Resources from WELS and NPH

WELS and Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) are offering several resources for free to help you stay connected to your Lord, to your church, and to WELS during this time of unrest and change. Resources include hymn downloads, Sunday school materials, digital access to Forward in Christ magazine, and access to Kids Connection and WELS Connection videos.

Hymnal/music options
Eighty hymns from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal are now available to download for free from NPH. According to Mr. Jeremy Bakken, NPH director of worship and sacred music, these resources will help enable hymn singing for families at home, whether for their personal family worship or to participate with their church’s online worship.

Downloads for these hymns include digital options (PDF and TIFF) as well as audio files of piano and organ accompaniments (M4A). Taken from the Lent and Easter sections as well as the Redeemer, Trust, Faith, Prayer, and Nation sections, all available hymns are in the public domain or have been granted permission for their use.

“We don’t know how long the current crisis will last. With David, we ask ‘How long, LORD?’ (Psalm 13:1). But with him we also trust in God’s unfailing love and rejoice in his salvation,” says Bakken. “We pray these free resources will assist individuals and families with their devotional time, as well as help congregations holding services exclusively online for a time, to ‘sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me’ (Psalm 13:6).”

Individuals interested in having Christian Worship for at-home use can also purchase up to five copies of this hymnal at 50 percent off.

Sunday school materials
Parents can now download six weeks of Christ-Light lessons for free, compliments of Northwestern Publishing House, so they can offer Sunday school at home.

Bible stories offered follow the life of Jesus, including several of his miracles and the events of Holy Week and Easter. Besides the student lessons, parents can download coloring sheets and other activities as well as a teacher’s guide to help them share the lesson with their children. Different levels are available for children ranging in age from pre-kindergarten to grade six.

Devotional resources
Forward in Christ (FIC), the synod’s official magazine, is offering free digital access to the March and April issues for both subscribers and non-subscribers. Both issues are available now.

“We have learned new concepts lately such as self-quarantine; social distancing; and one that might not be so new, financial upheaval,” says Rev. John Braun, FIC executive editor. “But in all the nuances, we remain in God’s care—connected to each other in faith—and look for strength from God’s Word. Our prayer is that Forward in Christ may help you as you face today’s challenges.”

The most recent editions of Kids Connection will also be available to view. Created to complement the WELS Connection monthly video news magazine, Kids Connection encourages children and their families to “stay connected to Jesus” through Christ-centered stories and segments presented by two teenage hosts. Parents can use the September 2019 through March 2020 monthly videos at home with their children as part of their daily devotional life.

WELS also offers many free devotional options, including a daily devotion that can be e-mailed directly to you.

Congregational resource
WELS Communication Services is also releasing the March WELS Connection early for online viewing. Since many churches have suspended meeting in person for the next few weeks, congregations that haven’t had time to show the WELS Connection this month can direct their members to view it online. Pastors can also share this direct link to the video via e-mail to their members or download the video and add it to their church’s website.

“During this unprecedented time, Communication Services is working to provide you with resources that will assist you in staying connected to God’s Word,” says Mr. Lee Hitter, WELS’ director of communication. “Pastors, please let your members know that these resources are available to them. And everyone, please share these encouragements with your friends and family to help them during these trying times.”

 

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Spiritual and mental health support

With Americans told to stay home—away from church, school, and in some cases work—in an anxiety-inducing time, WELS ministries are creating and making available resources to help. Here are a few that we found. If your ministry, school, or congregation is offering spiritual or Christian educational resources that can be used by individuals and families, let us know! We’ll continue to add to this list; check back often!

Christian Family Solutions
Christian Family Solutions has been “healing and helping people in need through the ministry of Jesus Christ” since 1965. This mission remains their focus during the COVID-19 situation. They are committed to serving communities with help, healing, and hope.

COVID-19 has certainly changed life as we know it, and Christian Family Solutions continues to provide counseling services and mental health treatment for those in need. They are equipped and ready to serve. All counseling clinic visits have shifted to appointments via secure video counseling, a service they have been offering for nearly 12 years.

The increased opportunity to connect virtually means that WELS pastors and ministry staff can still refer people through the Member Assistance Program. Members can still connect to their counselor, and students can continue treatment outside of school.

Recognizing that finances may be a concern, Christian Family Solutions is removing that barrier by working with insurance companies, who are eliminating copays and taking special measures during this national public health emergency. Anyone who needs counseling should contact the intake staff at Christian Family Solutions on their website by clicking on “REQUEST APPOINTMENT.”

On their website you will also find resources, including videos, blogs, and pamphlets for churches and schools to distribute to their families. These Christ-centered materials are designed to instill calm and increase resilience during this challenging time.

Though the future is uncertain, we remain steadfast in our Savior. It is important to be purveyors of calm in this suddenly chaotic world. Christian Family Solutions is equipped to serve “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), confident that COVID-19 will bring an abundance of opportunity to share hope in Christ with individuals, families, churches, and communities.

Martin Luther College
Martin Luther College will continue livestreaming daily chapel services Monday through Friday at 10:30 a.m. (central). Campus Pastor John Boeder says, “Whether you’re in California or Alaska or Georgia or Green Bay or New Ulm, by the miracle of modern technology we can gather to sing and worship and listen and pray. Chapel will be a welcome break in a day of distance learning. It will bring us together in Christ and strengthen us for serving him.”

Luther Preparatory School
Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., is live streaming its morning chapel services Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. (central). Students are doing online learning during the closing.

The Lutheran Home Association
The Lutheran Home Association (TLHA) has devotional resources for adults as well as young children. Read Christian life devotions. Parents are welcome to receive a collection of simple Bible stories for teaching children. Just e-mail jcm@tlha.org for more information. “We are privileged to serve God’s people during this time of uncertainty,” says Rev. Joel Gaertner, TLHA vice president of ministry.

Time of Grace
Time of Grace has videos, devotions, a blog, and more to help keep Christian’s focused on Christ. Time of Grace started posting devotions for families with grade-school aged children on its Grace Talks Facebook group. Rev. Mike Novotny wrote a series of 11 devotions related to the coronavirus. They were just posted on YouVersion as a Bible study plan and Time of Grace will be publishing them starting this Sunday as Daily Grace Moments devotions. In addition, Rev. Jeremy Mattek is recording a video each weekday evening that will be distributed on Time of Grace’s Facebook page, Facebook group, and on Time of Grace Instagram. These three to five minute videos give some biblical encouragement at the end of the day.

Koine Worship Media
Koine Worship Media, which produces various forms of media to be used in worship, is temporarily lifting restrictions on using videos during a livestream or prepared recording of a service. Read more from their Facebook page.

One Minute Bible Bits
Professor Stephen Geiger, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, posted a series of 52 short videos on various topics from the Bible and doctrine.

Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Pilgrim is posting daily video devotions, including a kid’s devotion, to its Facebook page.

First Steps, Oconomowoc, Wis.
First Steps, the child care ministry of St. Matthew’s, Oconomowoc, Wis., is posting Bible Time and education videos to its Facebook page.

Bread for Beggars online festival
Bread for Beggars is featuring WELS musicians nightly live on Facebook.

5toThrive
Dr. Rhoda Wolle, dean of student success and associate professor of education at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., produces a blog and podcast series called 5toThrive. A recent podcast titled “Resources for Learning from Home” can help families and educators while kids are home from school.

Livestreamed services from WELS Churches
If you’re looking for worship-from-home opportunities, view a listing of WELS churches that live stream services.

Worship radio broadcasts
You can search the WELS Yearbook online for congregations that offer a radio broadcast of their services. Search for churches in your area and select “Church (with worship broadcast).”

 

 

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Online giving options

Congregations are increasingly seeking out options for online giving to meet the preferences of members across generations. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made finding a donation platform even more urgent.

These platforms offer an array of popular giving options:

  • Online donations—set up a page to collect one-time and recurring gifts via credit card or electronic funds transfer (EFT) from checking or savings accounts
  • Recurring gift program—an amount is automatically withdrawn for offerings or tuition from the member’s bank account or credit card on a regular basis
  • Text to Give—members can text a phone number to give a dollar amount; this is charged to their phone bill

Comparing vendors typically requires contacting each company to negotiate options and pricing—and the pricing structure is a little complex (e.g., a set fee plus a percentage of transactions). Another factor to consider is how well the software coordinates with your church database.

There is no WELS-endorsed vendor, but many congregations use Vanco’s GivePlus program because of their familiarity with Vanco’s past SimplyGiving program for gathering offerings electronically. You can review the Vanco platform at the St. John’s, Wauwatosa, and St. Marcus, Milwaukee, websites. Other vendors used by WELS churches include RebelGive and Realm. RebelGive has a simple interface and annual price (fees are covered by member donations). Realm goes beyond online giving to also coordinate and collect member information, church communications, and events.

Once you have an online donation page, it’s easy to make this available to members via the offerings section of the bulletin or a digital display as a QR code by following these simple steps. You can learn more about online giving from this WELSTech Podcast (minutes 6:15-12:45) and by contacting Ministry of Christian Giving at mcg@wels.net or 800-827-5482.

 

 

 

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Facing COVID-19 together: A message from our synod president

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Events of the recent weeks and days surely remind us that Jesus’ words describing the trouble that we will experience in this world are all too true. But especially in times of trouble like these, we will want always to remember the rest of what he told us: He has overcome the world. Our times are still in his hands. He will never leave us or forsake us. No matter how dark the days, he remains our light and salvation; whom (or what) shall we fear?

Throughout our synod, various areas of ministry, congregations, and schools have already been affected by the current health crisis and have been taking steps to respond. And, as the situation continues to change, many more decisions will likely need to be made in the days and weeks to come.

The synod has taken various actions in response to government recommendations and mandates, and, after much prayer, other decisions have been made based on common sense and an abundance of caution. To do our part in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19, the synod has placed a moratorium on all non-essential foreign and domestic air travel for synod personnel. Meetings at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry have been postponed or canceled. Martin Luther College, Luther Preparatory School, and Michigan Lutheran Seminary have canceled in-person classes through the Easter break.

As the situation changes, WELS congregations will be faced with making difficult decisions about how gospel ministry and congregational worship will be carried out in the coming weeks and months. Here are some important points to consider:

  • The Fourth Commandment and other words of Scripture remind us not only to show respect and obedience to governmental authorities, but also to remember them in our prayers as they make decisions to safeguard our nation.
  • According to the Fifth Commandment, we have the responsibility not to do anything to hurt or harm our neighbor (or ourselves, for that matter), but to help our neighbor in times of need.
  • God’s Word reminds us of the importance and blessing of worship and encourages us to make faithful use of the means of grace.

How do we apply these biblical principles at a time like this? The Centers for Disease Control has recently recommended that for the next eight weeks, public gatherings should be limited to no more than 50 people. Some local governmental bodies have already gone further, issuing an outright ban on public gatherings of 50 people or more. Restrictions could become even tighter than that in the coming days and weeks. What does this mean?

  • While we can make recommendations, the synod does not have the authority to mandate uniform actions by all of our congregations. Rather, congregations will need to make their own responsible decisions about worship gatherings, depending on local circumstances and governmental restrictions.
  • Respect for our government, Christian love for our fellow citizens, and proper concern for our own health may require congregations to alter their worship plans. In some places, services may need to be canceled to comply with government mandates. In other places, congregations may decide to offer more service times to keep gatherings below the recommended or mandated limit. Congregations that cancel services are encouraged to find alternate means, such as live streaming worship, sermons, and Bible classes. Congregations that do not have the ability to do this may want to make their members aware of other congregations that do. In some cases, emailed sermons and devotional materials might be considered. Congregations can also equip parents with resources that can be used in family devotions. Our trust in the efficacy of God’s Word reassures us that his Word works even when public worship gatherings are not possible.
  • Recognize that this is an extraordinary opportunity to let our light shine in the ways that our congregations and their members serve the people in their communities in Christian love.
  • In times such as these, as your local ministry strives to meet these challenges, your continuing and regular offerings are as vital as ever. God’s work must go on.

We ask you to be patient with us. We are doing the best we can to provide information and guidance in this difficult time. And we ask for your prayers that God will guide us with wisdom and faith as we make what will likely be difficult decisions.

So it is with God’s church in these last days. We know that Satan is doing all he can to silence the proclamation of God’s saving gospel. We know that our enemy from hell tries to use events like this to drive a wedge between God and his people. But we also know that God can and will cause even this crisis to work together for the good of those who love him. He will use this to drive us to the cross of our Savior, where he gave himself to make us his own. And he will lead us to the open door of the empty tomb, where he demonstrated his complete victory over Satan, sin, and death.

May our gracious God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Preserver, keep you strong in your faith and confident in his promises.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

March 17 update: As part of precautions and in efforts to reduce gatherings, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) announced face-to-face classes are on hold for the time being. Online instruction will begin March 25 with the hope of resuming face-to-face classes April 15.

 

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Schools and families facing COVID-19 shutdowns

Schools are shutting down and kids are home. Now what? Many of our WELS schools are seeking to offer solutions for learning opportunities and activities while students are home. The WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools (CLS) has met with various members of schools’ leadership to brainstorm and share ideas.

First and foremost, Mr. Jim Rademan, director of CLS, says, “We are requesting that all our WELS schools follow CDC, state, and local guidelines regarding closures.”

Many schools are already working on plans to keep kids engaged in education during the shutdowns. “Several of our schools have been working very hard to engage children in continuous learning and have put together their plans and are willingly sharing those with others,” says Rademan.

CLS is working to compile plans, documents, and resources that schools can adapt for their own use. The list will grow and change as more information becomes available.

It’s unknown how long students will be out of school; it’s a moving target, but the key for schools is to find a way to connect with students during this time to cultivate ongoing learning, explains Rademan. Right now, there are more questions than answers as to how this will affect the school year and academics. Currently, the main priority is to keep communities healthy.

“Every state and every local district and every local school is going to need to adapt to the local culture and community that they’re in. The key is to communicate,” says Rademan. “We’re encouraging our schools to pay attention to their state instruction websites and local schools and figure out ways to connect with kids for continuous learning.”

Mrs. Cindi Holman, Early Childhood Ministry national coordinator, has provided some helpful tips for parents and families as they will now be home together. View tips for families.

“One recommendation is being really prudent about watching out for having the news on all day long. While it may look like your children are not paying attention, they’re hearing this,” says Holman. “Just the same way we can get overwhelmed and stressed by the constant barrage of information, the little ones don’t really know what to do with that kind of information.”

Holman says, “For parents, is it going to be challenging? Yes, it is, but we can really embrace this as a special treasured opportunity for families. In a time when we’re overscheduled and running all over all the time, this opportunity to have extended family time, I think, will bring tremendous blessings to families. It’ll take some adjustment, but I think it will bring great blessings.”

 

 

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Spiritual resources for uncertain times

As we find ourselves in uncertain times, with news of the spread of COVID-19 changing constantly, it’s important to remember where Christians find their faith, hope, and strength—our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“God’s Word is full of encouragement for all of us during this time,” says Mr. Bill Ziche, president of Northwestern Publishing House (NPH). “As you and your family find yourself at home, it is a wonderful opportunity for you—individually and as a family—to get into God’s Word and find peace.”

Northwestern Publishing House has many devotional books to help you, including:

All of these resources are available from Northwestern Publishing House, nph.net, or by calling 800-662-6022. Many are available as ebooks as well. NPH customer service lines are remaining open, and orders will continue to be filled.

WELS also offers many free devotional options, including a daily devotion that can be e-mailed directly to you.

“Besides offering you this encouragement from God’s Word, you can share these e-mail devotions with others,” says Rev. Eric Roecker, director of WELS Evangelism. “Think of the unchurched people you know who may be facing an unknown future without God’s great promises. You can be the one God uses to calm their fears with the assurances the Daily Devotions provide.”

Several articles from Forward in Christ magazine can also be found online, including five years of previous issues. Messages of hope and God’s help can be found in many of the articles, including this recent Teen Talk.

 

 

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Technology for worship

In response to the recent CDC recommendations limiting public gatherings to no more than 50 people, many WELS congregations are now utilizing the blessings of technology to offer a livestream of their worship services.

If your congregation does not offer worship services via livestream, there are multiple ways you can still connect to online worship resources:

“May God bless our efforts to share his gospel in all circumstances, regardless of any earthly barriers we encounter,” says Mr. Martin Spriggs, WELS chief technology officer. “Truly technology is a blessing God provides for our use to take his message of peace and comfort to our members and the world. The apostle Paul once shared, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39).”

 

 

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Learning about and adapting to this pandemic

If you are looking for resources from medical and science professionals related to COVID-19, visit cdc.gov, the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The site includes:

Congregations that continue to hold public worship services may consider changing some of their practices during this pandemic. For example,

  • worship folders (bulletins) can be picked up off a table in the entryway and disposed of after the service by each individual family;
  • the order of worship and hymns may be included in the worship folder or on a display screen so that hymnals do not need to be used;
  • serving food and drinks may be discontinued;
  • shaking hands may be replaced with a friendly wave;
  • offerings may be collected in a basket or offering plate placed in the entryway; and
  • online giving may also be promoted.

Although these temporary changes may feel unusual at first, God’s powerful Word does not change and will be the one constant during this unsettling time.

 

 

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Suggestions for Parents of Young Children

Mrs. Cindi Holman, Early Childhood Ministry national coordinator, has provided some helpful tips for parents and families as they will now be home together.

  • Routine: Routine makes children feel safe. Establish a routine for this new period. Avoid over-scheduling the day but have enough structure that your child feels a sense of security.
  • Daily Devotions/Bible Story: If you’re already in the routine of home devotions or Bible story time, continue. If not, this is a great time to start. Northwestern Publishing House has some wonderful resources. Your child’s teacher will have Bible story resources (for students at Lutheran schools) to help or simply pull out a children’s Bible story book.
  • Outside time: As weather permits and when possible, give your children time outside. Take walks together and allow them to play outside — encouraging social distancing.
  • Have a flexible daily schedule: Include active times and quiet times. Don’t expect to replicate the schedule and length of a school day. Be careful not to overemphasize academics but provide balanced activities. Reach out to your child’s teacher or caregiver for advice on age-appropriate activities.
  • Read, read, read! Read to your child everyday and multiple times of day. Provide a quiet book space for them to enjoy books as well. If your library closes, check out online resources such as books to listen to that can often be checked out from your local library.
  • Include creative activities such as writing, drawing, and craft projects. Provide them with plain paper, crayons, colored pencils, markers, scissors, glue, play dough, etc. Simple items can be the most fun for children. (Empty cardboard boxes, blanket forts, etc.) Can you do cooking or baking projects together?
  • Help your child stay connected with friends and family. Your child will be missing the usual social interaction with friends and family. Play dates are not recommended. However, can you set up a virtual play date where the children play together via SKYPE or Facetime? Perhaps parents can take turns being the guest reader for a group of friends using video conferencing. Can grandparents and other family members take turns at reading to your child as well?
  • Limit screen time—especially time watching or hearing the news. Even if they are not watching, they are hearing the reports. The continual influx of information can be stressful for adults. The same is true for children who don’t always have means of coping or sorting out all the information. Provide only age-appropriate information as needed in ways that you know will be best for your child.
  • Encourage acts of kindness: Can they create cards, notes, or pictures to send to nursing homes, family and friends, or neighbors to brighten their day?
  • Provide your child reassurance and encouragement. Pray with them for themselves, those they know and love, and others that the Lord will watch over them. Be sure to include prayers of thanks for the many blessings that they have each day. (Jesus their Friend and Savior, a home, family, food, a sunny day, rain, nurses and doctors, grocery store workers, etc.)
  • Take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep, healthy food, time in the Word, and connections with others.

While this is a time of uncertainty and new routines, this can also be a time of great blessing. While an adjustment time will be likely, in our world of full schedules and activity, this can be a time to slow down and spend time with each other in our families. What an opportunity to spend time together talking, playing games, reading, cooking, etc. What an opportunity to remind ourselves and those we love, how dearly our Savior loves each of us and is with us each day, even when our day feels different.

Jesus, Shepherd of the sheep,
Who your Father’s flock does keep,
Safe we wake and safe we sleep,
Guarded still by you. Amen
Christian Worship 436:1

 

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Synodical Council 2020 February meeting summary

The Synodical Council (SC) held its winter meeting last week.

  • Financial results from 2019 were encouraging. Congregation Mission Offering receipts were more than $330,000 above what congregations had committed and $130,000 more than what was received in 2018. Expenses for the current fiscal year have been less than planned, improving the balance in the Financial Stabilization Fund. All our synodical schools are in a stronger financial situation due to cost controls and higher-than-expected gifts. Financial situations at all synodical subsidiaries have improved significantly.
  • The SC adopted planning assumptions for the 2021-2023 biennium. Development of that plan begins in the coming months. The SC is assuming a 2.5% increase in called worker wages, an increase in health insurance rates of 6.5%, and a retirement program increase of 5%. These planning assumptions can change in the months ahead if circumstances warrant.
  • The SC increased the WELS mileage reimbursement rate from 48 cents to 51 cents per mile.
  • A search has begun for a replacement for Mr. Todd Poppe, the synod’s chief financial officer, who will retire at the end of June.
  • The SC approved a request from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to construct a new faculty home on its campus.
  • The SC made no changes to the “Unfunded Priority List.” These are items that are not included in the ministry financial plan adopted by the synod but can be approved if funding becomes available. The list, in priority order, is:
    1. Board for Home Missions—mission expansion ($125,000)
    2. Board for World Missions—mission support/expansion ($125,000)
    3. Board for Ministerial Education—student financial assistance at MLC ($125,000)
    4. Board for World Missions—mission support/expansion ($100,000)
    5. Board for Home Missions—mission expansion ($100,000)
    6. Board for Ministerial Education—top capital improvement priorities ($150,000)
    7. Special Ministries—WELS Military Services Committee ($50,000)
    8. Special Ministries—WELS Prison Ministry Committee ($50,000)
    9. Ministry of Christian Giving—additional counselor ($120,000)
  • Mr. Denny Walters, Mr. Ronald Schmitz, and Mr. Max Wenck were reappointed to serve on the Board of Directors of WELS Investment Funds.
  • Mr. Mark Maurice was reappointed and Mr. Ken Zehm was appointed to serve on the Board of Directors of the WELS Foundation.
  • The SC reviewed the plans to communicate information regarding the proposed change to the WELS retirement plan. The proposal will be discussed at this summer’s district conventions.
  • Teacher James Moeller and Mr. Tim Snyder have completed their time of service on the SC. We thank them for their faithful service.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Go and TELL

WELS Multi-Language Publications has officially changed its name to WELS Multi-Language Productions (MLP). This change reflects how the work of MLP has evolved with technology and has expanded beyond printed books to websites, social media, videos, and worship music—all to share the gospel message with people all over the world.

One of the new productions from MLP is TELL (Think, Evaluate, Learn, Lead), an English-language online Bible-based training platform developed to bring the gospel to English-speakers around the world. Modeled after the Spanish-language Academia Cristo model, TELL comprises a Facebook page with more than 1.2 million followers, self-led Bible study courses, and deeper studies with a live online instructor.

TELL targets English speakers outside the U.S. “We looked at the top spoken languages in the world. Spanish is in the top four; English also is in the top four. If you include second-language learners, English is by far the most spoken language in the world,” explains Rev. Nathan Seiltz, MLP director.

Rev. Dan Laitinen was called as a full-time TELL missionary and began serving MLP in November 2019. He’s currently producing content and cultivating relationships on the Facebook page. Additional Facebook content is provided by Lutheran pastors from around the world with whom WELS shares fellowship. This helps contribute to the intended global feel and reach of TELL.

In addition to the web-based platforms, MLP recently launched apps for both TELL and Academia Cristo. The apps are android based, with plans for iOS compatible apps in the future. TELL had over 3,000 downloads in the first week, and Academia Cristo has had more than 5,000 downloads. The TELL app has three Bible courses on it; each course has eight to nine video-based lessons accompanied by a quiz. After a user completes the self-led courses, they are invited to participate in a live online class.

Seiltz says that in the next six months he hopes at least a couple hundred people have signed up for TELL online courses, and, God-willing, within two years, people who have taken the courses are implementing what they learned to bring God’s Word to their communities.

Learn more about WELS Multi-Language Productions at wels.net/mlp.

 

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WELS Night tickets and shirts now available

Tickets are now on sale for the seventh annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Organize your group and plan to join thousands of WELS members for the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Pittsburg Pirates on Fri., July 24, 2020. Game time is 7:10 p.m.

The Brewers are offering WELS members up to 50 percent off the price of tickets.

The pricing is Field Outfield Box for $21/ticket, Loge Outfield Box for $17/ticket, or Terrace Reserved for $9/ticket. All seats are on the third-base side. The link to purchase discounted tickets, www.brewers.com/wels, is now live. The deadline to purchase tickets in these reserved WELS sections is Friday, June 26.

WELS Night at Miller Park shirts are available for sale at a cost of $6/shirt. Shirts can be purchased online.

 

 

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Upcoming 2020 WELS events

The time is here to explore all the opportunities for learning and fellowship through WELS events coming up this spring and summer. Consider the opportunities below.

WELS Women Writers Conference
April 24-25
Waukesha, Wis.

The conference is intended to encourage beginning and experienced women writers in the vocation of writing and provide practical help and resources for writing improvement. Plus, the editorial staff of Forward in Christ magazine will be doing a presentation. Learn more and register

WELS International Youth Rally
June 23-26
Knoxville, Tenn.

Registration is now open for the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally! The 2020 International Youth Rally will be held June 23-26 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The theme for the rally is “Vision 2020: Seeing Christ Clearly. Serving Christ Boldly.” It’s an opportunity for WELS teens from around the country to come together to learn about and grow in their faith, enjoy fellowship, and participate in fun excursions. Contact youth leaders need to preregister members of their group. Once the group is preregistered, then individual rally goers will receive personalized links to finish registration. Learn more and register

57th annual Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society Convention
June 25-28
Athens, Ga.

The 57th annual LWMS Convention will be held June 25-28, 2020, in Athens, Ga. The weekend will include worship, workshops, speakers, displays, fellowship, and fun. Attend to hear from WELS missionaries and learn about WELS mission work around the world. Learn more and register

Taste of Missions
July 11
Mequon, Wis.

Registration is now open for the second annual Taste of Missions! It will be held on Saturday, July 11, 2020, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Plan to attend for an afternoon of family fun, ethnic cuisine, fellowship with home and world missionaries, and more! Learn more and register

WELS Night at Miller Park
July 24
Milwaukee, Wis.

Tickets are now on sale for the seventh annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Organize your group and plan to join thousands of WELS members for the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Pittsburg Pirates on Fri., July 24, 2020. Game time is 7:10 p.m. Learn more and read more in this issue of Together.

 

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Full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief

Last fall, the Synodical Council made the decision to call a full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been the vehicle by which WELS members have generously supported relief efforts in times of natural disaster and in other situations where our Christian love moves us to provide some type of financial assistance. Until now, the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been faithfully overseen by a commission with a chairman who also serves as a full-time pastor. But experience has shown that the scope of the work requires more than what part-time commission members and their chairman can provide. That led to the establishment of a full-time position.

One of the benefits of a full-time director will be the development of a program to prepare and train congregations and their leaders in disaster response before a disaster hits. The new director will spend much of his time developing resources for congregations and providing the training needed to prepare for relief efforts. One part of the plan is to position lay coordinators in all 12 districts who can provide local expertise and advice to congregations when disasters occur.

Why call a pastor for this work? The primary reason is that disaster relief efforts often provide opportunities for gospel outreach efforts in the communities affected by disasters. The Synodical Council recognized that in addition to providing aid as an expression of our Christian love, this work is also a ministry in which the sharing of the gospel can and should play a vital role. As a pastor, the new director will also have many opportunities to preach in congregations throughout the synod as he represents the mission of WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

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

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Youth rally registration opening soon

It’s time for congregations to round up their teens and start planning for the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally. The theme for this year’s rally is “Vision 2020.”

“We want thousands of teens to see Christ clearly, and seeing Christ clearly will be the motivation to serve Christ boldly,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Commission on Discipleship. “This rally will position Christ and the cross in front of teenagers for clarity of faith and motivation to boldly serve.”

The 2020 youth rally will be held June 23-26 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Registration opens March 2 and is $375 per attendee through April 30. Registration from May 1–May 29 is $395 per attendee.

In addition to a wide variety of workshops and fellowship opportunities with more than 2,000 fellow Christians, the rally features two keynote speakers. Rev. Joel Russow, Faith, Tallahassee, Fla., will present “Focused Living” based on Colossians 3:12-14. His address will focus on the characteristics with which Christian’s should clothe themselves: “Instead of stressing over concerns like ‘What will I do with my life?’ or ‘How can I make a difference?’ what if we put on the outfit God has given us to wear and then serve? God has already given you the perfect outfit for a heroic life of faith and for a difference-making life of service. Wear it!”

Rev. Jon Bare, Pastoral Studies Institute, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, will present a keynote on a Christian’s “Clear Purpose,” based on 1 Peter 2:8,9. His presentation will discuss: “As God’s children, we live with a clear purpose—to praise God! . . . But what about when we face the realities of living in a broken world? What about when all we can see is very real persecution for who we are? What about when our own failures or lacking blur our sight?”

Contact Youth Leaders—the main point of contact between your church’s group and the youth rally office–can preregister their group members starting March 2. After preregistration, members of the group will receive personalized links to complete their registration and payment.

Detailed registration and rally information is available in the youth rally registration book.

Learn more and view videos about the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally.

 

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2020 Mission and Ministry held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

From Feb. 4-6, students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., participated in Mission and Ministry, an annual three-day event organized by the students.

Under the theme “Share the Feast,” this event highlighted the worldwide work of WELS. Each day featured a worship service, keynote address, and an update from WELS administration. In addition, to give these future pastors a cross-section of experiences they may face in ministry, 24 breakout sessions were offered in specific topics.

These sessions included discussions on mission trips for congregation members, how to use social media and the internet to reach out, world mission updates, how small groups are a blessing to congregations, planting churches in rural areas, reaching out to military members, a member’s perspective on starting a mission congregation, and cross-cultural urban ministry.

In addition, WELS organizations set up displays to share information about their work in God’s kingdom. This introduces future pastors to all the synodical resources available to support ministries.

“As I worked with the organizers for the displays, I was able to appreciate the different services that WELS has to offer to its members,” says senior Daniel Schmidt, one of the event organizers. Hearing from the presenters “helped me to solidify my interest in missions.”

Seminary students are not the only ones who benefit from the event. On Feb. 4, the junior class of pastor-track students at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., attended presentations. On Feb. 5 and 6, students from Bethany Lutheran Seminary, Mankato, Minn., attended. In all, almost 200 students, professors, and guests participated.

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

 

 

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First WELS Leadership Conference a success

WELS Congregational Services hosted the first ever WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership in Chicago, Jan. 21–23, 2020. Approximately 800 people, representing about 350 WELS congregations, met to hear five plenary speakers and attend a selection of breakout sessions.

Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, says, “The focus of the conference was that we want to do all we can with the gospel to serve Christ’s mission. ‘Doing all we can with the gospel’ requires leaders to focus on two things.  First, we look at tactics. Is the way we are carrying out gospel ministry smart?”

He continues, “But underneath tactics is congregational culture. The group—the collective—needs to have the right thought habits and attitudes. That was what the plenaries were all about.”

Attendee Mr. Wes Schappert, a lay leader at Resurrection, Maumee, Ohio, says he appreciated the emphasis on personal evangelism. He says, “The point was simple, people sharing Jesus with others—people free from the curse of sin and Satan, sharing what lives in their heart so that others may know Christ.”

The first day of the conference started with three plenary presentations focusing on how lay leaders and called workers encourage one another for local ministry, finding our voice as a gospel-centered church, and encouraging both men and women to use their gifts to serve God. The evening concluded with an opening worship service with communion, bringing together WELS members from around the country as the embarked on learning and growing together as leaders of the church.

On day two, attendees could attend five breakout sessions, picked from 20 available sessions on a wide variety of topics. Hein said many attendees were interested in workshops that focused on reaching and retaining younger generations as well as personal evangelism. Additional topics ranged from ministry in rural areas to worship to apologetics.

On the second evening, attendees were treated to a preview on the new hymnal, set to be released by Northwestern Publishing House by Advent 2021. The new hymnal will maintain the name Christian Worship and comprise a suite of resources including a comprehensive psalter, musical arrangements for various instrumentation, and an easy-to-use service folder builder. Worship services and devotions at the conference included liturgical and hymn arrangements from the upcoming new hymnal. Learn about the new hymnal at christianworship.com.

The final day of the conference concluded with two more plenary speakers. Rev. Dave Rosenau, St. Mark, Leesburg, Fla., spoke about the importance of reaching people one-by-one using God’s Word, and Rev. Adam Mueller, Redeemer, Tucson, Ariz., presented on the need to commit to Christ’s mission.

Attendee Mr. Scott Krause, a member at St. Luke, Watertown, Wis., says, “I found the conference to be a great boost to my faith in the good Lord and what he has done for me. It was totally Christ- centered. My main takeaway was that I need to focus on a daily basis to love and reach out to my friends, family, and neighbors with the good news of the gospel.”

Following the success and overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, the conference planning committee is exploring options for a second WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership, likely sometime in 2022. Watch for information in upcoming editions of the WELS Together e-newsletter, wels.net, and Forward in Christ.

Registrations exceeded expectations for the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership. If you didn’t make it to Chicago for the conference, all five plenary presentations and many of the breakout sessions will be available to view online over the next few months at lutheranleadership.com.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership

 

 

 

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Your gifts, God’s blessings 2020

“Your gifts, God’s blessings: An annual report to our members” is now available online.

“I encourage every WELS member to read the annual report to learn the length, breadth, and depth of the impactful gospel ministries that Jesus graciously allows us to conduct in his name and to his glory through our prayers and offerings,” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving.

Read the 2020 report to learn more about

  • Samuel Lor, a second-generation Hmong student who is in his first year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary;
  • Qiang Wang, a recent graduate of the Pastoral Studies Institute, who is serving as a missionary to the Chinese in a suburb outside of Vancouver;
  • Pastor Chaplai, a Hmong pastor in Vietnam, who notes, “I want to say thank you to WELS because you have given me peace;” and
  • Kyle Opperman, who drifted away from the WELS church of his youth but returned two years ago and now is so grateful to be “home.”

The report includes photos of Christian brothers and sisters around the world, stories of faith, updates on WELS’ ministry, and a summary of WELS’ financial picture.

“As you review the ministries we support together,” says WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder, “keep our synod and its work in your prayers, and thank God that he has given you an opportunity to be a part of the soul-saving mission he has placed before us.”

Print versions of the report have been sent to every WELS congregation and synod donors. Additional print versions are available from Northwestern Publishing House for free. Visit nph.net or call 800-662-6022.

To view the report online, visit wels.net/annualreport. At this website you can also download a PowerPoint presentation of the report with notes that allow anyone to share the highlights of our synod’s work. Alternatively, churches can invite a WELS Christian giving counselor to give the presentation. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for more information.

 

 

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Announcing WELS Night at Miller Park

It’s time to mark your calendars for the seventh annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Each year thousands of WELS members gather for an evening of fellowship and fun, and you can join them for the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Fri., July 24, 2020.  Game time is 7:10 p.m.

The Brewers are again offering WELS members up to 50 percent off the price of tickets. The pricing is Field Outfield Box for $21/ticket, Loge Outfield Box for $17/ticket, or Terrace Reserved $9/ticket. The web link to purchase discounted tickets for WELS Night at Miller Park won’t be available until March. A promotional flyer is available to download to assist you in organizing your group for the game.

 

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Evangelism Day at MLC

The annual Evangelism Day at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., in January, brought a break from classes as students attended stellar seminars and got fired up about proclaiming Christ.

“Evangelism Day,” says Maddy Leckwee, “is filled with energy and fire for the gospel. It makes you excited for the work you are training to do.”

Pastors, teachers, and laypeople presented on topics ranging from youth ministry and social media outreach to the gospel in East Asia and witnessing to Mormons.

Others snagged an opportunity to practice confessing their faith with Praise and Proclaim Ministries’ evangelism training. The group looks forward to canvassing later this spring.

View photos from the day.

Article from Martin Luther College’s e-mail newsletter KnightWatch.

 

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Conference of Presidents met for winter 2020 meeting

The Conference of Presidents (COP) met for its winter meeting on Jan. 6-9. The COP meeting addressed many topics, including:

  • The COP approved proposals to amend the synod’s bylaws dealing with disciplinary procedures carried out by the districts. These proposed changes are intended to clarify the terms, timing, and process to be followed when discipline becomes necessary. The proposed amendments will be reviewed by the synod’s Constitution Committee and will ultimately be presented to the 2021 synod convention.
  • Asia Lutheran Seminary has enrolled several American students who will soon graduate. To prepare these students for serving in stateside ministry, the COP approved Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s plan to provide these graduates with a year of stateside vicar experience and with two semesters of additional instruction at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.
  • The COP issued a divine call to Prof. John Hartwig to serve as a civilian chaplain in Europe and to Mr. James Sievert to serve as a part-time assistant consultant for the Commission on Lutheran Schools.
  • The COP has asked for a review of the Ministry of Christian Giving’s major gifts program to ensure that the Ministry of Christian Giving is best positioned and structured to carry out its work.
  • The COP received with thanks the news that Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) for 2019 were $330,000 higher than what congregations had committed. CMO subscriptions for 2020 are now being gathered, with the prayer that congregations will be able to increase their subscriptions to provide additional support for WELS missions and ministry. Looking ahead to 2021, the COP will prepare an encouragement video highlighting the blessings that Congregation Mission Offerings have made possible.
  • The COP approved a proposal that congregations will be encouraged to designate one Sunday in 2021 as a “WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday” as a way of highlighting the work we do together. Informational and worship materials will be provided.
  • Each of the 12 districts will be asked to consider the proposed change to the WELS Pension Plan at this summer’s district conventions. Informational materials will be provided well in advance, and each district will be given a detailed overview of the proposed changes. Districts will be asked whether or not they approve of the changes. Depending on the results of those votes, the Synodical Council will determine how and when to proceed with the process.
  • The COP has overseen a restatement of the synod’s doctrinal position on the roles of men and women, entitled “Male and Female in God’s World.” The restatement does not reflect a change in our teaching; rather, it was intended to clarify and update the current doctrinal statement. The restatement will be reviewed by pastor and teacher conferences. In addition, an accompanying Bible study is available for use in congregations. The districts will be asked to provide reaction and input before a final draft is presented to the synod convention in 2021.
  • The COP has also developed a “Statement on Human Sexuality,” which presents a biblical perspective on the transgender issue.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Easter outreach program available

Victorious!

It’s a message that the world needs to hear today.

“Many people in our country feel defeated by life. Many are being defeated by disease. All will eventually be defeated by death,” says Rev. Eric Roecker, director of the Commission on Evangelism.

That’s why the theme “Victorious” is so fitting for a new outreach program to invite unchurched souls to worship at WELS congregations this Easter. “Easter changes all of that. Because Jesus was victorious over death when he rose from the grave, those who follow him are already victorious knowing that their sin has been forgiven,” continues Roecker. “What’s more, even though they may die one day, Jesus promises to raise them from the grave and give them eternal life. His victory is our victory.”

WELS Congregational Services is providing resources for this synodwide program called Easter 20, or E20. “Outreach programs like E20 provide ready-made materials for congregations to use so that they do not need to create their own from scratch. This can save both time and money,” says Roecker. “Additionally, having a themed approach ties everything together—from postcards to door hangers to business card invites to social media ads.” Provided worship plans, service folder designs, and sermon thoughts then help tie that theme into an Easter festival service.

According to Roecker, studies show that Easter services are one of three worship services that unchurched people are most likely to attend. That’s why it’s so important for congregations—and individual members—to extend the invitation to worship. “People are especially likely to attend if invited by an acquaintance,” he says.

Most of the E20 materials are offered as free online downloads, with minimal costs for ordering postcards, business cards, and door hangers. Helpful “how-tos” provide direction for implementing this outreach program successfully.

Access resources at welscongregationalservices.net/e20.

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Church in Panama City rededicated after hurricane

What a difference a year makes. On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael blew through Panama City, Fla., as a category five hurricane, severely damaging the church and parsonage of Amazing Grace as well as the homes of many of its members. On Oct. 20, 2019, Amazing Grace moved back into its rebuilt worship facility. During that year, more than 200 WELS volunteers poured into Panama City to help Amazing Grace with the necessary cleanup and rebuilding. In addition, people from around the world joined together in praying for their Christian brothers and sisters and donating funds and materials to help.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Amazing Grace’s members banded together to check on one another and to help each other. As soon as the roads were cleared, members from neighboring congregations also pitched in. Then, volunteers from WELS Christian Aid and Relief and Kingdom Workers’ Builders For Christ began arriving, including more than 40 Martin Luther College students who volunteered at various times.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Hailey Stade, one of the Martin Luther College students who helped with cleanup soon after the hurricane. “I had no idea what to expect until we crossed the bridge to Panama City. Buildings were flattened. Every tree you saw was on the ground or bent in half. Power lines lay all over the sides of streets and sidewalks. A building was considered lucky if it even had some of its roof intact.”

The roof of Amazing Grace’s church was ripped open during the storm and the parsonage’s roof was peeled up, causing flooding throughout the home. With such extensive water damage, most items needed to be replaced and much needed to be rebuilt. Yet Amazing Grace was blessed with donations and volunteers every step along the way to lighten the load.

On Jan. 12, 2020, members of Amazing Grace rededicated their worship space and invited volunteers back to celebrate with them. About 25 volunteers who helped with the rebuilding process attended this grand reopening celebration.

“The grand reopening was more like a grand reunion,” says Rev. David Kehl, current pastor at Amazing Grace.

Although the past year posed many challenges for them, members agree that this experience brought them closer together—with each other, with their fellow WELS members, and with their community. As they move forward, they’re excited to take the next step with their ministry plans.

As Mr. Torger Reppen, president of Amazing Grace, notes, “It’s so nice to be back in our own building, our own home. Now we can focus on outreach. We’ve been focusing on rebuilding, and now we can focus on daily church stuff.”

View a WELS Connection about Amazing Grace.

To see photos of Amazing Grace during its rebuilding process, view the slideshow below.

 
CAR in Panama City - 2019
 

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New look for Forward in Christ magazine

Forward in Christ magazine (FIC) debuted a new look and fresh new features in its January 2020 issue.

The issue includes a redesigned cover and interior pages, brighter and thicker paper, an expanded Confessions of faith section, a new Q&A column with accompanying Bible study, and a new column featuring photos from readers.

“The magazine features a stronger emphasis on our community of WELS members from around the world, using images to tell their stories in the new This is WELS page,” says Mr. Lee Hitter, WELS director of communications.

A new dedicated Forward in Christ website, forwardinchrist.net, and social media pages will develop that community further by offering readers ways to interact with monthly articles as well as share their own stories. “The website is another way for us to engage with our readers,” says Hitter. “With the addition of Forward in Christ Facebook and Instagram social media sites, our audience will have multiple ways to access and share the engaging content delivered each month by the magazine.”

The redesign came about after WELS and Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) conducted a survey in 2019, seeking input on the synod’s official magazine, which has been in existence for more than one hundred years. “We were blessed with more than 5,300 responses, each one helpful in realizing the magazine’s strengths and opportunities for change,” says Mr. Bill Ziche, president of NPH.

While the magazine will look a little different, the goal remains the same. “With its tagline ‘A Lutheran voice,’ Forward in Christ will continue to share confessional Lutheran content in every issue with Jesus Christ at the core,” says Rev. John Braun, FIC’s executive editor.

Check out the new Forward in Christ in your congregation today. Also explore Forward in Christ’s new website for additional content. At forwardinchrist.net, you can sign up to receive a free weekly e-newsletter filled with articles, photos, and sneak peeks delivered right to your e-mail inbox. Like Forward in Christ magazine on Facebook. Follow Forward in Christ magazine on Instagram.

Order a subscription to Forward in Christ at nph.net/forwardinchrist.

 

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WELS-ELS-LCMS continue annual informal discussions

Representatives from WELS, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) met in Jacksonville, Fla., last week for the eighth in a series of annual informal doctrinal discussions. These are “informal” doctrinal discussions, an indication that we recognize that a restoration of fellowship is not anticipated in the near future. Rather, these meetings are intended to provide a forum that increases mutual understanding of each synod’s doctrine and practice and to establish good lines of communication between the synods. The discussions have been helpful in identifying where the synods agree and where differences remain.

Topics for this year’s discussions included the doctrine of justification (with a focus on objective justification), an area in which the three synods are in complete agreement. Also discussed were the doctrines of the ministry and prayer fellowship, where some differences remain.

New participants this year included Rev. Peter Lange, the newly elected first vice president of the LCMS, and Rev. Paul Prange, the newly appointed administrator for the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations.

Another meeting is planned for next year and will include continuing discussion of the topics of prayer fellowship and the ministry, as well as a discussion of the WELS statement on the roles of man and woman, “Male and Female in God’s World.”

Serving in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Funding secured for theological education facility in Vietnam

Through the support and prayers of WELS members, WELS has surpassed its goal of receiving $2 million to support a theological education facility in Vietnam. This funding will pay for the land, building construction, and the first two years of operating expenses.

The communist Vietnamese government invited WELS in 2018 to build this facility in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi to train leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC).

“Since I became Christian in 1994, I’ve been searching and praying for a church body that would bring me the true Word of God,” says Rev. Zang, one of the HFC leaders who is receiving training. “I have been to much training in the last several years, but none like WELS. Finally, God sends a church that teaches the true Word of God to Vietnam. The Word of God has brought peace to our community, and we are sure that our salvation is only found in Christ Jesus.”

WELS first had contact with the Hmong Fellowship Church in 2011, when a leader in that church got in touch with Rev. Bounkeo Lor, a Hmong pastor who then served in Kansas City, Kan., after reading his online sermons. Lor made his first training trip to Vietnam in 2012. Members of the Pastoral Studies Institute began to accompany Lor on some of these trips starting in 2016. Since that initial trip, the church has doubled in size—now with more than 120,000 members—and discovered the true message of God’s grace.

“The members of the HFC have been grateful for the message of the gospel, that they are saved by God’s grace alone,” says Rev. Xiong, one of the HFC leaders receiving training. “Now they are eager to have the opportunity to use the center in Hanoi for training pastors in the Word of God, especially in law and gospel.”

Lor, who now serves as Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, says the training center is important for the ministry in Vietnam so that Hmong leaders can continue to grow in their understanding of God’s Word. “Nowadays, many churches call themselves Christian, but it is sad that they don’t teach the true Word of God anymore,” says Lor. “One of the brothers in the HFC told me that before they met WELS, they thought that every church taught the truth from the Bible, but now they know the differences between true and ideology teaching. They praise God for the teaching that WELS extends to their church body. They are eager to bring whatever they’ve learned from WELS to their leaders and members.”

So far, land has already been purchased in Vietnam, and plans are being made for construction to begin on a new campus that will include a worship space, dormitories and kitchen facilities, ministry offices, and four classrooms.

To date, more than 550 WELS congregations have given offerings to this campaign, and another 2,300 individuals and groups have offered special gifts or commitments. “While we trust our Lord to lovingly provide resources for the work we do together in his name,” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Christian Giving, “we marvel at how our Savior moved his people to give so quickly and generously to this unique opportunity. We praise Jesus and thank his people for their joyful, heartfelt participation!”

Lor asks for WELS members’ continued prayers on the ministry: “Please continue to ask God to bless the center so that it may serve more people, not only Hmong but also other minorities in Vietnam.”

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

 

 

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Restatement of “Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles”

In early 2018 the Conference of Presidents (COP) decided to produce a restatement of Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles, the WELS doctrinal statement adopted in 1993. The decision to produce a restatement was not meant to question or debate the doctrine, nor was it merely a reaction to any specific challenge to the doctrine. The COP viewed a restatement as an opportunity for congregations and called workers to restudy and reapply this important doctrine.

The COP commissioned a study committee to begin the work of producing a restatement. Professor Rich Gurgel and President Earle Treptow of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., and Rev. Bart Brauer, Emmanuel, Phoenix, Ariz., agreed to serve on the study committee, with Marilyn Miller, chair of the WELS Women’s Ministry Committee, serving in an advisory capacity to give input and feedback.

The study committee began its work in August 2018. The committee first studied together the biblical passages that teach about the relationship of male and female. The committee also reviewed the 1993 doctrinal statement and the numerous documents from the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s that led up to the 1993 statement. As it began to prepare the statement, the committee sought input from the doctrine committee of the COP, the faculty of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, and other district leaders to help state as clearly as possible this biblical teaching.

The restatement on the doctrine of man and woman is now available. The restatement seeks to help called workers and laypeople revisit the beauty of God’s design for male and female and seek anew to put that design into practice in their homes, their churches, and their callings in the world. The restatement also gives clear testimony that WELS is still committed to the biblical doctrine that the synod resolved to uphold in 1993. An accompanying Bible study is also available online.

The COP desires that congregations go through the Bible study together and that pastors use the Bible study in their circuits and conferences. So that we all share a clear confession and maintain a spirit of unity, the COP is seeking feedback and input from called workers and laypeople as they view the restatement and use the Bible study in preparation for district conventions in June 2020. This comment box will allow individuals and groups to provide direct feedback to the COP through the spring of 2020. Each district will also provide a summary report of the discussions that take place at the district conventions. After the COP has considered the feedback and the discussions at district conventions, the COP plans to present a restatement on the doctrine of man and woman to the synod convention for adoption in the summer of 2021.

May the time invested in studying the Word reopen all our eyes to the beauty of what God has made and lead us all to greater joy in serving our Savior together!

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

Read the restatement of Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles online.

 

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Spring 2020 chaplaincy courses offered at MLC

The Commission on Special Ministries offers a program for chaplain certification through Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn. This program offers credentials to meet the requirements of healthcare facilities, jails, prisons, and military bases for ministry in their facilities, especially if the pastor or layperson wants to reach out to non-members.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of WELS Commission on Special Ministries, says, “I’m excited that any WELS member, whether a called worker or a member of the congregation, living anywhere in the U.S., can take these courses and gain this knowledge. The best recommendation is that past students have said that they gained much more than they expected from these courses. The courses are practical because they offer opportunities to learn more that you can use locally.”

The following online classes will be offered through MLC during the Spring 2020 semester, Jan. 8 to May 8, 2020.

Note that the Sign Language course is not part of the chaplain certification program but is promoted by the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, part of WELS Special Ministries, to help WELS members reach out with God’s Word to those who are hard of hearing.

ASL8001 – American Sign Language and Introduction to Deaf Culture – 3 credits
The basic foundation of American Sign Language through an overview of deaf culture and an introduction to the signing of finger spelling, numbers, colors, vocabulary words, and beginning-level conversations.

THE9522 – Chaplaincy Issues and Fieldwork – 3 credits
An overview of chaplaincy, related issues, and fieldwork experience in a specific area of chaplain ministry.

THE9523 – Ministering to the Incarcerated and Their Families – 3 credits
Strategies to initiate and implement a gospel ministry to the incarcerated.

THE9524 – Frontline Chaplaincy – 3 credits
A study of the challenges faced by the protectors of society (military, law enforcement, fire service) and the information chaplains need to minister to them.

THE9534 – Grounded in Scripture – 3 credits
An introduction to theology that focuses upon the scriptural teachings of special importance to chaplaincy ministry.

Learn more and register at mlc-wels.edu. Click on “Academics,” then “Continuing Education.”

 

 

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Recently announced changes in East Asia mission field

Recently the Board for World Missions decided to pull our East Asia Team missionaries and families out of their focus country because of security concerns. The government of their focus country is now regularly detaining, interrogating, and deporting any Westerner or group suspected of religious activity. Many mission organizations, large and small, have already pulled their operations out of the country over the past few years.

The East Asia missionaries and their families are being relocated to a nearby country from which they hope to continue their work in the focus country through online teaching, through distance mentoring and coaching, and through regular monthly visits back into the focus country. Over the next few months, the team will be working hard to acquire new visas and adjust to the new reality in the relocation country.

The Board for World Missions and the East Asia Administrative Committee have been monitoring this situation for the last few years and had been preparing for this contingency for months. As a result, the team is not in a state of panic, and everyone is safely out of harm’s way. Most important, the team is humbly confident that the Lord works even through these difficult times to advance his kingdom’s work.

The leadership also continues to closely monitor the political situation in Hong Kong where Asia Lutheran Seminary is located.

Please keep this situation in your prayers. Pray that our heavenly Father would protect the brothers and sisters of the focus country and give them courage to continue to stand upon the gospel and share it. Pray that our missionaries and families would be encouraged in this time of upheaval. Pray that the Lord would continue to keep the professors, staff, and families of Asia Lutheran Seminary safe.

Serving in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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MLP hosts translation expo in Africa

WELS Multi-Language Publications (MLP) sponsored a conference in Lusaka, Zambia, in August to equip and inspire representatives from our partner synods in Africa. The MLP Expo 2019 brought 17 Africans from 6 countries and 3 American missionaries together for 4 days. The two main objectives of this event were to give participants linguistic tools to translate confessional Lutheran literature from English into their local languages and to produce a prioritized list of the publications needed in each sister synod.

Missionary John Roebke of the One Africa Team, says, “Our partners in Africa are looking for the essential tools needed to conduct gospel ministry. Thankfully translations of the Bible in their native tongues already exist. But how confidently can someone call himself ‘Lutheran’ if he never read anything written by Martin Luther?”

Both the Ethiopian and Kenyan Lutheran synods want to translate the Small Catechism into a total of seven languages between them. Other goals include adapting MLP’s “Bible Stories in Pictures—Expanded Version” for Sunday schools in the African churches as well as creating doctrinally sound hymnals, evangelism tracts, and prayer books for special services such as funerals and church dedications.

Roebke reports, “Our African brothers and sisters in Christ want to walk with us in the same faith, yet they have a much more difficult path to follow than we can even begin to understand. In Cameroon, armed rebels shut down the country every week on Mondays and are threatening to make this a permanent arrangement until they get independence. Pastor Mathias walks six hours to preach at one of the congregations he serves and then another six hours to get home. Pastor Mweete struggles to increase attendance at Bible class and to keep from losing his members to the Pentecostal church. Pastor Onunda tries to communicate the Bible’s timeless truth to the youth of his church, even though they don’t understand his Lutheran style of worship and he doesn’t speak their ‘Sheng’ (a type of slang that is popular among Kenyan youth).”

Reading materials printed on paper are still the primary method of receiving information about the world in these regions of Africa. Although some older smartphones and social media apps are starting to appear in the capital cities of Africa, internet access remains an expensive luxury for most people.

“WELS congregations across the United States make use of hymnals, Sunday school lessons, and other educational books without any thought of where those materials come from. Each one of our sister synods in Africa also has a great need for high-quality, scripturally faithful materials printed in at least two or three of the languages spoken by their members. God’s servants work diligently for months and even years before their manuscripts come into print. Tight budgets, untimely illnesses, and armed conflict stop publications projects in their tracks,” says Roebke.

To learn more about the work of WELS Multi-Language Publications, visit wels.net/mlp.

 

 

 

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