Reformation worship focuses on God’s grace

A year ago, in anticipation of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, initial plans were made for a large celebration in Milwaukee that would include conferences for all WELS called workers and a large festival worship service for called workers and WELS members in the 15,000- seat Bradley Center. After determining the huge cost of such an event, the decision was made not to hold the event as hoped but to encourage districts and regions to plan for local celebrations that would be less costly and enable more people to participate.

That decision was blessed by God. During the last two weekends, more than 20 districts and regions held special Reformation 500 worship services. The events were very well attended and provided many more people the opportunity to join in this celebration than would have been possible with one centralized event. In each case, worshipers had the opportunity to thank and praise God for the blessings of the Lutheran Reformation. Worshipers were reminded that “grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone” is not just a slogan or motto, but the heart and center of what connects us to “Christ alone.”

Below is a slideshow of some of the special worship services and events held in our synod—both in the United States and around the world. To view more photos or contribute your own, check out the WELS Facebook page at Watch for more photos and information about Reformation 500 celebrations in the January 2018 edition of Forward in Christ magazine.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder


Reformation 500 celebrations

MLP continues to work in South Asia

The bag weighed almost as much he did.

But that didn’t stop a pastor from South Asia from hoisting the almost 100-pound bag of Multi-Language Publication booklets onto his back and walking for hours back to his hometown. What’s even more amazing is that in the past his church had been destroyed and he had been beaten and imprisoned for worshiping his Savior and sharing his faith with others.

“It’s really a privilege and a great honor to help [people like this],” says Rev. Nathan Seiltz, director of WELS Multi-Language Publications (MLP). “Printed publications are a wonderful tool for them to reach out and do some discipleship among the people there.”

Seiltz conducted his first field visit of the area in September. While there, he was able to help conduct a leadership workshop in which 75 men and women learned more about the prison epistles Philippians and Colossians, discussed the Lutheran Reformation, and went home with self-study booklets explaining Lutheran doctrine to distribute in their communities.

This field in South Asia wouldn’t exist if not for these MLP publications. “Multi-Language Publications is the parent of these fields. It was a seed-sowing ministry and they planted so many seeds the church grew,” says WELS’ field coordinator for South Asia. “It’s a tremendous tool for our church in outreach and in discipleship training.” The church body in this area currently has 42 congregations and 14 seminary students.

Seiltz and the field coordinator also visited several local congregations and met with our national contact to discuss future plans. One idea is to develop a radio station that would include programming to teach people about Jesus. MLP also will continue to provide printed materials like these self-study booklets and The Promise, a 16-page brochure that presents the basic biblical message from the fall into sin to life in heaven. “These are the tools that people are using to share their faith with other people,” says Seiltz. “That was really encouraging to hear.”

Seiltz visited South Asia after catastrophic flooding hit the region in August and September. While he didn’t visit any of the areas affected by the flooding, he says the leadership workshop was moved and delayed a day because the flooding delayed many of the workshop attendees who had to travel. WELS Christian Aid and Relief has granted almost $20,500 to provide flood relief in South Asia. Funds will be used to purchase and deliver supplies like mattresses, blankets, and mosquito netting to people in the affected areas. Our contact says providing this help gives the opportunity to show Christ’s love in action to the different communities.

Learn more about Multi-Language Publications, which has printed more than 2.9 million items in 47 languages, at Learn more about WELS Missions at



Blessings from Choral Festival are lifelong

“Joyful. Exciting. Amazing. A taste of heaven.” These are just some of the words used to describe the WELS National Choral Festival, which celebrates its 50th anniversary Nov. 10-12. More than 475 students from 22 area Lutheran high schools and preparatory schools will gather to sing their praises to the Lord in La Crosse, Wis.—the place where it all began.

Dave Adickes, a teacher at Luther High School, Onalaska, Wis., invited eight WELS prep and high schools to sing in the first festival in 1967. Nearly 100 students gathered to “celebrate God’s gift of music” and get a “sneak peek of heaven” as well as gain exposure to a wide variety of directors and techniques, according to Adickes. From the beginning, Friday night’s concert was a secular concert performed by the individual choirs. Saturday was a day of rehearsal and fun, culminating with Sunday’s mass sacred concert. The location of Choral Festival changed as various WELS high schools hosted the event.

As Choral Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary, Luther High School will again serve as host, this time under the direction of Dave Adickes’ son, Paul, a former Choral Festival attendee, director, and clinician.

This year’s festival will include music from the past five decades, an almost 300-voice alumni choir, a 52-piece orchestra, and commissioned works by WELS teachers Sarah Siegler and Dale Witte—including the final piece, an arrangement of “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage,” which also serves as this year’s theme. The image of the Mississippi River Bridge—an iconic feature in La Crosse—adorns the poster, symbolizing how “Choral Festival 2017 will bridge the music of the past, present, and future with the timeless heritage and hope that we have in the living and enduring Word of God,” says Paul.

Paul continues, “Choral Festival has endured for so many reasons beyond its musical value. . . . The friendships that are created, the bonds of faith that are reinforced, and the words of faith proclaimed in song resonate in the hearts of our students long after the concerts. Choral Festival gives them an experience that is a lifelong blessing.”

Choral Festival events will be streamed live. The pops concert is at 7 p.m., Nov. 10. The sacred concert is at 2 p.m., Nov. 12. Go to for more information. Check out more interviews with past and present Choral Festival directors and participants in a Forward in Christ extra.



Chaplain Certification Program courses offered

From police officers to those who are incarcerated, the Chaplain Certification Program is about helping people in special circumstances with special ministry needs. Training is open to all WELS members, both lay members and called workers, with a heart for meeting the spiritual needs of people in circumstances that require particular spiritual care. Specific areas of ministry include those in prison, hospitals, nursing homes, the military and their families, and public servants such as police officers and firemen and women.

The Commission on Special Ministries  has established a program for chaplain certification because many healthcare facilities, jails, prisons, and military bases are tightening their requirements for ministry in their facilities, especially if the pastor or layperson wants to reach out to non-members.

Chaplain Certification Program courses can be taken online through Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. There are four required courses – Communicating Forgiveness, A Scriptural Approach to Addiction Counseling, Your Chaplaincy and Ethical Issues, and Chaplaincy Seminary—and four electives with emphases on prison ministry, ministry to the military, and ministry to the aging.

If you’re interested in becoming a chaplain, go to To enroll in training, visit The next online class, “The Spiritual Side of PTSD,” taught by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS national civilian chaplain to the military, will begin in January 2018; registration for the class is open until Dec. 22. A limited amount of financial aid is available from the Lutheran Military Support Group for WELS military contact pastors to take chaplain certification courses.




Conference of Presidents holds its fall meeting

The Conference of Presidents (COP) met Oct. 10-13 at the Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis., for its regular fall meeting. Included in the discussions and decisions:

  • The COP noted with thanks to God that Congregation Mission Offerings are up 1.6% over last year ($231,000). As congregations begin planning for next year, a video communication from each district president will encourage and guide congregations in that process.
  • Last year the COP determined that pastors teaching at Lutheran high schools and prep schools fall under the same calling guidelines that restrict the calling of teachers (Nov. 1 through the first week of June, with two calls possible during that time). The COP clarified this policy by determining that pastors serving in primarily administrative roles (presidents/principals, deans, etc.) at the schools can be called at any time.
  • The COP extended divine calls to Rev. Jerry Ewings to serve as a Christian giving counselor and to Rev. Mark Gabb to serve as the director of the Commission on Evangelism.
  • The COP appointed Rev. Doug Tomhave to serve as the chairman of the Commission on Evangelism.
  • Earlier this year the COP established a standing committee to work with WELS parasynodical organizations. This committee is in the process of determining its specific role and establishing the procedures it will follow. The purpose of the committee is to foster good communication and cooperation between the synod and WELS parasynodical organizations. The committee reported that it had begun its work and will continue to develop its goals and policies.
  • The COP concurred with the request of Northwestern Publishing House to conduct a review of the Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV) as soon as the complete translation is available. This review will be similar to reviews of the New International Version, the English Standard Version, and the Christian Standard Bible, which have already been done.
  • The COP continues to monitor closely the pastoral vacancy rate and how the calling process can best serve the needs of congregations and workers in a time of a shortage of pastors.
  • The COP discussed the workload of district presidents who serve in the large districts. The COP asked the synod president to investigate various options to provide needed assistance.
  • The COP discussed how the certification process for teachers can be improved and, if possible, streamlined. The COP asked Martin Luther College to review certification requirements for all teachers and to bring its proposals to the January meeting of the COP.
  • The COP will ask the Synodical Council to establish an ad hoc committee to study future options for the WELS Pension Plan. No change in the plan is anticipated in the near future, but the COP agreed that such a study would be beneficial for future decisions.
  • The COP is encouraging all congregations to designate one Sunday in November as a Mission and Ministry Sunday to encourage greater awareness of, and support for, the work we do together as a synod. In the future, congregations will be encouraged to plan a Mission and Ministry Sunday for October.
  • The COP asked for the appointment of a special committee to discuss possible alternative models for congregational constitutions and bylaws.
  • The COP approved a request from Martin Luther College (MLC) for permission to conduct an appeal for MLC’s Congregational Partner Grant Program (CPGP). The CPGP gives congregations the opportunity to provide direct financial support for students at MLC preparing for the public ministry of WELS.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder




New set of “theses” highlights the basic teachings of Lutheranism

As part of its triennial convention in Grimma, Germany, this past summer, the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) approved a new set of Ninety-five theses to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

While Luther’s theses focused on the abuse of indulgences in the church at the time, Ninety-Five Theses for the 21st Century has a different theme. “It’s really the basic teachings of the Lutheran faith organized according to the Small Catechism,” says Rev. Thomas Nass, professor at Martin Luther College and one of the men leading the development of the theses. “I think it’s what every Lutheran layperson should know.”

Fifteen pastors from sister churches around the world put together the document. “It’s something that the churches of our fellowship have done together to show how they’re united in the Lutheran faith,” says Nass.

Mr. Greg Vandermause, production studio manager at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn., produced a video of leaders from our sister church bodies reading these contemporary statements of faith at the CELC convention in Grimma. Hymns written by Martin Luther are interspersed between the readings. The video can be viewed online.

“We pray that you are encouraged in the faith that has been passed down and that you find joy in seeing how that faith is shared by many around the world,” says Nass.

Purchase a print copy of the booklet at Watch the October WELS Connection to learn more about the CELC convention in Germany. Learn more about the CELC at




New form makes connecting college students with churches easier

WELS Campus Ministry is introducing a new student management system. It is now live for pastors and college students.

With this new system, pastors and churches can now manage student lists online. This includes viewing, sorting, editing, adding, and deleting student profiles as well as managing a student’s free subscription to Forward in Christ and Meditations. Pastors can access the form via their My WELS Cloud account.

For college students, the form is available at The new form will enable students to easily manage their campus ministry profiles, including updating addresses, expected graduation date, subscription preferences, and more. Students will need an e-mail address to register and will be given a pin number for their personal log-in. By registering, students will also be able to stay in contact with their campus pastor.

Currently, about 460 WELS pastors serve one or more campuses, and nearly 6,000 students are signed up with WELS Campus Ministry.

WELS Campus Ministry Chairman Rev. Charlie Vannieuwenhoven says, “The only way for our pastors to know the WELS students who are attending the university they serve is if their name is submitted with WELS Campus Ministry. This information allows the pastor not only to know which WELS students are attending the university he serves, but it gives him the information he needs to make contact with the student to invite them to worship or any other activities and to share with the student what’s happening with the campus ministry.”

Learn more at




OWLS are “filled with the gospel”

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) met in Pewaukee, Wis., Oct. 10-12, under the theme “Filled with the gospel.” About 175 members from around the United States attended.

The convention was hosted by the Dodge-Washington OWLS. This was the first convention directed by new convention chairman Mr. Werner Lemke.

For a decade, the OWLS have used their offerings to support the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS presented Military Services with a check for $50,000 for work in Europe. The convention offering and proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

For four years, the OWLS have provided scholarships to Martin Luther College students. This year, Lailah Thabatah, Heidi Moldenhauer, Tristan Pankow, and Hannah Rundgren received scholarships.

With the convention in Pewaukee this year, attendees were given the opportunity to tour the WELS visitors’ center at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM), along with a tour of the CMM to learn more about WELS ministry. They were also treated to several presentations about Lutheran traditions and WELS ministry.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, says, “All the presenters were excellent. Rev. Aaron Christie’s presentation on Luther’s principles that led to the Lutheran fine arts tradition today was full of interesting examples. The OWLS were moved to hear a presentation by former European Civilian Chaplain Josh Martin and his wife, who received OWLS support during their nine years overseas. Seminary Professor Brad Wordell amazed the audience with the opportunities the Lord is giving us to train pastors around the world through the Pastoral Studies Institute, and Rev. Tony Schultz had the OWLS chuckling with recognition as he talked about opportunities to talk about Jesus.”

This year, the convention elected a new OWLS president, Pastor Em. Norman Schell from Omaha, Neb. Schell has been involved with the convention for years helping with the technology needs.

Next year’s convention will be at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart, Wis., under the theme “Finish Your Race.” All WELS members are invited, even those who aren’t part of an OWLS chapter.

Learn more about the OWLS and all the ministries under the WELS Commission on Special Ministries at




WELS teachers meet around the country

Annual District Teachers’ Conferences are an opportunity for WELS early childhood teachers and directors, Lutheran elementary school teachers, and high school teachers to enjoy learning opportunities, networking, and fellowship. Three conferences have already taken place. Conferences will continue this week in the Pacific Northwest, South Atlantic, and Minnesota Districts, Oct. 18-20.

The Michigan District Teachers’ Conference was held Oct. 4-6 at Trinity in Bay City, Mich. Psalm 46 was the focus of both the opening worship and the Bible study for all attendees. Prof. Paul Koelpin from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., addressed the conference with a presentation on “The Blessings and Challenges of Teaching ‘Lutheran’ in the 21st Century.” Rev. Brian Keller presented a paper on the Evangelical Heritage Version Bible, the translation being worked on through the Wartburg Project. Conference attendees had an opportunity to attend a number of sectionals on topics that included early childhood ministry, technology, leadership, science, and others.

The South Central District met at Calvary Lutheran School in Dallas, Tex. Oct. 5-6. Several of the South Central District schools had students who were victims of Hurricane Harvey. With that in mind, Anita Smith, from Christian Family Solutions, presented a workshop called “Supporting Students Dealing with Trauma.”

The Nebraska and Dakota-Montana District Teachers’ Conference met at St. Paul’s, Rapid City, S.D., Oct. 8-10. They met under the theme “A Reformation of the Heart.” Devotions for the conference focused attendees on grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone. The religious keynote presented by Rev. Nathaniel Biebert was entitled, “Your Baby Boy and His Names: Martin Luther on Isaiah 9:6.” The educational keynote was presented by Todd Whitaker and was based on one of his books “What Great Teachers Do Differently.” Sectional topics ranged from special education, accreditation, Google classroom, music, supervision of instruction, disruptive behaviors, burnout prevention, language arts, New Teacher Induction, and conflict resolution.

The Commission on Lutheran Schools associate director, Mr. Tom Plitzuweit, says, “District teacher conferences serve as a great avenue for teachers to continue learning and developing professionally and spiritually. At conferences, teachers connect with other teachers. They learn from each other’s experiences and share ideas. What is special about our WELS conferences is that they give us more opportunities to learn with and learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom share similar ministry experiences. It is a blessing to lift each other up and grow spiritually and professionally. Not only does attending conferences benefit us as teachers, but it is also a tremendous blessing to our schools and to all the precious souls we have the privilege of serving.”




WELS members respond

When people are hurting, Christians respond. Paul thanked the Macedonian Christians for the generous outpouring of support they provided for needy brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. They saw a need, and their love for their Savior and fellow Christians moved them to act.

The same could be said about the members of our synod in the way you have reacted to the hurricanes that struck Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. In addition to your prayers, you offered generous financial support to help those in need. As of now, WELS members have given nearly $700,000 for hurricane relief.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has made grants to WELS congregations in Texas and Florida to address immediate needs for their members and for others in the community and has sent aid to Puerto Rico. Efforts are now underway to plan a more long-term effort to provide assistance. When plans are in place and can be administered effectively, WELS Christian Aid and Relief is ready to forward the funding that WELS members have provided.

We have been attempting to contact our sister church in Puerto Rico, but communications have been very difficult. We have heard there was extensive damage to at least one of the churches on the island, and we assume that the homes of many members were damaged or destroyed. As soon as we can assess the need and put plans in place, more assistance will be sent.

Even as WELS members have responded to these natural disasters, they have also continued their faithful support of the ongoing ministry of our synod. Through September, Congregation Mission Offerings are up 1.6 percent or $231,000 over the prior year and 0.8 percent ahead of subscriptions. Thanks be to God for these blessings that have been motivated by his saving gospel.

Serving with you in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

View photos of President Schroeder visiting relief work in Florida



Home Missions update

The WELS Board for Home Missions met for its fall meeting in September. Board members received updates from many of our home missions. Here are a few highlights.

  • The three new home missions that the board allocated funding for at its March meeting are now staffed by full-time home missionaries. Rev. Doug Van Sice and Rev. Eric Melso were assigned to serve Huntersville, S.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn., respectively, as they graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May. Rev. Paul Zell, a current professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, recently accepted the call to serve the mission at Hendersonville, N.C.
  • Two home missions celebrated their opening worship services in September. The Way, Fredericksburg, Va., held its first official service on Sept. 10 at the local cinema, where the congregation is currently worshiping. Redemption, Watertown, N.Y., held its launch service on Sept. 17, in the new worship facility that the congregation purchased and renovated thanks to a loan and grant from WELS Church Extension Fund.
  • Grace Hmong Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Kan., dedicated its new church building on Aug. 27. Rev. Ger Lor, pastor at Grace, says, “This was a big opportunity to share the gospel to the Hmong community in the area through this event. Grace believes that if the gospel is preached to them, the Holy Spirit will work through the Word to change their hearts.”
  • Rev. Lucas Bitter was installed on Aug. 27 to serve WELS’ new mission in Atlanta, Ga. Seven WELS congregations are established in the suburbs of Atlanta. This new mission will serve those in the city. In August, core members of this mission staffed a booth at a summer festival and hosted college students from a variety of schools in the city for a back-to-school get-together. These outreach events resulted in approximately 100 people signing up to receive more information about the church and 40 people indicating an interest in Bible information class.

“Home Missions is grateful for the Congregation Mission Offerings that support all this gospel outreach as well as the support that our missions receive from other WELS ministries that partner with us,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions. “In addition, the 115 home missions that WELS supports receive guidance and encouragement from district mission boards and mission counselors.”

On Sept. 15, the WELS Board for Home Missions held a service of thanksgiving for its four mission counselors for their service in the pastoral ministry. Rev. Peter Kruschel, Rev. Edward Schuppe, Rev. Mark Birkholz, and Rev. Timothy Flunker offer support and missions expertise to congregations as they reach out in their communities.

Free notes, “Our mission counselors keep abreast of trends in North America and help keep Home Missions informed as to what might serve our church body. We’re thankful for their service.”

To learn more about WELS Home Missions, visit While there, you can also subscribe to receive weekly Missions blogs in your e-mail inbox.




Caring for called workers

The Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW), part of the Commission on WELS Special Ministries, exists to assist WELS calling bodies in supporting called workers and their families, encouraging them in their ministries, and enhancing their quality of life. There are many ways to support called workers, whether it’s in retirement planning, making sure their spiritual and physical needs are met, or helping in a transition to a new church or school. A new Care Committee for Called Workers at Trinity, Minoqua, Wis., did just that, finding ways to make the move of three new called workers as seamless as possible.

The following is an excerpt of an article written by a Trinity member that will appear in an upcoming edition of His Hands, the Special Ministries newsletter.

We streamlined communication as much as possible, with one main point of contact from our congregation and school. We also tried to consolidate information into a single message vs. sending multiple notes. We recognized how busy their lives would be and wanted to simplify things as much as possible. By starting the process well in advance of their arrival dates, they wouldn’t feel rushed.

Pastor Stephen Luchterhand notes: “This cross-country move (Arizona to Wisconsin) was a challenging one for our family, especially because our children are older (late high school to college age). The evident care and concern, attention to detail, intentional communication, and enthusiastic search for solutions by Trinity’s CCCW lessened our anxiety considerably and removed considerable barriers during the process.”

It’s important to keep the called worker’s family in mind during this process. We placed pictures of the new called workers and their families in the fellowship hall shortly after the calls had been accepted. Not only did this allow our members to put a face with the name, but it reminded the congregation to keep the families in their prayers.

We also asked about the family’s areas of interest. For those seeking employment we came up with a list of businesses and contacts for them to consider, as well as congregation members who could be used as references. Our tuition fund application was shared with students attending Luther Preparatory School.

Teachers Mike and MeLissa Wieting were appreciative. “It was so nice to be referred to members of the community who could help us with buying a home and moving to the area. They had names of a realtor, mortgage company, an insurance contact, and a moving company that led us through the intimidating process. We had never had to purchase our own home before so we had lots of questions. Our care committee even stepped in to preview homes on our behalf before we made a special trip to the area to see a property. Being a few hours away, an overwhelming process was made easier due to our CCCW.”

Now that the called workers are here, we have stayed in touch. From helping to find a chiropractor and contractor, to directing them to a good beach for a family swim, there was much to share as they settled in. Most important, we “pray continually” for our called workers (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

To view the whole story and newsletter, you can subscribe at To learn more about the CCCW, visit




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

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





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; Or order online at




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




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 or contact Rev. Richard Warnecke, a WELS Christian Aid and Relief committee member, at 262-424-8792;

To promote good coordination of efforts, please direct questions about hurricane relief to Warnecke or to Hein, 262-334-7881;, 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 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




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




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.

Congregations still can host local screenings of the film. Find out how at




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.