In April, due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our synod reluctantly canceled the district conventions that had been scheduled to take place during the first weeks of June. As it turns out, that was the correct and necessary decision, since even in those states that are beginning to reopen, there are still restrictions on the size of gatherings. Those restrictions would have prevented most, if not all, of our conventions from being held.
One important item of business at a district convention is the election of district officers. Those elections are still being held through remote digital balloting. Once the district president and vice presidents are elected, they will follow the district bylaws in making appointments to other vacant offices in the district. In general, incumbents will be reappointed if they are willing and able to serve another term; in cases where there is no incumbent, the district officers will appoint replacements with the input of the district nominating committees.
All of the information normally provided to district conventions for discussion and consideration will still be available in the Report to the Twelve Districts. That report will not be printed in hard copy this year but is available online at wels.net/rttd2020.
Even though the district conventions are not being held, the work of the synod and its congregations continues. Many congregations made adjustments to enable worship to continue online; in most places, in-person worship (with some limitations) has begun to resume. Various boards and commissions on the district and synod level continue to carry out their work, meeting via videoconference or teleconference. WELS Christian Aid and Relief has continued to provide assistance to congregations and individuals affected by the virus or other events. The Conference of Presidents has continued to carry out its work of assigning graduates from Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, assisting congregations with the call process, and addressing matters of doctrine and practice.
The COVID-19 interruption of in-person worship services has had a varying impact on congregational finances. Anecdotally, some congregations have been challenged by reduced offerings, while others have actually seen offerings increase during the time where services were held online. The same holds true for Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) provided for the work of the synod. Some congregations have struggled to send what they had planned, while others have actually increased their CMO. This is a good time for congregations to review biblical stewardship principles and provide gospel encouragement to their members to continue faithfully in the grace of giving. The synod is doing what it can to provide some relief to congregations; last month the synod announced that there would be premium holidays for WELS VEBA and for the synod pension plan later in the year.
God’s grace has continued to be with us during this difficult time. The challenges we faced served to increase our love for worshiping together, our appreciation for the Lord’s Supper, and our recognition that the mission of the church continues no matter what the obstacle.
Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder