Prayers answered in Vietnam

Last Sat., July 15, and Sun., July 16, two events in Hanoi, Vietnam, were striking examples of how God answers the fervent prayers of his people.

On Saturday, WELS representatives as well as representatives of the Hmong Fellowship Church gathered to dedicate a new building that will house the theological education of pastors of the Hmong Fellowship Church. Until now, more than 50 Hmong pastors received theological training either online or in temporary locations. But now, after six years of planning, the building is complete and ready to be the permanent site for the training of the next group of pastors—60 now and another 60 next year. The new building has space for instruction and worship as well as residential facilities for the students.

On Sunday, we celebrated the graduation of 55 Hmong pastors from the theological training program. This seminary-level education has been carried out for more than six years, with the result that these men have now been thoroughly trained as Lutheran pastors who will help to shepherd congregations in a church body consisting of more than 140,000 members in more than 350 congregations. A dozen of these pastors were also commissioned to return to their home villages to instruct other Hmong pastors in biblical, Lutheran doctrine.

We are grateful to the government of Vietnam for granting WELS permission to carry out this training and to erect a building in which to do it. We are thankful to the Hmong Fellowship Church for inviting us to train its pastors. We thank the members of our synod for their generous gifts of love and faith to make this possible. Above all, we are thankful to our gracious God for giving us this amazing opportunity to share the gospel in Vietnam.

Learn more about the ministry going on in Vietnam.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

Vietnam - Hmong Outreach

 

 

 

LWMS celebrates 60 years at its annual convention

On June 22-25, 2023, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) gathered by the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis., to celebrate 60 years of supporting WELS Missions. The convention theme “Peace Like a River” reminded attendees that when Christ is at the center of our hearts, we know peace. More than 1,200 in-person and virtual attendees enjoyed worship, the annual flag presentation, and presentations from WELS home and world missionaries.

One highlight of the convention was a keynote by Missionary Elise Gross, the director of women’s ministry for the WELS One Latin America team. Drawing on the biblical example of Joshua, Gross spoke about the “strength and courage” needed by our sisters throughout Latin America as they share Christ with those around them through the Academia Cristo program.

Mrs. Marli Camargo of Mexico was a first-time attendee and Grupo Sembrador (small learning group) leader who attended with Gross. She was especially moved by taking communion with 1,200 of her brothers and sisters in faith. “Thank you for the opportunity to know the family of Christ from around the world, and to know that although we are a small group here in Mexico, we are not alone,” Camargo says. “Our family in Christ is enormous and blessed.”

Convention attendees also learned about “training the trainers” in our sister synods in Africa, and one home missionary shared his experience with “upcycling evangelism” by repurposing a former school in his community into a vibrant ministry center. Another plenary session explained how everyone can participate in making “100 Missions in 10 Years” a reality. Special “LWMS: 60 Years in 60 Seconds” videos showed highlights from the prior 60 years of gatherings.

“Each convention offers special joy-filled moments!” says Ms. Patsy Kramer, outgoing LWMS president. “This year included the opportunity to meet Marli, our sister in Christ from Mexico. Our Friday night art event was another highlight as Dr. Terry Schultz introduced his work in conjunction with the Bethany art program. Attendees met Prof. Andy Overn and five young female artists who are among those creating art depicting Bible stories now being used to share Jesus in mission fields.”

Attendees are encouraged to share what they learn at the convention with their home congregations, and Camargo eagerly shared her experience with her Grupo Sembrador in Mexico: “They were so excited to hear it and also hope to participate in the future,” she says. “Showing them pictures of people I met and telling them how wonderful this event was made their hearts jump with joy.”

Each year, the LWMS circuits gather offerings for Home and World Missions projects. This year, more than $93,000 was collected to support two projects: students from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary who assist home mission congregations in summer, and WELS’ work in new world mission fields. In addition, more than $39,000 was collected through this year’s LWMS kids c.a.r.e. project, supporting annual retreats for the children of WELS missionaries.

Mr. Sean Young, director of missions operations, reflects, “The yearly LWMS convention holds a special place in my heart as it brings together so many ladies (and the men who love them) in support of our Home, World, and Joint Missions. This year has again gone above and beyond in its work of shining a spotlight on our church body’s ministry efforts!”

Mark your calendars for the 61st annual convention in Sioux Falls, S.D., on June 27-30, 2024, based on the theme “Being Built Into a Spiritual House.”

Learn more about LWMS and watch the livestream recordings of this year’s convention.

 

LWMS

 

 

 

Ukrainian churches connect through the crisis

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, pastors and members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) continue to gather for worship and find ways to assist and reach out to their communities.

The Holy Spirit has blessed the efforts of the ULC, which has not only provided physical aid to people in need but also the comforting balm of Christ’s gospel message.

The congregation in Ivanivka was able to hold a vacation Bible school this summer. About 25 students from four different villages attended to learn about Jesus’ love as well as enjoy music, crafts, and singing.

In June, Resurrection Lutheran Church in Kyiv welcomed more than 60 people into the family of believers, three through Baptism and 57 through confirmation. Bishop Horpynchuk has been guiding more than 70 refugees and visitors in the study of God’s Word using the catechism. After finishing the course, the people who wished to become members confessed their faith in the Lord, joining in fellowship with the local congregation, the ULC, and all the members of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

In just one example of the aid being provided, the church in Kiev is helping a family of five who lost their husband/father in the war. He was the family provider, so the congregation is providing the family food, medicine, and other daily necessities.

In a correspondence with Rev. Roger Neumann, the WELS liaison with Ukraine, Horpynchuk said, “Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we continue with catechism [instruction] and new people enrolled in the catechism class. The Lord is good and faithful; his Word never returns empty. Thank you to all the brothers and sisters in WELS who support us so faithfully in our most difficult times of this war!”

 

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Current statistics offer insights for future planning

The 2022 WELS Statistical Summary and Analysis is now available.

Each year, WELS collects data from all congregations and schools. That data is compiled in a statistical report containing information for every church, circuit, conference, and district. WELS Congregational Services then publishes an annual Statistical Summary & Analysis to help congregations and the synod plan how to best steward the resources God provides.

Some items of note:

  • 2022 marked the largest one-year decline in WELS members in history—2.8 percent, which amounts to about 10,000 members.
  • In 2022 WELS had its largest one-year increase in in-person worship attendance, with almost 9,000 more souls gathering weekly than in 2021, an increase of 8.1 percent.
  • 2022 marked the second time in three years that births in WELS fell below 3,000. In one decade, the birthrate in WELS has been more than cut in half.

As Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, notes, “The Statistical Summary and Analysis points to opportunities before us. For example, in one decade, the unchurched students enrolled in WELS’ early childhood ministries and Lutheran elementary schools has skyrocketed. It doubled in the elementary schools. And with WELS’ birthrate in decline, there will be room to bring in more unchurched students. Yet, in that same decade, adult confirmations coming out of youth education ministries have remained relatively flat. The prayer is that as we study the harvest strategies of the youth education ministries the Lord seems to be blessing, we might identify tactics that can be used more broadly, so that we might reach more unchurched students and parents for Christ.”

Hein also explains that another opportunity is potentially provided through church consolidations. Those are becoming more common in WELS, as churches seek to improve their “critical mass” by merging. “It will be interesting to watch how the Lord blesses these efforts to increase gospel ministry in future years,” says Hein.

Read the full WELS 2022 Statistical Summary and Analysis online.

 

 

 

Together Video Update – July 11, 2023

At Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Assignment Day in May, four men were assigned to start new home missions. Hear how they are preparing for this mission work. Learn more about WELS Home Missions and its initiative to start 100 missions in 10 years at wels100in10.net.

 

 

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Together Video Update – June 27, 2023

The 2023 Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) convention was held in Seoul, South Korea, June 6-8. Representatives and guests from 27 countries around the world attended the convention. Hear why the CELC is important to Lutheran church bodies around the world. Learn more about it at celc.info.

 

 

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Two important gatherings

Our sister synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), is meeting this week at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn., for its 106th annual convention. The convention began last Sunday and will conclude on Thursday.

The theme of the ELS convention is “We Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.” A theological essay with that title will be presented by Rev. Aaron Hamilton of Scottsdale, Ariz. The delegates will hear reports on world and home outreach efforts, doctrinal matters, and education programs. The convention will elect officers and discuss financial matters.

A special event will be the dedication of a new ELS Military Monument on the campus of Bethany Lutheran College.

We pray that the Lord will bless the convention and thank God for our continuing fellowship.

Later this week, beginning on Thursday, the 60th annual convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) will be held in La Crosse, Wis.

LWMS includes members from throughout the synod. The purpose of the organization is to increase mission awareness among WELS members, encourage congregations to become directly involved in mission efforts, and provide generous support for home and world missions and for missionaries and their families.

The convention itself, attended by both men and women, features worship, fellowship, and multiple presentations by world and home missionaries and administrators. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet and spend time with missionaries and their families.

Our synod greatly appreciates the dedication and work of LWMS. We thank the women of LWMS for all they do to support the proclamation of the gospel here in the United States and around the world, and we pray for God’s blessings on their convention.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

New director for WELS Special Ministries

Rev. Joel Gaertner has accepted the call to serve as the director of the Commission on Special Ministries, taking over for Rev. James Behringer who served in the role for 11 years and is retiring this month. Gaertner has started his work and officially will be commissioned at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis., on Wed., June 21.

“I want to give thanks and gratitude and appreciation to Jim Behringer for all that he’s done in the last 11 years for continuing to advance Special Ministries. I am grateful and humbled for the opportunity to serve in this role,” says Gaertner.

The Commission on Special Ministries offers spiritual care and other services to people whose needs are not typically met by the regular ministries of WELS congregations and schools. This includes ministry to members in the military; outreach to those in prison; resources for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or visually impaired; support for parents with children who have special needs; resources for mental health needs; and more.

Gaertner is not new to the work of WELS Special Ministries. He has spent many years on the commission and has served as the director of Jesus Cares Ministries for the last 10 years. He says even from his earliest days in the ministry, he has always had the opportunity to serve those with different needs in congregational ministry.

“One of the exciting things for me in taking this call is to grow awareness,” says Gaertner. “Look at all the various things Special Ministries does. It gives us the opportunity to share Jesus with a whole lot of people who, sadly, a lot of times get left out, are marginalized, or just aren’t taken care of. That’s where I want to keep it going and raise the awareness.”

Behringer says, “There’s nobody better equipped to succeed as director of Special Ministries than Joel because he has been working in the field for a lot of his ministry.”

After more than a decade serving as the director of Special Ministries, Behringer reflects, “Love the people who struggle. Love the prodigals. Love people so much that you can’t stand the thought that they are unable to hear a sermon or read a Christian devotion. Love them so much that you ask the Lord how he wants us to overcome the obstacles that loom large. Love them so much that you see the gifts God gave them. And love those who serve with you.”

He concludes, “In addition to being in the Word, sharing the faith, and worshiping the Lord, how we love one another is an essential part of Christian and congregational life.”

Learn more about WELS Special Ministries at wels.net/special-ministries. Watch a livestream of Behringer’s farewell and Gaertner’s commissioning service at 8:30 a.m. CT, June 21.

 

 

CELC meets in Seoul, South Korea

The 2023 Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) convention was held in Seoul, South Korea, June 6-8. Representatives and guests from 27 countries around the world attended the convention, which was originally scheduled for 2020. This eagerly anticipated event hosted by Seoul Lutheran Church offered a unique platform for devoted Lutherans from around the world to deepen their faith, engage in theological discussions, and foster fellowship. Providing a rich program of worship, devotions, theological presentations, and networking opportunities, the convention served as a source of inspiration and an avenue for strengthening biblical fellowship between these church bodies.

An opening communion service brought the participants together around Word and sacrament. Pastors from a variety of CELC church bodies presented devotions, and hymns were sung throughout the week. Several times during the convention, CELC president Rev. Tom Nass noted the beautiful sound of voices from so many cultures blending together when singing the hymns and liturgies.

The convention’s theological essays provided much opportunity for discussion. Pastors and professors from various regions presented these papers and led discussions on multiple topics ranging from civil government to training laity for evangelism. Attendees had the opportunity to engage one another with questions and shared experiences from their respective fields. The essays helped to foster a deeper understanding of the core beliefs that unite these churches.

Seoul, a city blending rich tradition with modernity, provided a vibrant backdrop for the convention. Seoul Lutheran Church provided a tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of South Korea’s most important historical sites, followed by a banquet filled with traditional Korean delicacies. Professional musicians entertained the attendees after the banquet with a program of beautiful classical and traditional Korean music.

The convention offered a unique environment for fellowship and networking, allowing attendees to build connections with Lutherans from different cultures and backgrounds. Informal interactions during breaks and meals facilitated the exchange of personal experiences, challenges, and triumphs within the context of shared faith. Pastors, church leaders, and laypeople alike had the opportunity to form meaningful relationships, laying the foundation for future collaborations, mutual support, and unity within this worldwide confessional Lutheran community.

The CELC is an international fellowship of 34 confessional Lutheran church bodies, of which WELS is a member. Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.

Submitted by Rev. Paul Fries, communications director, Evangelical Lutheran Synod

 

View photos from the convention.

 

2024 CELC Convention

Together Video Update – June 13, 2023

Hear from Rev. Justin Steinke, who graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May and received his first ministry assignment to the Philippines. He discusses the importance of reaching those thirsty for the gospel around the world and the U.S.

 

 

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Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference convention begins

Today marked the beginning of the triennial meeting of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) in Seoul, South Korea. The CELC is an international fellowship of 34 confessional Lutheran church bodies. Member churches are located on six continents; most of them were able to send representatives to attend this meeting.

The CELC was founded in 1993 in Oberwesel, Germany, with an initial 13 church bodies and has continued to grow since then.

The convention has multiple purposes. Theological papers are presented and discussed, enabling member churches to strengthen their unity of teaching and understanding of the Scriptures. Ministry challenges faced by the various church bodies are described, enabling sister church bodies to offer advice, insight, and mutual encouragement. Since many of the church bodies of the CELC are relatively small and isolated, such a meeting also provides the opportunity for them to be reminded that they are a part of a worldwide fellowship of Lutheran Christians who share their beliefs and who are united with them in their mission.

The CELC also actively reaches out to Lutheran church bodies that have been a part of theologically liberal Lutheran groups but are now seeking fellowship with other confessional Lutheran churches that stand on the Scriptures in what they teach and practice. A significant part of the CELC’s growth—from 13 to 34 churches—has taken place as a result of this effort.

The meeting concludes on Thursday. We are confident that God will bless the convention by affirming the fellowship among the churches and by strengthening their commitment to the Scriptures and to their God-given mission.

Learn more about the CELC at celc.info.

 

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

Read more about the CELC in Forward in Christ magazine.

 

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Together Video Update – May 23, 2023

Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, provides an update on the humanitarian aid granted in the U.S. and around the world. He discusses not only the profound effect this help can have on people in need around the world, but also how it shows Christian love and opens doors to share the most important message of all, the good news of our Savior. Find out more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

 

 

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Assignment of teachers and staff ministers at Martin Luther College

Last week, the synod’s Assignment Committee met at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., to assign this year’s teacher and staff ministry candidates. The Conference of Presidents makes up the Assignment Committee. The committee is advised by representatives of Martin Luther College, the WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools, and the presidents of the two synodical prep schools.

This year there were 61 teacher candidates who could go anywhere. All of them were assigned. Forty candidates who were limited geographically as to where they could serve (mostly due to marriage) were assigned. Additional assignments of those limited geographically will be made in the coming weeks and months when it is determined where they will be living. Thirty-seven teacher candidates were assigned to return to their current place of service either for another year or permanently. The total number of candidates assigned was 138.

After the assignments were made, there are still 158 vacancies for teacher-trained workers. Of those, 114 had requested candidates through the assignment process.

Four staff minister candidates were available for assignment; all four were assigned.

In addition, 34 men graduated from the preseminary program, and three men graduated with seminary certification. Most, if not all, of those 37 men will enroll at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., to continue their training for the pastoral ministry.

View the list of assignments online.

As you view the list, you will see many one-year assignments. Assignments are made for one year for a number of reasons, including marriage plans, candidates assigned to duties outside of their specific training, candidates assigned as tutors or dorm supervisors, service in a foreign mission field, or local circumstances in schools. Many candidates assigned for one year will have their assignment made permanent either during the coming year or at next year’s assignments.

We thank God for providing these workers who will go out into God’s harvest field. We pray for God’s blessing on their ministry.

The Assignment Committee will meet May 23 at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to assign pastor and vicar candidates. Vicar assignments will be announced Wed., May 24; pastor assignments will be announced Thurs., May 25. The commencement events and call services will be streamed live.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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2023 humanitarian aid grants announced

At its May 1, 2023, meeting, WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved humanitarian aid grants totaling $702,390 for FY 23/24. WELS home missions will receive $43,498 in assistance; $658,892 will go to support world mission efforts. These are projects developed by WELS home and world missionaries to reflect Christ’s compassion to the people of their communities and build relationships that lead to opportunities to share the gospel.

“Seven hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money, but I believe it is money well spent. These dollars assist our missionaries at home and abroad to reach out in compassion to hurting people and help them. That’s reason enough for such an investment!” says Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “But these acts of kindness help to build trusting relationships and lead to many opportunities to share the good news of our Savior.”

Major items include support for health clinics (including the Central Africa Medical Mission), borehole drilling to provide clean water, food for the hungry, warm clothes for widows and orphans, aid for legal immigrants, school supplies for underprivileged kids, education for refugees, scholarships for poor students, smokeless stoves, mosquito nets, vocational training, and many other forms of assistance.

Home missions receiving grants include:

  • Foundation, Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Hope, Toronto, Ont., Canada
  • Shepherd of the Valley, Arvada, Colo.
  • Living Hope, Commerce City, Colo.
  • Christ, Denver, Colo.
  • Carbon Valley, Firestone, Colo.
  • The Vine, Hayden, Idaho
  • Christ the Rock, Farmington, N.M.
  • Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Amazing Grace, Amarillo, Tex.
  • The Mission, Conroe, Tex.
  • Christ Our Refuge, Hewitt, Tex.
  • Christ the Rock, Hutto, Tex.
  • Abiding Savior, Killeen, Tex.
  • Divine Peace, Rockwall, Tex.
  • Faith, Tyler, Tex.
  • Our Savior, West San Antonio, Tex.

World Mission fields receiving grants include:

  • Africa: Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda
  • Asia: Indonesia, Thailand, and others
  • Europe: Albania
  • Latin America: Mexico

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

 

 

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2023 Book of Reports and Memorials available online

The 2023 Book of Reports and Memorials is now available online. This book summarizes the activities of each area of ministry over the last year and contains the proposed ministry financial plan for the next biennium. The information in the Book of Reports and Memorials will help guide the 400 delegates at WELS’ 67th biennial convention, which is being held at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich., July 31–Aug. 3, under the theme “Embrace the Cross—Anticipate the Crown.”

“This theme reflects the biblical truth that Christians in this world live under the cross,” says WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder. “We live under the cross in the sense that our relationship with God as his people was brought about by the sacrificial death of our Savior on the cross. Living under the cross also means that we recognize, as Jesus himself told us, that in this world God’s church will endure difficulties and trials but that all of those difficulties and trials are intended by God for our eternal good. And when we embrace the cross we can look forward with joyful anticipation to when we and all believers will receive the crown of life.”

A highlight of this year’s synod convention is the anticipated declaration and affirmation of fellowship with two Lutheran church bodies, one in Uganda and the other in Latin America.

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

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

To view the online version of the Book of Reports and Memorials, visit https://welsconvention.net/boram.

 

 

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Celebration of ministry retreats held

In April, Grow in Grace, the institute for continuing education at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., hosted about 200 people in San Antonio, Texas, for Celebration of Ministry retreats for pastors celebrating 3, 10, 25, and 35 years since graduating from the seminary.

These retreats build relationships with ministry peers and offer encouragement through worship, Bible studies, workshops, and presentations. Bible study topics covered Psalms, Philippians, Nehemiah, and Colossians. Separate and joint workshops were offered for pastors and wives and covered topics such as time management, caring for others and yourself, focusing on your own gifts, and financial challenges and opportunities.

Though these workshops and Bible studies are a key part of the retreats, fellowship with classmates, worship services, and a beautiful location also play a part in the experience.

When Grow in Grace initially began the Celebration of Ministry retreats in 2013, only pastors and wives celebrating 10 years from graduation attended. In more recent years, the event has extended invitations to pastors and wives celebrating 3 years, 25 years, and 35 years since graduation. This year was the first year where Grow in Grace hosted repeat attendees from the class of 2013. This WLS class was the first class to attend when they were celebrating three years from graduation and were now invited back to celebrate at year 10. As one pastor shares, “San Antonio is a great location, and my wife and I were happy to return there a second time. The hotel is great, and its location is fantastic.”

The next Celebration of Ministry retreats are scheduled for April 3–5, 2024.

Learn more about Grow in Grace.

 

 

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Together Video Update – May 9, 2023

WELS Board for Ministerial Education Administrator Rev. Paul Prange discusses upcoming graduation and call services at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Find out how to watch all the commencement events at wels.net/events.

 

 

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Synodical Council holds spring 2023 meeting

The Synodical Council (SC) met last week for its spring meeting.

The SC reviewed financial results for the synod and its subsidiaries. The results are very positive due to increased gifts and lower-than-planned spending, which has led to increased levels of special fund reserves. We thank God for moving his people and WELS congregations to give generously in support of the work we do together as a synod.

The SC approved the support forecast (an estimate of the financial support that will be available to support the synod’s mission and ministry) for Fiscal Year 2024 and Fiscal Year 2025. On the basis of the support forecast, the SC approved the ministry financial plan that will be recommended to the synod convention this summer. Expenditure levels are anticipated to be $88.7 million for Fiscal Year 2024 and $90.9 million for Fiscal Year 2025.

The SC is recommending a 2.5 percent increase in salary for called and hired workers for each year of the coming biennium. The SC will continue to review the potential need for adjustments to the salary matrix throughout the biennium.

The SC encouraged the synod leadership to explore alternate funding models for capital projects to enable projects currently under consideration to move forward more quickly. Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., were encouraged to determine the scope of planned projects and to begin efforts to seek financial support for those projects once the scope is determined. The SC authorized the establishment of a Capital Projects Fund to support current and future capital projects of the synod.

The SC made the following appointments or reappointments:

  • WELS Foundation board: Mr. Scott Neitzel, Mr. John Pahmeier, Mr. David Wendland, Mr. James Brenn
  • WELS Church Extension Fund board: Mr. Joel Kock
  • WELS Retirement Commission: Mr. James Hahm, Mr. Thomas Medema
  • WELS VEBA Commission: Mr. Robert Bullens, Mr. Kyle Koltz, Mr. Daniel Markgraf, Rev. Joel Sauer
  • Northwestern Publishing House board: Rev. Justin Dauck
  • Accounting Oversight Committee: Mr. William Schultz
  • Advisory member of the SC: Mr. Jim Rademan, associate coordinator of Congregational Services

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Together Video Update – April 25, 2023

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder and Administrator of WELS Ministerial Education Rev. Paul Prange share the blessings and opportunities of MLC Day, Wed., May 3, 2023. All WELS members are encouraged to share the importance of ministerial education, encourage future called workers, and thank MLC’s faithful supporters. Learn more at mlcday.com.

 

 

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Moving forward in Vietnam

In 2011, leadership from the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC), a church body in Vietnam numbering more than 140,000 members, invited Rev. Bounkeo Lor, a WELS pastor in Kansas City, to train their church leaders in the truth of the Scriptures. They desired not only to be trained in the Scriptures but also to know thoroughly Lutheran doctrine and practice. Regular theological training of dozens of HFC pastors began. In 2018, WELS was invited by the Vietnamese government and the HFC to build a theological education center near the capital city of Hanoi, an unexpected and unprecedented mission opportunity for our synod. While the COVID pandemic and other hurdles delayed initial plans, we’re thankful that God has now made it possible for us to move forward. Just as God wisely and graciously guided the apostle Paul to carry out his mission efforts when and where God chose, so he has changed our plans—all for the good of his church.

The new Theological Education Center was completed and passed inspection at the end of January 2023. WELS took full ownership of the building at that time. The new center includes a chapel, classrooms, and dormitory/cafeteria space for up to 60 visiting students at a time. A formal building dedication and graduation ceremony for the first class of 57 pastors who have completed their seminary training is scheduled for July 2023.

The theological education of Hmong pastors in Vietnam, led by full-time professors Rev. Bounkeo Lor and Rev. Joel Nitz, trains those pastors to train other spiritual leaders. When COVID began, instruction shifted to online Zoom training, and a new three-year rural training program was started in order to reach more leaders and members in the rural congregations of the HFC. Until now efforts have focused on the first group of 57 students, who have completed their instruction in biblical and Lutheran doctrine. Now a second group of 60 students have begun their training. These men are taking what they learn and sharing it with nearly 1,500 local spiritual leaders of the HFC. The new education center will be a great blessing to the hundreds of rural HFC congregations as Lor and Nitz continue to equip their leaders to bring them the truth of God’s Word.

Future plans are for Lor and Nitz, who so far have been making intermittent trips to Vietnam or using Zoom for training, to relocate to Hanoi to oversee the theological education program. Residency visas for Lor and Nitz and HFC government registration are still pending, but it is our prayer that paperwork will be finalized by the July trip.

Stay up to date on progress and learn more at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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MLC Day 2023 is coming!

MLC Day 2023 is Wed., May 3. This day is set aside for Martin Luther College (MLC) students, faculty, and staff to connect with congregations, elementary schools, high schools, friends, families, and donors. This annual celebration is an opportunity for MLC and its supporters to do three things:

  1. Share the importance of ministerial education at MLC—especially since WELS has such a great need for pastors, staff ministers, and teachers.
  2. Encourage elementary school students, high school students, and second-career adults to consider preparing for the public ministry at MLC.
  3. Thank MLC’s donors for their support and ask everyone celebrating to help MLC students financially through the college’s Congregational Partner Grant Program.

Want to join in celebrating the blessings God has granted to MLC and its ministry? MLC has provided the following suggestions for prayerful consideration:

  • Use the first week in May to talk about ministerial education in Sunday schools, Bible classes, sermons, Lutheran elementary schools and high schools. For elementary schools, the Project Elijah classroom activities are designed for specific grade levels.
  • Share photos, videos, prayers, and messages of encouragement to the MLC Day Share
  • Consider contributing to the MLC Congregational Partner Grant Program. A generous donor is matching all donations up to $50,000 to help reach the $100,000 goal. Learn more at MLC Day Give
  • Follow the Martin Luther College Facebook , Instagram, YouTube pages through the month of April to view messages from the student body and learn about classroom video competitions!

 

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Together Video Update – April 11, 2023

WELS is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2025. Prof. Joel Otto, chairman of the anniversary planning committee, details what projects are in the works and how you can be involved. Do you have an interesting or important historical photo from WELS history? Submit it at wels.net/175-photos.

 

 

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Conference of Presidents holds spring 2023 meeting

At its spring meeting last week, the Conference of Presidents (COP) discussed the following issues:

  • The COP discussed the pastor and teacher shortage and how best to address the growing number of vacancies.
  • The COP has adopted guidelines for congregations to follow as they work to fill teacher vacancies in a time of growing teacher shortages.
  • A committee has been appointed to plan for the synod’s 175th anniversary in 2025. Prof. Joel Otto is chairman. The theme of the celebration will be “Christ through Us.” A special anniversary offering will be gathered to support specific projects in Home Missions, World Missions, and Ministerial Education.
  • Rev. Joel Gaertner accepted the COP’s call to serve in Congregational Services as the director of Special Ministries.
  • The COP discussed how best to advise congregations that are considering merging or closing. The COP is asking Congregational Services to provide materials that will guide congregations as they make those decisions.
  • Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, encouraged the district presidents to assist in naming district liaisons who can help to coordinate disaster relief. The plan is to have liaisons in place by July 1.
  • The COP discussed a proposal to change the synod convention from a biennial to a triennial event. Since this would be a major constitutional change that would require approval by two conventions, the COP decided that the issue should be placed before the 2024 district conventions for reaction and input. The COP itself has taken no position on the issue.
  • The COP continued its discussion of the re-statement of the synod’s doctrinal statement on male-female roles. The issue will be discussed by district conventions in 2024 and at various called worker conferences.
  • WELS Ministry of Christian Giving reported that 96 percent of all WELS congregations had submitted statistical reports and subscriptions for Congregation Mission Offerings. That percentage is actually higher when congregations with a pastoral vacancy are not included.
  • The COP approved a pilot project for a voluntary mentoring system for called worker spouses. The pilot project will take place in the South Central District.
  • With the growing need for Christian counselors, the COP was asked by Christian Family Solutions if the COP would encourage such training at Martin Luther College and/or Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. The COP is aware that such a program is in the long-range plan of Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC) and concluded that WLC is the appropriate place for such training to take place.
  • The COP made the following appointments or re-appointments: Prof. James Danell, Prof. Joel Otto, and Prof. Nicolas Schmoller (Commission on Inter-Church Relations); Rev. Eric Steinbrenner (Chairman of the Commission on Constitutional Matters); Rev. Richard Waldschmidt (Commission on Constitutional Matters); Rev. John Dolan and Prof. James Westendorf (Publication Review Committee); Rev. Tim Ehlers (Support Committee); Rev. Joel Zank (COP representative on the Synodical Council).

 

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Nine new missions and six ministry enhancements approved

On March 24, WELS Board for Home Missions approved the first new missions and enhancements for the synodwide “100 missions in 10 years” initiative.

“Our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” says Rev. Mark Gabb, chairman of WELS Board for Home Missions. “So how does it look to live like we believe this? That’s the question that the Board for Home Missions considered as we reviewed the many new start requests. We knew that there were questions about money and pastors, yet with sanctified common sense we made our decisions based on our trust that God can do immeasurably more.”

The nine new mission starts approved include:

  • Bentonville, Ark.: The 12-person core group has been active in its community, which is home to Walmart’s headquarters and is projected to see 35 percent population growth in the next three years.
  • Boston, Mass.: The closest WELS church to Boston’s urban center is a 90-minute drive. This urban mission has potential for college and cross-cultural ministry.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio: Beautiful Savior, Cincinnati, Ohio, is starting a second site in the Oakley and Hyde Park neighborhoods with a core group of 20 members.
  • Idaho Falls, Idaho: With the nearest WELS church three hours away, the 11-person core group has been meeting for weekly Bible studies with a pastor via Zoom.
  • Kalispell, Mont.: Kalispell, Mont., is considered the fastest-growing micropolitan city (population of 10,000-50,000) in the United States. The core group has been worshiping together twice a month for more than ten years and participating in regular Bible studies for more than eight years.
  • Kronenwetter, Wis.: Five WELS churches in the greater Wausau, Wis., area are supporting this mission, which will worship at Northland Lutheran High School. The 22-member core group has been meeting monthly since December 2021 for Bible study and mission planning.
  • Marquette, Mich.: Marquette serves as the hub of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and 52 percent of the people in and around Marquette do not have a home church or attend a church.
  • Panama City Beach, Fla.: Amazing Grace, Panama City, Fla., is expanding west and starting a second site in the greater Panama City Beach area.
  • North Collin County, Texas: A core group of 15 members from Atonement, Plano, Texas, are part of this new mission in a northern suburb of Dallas. Divine Savior Ministries, a WELS-affiliated organization with four church/school campuses, has partnered with the mission and plans to build a Divine Savior Academy by year five of the mission start.

The Board for Home Missions is also financially supporting ministry enhancements for Beautiful Savior, West Des Moines, Iowa; Fairview, Milwaukee, Wis.; Christ the King, Port Charlotte, Fla.; and Divine Savior, Sienna, Texas. It is providing unsubsidized support to Our Redeemer, Ladysmith, Wis., and Good Shepherd, Midland, Texas.

To learn more about these new missions and ministry enhancements, visit wels100in10.net.

 

 

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Worship access for the visually impaired

WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) has ordered ten copies of the 2021 edition of the Christian Worship hymnal in braille. The ten-volume braille hymnal contains lyrics of more than 650 hymns along with the standard liturgy. MVI will provide the new braille hymnal free to WELS/ELS churches and visually impaired members who need them.

MVI is also continually adding new resources to its online Listen Library, which provides audio recordings of many WELS resources, such as select books from Northwestern Publishing House, Forward in Christ magazine, and Meditations. For visually impaired members who use a handheld electronic braille reader, MVI is currently uploading the lyrics of all Christian Worship hymns to our Listen Library for braille access by the blind. Users can already search for hymn lyrics at Listen.WELS.net under the “Worship” tab.

Anyone who cannot read print materials because of vision impairment or reading disability can access all of MVI’s Christian audio resources for free by completing the MVI Service Application on the Listen Library website.

If you or someone in your congregation would benefit from the printed braille hymnal, contact MVI at [email protected]. MVI is prepared to print additional braille copies of Christian Worship if needed.

MVI is always looking for volunteers to help record and edit audio resources to continue growing their library. Learn more at Listen.WELS.net.

 

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Together Video Update – March 28, 2023

WELS Board for Home Missions met on March 23 and 24 and approved funding for nine new home mission starts and six ministry enhancements. Learn more about these decisions and the exciting ministry that is being supported as part of WELS’ 100 in 10 initiative from Rev. Mark Gabb, chairman of WELS Board for Home Missions.

 

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