On Tuesday morning WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder addressed the delegates, beginning his report by recalling Martin Luther’s stance in the face of demands to retract his position against the unscriptural actions of the church of the day. Luther had boldly proclaimed, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”
Schroeder then connected the stance taken by Luther with the stance we as Christians take today in a culture that will attack the truth of God’s Word: “The theme of this convention presents us with an opportunity—as individuals, as congregations, and as a synod—to stand exactly where Luther stood, on the unchanging Word of God as proclaimed in the Scriptures.” He added, “Our only defense against these attacks is to do what Luther did: To stand boldly on the truth of God’s Word.”
Schroeder continued by recounting some of the challenges congregations faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also listed some of the blessings that God provided throughout the pandemic, including the steadfastness of WELS members in supporting gospel work: “God’s people remained faithful in bringing their offerings during the past year and, in fact, were even more generous than before. That was true for the offerings received by the synod and, in many cases, for congregations. With those increased offerings, no reductions in mission or ministry were required by the synod. In fact, the Synodical Council was able to approve additional resources for previously unfunded ministry.”
The results of these blessings on ministry include a planned increase in the establishment of home mission congregations and more opportunities to share the gospel in new world mission fields. In addition, Schroeder spoke about the blessings of funding for new facilities at Martin Luther College, a variety of new resources and assistance for congregations through Congregational Services, and the production of a new hymnal.
Schroeder then addressed some of the other challenges to the synod, including the shortage of called workers. He urged, “It’s important that we rededicate ourselves as a synod, as congregations, and as individual called workers and lay members to recruit young people for ministry as diligently and energetically as we can. The fields are indeed ripe for harvest. Workers are needed to go into those harvest fields. Pray that God will provide workers who will serve God’s people and reach the lost.”
Schroeder also spoke about the impact the proposed Federal Equality Act may have on Christian churches and religious organizations: “As a church we do not express opinions on purely political matters. However, the concern in this case is that aspects of the Equality Act could make it very difficult for the church to carry out its mission and could jeopardize our religious freedom to preach and teach God’s Word faithfully.”
At this point, it is not known what potential effect the Equality Act will have on religious organizations, but Schroeder talked about how the church body is to respond: “Our desire and responsibility . . . is to continue practicing our faith in humility and love, as we share with ourselves and others what God says in his Word for our eternal good.” He continued, “We further encourage your prayers that the Lord would give us the boldness and courage to be faithful to him, no matter the earthly consequences, as we work together as brothers and sisters in Christ to continue to carry out our Savior’s mission. The work of God’s kingdom will always move forward.”
In conclusion, Schroeder urged the synod to remain as faithful as possible, even in light of a small but steady decline in membership: “First, we strive with God’s help to remain faithful to the Word (not changing the message to become more appealing or attractive). Second, we ask God to move each of our congregations and each of us as individuals to share the gospel whenever and wherever God gives the opportunity. Third, as we strive to be faithful to the Word and to our God-given mission, we trust firmly that God will work through his Word in the ways and places that he determines best—accomplishing his desire and achieving his purpose.”