The Conference of Presidents (COP) held its winter meeting during the second week of January. Items discussed and decided include:
- The COP was informed of a request to WELS Christian Aid and Relief to provide a grant for and assistance to the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Puerto Rico as it recovers from last fall’s hurricane. The grant would enable a disaster response coordinator to spend up to a year in Puerto Rico to work with the Puerto Rican pastors to identify and prioritize specific needs, plan construction and repair projects, and coordinate volunteer efforts. He would also help to coordinate continuing theological training for two men whose training was interrupted by the storm. The COP expressed support for this proposal. (The proposal was later approved by WELS Christian Aid and Relief.)
- The COP is working with the president’s office to identify and track retired pastors who are willing to serve extended vacancies or to serve smaller congregations in a semi-retired capacity. Many retired pastors have already been serving in this way and have helped to reduce the impact of the high number of pastoral vacancies in the synod.
- Five pastors from other denominations have either requested colloquy or begun the process. (The colloquy process is a lengthy and involved process that determines whether a pastor or teacher from another synod can be received into our synod and serve in the ministry.)
- There are 117 pastoral vacancies, with 97 of those in parish pastor positions. It was encouraging that this number has only grown by three since last October.
- The COP approved a request from WELS Canada that seminary graduates assigned to Canada be given the opportunity to accept or decline the assignment, as is done in the case of world mission calls.
- The COP approved a recommendation from Congregational Services that the Commission on Adult Discipleship and the Commission on Youth and Family be combined into a single Commission on Discipleship. Rev. Donn Dobberstein, who currently serves as director of both commissions, would be the director of the combined group.
- The COP approved a proposal to reduce the size of the printed Report to the Twelve Districts by publishing about two-thirds of the reports electronically. The date for distribution of the material would not change from previous practice.
- The COP appointed Rev. Joel Nitz to serve on the Support Committee.
- The district presidents and circuit pastors were encouraged to work closely with congregations in remote locations and with congregations that are not able to support a full-time pastor to ensure that their pastoral needs are being met. The COP also encourages Congregational Services to continue its plans to provide worship materials and other resources for such congregations.
- The COP continued its discussions on the workload levels of district presidents in large districts. A committee will be looking at options to provide appropriate assistance.
- The COP scheduled October 21 as the synodwide Mission and Ministry Sunday. Congregations are encouraged to place this on their calendars. Materials will be provided to assist congregations in their planning.
- The COP expressed thanks to God and to our members that Congregation Mission Offerings for calendar year 2017 finished at $21,358,000, an increase of $298,000 or 1.4 percent over 2016 receipts. Actual results were also greater than subscriptions by $138,000 or 0.7 percent.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder