unanimously voted into fellowship with a standing ovation.

Representing the synods were Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu from the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE), Rev. Titus Tse from South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) in Hong Kong, and two pastors from the East Asia Lutheran Synod.

After growing up in a Christian church in Ethiopia and having an opportunity to study at a Lutheran seminary in the U.S., Kebede knew he wanted to take the solid Bible-based doctrine back with him to Ethiopia. He founded the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia in 2012 and, at the same time, added a seminary, the Maor Theological College, so that he can teach other Christian pastors, in addition to Lutheran pastors, the pure Word of God. Today, the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia has nearly 400 members and has already seen graduates from its seminary.

Kebede says the declaration of fellowship is a historic moment for the LCE. “It is by God’s grace and we are very happy; it is meaningful for us because faithfulness to Scripture is a very important matter of life and death. Jesus says ‘If you hold to my teaching . . .’ So, faithfulness to what he says, what the Scriptures say from Genesis chapter 1 to the last chapter of Revelation, is very important. We are very happy because we know that WELS is faithful to the Scriptures and is a confessional Lutheran church.”

The East Asia Lutheran Synod was established in February 2017. It was formed from five Lutheran groups and has 280 baptized members. The synod is just getting started but is already looking ahead to how it can expand and grow as well as begin international mission work.

One of the pastors said, “It’s a numerous number of people who come to convention, and it’s a blessing to see there’s a huge church group at our back to support our church even though we are very far away and in a very different situation.”

Rev. Titus Tse from the South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission in Hong Kong attended the convention to participate in the declaration of fellowship on behalf of SALEM. Founded in 1977, SALEM has 10 congregations and six pastors. The synod’s history is tied closely to Asia Lutheran Seminary, the WELS ministerial training school located in Hong Kong.

Tse said, “We recognize that it’s important that we’re keeping the faith, and we can share with future generations the importance of keeping the faith because of this relationship with WELS, a church that shares our faith.”

To learn more about all of WELS’ sister synods around the world, visit celc.info.

 

 

Hein shares results of demographic survey

Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of the WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling, has overseen a comprehensive demographic survey of WELS over the past two years, and he shared key findings with delegates on Wednesday afternoon.

After peaking in 1990 at more than 420,000 souls, WELS’ baptized membership has decreased by 14 percent. Communicant membership is down 9 percent. Four items were identified as contributing factors to this decline:

  • Families today are having fewer children.
  • The number of WELS members dying and going to heaven is increasing as the overall population ages.
  • It has grown increasingly difficult to retain members, especially younger members. Since 1986, WELS lost between 240,000-260,000 members through removal/excommunication or from those members joining other Christian churches. These are sometimes referred to as “back door losses.”
  • Fewer people are living in rural areas, and this is impacting more than 100 churches who now face the “50/60 challenge”—fewer than 50 people worship each week and the average age worshiping is above 60 years old.

As Hein notes, “When you hear numbers like this, it can be easy to grow discouraged. Don’t. Christ is still risen. He still sits on his throne, ruling over everything for the benefit of his church. Through Word and sacrament, he still abides with us.”

Last fall, Hein and the other members of the Congregational Services team met and discussed how to meet these challenges. “Obviously, some of the factors contributing to WELS’ statistical decline are beyond our control—for example, the rising death rate,” says Hein. “However, there are other areas where, by God’s grace and with his aid, we might be able to increase our gospel efforts—evangelism, decreasing back door losses, etc. Congregational Services has put together a five-year strategy that we pray helps congregations as they strive to meet these challenges.”

Highlights of that five-year strategy include:

  • Creating a present-day mission emphasis—The Commission on Evangelism is developing a comprehensive evangelism curriculum that congregations can use to offer annual evangelism training and encouragement. Hein reminds us, “The results of increased evangelism efforts are entirely up to the Holy Spirit. However, if he would bless those efforts, it could make a substantial impact.”
  • Better capitalizing on WELS’ historic strengths—WELS maintains one of the largest private school systems in the country. The greatest growth in the past 20 years has been in early childhood ministries, which often attract unchurched families. Only a few congregations have seen these families become members of their churches, though. The common factor among these congregations is a “harvest strategy” that includes regular contact with parents and a process of witnessing. The Commissions on Lutheran Schools and Evangelism have jointly developed a program titled “Telling the Next Generation: Utilizing Our Schools for Outreach” that helps congregations develop a zealous harvest strategy.
  • Producing resources for Millennial outreach and retention—Several WELS organizations have been studying Millennials and their worldviews. Congregational Services would like to bring those groups together to compile a “best practices” list in reaching this demographic. This task force would develop resources to help congregations retain its young adults and to reach other Millennials within the community.

“This project is a central focus for our synod going forward,” says WELS President Mark Schroeder. “You’ll hear more about specific ideas and overall progress as the plan rolls out. Remember, we have the unchanging gospel . . . and that’s at the core of everything we do.”

Hein agrees. He says, “One of the catch-phrases we use in the Commission on Congregational Counseling goes like this: ‘If we are doing all we can with the gospel, numbers don’t matter.’ The challenges before us provide us with an opportunity to examine if we are indeed ‘doing all we can with the gospel.’ Let us view the challenges facing WELS as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the mission Christ has given us, to trust in the power of his Word and sacraments, and to rejoice in the privilege that God has given us to play a role in his saving work.”

Read Hein’s full report, titled “A demographic study of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod,” available online. Look for additional details in the November WELS Connection.

 

 

 

God’s expanding kingdom

On Tuesday evening, the synod convention delegates had the privilege to listen to presentations from four WELS missionaries serving around the world, including Rev. Paul Nitz, Malawi; Rev. John Hartmann; Zambia; Rev. Luke Wolfgramm, Russia; and a missionary from East Asia.

Nitz is based in Malawi and is the coordinator of the newly formed One Africa team, which is working to coordinate mission efforts across the continent for more cohesive programs and worker training.

Nitz has seen the Lutheran Church of Central Africa grow and become increasingly independent in the two decades he’s been there. Now, with the One Africa team, the mission efforts there are being taken a step further. He says, “What gets me excited is that we’re going to do work better, improve together, we’re going to know more about what each other is doing in different fields, and we’re going to collaborate and cooperate a lot more.” He says that after years of WELS missionaries helping the national churches in Africa, the missionaries and the national churches have reached more of a consultancy stage.

Wolfgramm appreciated the opportunity to present the gospel work happening in Russia to the convention. “This is the body that called me to go out and preach God’s Word on behalf of WELS, kind of like how Paul went back to Antioch after his first missionary journey to report on what was going and the believers rejoiced. That’s what it felt like last night, to come back and share all the good things God is doing in Russia,” he says.

Wolfgramm says that when WELS started mission work in Russia 25 years ago, it was a planting effort. There was no Lutheran church in Russia. Today, there are four Russian national pastors and the missionary’s role has changed to be more of a partner with the Russian church.

A missionary from East Asia talked about the growing gospel work there. “It’s really important to have an opportunity like this to speak in person, because we can’t share a lot of information digitally or online. To have an opportunity to present our work to people who can go back and share it with their congregations is really important. The important thing to know about East Asia is all the progress that has been made there. We have a synod there; we have national pastors that have graduated from the seminary and are leading their churches.”

On Wednesday morning, World Missions Administrator Rev. Larry Schlomer gave an overview of expanding opportunities to spread the gospel around the world. Since the last synod convention in 2015, WELS has made contact and been involved in some capacity with 14 new mission fields around the world. With these new fields, there are close to 50 world fields, ranging from places where WELS sends missionaries to locales with contacts from national churches to groups that are using the multitude of confessional Lutheran materials from Multi-Language Publications available.

Schlomer says, “What the Lord is doing around the world—the way he’s lining up some of these opportunities—is something I don’t think we’ve seen in our synod in a while, if ever. So it’s a real challenge for us to take a look around and see where God has placed us in the world, look at the resources he has given us, and see what we might be able to do to get the gospel to more people.”

While there are many exciting and new opportunities around the world, one of WELS’ most prominent mission fields is right here in the U.S. Chairman of the Board for Home Missions Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn says, “There’s a lot of really good mission work that’s happening right down the street in our neighborhoods and cities across America and in Canada where we can reach out with the gospel in an increasingly secular world. We’ve heard that in some of these neighborhoods, people just aren’t going to church anymore and they’re confused on what the truth is, so we can do a lot of mission work by starting new missions, expanding congregations to have a second site, and reaching people who don’t know Jesus so they can learn about salvation.”

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

 

 

 

Reformation celebration continues

Celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation continued on Wednesday, with presentations that highlighted Reformation history as well as shared materials and ways for congregations and individuals to celebrate the Reformation.

Rev. Michael Herbst, vice president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany, shared more about the history of our sister church and how the EFLK continues to reach out in the land of the Reformation.

Rev. John Braun, chairman of the Reformation 500 Committee, reported on available Reformation 500 resources, including Bible studies and a children’s film taken from the popular Martin Luther film, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy. He highlighted that the committee’s goals are to educate members on our Lutheran heritage but also to use the interest in the anniversary as a way to reach out into local communities. Learn more about these resources and special Reformation events at wels.net/reformation500.

Congregations around the synod have been sponsoring viewings of A Return to Grace as one way to educate members and reach out. Delegates were treated to a special viewing of the film on Wednesday evening, which included a question and answer period with the film’s executive producer, Mr. Steve Boettcher, and author of the companion book Luther’s Protest, Rev. John Braun. Learn more about the movie in tomorrow’s issue of “Together.”

To celebrate the anniversary, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) decided to prepare a new “Ninety-five Theses for the 21st century.” Fifteen pastors from around the world put together the document, which was approved by the CELC at its triennial convention in Grimma, Germany, this past summer. “The nature of these theses is very different than Luther’s original ones,” says Prof. Thomas Nass, one of the men leading the development of the theses. “It’s really the basic teachings of the Lutheran faith organized according to the Small Catechism. I think it’s what every Lutheran layperson should know.”

A video of confessional Lutherans from around the world reading some of these theses was shown to delegates Wednesday afternoon. A full video presentation of these theses will be posted online as well as streamed on Oct. 31, 2017, to give confessional Lutherans around the world an opportunity to celebrate our shared beliefs. Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.

Finally, special common chests were built by Mr. Kevin Kopplin, a member of Lord of Life, DeForest, Wis., to show how Lutherans financed their needs following the separation from the Roman Church during Martin Luther’s time. “Members deposited their offerings into the chest and elected a group of directors to manage the funds,” says Rev. John Braun. “Our world is different now. Doctrine hasn’t changed, and we still collect money to carry out the work of proclaiming the gospel and helping others. But now, banks, checks, electronic giving, and combination safes are what’s common. The common chest may have disappeared, but the idea is a part of our collections, budgets, and treasurer’s reports.”

To commemorate the Reformation anniversary, the chests were used to collect the offering from the opening worship service as well as special gifts from delegates for the three Lutheran church bodies with whom WELS declared fellowship during this convention.

 

 

 

Convention includes several special guests

Pastors from several sister church bodies and from other Lutheran synods attended the WELS synod convention as special guests. WELS President Mark Schroeder introduced these men to the delegates Tuesday morning.

Four of these guests are from church bodies with whom WELS will be declaring fellowship during the convention: Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu from the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia; Rev. Titus Tse from South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (Hong Kong); and two pastors from East Asia Lutheran Synod. More information about the fellowship declarations will be in tomorrow’s edition of Together.

Rev. Glenn Obenberger, the first vice president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), will be addressing delegates on Wednesday about our sister synod based in Minnesota. Since its formation in 1918, this church body of about 19,000 souls in 130 congregations has been in fellowship with WELS.

Rev. Michael Eichstadt is visiting from the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). Representatives from WELS, the ELS, and the CLC have been meeting over the past few years in formal doctrinal discussions to determine whether the three synods are still separated by doctrinal differences. Convention delegates will be voting whether or not to approve a statement that representatives from these three church bodies drafted that addresses the question of when church bodies in fellowship should separate if false doctrine appears. Formal doctrinal discussions will be continuing in the future.

A representative from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker, is observing the convention. Over the past five years, WELS, the ELS, and the LCMS have been meeting for informal discussions to clarify where our synods agree and where disagreements remain. Another meeting is scheduled for later this year.

Finally Rev. Michael Herbst and his son Daniel traveled from Germany to the convention. Herbst, pastor at St. Johanneskirche, Zwickau-Planitz, is thrilled to represent our sister synod the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany at the WELS convention during this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation. “I’m very thankful to be invited,” he says. He especially enjoyed the opening worship service and being able to sing and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, all believing the same thing—“one voice,” he says. Herbst will share more with delegates about the ELFK and its work to share the pure gospel in Germany in a presentation on Wednesday.

 

 

 

Election of first vice president and secretary

On Tuesday morning, Rev. James Huebner was re-elected to his third four-year term as first vice president of WELS. He was first elected to the position in 2009.

“I’m just humbly grateful. It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to serve the Lord in this way, especially to be able to have the chance to work with such wonderful gifts of the church in the men who are in leadership in the church body,” says Huebner, who serves as pastor at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis.

He continues, “You know what the Word of God says about us personally and you look in your heart and know you don’t deserve to have this privilege to be in the ministry in general and then also to serve the synod. But then you thank God also for his promises that he’s going to give you the strength and the insight.”

The first vice president assists the president and serves as a member of the Conference of Presidents; as a non-voting, ex-officio vice chairman of the Synodical Council; and as an advisory member on the Commission on Inter-Church Relations.

On Tuesday, delegates also elected Rev. Robert Pasbrig as the WELS recording secretary. Pasbrig has served as synod secretary since 2005.

Elections for chairmen and members for various synod boards and commissions will be conducted throughout the convention. Look for full election results at the conclusion of the convention at wels.net/2017synodconvention.

 

 

 

Our great heritage

A beautiful church packed with more than 700 booming voices all passionately singing out “A Mighty Fortress” set the tone for WELS’ 64th biennial synod convention. The theme for this year’s convention is “Our Great Heritage,” a distinctive Lutheran nod to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation being celebrated by Christians around the world this year. “Our Great Heritage” reminds convention delegates and attendees that our faith is rooted in the teachings of Martin Luther, whose mission was to teach Christians of his day, and for centuries after, that the Bible is the only true Word of God.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder presided over the opening worship service, Mon., July 31, at St. Mark’s in Watertown, Wis. Rev. Jonathan Schroeder, Faith, Sharpsburg, Ga., served as preacher, delivering a sermon reflecting on Martin Luther’s famous statement, “Here I stand.”

“If we can be known as the church that proclaims radical grace, that’s an excellent thing because that’s where the church has stood and I hope that’s where we stand in the next 500 years,” he says. “The privilege of being able to speak to the convention and being asked to share God’s Word with them, especially on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it was a wonderful honor.” The worship service can be viewed online. (Please note that the service is split between two videos, which can be found on the right-hand side of the screen.)

President Schroeder presented his “President’s Report” Tuesday morning. After discussing the state of the synod and how WELS ministry reflects principles of our Lutheran heritage, he concluded:

“As we mark 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation, we pray that God will move us to rededicate ourselves to the biblical truths that God so graciously restored to his church and which he has passed down to us as the heirs of that Reformation. In every sermon preached, in every Bible class taught, in every opportunity to share what we believe, may he enable us to know and confess that we are saved by God’s grace alone, that we receive that blessing through faith alone, and that we are sure of that truth because of Scripture alone. Holding on to that heritage, we will by God’s grace be permitted to share in the glorious privilege of serving as his witnesses, and we will have the joy of passing that heritage down to the next generations of God’s people.” The full report can be read online.

Continuing with the theme, Prof. John Brenner read the convention essay. He titled it “God’s Word is our great heritage.”

Brenner says, “Through the Reformation, God delivered some really tremendous gifts to his people, but Lutherans really have not always retained those gifts as other Christians, including Old Testament people, didn’t either. So I wanted to emphasize how great our heritage is and the fact because it’s that great, we want to do everything in our power to preserve it, but then also to share it.”

This is the second synod convention essay that Brenner had the privilege to present. He teaches systematic theology, Christian doctrine, and church history at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., where he’s served for 26 years. The essay is available to read online.

 

 

 

Ministry Financial Plan steady

Tuesday morning WELS Chief Financial Officer Mr. Todd Poppe presented the state of the synod’s Ministry Financial Plan (budget) to delegates. While the ministry financial plan is well documented in the Book of Reports and Memorials (page 127), Poppe reminded delegates that while God greatly blesses our synod, the harvest fields are vast and there is work to do.

Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) are the main source of support for WELS ministry. While CMO has slightly increased, it is not keeping up with inflation, and therefore, has remained flat for about 10 years, creating an increasing strain at maintaining ministries at current levels and using up reserves.

As Poppe explains, “The proposed ministry financial plan keeps WELS on solid financial ground, but projected near-flat Congregation Mission Offerings when costs are increasing 3.5 percent could challenge WELS’ ability to maintain ministries beyond the 2017–19 biennium.”

In order to maintain existing ministry with these rising costs and flat revenue, the Synodical Council authorized a greater use of reserves in the ministry financial plan being presented for the upcoming biennium. As these reserves are drawn down, funding future ministry becomes more difficult unless offerings increase.

The Financial Stabilization Fund (FSF) continues to be sound. The FSF holds all non-CMO sources of support for one or more years after receipt, allowing for more stable financial planning. Poppe provided an update to the convention regarding that FSF, noting that since BORAM has been printed, unexpected gifts to WELS have put the FSF in a more favorable situation.

New this summer, WELS congregations, schools, and other organizations are encouraged to consider Church Mutual for organizational insurance needs. Church Mutual and WELS have joined in a group insurance program, where WELS congregations, schools, and organizations can benefit from a safety dividend, which equates to a cost savings, through Church Mutual. Poppe says, “WELS has entrusted the coverage of its buildings, property, and people to Church Mutual for more than 40 years. As we look around at our many blessings, it makes sense to protect God’s gifts in the best possible way, so that we can continue to expand ministry.”

Most notably, Poppe and President Mark Schroeder marked the retirement of the synod’s debt by shredding a copy of the debt statement. Two years ago, the synod in convention voted to launch a campaign to retire the debt early. Through God’s grace, WELS members offered their gifts to support this goal, and the debt was paid off a year and a half ahead of schedule.

To read the full financial report, view the BORAM online.

 

 

 

Treptow explains Compensation Review Committee recommendations

On Tuesday morning, Rev. Earle Treptow, chairman of the Compensation Review Committee and a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., detailed the recommendations of the Compensation Review Committee. The group is a standing committee of the Synodical Council, but it took on a more active role after the 2015 synod in convention approved a resolution calling for a “thorough review” of the WELS Compensation Guidelines.

“In the early stages of the project, the committee envisioned a radical reworking of the guidelines currently in place,” says Treptow. “The more we wrestled with the issues, however, the more we recognized the excellent work that had been done in putting together the current compensation guidelines. The problem has been that calling bodies haven’t consistently applied the guidelines.”

Once the committee arrived at that realization, the focus shifted away from a complete revision toward a modification of the current guidelines.

As Treptow notes, “Much of the inconsistency in applying the guidelines stemmed from a lack of understanding. So, the Compensation Review Committee committed itself to repackaging the compensation guidelines in such a way that calling bodies would find them easier to apply. Only slight modifications were made to the current guidelines, so the financial impact on the work we do together as a synod should be minimal.”

During his presentation to delegates, Treptow showed delegates the new web-based calculator that can help calling bodies to determine a fair and equitable compensation package for their called workers. WELS Technology created this calculator to replace the existing Excel worksheet that Human Resources provides to calling bodies working on called worker compensation. This new called worker compensation calculator automates many of the tasks that previously required research and data entry by calling bodies.

Treptow emphasized to delegates, “What the Compensation Review Committee desires, above all else, is that calling bodies would approach compensation matters prayerfully, thoughtfully, and carefully. We want calling bodies, through their leaders, to think about the gospel ministry being carried out in their midst. More specifically, we want them to reflect on the responsibilities entrusted to each worker, the time that is being invested in carrying out those responsibilities, and the additional education the worker has pursued. Then the calling body can determine a salary based on knowledge of, and appreciation for, the important work the Lord’s servant is doing in its name.”

Floor Committee #8: Compensation Review is discussing the Compensation Review Committee’s recommendations and will present one or more resolutions later in this convention for consideration by all the delegates.

 

 

 

 

Worldwide fellowship gathers in Germany

Every three years, pastors and leaders from around the world, representing two dozen Lutheran church bodies in fellowship with WELS, gather for a meeting of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). Celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, the most recent convention was held in historic Grimma, Germany (near Leipzig and Wittenberg), from June 29 through July 2. The convention was hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) of Germany. Participants gathered in the Gymnasium St. Augustine, a school founded in a former monastery in 1550 to train scholars for the Lutheran church as well as for government service.

The participants heard essays highlighting the Lutheran Reformation, the Reformed Reformation, the Radical Reformation, and the Catholic Reformation, written by pastors Holger Weiss, Samuel Choi, Julio Ascarrunz, and Dr. Timothy Schmeling, respectively. Highlights of the convention included requests for membership from three additional church bodies in Hong Kong, Ethiopia, and east Asia.

The convention approved the “Ninety-five Theses for the Twenty-First Century,” a new document prepared to clearly state the basics of the Christian faith for use in congregations and for outreach. The convention also had the opportunity to view the new film A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy.

A closing communion service was held in the Augustinian church next to the school. The walls of this famous structure, in which Martin Luther frequently preached during his travels, echoed with the sound of the congregation singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and many other Reformation-era hymns. Convention participants and guests, as well as many members of the ELFK, celebrated their bond of fellowship as they heard the Word of God preached and received the body and blood of their Savior in the Lord’s Supper. Following the service, the ELFK served a meal for everyone as participants slowly said farewell to each other.

Along with a number of other WELS representatives, I had the privilege of attending this meeting. One of the purposes of the meeting is to provide encouragement to smaller confessional churches around the world as they face unique challenges in their cultures. But, as always, it was the WELS representatives who came away encouraged. We marveled at the firm commitment and the faithful witness of our fellow Lutherans around the world, and we joined in thanking God for the continuing spread of his saving message.

The next CELC convention is scheduled for 2020 in Seoul, Korea. Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

A look ahead to the 64th synod convention

WELS’ 64th biennial convention is being held at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., July 31–Aug. 3, under the theme “Our Great Heritage.” Live coverage of plenary meetings, missionary presentations, and the opening worship service will be streamed at wels.net/2017synodconvention.

“The biennial synod convention provides the opportunity for grassroots input and decision-making when it comes to the work that we do together as a synod,” explains Rev. Mark Schroeder, WELS president. “The convention helps set the priorities for the synod’s areas of ministry in the coming years.”

More than 400 delegates—including pastors, male teachers, male staff ministers, and laymen—representing congregations across the synod come together to adopt a ministry financial plan (or budget), which describes in detail how WELS will use the financial resources God provides to carry out his work.

“The proposed ministry financial plan keeps WELS on solid financial ground,” says Mr. Todd Poppe, WELS chief financial officer, “but projected near-flat Congregation Mission Offerings when costs are increasing 3.5 percent could challenge WELS’ ability to maintain ministries beyond the 2017–19 biennium.”

Other topics that delegates will consider include the

  • recommendations of the Compensation Review Committee, which was tasked by delegates of the 2015 synod convention with providing a thorough review of the WELS Compensation Guidelines for called workers;
  • declaration of fellowship with three foreign church bodies endorsed by the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations;
  • proposal of a new WELS long-range plan that extends from 2018–25; and
  • presentation of the results of a demographic study of WELS completed by the WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling.

Areas of ministry will present updates about their work, and delegates will meet with their assigned floor committees to consider the reports that pertain to their area of ministry. Floor committees then write resolutions on the topics that they feel should be addressed and present their resolutions to all the delegates. Delegates discuss and vote on these convention resolutions, helping set the stage for work that will take place over the next biennium.

Elections for the synod’s first vice president and secretary as well as board members for synod commissions, boards, and committees will also take place.

With the theme “Our Great Heritage,” convention organizers have focused many aspects of the convention around the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, including the opening and closing worship services, devotions, and essay. Delegates will also view the film A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy.

All pre-convention information is available at wels.net/2017synodconvention. View the convention agenda and election nominee biographies. Read the 2017 Book of Reports and Memorials. During the convention, news articles, video updates, and convention photos will be posted throughout the day at wels.net/2017synodconvention. Each evening, an issue of “Together” will be delivered to subscribers as a wrap-up of the day’s events and a look ahead to the next day. WELS’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages also will be active each day.

Subscribe to “Together” at wels.net/subscribe.