Questions on Church and Ministry
I was just wondering if you could tell me about the symbolism of the candles on the Advent wreath, and of the wreath itself if it applies.
As with many long-standing customs, the origins of the Advent wreath are somewhat debated. Some histories of the advent wreath say that Christians simply adapted an even earlier custom from pre-Christian Germanic tribes. Supposedly, then, these pagan people tried to break the darkness of winter with candles and invoke the sun god to return with the warmth and light of spring. In addition, the evergreen wreath would remind them that there is still life and the circle of time would again come back to spring.
According to this viewpoint, Christians later placed new and Biblical meaning to the old customs. Now the candles pointed to Jesus, the Light of the world (John 3:17-21.) The evergreen wreath now reminded believers that our Savior God grants new and everlasting life in Jesus. The wreath was also a symbol of victory, for a garland wreath was often placed on victors in contests or conquests. So naturally, a Christian can think of the crown of life that Jesus has won for us. The four candles in an Advent wreath would then emphasize the four week period of penitance and preparation during Advent, as we eagerly await the coming of the Light of the world to bring new life and hope.
The advent wreath became quite popular in homes in post-Reformation Germany. It seems pretty certain that in many German homes families had a custom of lighting four candles during advent, candles placed in a wreath of evergreens. When these candles were lit, Scripture and prayer was part of the custom and the family devotion time was a time of instructing the children about Christ’s coming. Later, the custom crossed over different denominational lines and other faith traditions adapted its use. Today, you can find Advent wreathes in many Protestant and Roman churches.
Since the custom has seen so many different adaptations, you will also find numerous explanations of the four candles. (If there is a fifth, a white candle in the center, it is called the Christ Candle, and is lit on Christmas.) Some call the first candle the Prophecy Candle, or the Hope Candle, or the Expectation Candle. It reminded believers that God had promised throughout the Old Testament that he would send a Messiah, the Shepherd King, to save his people. The second candle is called the Bethlehem candle, or sometimes the Peace Candle. (Others call it the Preparation candle.) The third candle is sometimes called the shepherds’ candle or the joy candle. It was often a pink color. The fourth candle is called the angel candle or the love candle. Naturally, for all of these themes, appropriate Scripture references could be used to help hearers and worshippers consider the various Advent themes of preparation, repentance, fulfillment of promises, the joy of Christ’s coming.
The colors of the advent candles also vary. The oldest tradition had three purple candles, for purple was the color of royalty and repentance. How else would God’s people prepare for the coming of the King of kings? On the third Sunday in Advent the rose or pink candle was lit. This is the candle that emphasized the joy of the shepherds as they heard the news. More recently, one sees all four candles in a deep blue color, reflecting the liturgical color of Advent that is quite common now. Blue is the color that reminds us of heaven and the expectation we have that Jesus is coming again. Blue is quite common in Lutheran churches since Lutheran Christians often emphasize the meaning of Advent as the season of coming. The readings then remind us of Christ’s first coming in all humility. We remember also his promise that he will come again in glory. And we also pray that he come into our hearts through the Spirit’s gracious working with the Gospel, so that with the gift of faith we now are heirs of that heavenly glory through Christ. Notice how often Advent hymns interweave these three “comings” of Christ!
The four candles remind us that in the four weeks of Advent we are preparing for the coming of the Christ Child, who is the light of the world. The wreath of evergreen could also help a person think of the victory and the new and everlasting life we have in Jesus. Blessings on your Advent prepation to welcome the King, our Savior Jesus.
How is the Lenten Season celebrated/practiced in the Lutheran religion? Do you abstain from any certain types of foods on certain days? In the Catholic religion, it is customary to "give up" something for lent like chocolate or something that you really enjoy. Is this practiced in the Lutheran Religion?
Generally, Lutherans do not “give up” something for Lent, although the practice is not unknown among Lutherans. Going without something can be helpful when it reminds us on a daily basis that the Lord Jesus gave up his life so that we might be freed from the curse of our sins. St. Paul reminded the Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (Corinthians 8:9). This is a good reason for what is sometimes called “Lenten self-denial.”
Lutherans tend to steer away from Lenten self-denial, however, because it has so often been abused in the Christian Church. Too many people “give something up” during Lent because they think they are making points with God, earning by their self-denial at least a little part of his forgiveness. The Bible rejects this thought completely. Peter wrote: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). In the hymn “Rock of Ages” we sing, “Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.”
Lutherans believe that the forgiveness of sins is God’s free gift to human beings. They believe that God forgives sins because Jesus met the demands God made of sinners. In the place of sinners, Jesus lived perfectly and obeyed all the laws God had set down for sinners. In the place of sinners, Jesus died, enduring the punishment God had decreed for sinners.
Because they believe that forgiveness is theirs because of Jesus’ life and death, Lutherans focus on Jesus’ life and death during the season of Lent. On the Sundays of Lent they watch as Jesus battles and overcomes Satan and his cohorts. During special services during the week, most Lutherans review the story of Jesus’ final days on earth–his visit to the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial.
What is the purpose of putting ashes on the forehead of Christians on Ash Wednesday? This is showy to me and very "Catholic" (where Catholics believe "good works" are essential for salvation) and can give the wrong message to unbelievers. I look at it as a distraction and unnecessary. During the time of Lent, I dearly love the focus on what Christ has done for me and all people by his death and resurrection while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) (John 3:16-17) Thank you.
The purpose is to have a visual reminder that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and death means our bodies return to dust from which Adam was made (Genesis 3:19). As ashes are biblical pictures of repentance (Job 42:6; Matthew 11:21), the use of ashes eventually became associated with Lent, a penitential season of the church year.
As a church custom, the imposition of ashes (as it is called) is an adiaphoron. God has not commanded it nor forbidden it. In Christian freedom, we may utilize the practice or forego it. If our conscience leads us to conclude that it would be wrong for us to participate in that custom, we need to refrain from taking part in it. At the same time, we need to withhold judgment from those who participate in the practice for good and godly reasons. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 address how Christians are to view adiaphora.
The custom of putting ashes on the foreheads of Christians on Ash Wednesday has been in use for centuries. While it is a practice that many still associate only with Roman Catholicism, it has grown in popularity with Protestant churches in recent years.
Your concern for the Lenten focus on Christ is well taken. Those Protestants, including Lutherans, who endorse the practice would point out that ashes are put in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of worshipers. The visual emphasis, then, is on the cross of Christ.
Regardless of people’s views on this custom, there is no getting around the “ash” of Ash Wednesday, is there? Whether or not we implement that custom in our congregations, the terminology of the day reminds us of our natural and actual sinfulness, and the need to repent of our sins. More than that, the season of Lent reveals clearly the love of Christ, who sacrificed himself to take away our sins. God bless your Lenten worship.
Are there scriptural verses or examples that are the basis for not (generally speaking) doing funerals for non-believers and/or former members, besides Jesus saying "Let the dead bury their own dead."
The most pertinent passages would be those that are clustered about the so-called Great Commission (for example, Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, and Luke 24:46-47). Also very applicable are all passages calling us to love God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39, Romans Romans 13:8-10).
Assuming that the calling body has not spoken on this issue to forbid or encourage its pastor to officiate at funeral services of publicly identified unbelievers or non-members of the congregation, the pastor must ask a primary set of questions like these: “What am I doing here? What is my purpose or goal, and is this compatible with the faithful preaching of law and gospel to serve the souls of the survivors and onlookers? How will I glorify God and enrich souls here, and how might these purposes be jeopardized?”
For the funeral service of an unbeliever there is no comfort whatsoever we can offer. Faithful preaching of law and gospel to the loved ones of the deceased will most likely antagonize and bring anger rather than joy regarding the loved one who died. The temptation to compromise by neglecting pointed law and remaining silent on the damnable nature of unrepented sin is great, and to do so is ultimately loveless and reprehensible for a servant of the gospel and of souls. Merely to preach the gospel (narrowly defined) without the clear application of law is also unacceptable and invites false assumptions among the audience plus rationalizations about the fate of the deceased.
For the funeral of a non-member or former member, I’d have to know more about the circumstances as well as the spiritual condition of the deceased before I say much. Sample questions that may surface include these: Why would a pastor seek to serve a non-member, assuming the non-member has another pastor to serve? If there was no church membership anywhere, why was there such a public confession – a presumed neglect of the public use of the means of grace and Christian fellowship? What basis is there to assume the non-member had a meaningful confession of saving faith? Etc.
Also involved in this matter is the call to serve as spiritual shepherd of a flock. Pastors do not have calls to serve as pastors of a community or straying sheep in general. But there may be circumstances when we not only serve them but do well to publicly testify to their spiritual life in Christ — based on a private confession of faith known to the pastor — and explain straightforwardly why we are conducting the funeral service of a non-member in a God-glorifying way that will edify souls.
Could you explain to me how the call process for pastors and teachers works in WELS? Our pastor, whom we all love, currently has a call to another congregation, and of course we don't want to see him leave.
You are by no means the first church member who has had these kinds of thoughts. We are extremely grateful that you love your pastor and that the thought of losing him is emotionally unpleasant. No doubt it is equally and perhaps more unpleasant for the church that currently has no pastor and that has extended a call to your pastor to consider serving them at this time in his pastoral career.
Procedurally, the Bible does not give detailed instructions about how churches are to obtain their pastors, teachers, or staff ministers. The procedures that have been developed within our synod (and in many other church bodies as well) have served us well over the years and are an orderly and suitable way of going about filling public ministry positions that are vacant. I say this lest we give the impression that our way is the only way of doing this. But it is a good way, and you may be sure that other ways have been considered and minor changes to the way we do things have been implemented over the years.
Briefly stated, we entrust the task of filling vacancies among us to the 12 district presidents in our synod. Their task is to be familiar with the congregations and schools in their respective districts, so they know the challenges and opportunities that exist at a given place, and the desires and expectations of the calling group. They also have and keep informational records on all eligible called workers (pastors, teachers, staff ministers) so they have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses, skills and aptitudes of these trained public ministers. And they provide a list of suitable people for the calling church or organization to consider as they strive to fill their vacancy. In the case of your pastor, then, his background, skills, experience, etc., were seen as a suitable match for the vacant church; his name was placed on such a list by a district president; and the vacant church selected him from that list and extended a call to him. He must now prayerfully determine whether he can best serve where he currently is or at the other place at this particular time. And he will likely be receiving counsel and input from a variety of sources as he considered his two calls (the one, to his current parish and the other, to his potential future parish).
The task of assigning graduates from our seminary and college (pastoral, teacher, and staff ministry candidates) to their initial place of labor is also entrusted to the Conference of Presidents (COP) composed of the 12 district presidents in our synod. They receive help and guidance from school officers and administrators who serve to give them a good portrait of the strengths, weaknesses, and skills of the candidates. The district presidents then seek to assign the candidates to fitting churches and schools that provide a good match for their skills and aptitudes.
But remember that many churches and schools, because of their size and other circumstances, may not be a suitable place for an inexperienced worker to be assigned. So it’s not as simple as assigning graduates to any vacant place. Many places, due to their situation, need or desire an experienced pastor — like yours. So they extend a call to him even though there may be graduates available.
We are very much aware that many times a degree of turmoil and discomfort accompanies this process. At the same time, there is value in having churches, schools, pastors, and teachers undertake the self-appraisal and the thorough look at how the public ministry at a given place is going. There are definite blessings that come with the discomfort.
Every step of the way in this process we give mutual encouragement that we approach this important task prayerfully and with the confidence that the Holy Spirit will be guiding the district presidents, the churches and schools who are seeking workers, and the churches and schools who may eventually lose a beloved called worker if he or she accepts a call to another place. This is our prayer and confidence regarding your church and pastor as well.
By etymology the word “disciple” (in Greek as well as in English) means “student.” In the New Testament its connotations aren’t quite so academic as our word “student,” and so maybe “follower” would be a better translation. Jesus certainly had (and has!) many women among his “disciples” (Matthew 28:19, Acts 6:1, Acts 11:26, etc.).
On the other hand, the word sometimes has the more restricted sense of “The Twelve” in the New Testament (Matthew 10:1 etc.). There was no woman among these.
Hello! Please explain how come sometimes we will stand for the readings during church service and other times we will not. Pastor says, "Out of respect for Jesus' words, please stand." But another reading will be from the Bible, etc. and we will not stand. Please explain. Thanks!
Christian Worship: Manual, the “handbook” for our hymnal, explains: “The congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel. In the past soldiers put down their weapons and kings removed their crowns when the Gospel was read. Christ—his life, his words of law and gospel, his suffering, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his assignment to his Church, his promise to return—is the center of the Gospel. The faithful have waited for this moment, this reading. They stand in reverence. ” (pp. 173-174)
Through the gospel lesson Jesus—the Word (John 1), the Word of God (Revelation 19:13)—comes to us. The gospel lesson relays the words and works of Christ. For those reasons, we have retained an ancient practice of showing respect and awe for the Lord and his gospel by standing.
That practice of course falls into the category of adiaphora: those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. In Christian freedom we gladly include that posture in our liturgy.
I am in need of some answers to the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross." Being a lifetime Lutheran I have never seen it in TLH or CW. The message it portrays is that I am saved by a Rugged Cross. I don't think so. Would appreciate all the info you could send my way.
You are correct in noting that “The Old Rugged Cross” did not appear in The Lutheran Hymnal or Christian Worship. Does the hymn portray that we are saved by a rugged cross? One of the verses speaks of loving the “old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain.” Another verse states that “’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died To pardon and sanctify me.” Those verses do speak of the cross as the instrument by which Jesus was put to death and punished for our sins.
Jesus is Savior. Still, the cross is a beautiful symbol of our salvation and Jesus’ passive obedience. God’s inspired writers held up the cross of Christ in high regard. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). “His [God’s] purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Ephesians 2:15-16). God made “peace through his [Jesus’] blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20). In word and song there is beauty and meaning in Jesus’ cross.
So, this idea has been circling my head for a while and I just need to ask. What if I was to say I dislike worship services? Like the plain old every Sunday church services. Not because of I harbor hatred towards God's Word and Sacraments but because I dislike the format. I go mainly because it's one of the few places where I can receive the Means of Grace. I love Bible studies with friends and strangers, personal Bible study, and I even love it every time we use God's word to study in my school classes. However, the format and social standards in church turn me off. I hate sitting still, and that's one of the biggest social standards in church. I have gotten weird looks for bouncing my leg too much in church before... -_- I think I would benefit more if I could bring my own Bible and take notes or do something that makes me critically think, but I feel like I would get judged for that since I already get judged for bouncing my leg too much... Is it sinful for me to not find enjoyment out of regular church services?
Let me begin with this reminder about the challenges you and I face in worshiping our Lord in his house.
Our sinful nature presents one challenge. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). That is the new self in the Christian speaking. The old self says, “I hate the house of the Lord. I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want to be there.”
Satan presents another challenge. “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up…When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (Matthew 13:3-4, 19). Satan will do what he can to try to uproot God’s word in our hearts and lives. He uses many tactics and approaches to carry out his goal, including the idea that a worship service is just the “same old, same old.”
Other people present still another challenge. “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Other people may discourage, rather than encourage, us in our faith and in our desire to worship the Lord in his house.
You can see that we need God’s strength to overcome these obstacles and barriers to worship the Lord in his house with joy.
So can I like or dislike something about worship services? Sure, and when I say that I recognize that I am speaking about personal preference and taste. I may not like how something is done in a worship service or I may not particularly like the melody of a hymn, but I recognize those “likes” are just my opinions. I realize that the worshiper sitting next to me may very well like what I dislike and vice-versa. I myself realize, from the perspective of a worship planner and worship leader, that I cannot possibly please everyone when it comes to conducting a worship service. So, perhaps, thinking of fellow worshipers might put your “likes” and “dislikes” into perspective.
So what can you do in connection with your questions and concerns? Let me pass along some suggestions (not knowing whether or not you are already doing some of these things).
Pray before worship. There are prayers in the hymnal for “Before Worship” (Christian Worship, page 10). You can offer your own prayers—asking that God bless your worship in keeping you free from distractions and enabling you to stay focused on the worship service particulars.
Use the hymnal (or service folder) to follow the order of service. Like many worshipers I can keep my hymnal closed and keep up with the liturgical responses, but I find greater meaning when I see what I am speaking.
Bring your Bible? Yes. I see fellow worshipers here and there with Bibles on-hand, and some even taking notes. I can tell you from the vantage point of the pulpit that it is encouraging to see that. I wouldn’t worry about reactions from others in bringing a Bible or taking notes. Do what it takes to stay focused in the worship service. Maybe your actions in these areas will give a fellow worshiper the idea to do the same.
Worship services are special times: God comes to us through word and sacrament; we give God our praise. In this life we recognize that our praise of God will always be imperfect. If we recognize we have sinful attitudes toward worshiping God, we confess those sins and receive God’s forgiveness in faith. And then we try to worship God with better efforts.
Finally, address your concerns and questions to your pastor. He is in a position to explain the services that you attend.
All this effort is worth it because we do want to follow our new self especially in this area of life. We do want this refrain to be a way of life: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). God bless your efforts.
A ministerium is a group of ministers united for a common cause. They only—and not their congregations—would belong to the ministerium.
A synod describes congregations, with its called workers and laity, joined together and committed to a common calling.
Unionism refers to joint worship and religious work of people who are not united in doctrine.
I understand that we need to be careful about asking others who are not of our fellowship to support our ministries. This is the reason often given for why we don’t have fundraisers outside of our own church family . . . bake sales, craft fairs, and the like. Yet many of our area Lutheran high schools are connected with thrift stores whose mission is to support those high schools. Is this okay? How can this practice be justified in light of the warning against seeking funding from those outside of our fellowship?
You are correct in noting that congregations are rightly concerned about the impression fundraising in the community can give to people in the community who are not part of the congregation. Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce what many wrongly think in the first place—that “all the church is concerned about is money.” Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce work-righteous thinking in some of the unchurched, leading them to think that “I’ve given to God, so I’ve done my duty.” Congregational fundraising in the community can undermine a church’s efforts to encourage its members to grow in their management of God’s blessings if they grow instead in their reliance on community revenue.
There is reason for our area Lutheran high schools to have these same concerns about fundraising in the community. And so, federations and associations of congregations do well to approach this matter of Christian freedom—and that is what fundraising in general is—with prayerful deliberation and application of scriptural principles in the best interests of its constituents and members of the community.
Federations and associations of congregations that have come to the conclusion that a thrift store fits well in their circumstances are exercising their Christian freedom. As with any area of Christian freedom, people are bound to have differing thoughts and opinions. That calls for patient discussion and listening on the part of those who are connected to an association/federation that operates a thrift store and non-judgmental Christian love on the part of those who are viewing such a venture from a distance.
When it comes to that which you asked about, as in any area of life where there is Christian freedom, we seek to do all things to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We look to show love to our neighbor (Romans 13:9-10). We want to be guided by faith and not doubt (Romans 14:23).
I was looking at the BORAM (Book of Reports and Memorials) and am wondering why do we call them memorials?
One of the dictionary definitions of “memorial” is: “A written statement of facts presented to a sovereign, a legislative body, etc., as the ground of, or expressed in the form of, a petition or remonstrance.” With that in mind, the Book of Reports and Memorials itself describes memorials as “formal requests to the convention to address specific issues” (Book of Reports and Memorials, “Foreword”). It is a term that has been associated with conventions of our church body for decades. For information’s sake, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod uses the same terminology. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod uses the term overture.
What is the WELS' stance on the calling of a woman to be the Assistant Principal in a Pre 3 - 8 Church School with male called workers on staff?
WELS congregations look to maintain the scriptural roles of head and helper in all areas of congregational life including, and especially, called positions.
When it comes to teaching positions, the WELS Conference of Presidents has tasked the WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools to consider the leadership positions that can be held by women following biblical principles. I do not monitor or track the calling of teachers, so I would encourage you to forward your questions of clarification or concerns to the calling body in question.
Where in the Bible does it state that we are to celebrate Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, the Lenten season? Thank you.
The short answer is: “It doesn’t.” What the Bible does say is: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). God directs us to gather together as Christians and worship him.
In Old Testament times God spelled out the weekly day of worship (Saturday, the Sabbath) and the three major annual festivals (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles). As New Testament Christians we are free from the ceremonial laws that commanded observance of those days and festivals (Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-17).
In New Testament freedom Christians many centuries ago designed the festivals and seasons you mentioned as a way of putting special emphasis on the passive obedience and victorious resurrection of our Lord.
As Christians, the opportunity to attend special, additional worship services can pull us in different directions. Our sinful nature, of course, abhors anything good and godly, and wants nothing to do with regular or special worship services. On the other hand, our new self echoes the sentiments of King David: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (Psalm 122:1). Our new self has that joyful attitude whether we are talking about regular or special worship services.
And so, during this season of Lent, our new self finds extra reasons to say: “I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8).
Do we need to give up something for Lent? I know the Catholics preach no meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays. Is this true? Does something have to be given up for Lent since God did so much for us?
No, we do not need to give up anything for Lent. While the Roman Catholic Church has pronounced when meat is and is not be eaten, the Bible says such teachings are not from God. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5). “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
In Christian freedom you and I can give up anything—in Lent or any time of the year—if that is beneficial to our faith. There is always a danger in thinking that giving up something contributes to our salvation. We reject such thinking and look to Jesus alone for our salvation.
The February 2015 “Light for our path” column touched on your question. You can access the column via this link.
During Lent and every season of the year, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
A deacon in our congregation questions the seriousness of the members and thinks maybe he should resign from his position. I thought of Elijah and Jonah when they looked to themselves for their strength but did not find it. How should I answer his fears? We've had a vacancy since April and I think this is weighing on his mind. I know Christ did not give up on us, though we are at times not serious about our faith.
I commend you for your concern for your brother in the faith. It looks like he takes his responsibilities very seriously. What you can do is remind him what he can and cannot do. What he can do is use God’s word to teach, rebuke, correct and train others in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). What he cannot do is bring about the results he would like to see in people’s lives. Encourage your deacon to continue to go about his calling faithfully, knowing that his “labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Point your brother in the faith to Jesus Christ, as you did in your question to me. Point him to his Savior so he can find joy and peace in his own life, and strength for ministering to others. God bless your conversation with him.
I have some questions about what is involved in the process of starting a world mission. 1. How much does it cost to start a world mission? 2. What staff is needed for that mission? 3. What materials are needed for the mission start-up? 4. How is it decided where to start the mission?
I forwarded your question to Pastor Larry Schlomer, the Administrator for WELS Board for World Missions. Your questions and his responses follow:
“1. How much does it cost to start a world mission? The costs can fluctuate quite a bit depending on where in the world the mission effort is focused as well as the manpower needs of the new start. If we need to send a missionary to reside onsite, just that will cost about $100,000/yr. If a local leader is being supported with teaching and advice from afar the cost can be quite a bit less. We often find a budget of $20,000-$30,000 is a good ball park for the cost to begin translation and distribution of Christian materials.
“2. What staff is needed for that mission? This also varies depending on the reason we are starting. If this is a contact that is already in place and gathering a group we would try to send in minimal foreign help. If no such leader is in place we try to send in a team of at least two missionaries so that the early start-up work can be shared and the transition to a new life and culture can have this mutual support. It seems that more and more of our starts are based on requests from local leaders and require minimal foreign missionary presence. In those instances our efforts focus on staff needed for material production and leadership training.
“3. What materials are needed for the mission start-up? Some of the immediate needs are these: a good Bible translation, a good translation of the Catechism or similar simple doctrine book and simple worship materials. As more teaching and growth occurs, materials will have to become more in depth as training of future leaders begins.
“4. How is it decided where to start the mission? The WELS Board for World Missions (BWM) fields requests. They can come from many sources such as: neighboring contact with an existing mission, emailed requests from overseas, or family and friends who have landed in WELS in the USA traveling back to their home countries. The BWM will investigate the possibilities and potential and work with available resources to meet the needs. If missionary manpower is committed we will be looking for an opportunity that has long-term potential since that requires a significant allocation of resources over a long time. It often happens that the Lord sets an opportunity before us that he has made obvious. Eager local leaders can be a big part of steering it in the direction of that mission effort as opposed to one that has no local traction.”
If you are interested in learning more about WELS’ worldwide mission work, follow this link.
Does one need to take a confirmation class to take Communion, or just an understanding of what the Bible says?
Assuming we are speaking about normal, non-exceptional situations, yes, Confirmation would be a requirement in our churches to receive the Lord’s Supper. It is the Confirmation instruction that provides the scriptural information people need to be able to examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:28) and then the opportunity to make a public profession of faith and unity with other believers (1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 11:26).
What is the WELS' stance on The Gideons International? Is it OK to donate to them for the spread of God's Word? Are their Bibles / New Testament + Psalms & Proverbs books correct and OK to use? Is their interpretation of Scripture correct? Is it OK for a WELS member to become a Gideons International member?
The Gideons International organization has certainly distributed many, many Bibles since their inception in 1899 —1.9 billion by their own count. We can be happy that God’s Word has been circulated so widely. The Gideons International currently distributes two Bible translations: the King James Version and the English Standard Version. (The latter replaced the New King James Version in 2013.)
Concerns about the organization revolve around their promotion of unionism (false ecumenism) through local gatherings of Gideons called “camps.” The organization in general glosses over doctrinal differences among churches and presents itself simply as “an Association of Christian business and professional men and their wives.” Their materials, as reflected on their Web sites, espouse “decision theology” and recognize baptism and the Lord’s Supper only as “ordinances.”
So, we find ourselves in the position of recognizing that the organization is making God’s Word available to great numbers of people throughout the world—and God can work in people’s hearts through that Word—but also understanding that we cannot “work together for the truth” (3 John 8) with them because of a lack of doctrinal unity.
If, as a member of WELS, you are interested in supporting the distribution of Bibles to similar target audiences in jails and prisons, I would encourage your involvement in and support of WELS Prison Ministry.
I'm single, and because of that I feel like an absolute outsider in my WELS church. I don't feel as if the WELS knows how to minister to adult singles. Also, I feel like volunteer fodder because of my status. Why can't the WELS do a better job of ministering to people like me? I'm considering finding a different church body because of this issue.
I would encourage you to address your thoughts to your pastor and other church leaders. Recent studies indicate that just over half of Americans identify as being single (never married, divorced, separated, and widowed). Unless your congregation is drastically different from the American population and other WELS congregations, there may be more single adults in your congregation than you realize. Still, address your concerns to your pastor. Suggest ways in which single adults like you can become more involved in meaningful ways in congregational life.
Finally, do keep this in perspective. Don’t trade doctrinal truth for what could be perceived as a more welcoming atmosphere elsewhere. God bless you!
I grew up in a WELS church, day school, and attended an ELS college and still hold fast to the solid scriptural foundation at the basis of the WELS. Currently, I attend a solid, non-denominational church where my wife works in the youth ministry. I do not question the core teachings of the church when it comes to faith, repentance and salvation. However, there are a few topics that don't seem to be a matter of salvation, but of understanding. The greatest of these topics that troubles me is the question of spiritual gifts for Christians: speaking in tongues, gifts of healing, gifts of prophecy, and others. In regard to the three specific "gifts" I've listed, what advice would you give to me (and others) to discern perceived evidence supporting these claimed gifts and how they apply today in the New Testament Era?
In This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, we maintain: “The Holy Spirit also equips the church with all the spiritual gifts it needs for its well-being (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). During the beginning of the New Testament era, special charismatic gifts were given to the church, such as signs, miracles, and speaking in tongues. These gifts were connected with the ministry of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.”
God of course can do anything. If he chooses to give a person special gifts, he can do so. The key statement in the section above is the last sentence: “There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.”
Because the claims of many people who supposedly possessed such gifts have proved to be fraudulent, it is wise to approach this subject with caution as you are suggesting. The ecstatic speech of charismatics today is far different from the gift of speaking in known, intelligible languages in Acts 2. Spiritual gifts are to be used “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). When people cannot understand the syllables coming out of another person’s mouth, there is no value to others (1 Corinthians 14). Also, keep in mind that “prophecy” in the Bible can refer to the activity of the prophets who relayed specific messages from God, or it can refer to Christians who have been gifted with the ability to speak God’s word to others (Acts 2:18).
Rather than focusing on spectacular gifts that God definitely gave in the past, churches would do well to consider what God says about spiritual gifts in general (Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
While you mentioned that you were troubled by your current church’s understanding of spiritual gifts, I would encourage you to give some thought to your current church’s understanding and teaching of baptism, the Lord’s Supper and faith/conversion. Non-denominational churches can easily have unscriptural views toward these doctrines. Do understand what your church teaches about those doctrines and compare those teachings with the Bible. In everything, be a Berean Christian (Acts 17:10-11) and see for yourself what God’s word teaches. Then, distance yourself from any false teachings (Romans 16:17) and enjoy fellowship with people who are united in biblical doctrine (1 John 1:3).
My brother has joined a nondenominational church and he has a group of people at home to study the Bible. He has no training of any kind . My question is, should a lay person teach others a Bible class?
There is a place for lay-led Bible studies if the teachers of the Bible studies receive training and ongoing support from the pastor and other congregational leaders. Without training and education for the leader, it is easy for the kind of Bible study you described to become simply a discussion on what everyone thinks the Bible says.
On the other hand, when a congregation authorizes, trains and supports lay members to lead Bible classes, there are more opportunities for congregational members to study God’s word in a group setting. And that’s good, because Scripture instructs us to “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).
To whom it may concern, What is the proper custom for displaying flags in the church? I noticed that in the church to which I belong that the flag of the United States was on the congregation's right and I thought it looked a bit strange. I looked it up and the U.S. flag code (4 U.S. Code § 7, subsection k) states this: "...When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience." According to the U.S. flag code, I was correct in thinking that the flag of the United States was being displayed on the incorrect side of the sanctuary. However, I thought about it some more because the code states "the position of superior prominence" and "the position of honor," as the other flag displayed in our sanctuary is the Christian Flag (according to Wikipedia it is described as having a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton). This leads to my question: which flag should be placed in the position of superior prominence and honor, the flag of the United States or the Christian Flag? I am guessing that the answer is the flag of the United States because it is the law and we are to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13); however, I would like your thoughts on the matter. Thank you!
To put your question in perspective, the “Congressional Research Service Report for Congress on The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions” states: “On the national level the Federal Flag Code provides uniform guidelines for the display of and respect shown to the flag…The Code is designed ‘for the use of such civilian groups or organizations as may not be required to conform with regulations promulgated by one or more executive departments’ of the federal government. Thus, the Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include enforcement provisions; rather the Code functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups.”
Additional “perspective setting” is the understanding that we are dealing with an adiaphoron here—something that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. Christians thus have freedom to display or not display a flag in their churches.
If a church is going to display flags (an American and a church flag) in the chancel, they would probably cause the least confusion by following the Flag Code guidelines. If a church is not going to display flags, they would have reason for doing so. In that regard, let me pass along information from Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. In the chapter titled “The Worship Space,” there is this food for thought: “Some churches like to include the national, Christian, and denominational flags in the chancel. While many Lutheran congregations have displayed flags of one sort or another, building committees ought to carefully analyze this tradition. Altar, pulpit, and font ‘all point to Christ,’ while national flags ‘speak not of Christ, but of the nation’ [Brugginck and Droppers, Christ and Architecture, pp. 250ff]. Especially in an age when so many Christian churches confuse the separate roles of church and state, it may be wise to place national flags in the narthex rather than in the chancel. The use of the Christian flag may promote an imprecise view of the church and false ecumenism besides. Denominational loyalty is important in a congregation, but recent history seems to indicate that it is better to teach loyalty to the Scriptures that cannot err than to denominations that can. The important work of the church body can surely be emphasized in better ways than with a flag” (pp. 85-86).
Again, because this is a matter on which Scripture is silent, congregations do well to explain clearly their rationale for whatever their particular practice in this area might be.
Is it proper to leave flowers on the altar for more than one time? I would think it would be good to have them on the altar once for a service and if they still are good have them on a stand off the altar. My feeling is it is like redoing an offering. Thank You.
As your question falls into that category of things which God has neither commanded nor forbidden (we call that an adiaphoron), we lovingly exercise Christian judgment. One of the principles of Christian worship (and the Christian life!) is that we glorify God in what we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). If altar flowers are in good shape and can be reused for another service, that would seem to me to be good stewardship of resources. Rather than viewing this as “redoing” an offering, I would regard it as an offering that has extended benefits. There would be no need to relocate the flowers if they are reused.
I am disappointed that our congregation does not observe the entire Triduum as it has no Maundy Thursday services. Does the district or Synod express any opinions on this subject? I attended instead a very small LCMS Mandatum service which was very moving with the washing of feet and the pastor's chant of Psalm 22.
There are synodical resources available for congregations that offer Triduum services (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). As you are aware, congregations do have freedom and enjoy flexibility in setting up their worship schedules during Holy Week and throughout the year. Any number of factors (that I do not know about) may have contributed to your congregation’s Holy Week worship schedule. If you are disappointed that your congregation does not observe the entire Triduum, you would do well to speak to your pastor and relay your questions and concerns to him. He may be interested to know about the Maundy Thursday service you attended.
I am preparing a bulletin board featuring our Synod Schools and would like a blurb that elegantly captures for my congregation the importance of our Synod Schools and why they are so unique.
What a worthwhile project you are involved in! Our synod schools are unique in that they have the purpose of preparing “candidates for the public ministry of the gospel to proclaim Christ’s love in the congregations, schools, and mission fields of our fellowship” (from WELS.Net).
Maybe the best resource I can give you is this link to recruitment resources. You will notice that one of the resources is “bulletin board ideas”! God bless your efforts.
The short answer to both your questions is “no.” A longer answer is found in an October 2013 Forward in Christ article. The article addressed the question: “How can we respond to those who say that Martin Luther was an anti-Semite because of his condemnation of the Jews? My friend thinks that we Lutherans shouldn’t follow such a man.” The following is the response to that question and statement.
There are two questions here, one asking why we “follow Luther” and another asking if Luther was anti-Semitic. Both questions are worth asking and answering.
How do Lutherans regard Luther?
Perhaps uninformed people really think that Lutherans idolize or inappropriately revere Luther. We can assure them we don’t. Rather, we cherish and thankfully embrace key concepts that God restored to their rightful place in the church through Martin Luther. By grace alone, through faith alone, by Scripture alone, and through Christ alone are truths the Reformer championed. Highlight these truths for your friend. This is what true Lutheranism is all about.
Lutherans have never believed or taught everything Luther said or wrote was correct. Luther said and wrote some things that would have better remained unspoken and unwritten. This should not be surprising when one considers how much he wrote. Let’s be quick to cherish divine truths given renewed prominence through Luther and equally swift to acknowledge the man’s imperfections.
Was Luther an anti-Semite?
Accusations of anti-Semitism against Luther usually stem from reading his 1543 tract On the Jews and Their Lies, in which the Reformer used immoderate language and gave questionable counsel on how to deal with Jews at that time. While we have never endorsed what and how he wrote in that treatise, we also believe a fair, historically-sensitive appraisal of the man and his message will show the Reformer was not anti-Semitic. Excellent books have been written on this topic, but here we must limit ourselves to these brief points:
• Luther also wrote about Jews in sympathetic ways and rebuked European Christians for their treatment of Jews. Here’s one example: “The fury of some Christians (if they are to be called Christians) is damnable. They imagine that they are doing God a service when they persecute the Jew most hatefully, think everything evil of them, and insult them. . . . Whereas, according to the example of this psalm (14:7) and that of Paul (Romans 9:1), a man ought to be most heartily sorry for them and continually pray for them. . . . They ought to attract them by all manner of gentleness, patience, pleading and care” (What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol. 2, 683).
• Luther’s attitude is more accurately characterized as anti-Judaism rather than anti-Semitism. His opposition was not racial or ethnic, but theological. He was targeting people who persistently and vigorously rejected the truth of salvation through faith alone in Jesus the Messiah and Savior of the world. Luther wrote harshly against the Roman pope and his theological supporters for the same reason.
• Like everyone else, Luther was a child of his times. It’s difficult for people today to put themselves into his historical context, yet it’s unfair to judge him according to our standards of civility. Luther’s language sounds cruel, but his opponents often used similar language, and literary style of the era included harsh ridicule, name calling, and deliberate excess.
Ultimately we must conclude that the treatise in question doesn’t represent Luther at his best. We cannot endorse or excuse what he wrote. From a historical viewpoint, it should not surprise us that he sometimes shared unacceptable attitudes of his day. What is amazing is how often he rose above his times and advocated magnificent and eternal truth, most of all the full and free gospel of forgiveness.
I have been going to our WELS church since 3rd grade and was confirmed in 8th grade. I am now out of college and still attending our WELS church and love every aspect of it. As I have understood, we have reasons for using hymns and not having a "worship band" that plays up front, but I saw a question on this site about a WELS church having a contemporary service and I was wondering if there are, indeed, WELS churches that have a contemporary service and if that consists of modern Christians songs with a worship band? Also, if contemporary services aren't to be practiced in a WELS church, I was wondering if I could have a more in-depth answer for why that is. I vaguely remember why it is, but I've had friends who I've invited to church ask why we don't have that and I'd like to explain it in a better way to them.
Yes, there are WELS congregations that offer contemporary worship services. Anecdotally-based estimates suggest that less than 10% of WELS congregations offer contemporary worship services in some form. I say “in some form” because congregations define “contemporary worship” in different ways. To some, contemporary worship means using the liturgy of the hymnal and its hymns but providing accompaniment on musical instruments other than an organ. To others (a much smaller number of congregations), contemporary worship means using a worship band.
Why is there variety like this? The answer is Christian freedom. Decisions about worship style are made at the congregational level. What is to guide any form of Christian worship is orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:40) and giving God our best (Isaiah 1; Malachi 1). Recognizing the diversity of the body of Christ (Revelation 7:9) will also lead congregations to conduct worship in ways that reflect the culture(s) of its members.
Regardless of worship style, our worship is and needs to remain focused on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior. Our worship is and needs to remain focused on the Triune God. Our worship is and needs to remain focused on the precious gospel of our Lord. When that focus is maintained, then the “how” of worship can be kept in proper perspective.
I was born, raised, baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran church, LCMS. We have been attending a WELS church in our area and did receive Communion, but the elders then said we cannot receive Communion unless we were members of that particular congregation. We like this church but are now confused and are not sure about becoming members. What is the WELS stance on Communion for other Lutherans?
Elsewhere on this website, in a statement of our faith titled This We Believe, you can read: “5. We believe that God directs believers to acknowledge oneness in faith with Christians whose confession of faith submits to all the teachings of Scripture (John 8:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). We believe, furthermore, that individuals through their membership in a church body commit themselves to the doctrine and practice of that church. To assert that unity exists where there is no agreement in confession is to presume to look into people’s hearts. Only God can look into people’s hearts. It is not necessary that all Christians agree on matters of church ritual or organization. About these the New Testament gives no commands (Romans 14:17).
“6. We believe that those whose confession of faith reveals that they are united in the doctrines of Scripture will express their fellowship in Christ as occasion permits (Ephesians 4:3). They may express their fellowship by joint worship, by joint proclamation of the gospel, by joining in Holy Communion, by joint prayer, and by joint church work. God directs believers not to practice religious fellowship with those whose confession and actions reveal that they teach, tolerate, support, or defend error (2 John 10,11). When error appears in the church, Christians will try to preserve their fellowship by patiently admonishing the offenders, in the hope that they will turn from their error (2 Timothy 2:25,26; Titus 3:10). But the Lord commands believers not to practice church fellowship with people who persist in teaching or adhering to beliefs that are false (Romans 16:17,18).”
Following scriptural guidelines, our normal practice is to commune only members of our congregations and individuals who belong to congregations in fellowship with WELS.
On paper, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has a communion practice that parallels that of WELS: “ In keeping with the principle that the celebration and reception of the Lord’s Supper is a confession of the unity of faith, while at the same time recognizing that there will be instances when sensitive pastoral care needs to be exercised, the Synod has established an official practice requiring ‘that pastors and congregations of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, except in situations of emergency and in special cases of pastoral care, commune individuals of only those synods which are now in fellowship with us.’ By following this practice whereby only those individuals who are members of the Synod or of a church body with which the Synod is in altar and pulpit fellowship are ordinarily communed, pastors and congregations preserve the integrity of their witness to the Gospel of Christ as it is revealed in the Scriptures and confessed in the Lutheran confessional writings.” (“Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper.” A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. )
It would be good for you to have a conversation with the pastor of the congregation you have been attending. He is in a position to explain these matters in more detail.
What is the WELS stance on Halloween, and how does it feel about a church participating in this event? I feel like the church should have a Reformation Day celebration instead of promoting trick or treating and costumes which have pagan and cult backgrounds. I understand wanting to reach those people who are out and about, but it should be in a way that shows how Halloween is wrong and have a completely different alternative. Thanks.
People in our country and in our church view Halloween differently. Some see it as a secular holiday detached from its origins. Others consider any celebration of it as being wrong. There are divided opinions on an event the Bible does not specifically mention.
So, your question addresses the subject matter of Christian freedom and the exercise of it. In considering an outreach event of some kind that is connected to Halloween, congregational leaders will need to consider how such an event might be understood or misunderstood by people in the community and members of the congregation. Sensitive consciences of congregational members will need to be taken into account and addressed. Hopefully you have relayed your concerns to your congregational leaders.
As with any outreach effort, a congregation that sponsors a Halloween event will strive to connect people with God’s saving word. It is God’s word alone that changes hearts and lives.
And that’s why the Lutheran Reformation was so important. It put the spotlight back on God’s Word instead of the church’s decrees. It highlighted the Bible’s message of free and full salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. That message is one that our churches—and we, its members—want others to hear.
We do not have women pastors because that would go against what the Bible says. In This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, we confess this: “8. We believe that God has also established the public ministry of the Word (Ephesians 4:11), and it is the will of God that the church, in accordance with good order (1 Corinthians 14:40), call qualified individuals into this public ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 9:14). Such individuals minister publicly, that is, not because as individuals they possess the universal priesthood but because they are asked to do this in the name of fellow Christians (Romans 10:15). These individuals are the called servants of Christ and ministers of the gospel. They are not to be lords over God’s church (1 Peter 5:3). We believe that when the church calls individuals into this public ministry, the Lord himself is acting through the church (Acts 20:28). We believe that the church has the freedom to establish various forms within the one ministry of the Word, such as pastors, Christian teachers, and staff ministers. Through its call, the church in Christian liberty designates the place and scope of service.
“9. We believe that the church’s mission is to serve people with the Word and sacraments. This service is usually done in local congregations. We look upon the pastoral office as the most comprehensive form of the public ministry of the Word. Pastors are trained and called to provide such comprehensive spiritual oversight for the gathering and nurturing of souls in congregations (1 Peter 5:2).
“10. We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).”
You can read the paragraphs that were cited in context via this link. While the Bible prohibits women from the pastoral office, they enjoy equal status with men in the kingdom of God (Galatians 3:26-29).
WELS is not in fellowship with NALC (The North American Lutheran Church).
This link will take you to the website of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference that lists the church bodies throughout the world that are in doctrinal or confessional fellowship with WELS.
Most of those churches listed have websites that can provide further information on their history and ministries.
What is the WELS view on women serving in a congregation as coordinators of service committees (outreach, nurture, property) that are mixed men/women? The WELS church I am a member at is currently proposing a constitutional change that would change these leadership positions which are open to male voting members to either a male or female member. Some view this as incorrect application of the headship/helper principle while others view it as an adiaphora/Christian freedom because that position does not exercise authority.
You and your congregation are experiencing firsthand how churches study God’s word to understand and apply scriptural principles to their organizational life. God has established a role relationship for men and women. Men are to exercise authority as a loving head and women are to use their God-given gifts as a loving helper (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3,8; 1 Timothy 2:11-13). Together, men and women—enjoying perfect equality in God’s family (Galatians 3:26-29)—serve their Lord and one another. By specific job descriptions (which I do not have in your case) congregations spell out what authority is given to committee and board members and the individuals overseeing or coordinating their work.
There is a section in A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God’s Word that you might find helpful. In answering the question “What roles may women fill in the leadership and administration of the church?” there is this response:
“Women should not serve in offices of the church which have governing authority in the church and responsibility for discipline, such as elder and councilman. If such administrative tasks as treasurer and financial secretary are service positions separated from governing responsibility for the church, there is no reason women may not serve in such positions. Women can certainly function as evangelists, teachers, counselors, and visitors of the sick if their service in these areas is in harmony with the scriptural principles of headship and submission…If the ‘evangelism committee’ consists of everyone who is trained to make evangelism calls, there is no reason women may not serve on such a committee. However, supervising authority and responsibility for congregational policy must rest with the governing boards of the congregation.
“…it would be wise to use terminology that distinguishes the roles of various groups, such as governing boards and service committees. Distinctions of terminology should reflect genuine distinctions of function. They should not be imaginary distinctions, designed to evade scriptural principle. Calling a group a ‘service committee’ when in reality it acts as a governing board and policy-making group, perhaps with rubber stamp approval from the church council, would be a deception aimed at evading God’s will.
“…The key questions are, ‘[Are women] being asked to serve in a way which is in harmony with scriptural principle?’ and ‘Are we giving a clear testimony concerning our adherence to the scriptural principles?’” (p. 41)
Finally, you may or may not be aware that each district of our synod has a committee for constitutional matters which is charged with reviewing and approving revisions to congregational constitutions and bylaws. Whatever revisions to the bylaws your congregation adopts will be reviewed by the committee in your district. God bless your congregation and the work of its men and women.
My family and I have attended a few WELS services/liturgies and are considering becoming WELS members. One my my hang-ups is when the pastor during the liturgy states that he forgives the sins of the attendees. I have heard this recited in Missouri Synod services as well. Where does Scripture say that the pastor has the power to forgive sins? Also, could you provide any reference material as to the reason/significance behind the pastors wearing robes. Thank you!
After the confession of sins in church the pastor could say, “God, our heavenly Father, has forgiven all your sins.” And, because forgiveness alone comes from God, our pastors do say that when they use the Service of the Word (Christian Worship, page 38).
After the confession of sins in church the pastor could say, “God our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Therefore, as a called servant of Christ and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And because the Lord has given his followers the authority to announce forgiveness in his name, our pastors do say that when they use the Common Service and the Service of Word and Sacrament (Christian Worship, pages 15 and 26).
It is not just pastors who have the authority to announce God’s forgiveness to others; all Christians do. The risen Lord told his followers: “’Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” (John 20:21-23). When members of a congregation confess their sins, their called servant—and God’s representative—announces God’s forgiveness to them.
The answer to your question about pastors wearing robes involves historic practices and Christian freedom. You may be able to obtain a copy of Christian Worship: Manual from a WELS pastor or his church’s library. Chapter 6, a very short chapter, addresses “The Vestments of the Pastor.” The chapter explains that “The pastor’s vestments identify him as the called spiritual leader of the congregation” (page 99). “The vestment places onto the pastor’s appearance the truth, ‘It is not I who speak, but God who speaks.’ The vestment hides the man and accentuates the ministry” (page 100). “In the same way that Christians preserve the liturgy in part because of its ancient roots, so believers value the vestments of worship because the tradition of vestments is part of the legacy of the church” (page 102).
While there are practical and historic reasons for the vestments of pastors, this is finally a matter of Christian freedom. God has neither commanded nor forbidden this practice. But as in any area of life, we seek to exercise our freedom “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
If you have follow up questions, do address them to the pastor of the congregation you may be interested in joining. God’s blessings to you!
If you are asking whether or not the bride and groom both need to belong to our church body to be married by a WELS pastor, the answer is no. While each congregation is responsible for its wedding policies, one of the privileges of church membership is being able to be married in one’s church—regardless of whom that person is marrying. If you have more specific questions, you can direct them to the WELS pastor in your community.
My family and I are new members of an LCMS church. Our congregation recently voted to call a female Director of Christian Education (DCE). This decision has angered my wife and me because this allows a young unmarried woman to lead and teach our confirmed teenage boys, young adult men, and adult small groups. My wife and I don’t believe this is faithful to Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians forbidding a woman to “teach or hold authority over a man”. And yet the LCMS has maintained this practice for about 50 years. What is WELS' position on female lay teachers? Does WELS have a position concerning the practice of female “DCEs”?
Elsewhere on the WELS web site you will find the document “This We Believe,” a statement of belief of our church body. In the chapter on “Church and Ministry” there is this statement: “We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).” You can read the statement in its context via this link.
In our church body, whether we are speaking of female lay teachers in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School, female teachers in a Lutheran elementary school or female staff ministers in our congregations, their service will be directed to youth and women.
I know that women cannot be ordained ministers. My daughter says nowhere in the Bible does it say that. I want to show her it does, but I don't know where to go in the Bible to show her that it does. Would you please give me the Bible verses that say that? Also, my daughter is in to Joyce Meyer Ministries. How does the WELS recognize her and her teachings? Thank you and God bless you.
Bible verses that address your question are: 1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35; and, 1 Timothy 2:1-3:13.
Our synod does not have an official evaluation of ministries like Joyce Meyer Ministries. The Statement of Faith on her web site reveals some basic Christian teachings, but also includes decision theology, emphasis on charismatic gifts like spiritual healing and a prosperity gospel that is placed in the context of helping others. Elsewhere on her web site she speaks of God communicating with her apart from the Bible.
Errors like these call for the implementation of biblical instructions like Romans 16:17 and 2 John 9-11.
Article III of the Constitution of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod addresses membership.
“Section 1. The synod shall consist of all congregations, pastors, and male teachers who shall have joined the synod through their respective districts.
“Section 2. New members shall be admitted by the synod in its convention upon the recommendation of the appropriate district president, or through the appropriate district convention.
“Section 3. Membership in the synod shall be restricted to congregations, pastors, and male teachers who agree in doctrine and practice with the confession referenced in Article II.”
Article IV of the Constitution for the Districts states:
“Section 1. Voting members of this district shall be a) all congregations who shall have joined the district, and b) all pastors and male teachers who shall have joined the district.
“Section 2. Membership in the district shall be restricted to congregations, pastors and male teachers who agree in doctrine and practice with the confession set forth in Article II of this Constitution.”
While these constitutions define voting membership in the synod, all individuals who are members of a WELS congregation are “actual members of WELS” through their membership in a WELS congregation.
In my area there are many Lutheran churches, including a WELS church and a CLC (Church of the Lutheran Confession) church? What are the differences between these two branches of conservative Lutheranism?
The differences have largely been in the area of applying biblical fellowship principles. The Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) was founded in 1960 by congregations and pastors who left the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) because they maintained WELS and ELS did not break fellowship with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) quickly enough.
It is encouraging to report that representatives from the CLC, WELS and ELS have recently been participating in formal doctrinal discussions. The following information is from a December 2015 Together newsletter (WELS):
“Representatives from the Church of the Lutheran Confession, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod met in Waukesha, Wis., on Nov. 13 to continue formal doctrinal discussions. The group made final edits to a joint statement on the biblical doctrine of fellowship. This statement had been adopted as a draft by the group in an earlier meeting and had been shared with the doctrinal committees of all three synods. Comments from those committees were considered in the writing of the latest draft. The revised statement will be shared again with the doctrinal committees for additional input.
“The group also spent a portion of the meeting addressing how the biblical doctrine of fellowship is applied in various situations. One significant area of discussion is how the biblical fellowship principles impact participation in various organizations that may have religious elements in their governing documents or in how the organizations function. Another subject for discussion was the biblical doctrine of the role of men and women in the church, in marriage, and in society. Discussion of these matters will continue at the next meeting, planned for early in 2016.
“The talks have been constructive and positive, with all involved fully committed to a faithful understanding and application of God’s Word.”
It is the prayer of many that God continue to bless these efforts to restore doctrinal fellowship.
I have have recently heard of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America and Old Apostolic Lutheran Church. What are Apostolic Lutherans and what do they believe?
The web site of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America provides this information:
“The Apostolic Lutheran Church was organized in the United States in 1872, having its roots with a group of people who came from Finland, Sweden, and Norway in the 1860’s. The Apostolic Lutheran Church of America has 55 churches with about 9,000 members.
“Apostolic Lutheranism, as a whole, has been and still is mostly a lay movement with ministerial training not a pre-requisite for ordination to the ministry. Evidence of a “call by God to preach the Word” is the main criteria for ordination of the clergy and elders. The church buildings in which members worship are very simple in structure and beauty. The worship service consists of a simple liturgy. A typical worship service includes an opening hymn, prayer, a hymn and free will offering, a sermon from the Bible, communion, and a closing hymn and benediction.
“The Apostolic Lutheran Church of America recognizes as true, the Christian Doctrine, based on the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible, the Lutheran Doctrine, and the Book of Concord, and the three ecumenical symbols: the Apostolic, the Nicene, the Athanasian [Creeds, as well as the], and the Augsburg Confessions, (those parts) which are in agreement with the Holy Bible and uphold the Confession of True Faith, and love as the greatest law.
“All ritual and polity of the Church are to be governed according to the immovable truths of the above mentioned Confessions, namely, that the Holy Word of God (both the Old and New Testaments) shall be the sole authority of truth in the light of which all doctrine in this Church shall be examined and determined.
“The principal calling (duty) of this Church shall be the propagation of the true doctrine, which shall manifest itself in the preaching of repentance and the remission (forgiveness) of sins, and by the administration of the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper customarily practiced by the Apostolic Lutheran Churches. The Apostolic Lutheran Church emphasizes the importance of a personal experience of justification by faith (salvation experience). A more detailed explanation of the doctrine of the ALCA is found in ‘The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ’, also found on the Federation website.”
I was talking to someone and I told him that our pastor forgives our sins. He told me only Jesus, who is God, can forgive sins. How and where can I tell him about the keys? Thank you!
You can point your friend to Matthew 18:15-20: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Also, John 20:21-23: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’”
The pastor is announcing God’s forgiveness of sins to the assembled worshipers. Those worshipers can announce God’s forgiveness of sins to others in their everyday lives. It is certainly a blessing that God speaks the gospel message through people.
Does the WELS have an official stance regarding divorced people holding positions of authority (e.g., elementary school teachers, youth group leaders, Sunday School teachers, members of church boards, etc.) in the church or school?
Recognizing how circumstances can vary greatly in the dissolution of marriages, there is no “official stance” that addresses your question.
Congregations are rightly concerned that those who serve remain above reproach and set Christian examples—especially for the young. Being divorced, in and of itself, does not necessarily disqualify a person from serving. Congregations need to consider the particular circumstances of the divorce in determining what service can be rendered in their midst.
My husband & I are considering moving to Blaine, Washington but there are no WELS or ELS churches nearby. As a lifelong WELS member I'm very nervous about living somewhere where I cannot attend a church that will support my faith. What would you recommend?
Widening the search radius on the WELS Locator to 50 miles reveals that there is an ELS congregation (St. Luke’s Lutheran Church) in Mt. Vernon, Washington. The church is 45 miles south of Blaine and it looks like mostly interstate driving.
If the distance appears to be impractical, you might want to contact the pastor of St. Luke’s to see if there are other WELS/ELS members in Blaine who might be served in some way or serve as the nucleus for a new mission start.
In addition, if you look north, WELS-Canada has a church in Vancouver, British Columbia: Savior of the Nations Lutheran Church. That appears to be about 30 miles from Blaine.
If you live in the Midwest and are fairly close to your current congregation, these may seem like great distances to drive to church. I can assure you that there are people, outside the Midwest, who do travel distances like these—and greater—to their churches.
You certainly have wonderful priorities and the right concern in contemplating a move. God bless any relocation plans you and your husband make!
Paul rebuked the Corinthian congregation when its lax practices hindered a worshipful attitude. He instructed the members to eat and drink at home in order to quell the unruly nature of their gatherings. In these modern times, must we instead do our preparing for worship and/or the Lord’s Supper at home because the atmosphere in the sanctuary is full of robust conversations and laughter? The organist has prepared pre-service music complementing the readings and hymns, but if someone wishes to listen and pray and prepare, he is hindered by the non-worshipful atmosphere all around him. I understand that our congregations are a type of family reunion gathering. But isn’t there a proper place and time for the loud chatter outside the pre-service period?
You have proper concern for wanting an atmosphere before the worship service that is conducive for contemplation, meditation and preparation.
A common practice of churches is that hushed conversations among worshipers end with the beginning of pre-service music. I would encourage you to forward your concern to your pastor and the congregation’s board of elders.
Hi. I understand that the WELS teaches from the Bible and regards the Bible as the true Word of God. However, I am confused about the Catechism and Martin Luther. Is the Catechism an explanation of doctrines in the Bible or is it teachings of Luther? Thank you.
Elsewhere on this web site you can read that “Martin Luther wrote the Small Catechism as a brief summary of the basic truths of the Christian faith. It was primarily intended to educate the laity and was designed as a tool that parents could use to teach their children. It provides summaries or explanations of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar (Holy Communion), and the Ministry of the Keys and Confession.”
Luther also wrote the Large Catechism. “Covering in greater depth the same doctrines and subjects as the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism was really a series of edited sermons of Martin Luther. It was intended primarily as a tool that could be used by pastors and teachers to broaden their knowledge of the teachings of the Bible.”
The Catechisms provide an explanation of biblical teachings. Scripture alone is the source of our faith (Ephesians 2:20).
Traditional-age students receive pre-seminary training at Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota. Seminary training is then provided at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wisconsin.
Non-traditional students (those who are married or older than age 21) who are interested in Martin Luther College’s Seminary Certification Program are directed to contact the Pastoral Studies Institute at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.
Following successful completion of these programs and recommendations by the appropriate faculties, individuals are eligible for assignment by the Synod’s Assignment Committee (the Conference of Presidents).
If you are seeking this information for yourself, God bless your inquiries and decision making!
What is the current status of a policy where WELS women have an equal vote with WELS men? Is there a focus group or person(s) researching this? Is it a topic for an upcoming synod and/or convention in 2016 or 2017? What is the best way for me to gain more information on the "WELS women vote" issue. Please refer me to the best resources and people I can talk with. Thank you!
There has been no change in our synod’s practice in this area, nor are there plans for this issue to be studied or brought to district or synodical conventions.
As far as resources on this topic are concerned, I can refer you to a doctrinal statement on man and woman roles that is available elsewhere on this web site. This link will take you to that statement.
I can also recommend Man and Woman in God’s World. This booklet was prepared under the auspices of our synod’s Conference of Presidents and is available from Northwestern Publishing House.
These resources will remind you that while God has assigned different but complementary roles to men and women, they enjoy equal status in his sight as his children (Galatians 3:26-29).
In applying the biblical roles of men and women, is it wrong for a woman to become a police officer? There will obviously be times in her career where she will have to exercise authority over men. My understanding is that women being submissive to men is a general principle and applies to all areas of life, not just to marriage or church matters. So, knowing this, could a Christian woman be a police officer without going against God's will?
The short answers to your two different questions are: “No, it would not automatically and always be wrong for a woman to become a police officer” and “Yes, a Christian woman could be a police officer without going against God’s will.”
The longer answers require a great deal of context—context that goes beyond what I can provide in this forum, but what you can find in studies on the callings men and women have received from God. Those studies emphasize, as you pointed out, that God’s principles of loving head and loving helper (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3) do not become invalid when Christians live and work in society. For various reasons that those studies will spell out, Christian women may find themselves in vocations in which there is responsibility and authority over both women and men. If that is the case, Christian women will want to go about their work respecting the biblical principles of leadership. (And of course a Christian woman might steer clear of such vocations or positions for reasons of conscience – Romans 14:23).
Could it be wrong for a woman to serve in law enforcement? Yes, if her motive for the profession were simply to deny God’s principles of leadership and to exercise authority over men. (Such a wrong motive would affect other occupations too.)
As Christian women live and work in a society that increasingly ignores and despises God’s word, including his principles for how men and women are to interact, they will seek to understand how best to honor God and his word, and uphold scriptural principles.
I understand your question to be one that rules out any participation in the wedding service by clergy, musicians or other worship leaders outside our fellowship and addresses only the venue of the marriage service.
With that in mind, a prospective bride and groom could secure another church building for their wedding to be officiated by a WELS pastor. The situation would not be that different from a mission congregation that rents worship facilities from another church.
With this situation, the bride and groom would do others a service by explaining the re-location of the wedding—perhaps occasioned by the guest list and the size of the church sanctuary.
If a WELS church sells their current building because they are expanding and building a new facility, but they sell to a church that WELS feels preaches false doctrine, is that wrong? The church made a profit in the sale to the Unitarian Universalists. We are taught that bake sales, pork dinners, salad suppers are wrong because it brings in money from other sources, but isn't selling a building to a church that teaches false doctrine also wrong? Profiting from outside sources?
The real estate transaction you described would not be wrong. The scenario you described is that of a congregation relocating to a new site, necessitating the selling of the facility they no longer needed. If their assets—especially the land value—increased over time, then there was the potential to sell at a profit. Selling to another church, even a false church, would not be wrong.
There is a difference between a one-time real estate transaction and the other kinds of events you mentioned that might take place regularly in a congregation. It is possible for the congregational events you mentioned to give people the impression that the church cannot support itself financially and needs the financial assistance of others outside the church family. I would not equate the selling of church property with fundraisers that seek community involvement.
We are a small town with a membership of 150 people. We can never seem to get any ladies to join our Ladies Aid program. My question is, what is the real reason to have a ladies group in the church? What is our real purpose? Suggestions would be great. Thank you.
You ask a good question. Church organizations need to ask why they exist and what their purpose is.
Church organizations usually answer those questions with a mission statement of some kind. A statement might look like this: “The Ladies Aid organization of St. John’s Lutheran Church exists to provide opportunities for Bible study and Christian fellowship for ladies of the congregation and to furnish occasions for service projects to the congregation and community.” Those service projects might include making available the purchase of Christian greeting cards by members, coordinating congregational dinners and funeral luncheons, offering assistance to the pastor by serving as an Altar Guild, serving as a liaison between WELS Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) and the women of the congregation, making worship service banners or customizing baptismal napkins, or many other activities that would fit your local situation.
Here are some other ideas from the Women’s Ministry section of the synod’s web site.
Organizations—whether they are in church or outside the church—need to define their purpose for existing. If there is no real purpose, then there can be little surprise why an organization struggles to involve people in it.
I would encourage you and your fellow sisters in Christ to brainstorm purposes for your Ladies Aid organization. If you do not have a mission statement, you could draft one, thus giving clear direction for the organization. No doubt, you would want to involve your pastor and other church leaders in your discussions and plans.
God bless you and the ladies of your congregation as you seek to imitate the example of the women who supported the work of the Lord and his kingdom (Luke 8:1-3)!
I have been told that the origin of having the US and Christian flags displayed in our churches (often in the chancel itself) arose during WWI in an effort to show that German Lutherans were first and foremost loyal citizens of the USA. Why is this practice still followed? In view of the increasing hostility of government and society to the Christian faith, this practice seems out of place. In any case, correct positioning of the US flag is on the right-hand side of the "speaker," but many churches have the Christian flag in that position. It would seem to me, if a congregation wants the US flag in the church, it would be better placed at the back. Comments?
As Scripture is silent on this topic, congregations are in a position to exercise their Christian freedom. Information from Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, provides information to help congregations examine their freedom in light of what practice might send the best theological message to worshipers.
In the chapter titled “The Worship Space,” there is this guidance: “Some churches like to include the national, Christian, and denominational flags in the chancel. While many Lutheran congregations have displayed flags of one sort or another, building committees ought to carefully analyze this tradition. Altar, pulpit, and font ‘all point to Christ,’ while national flags ‘speak not of Christ, but of the nation’ [Brugginck and Droppers, Christ and Architecture, pp. 250ff]. Especially in an age when so many Christian churches confuse the separate roles of church and state, it may be wise to place national flags in the narthex rather than in the chancel. The use of the Christian flag may promote an imprecise view of the church and false ecumenism besides. Denominational loyalty is important in a congregation, but recent history seems to indicate that it is better to teach loyalty to the Scriptures that cannot err than to denominations that can. The important work of the church body can surely be emphasized in better ways than with a flag” (pp. 85-86).
Again, because this is a matter on which Scripture is silent, congregations do well to explain clearly their rationale for whatever their particular practice in this area might be.
Every year, for Trinity Sunday, we read the Athanasian Creed in church. For me, it usually starts out great, as it's a logical explanation of what we believe regarding the Trinity. But then, as we get to the end, I read the "whoever does not believe this cannot be saved" and I cringe, if I read it aloud at all. How is this statement biblical? Salvation depends on one thing alone, faith in Christ as their Savior. Nowhere in the Bible (to my knowledge at least) is salvation dependent on believing the Trinity. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not downplaying the importance of the Trinity, or any other teaching of the Bible that doesn't grant salvation. The first thing that pops into my head is the thief on the cross. It's possible that he heard Jesus talk before he was hanging next to him, maybe even heard him teach about the doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible doesn't tell us that though, but it does tell us that he was saved. The definition of a creed is a statement of what we believe. In most cases, if a visitor asked what we believed, I'd point them to one of the other two creeds. I guess my question is this: why (and how) does the WELS agree with this creed?
In answering your question and addressing your concerns, it will be helpful to keep in mind that, as was the case with the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed was written at a time of theological controversy in the church.
Written perhaps around 500 A.D., the Athanasian Creed stated scriptural truths to confront the heresy of Arianism. Arianism argued that Jesus Christ was a created being, so therefore he was not equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit. You can see that such a denial of Jesus is a rejection of the Bible’s teaching of the Trinity; with that denial of Jesus, there would no longer be three persons of the Godhead equal in power and majesty and glory. The Athanasian Creed was drafted to combat the error of Arianism and state what Scripture says about the God of the Bible being a triune God and that there is salvation only through Jesus Christ, the God-man.
The wording of the Athanasian Creed does not demand that people understand the mysteries of the Trinity and the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Athanasian Creed does declare that the only saving faith that exists is that which is centered in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity (Matthew 3:16-17; John 14:6; 10:30; Acts 4:12). Because the Creed states scriptural truths, our church body finds agreement with it and uses it—if only sparingly—in our worship services.
In This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, we profess: “1. We believe that there is one holy Christian church, which is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) and the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23; 4:12). The members of this one church are all those who are the ‘sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26). The church, then, consists only of believers, or saints, whom God accepts as holy for the sake of Jesus’ righteousness, which has been credited to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). These saints are scattered throughout the world. All people who believe that Jesus is their Savior from sin are members of the holy Christian church, regardless of the nation, race, or church body to which they belong.
“2. We believe that this holy Christian church is a reality, although it is not an external, visible organization. Because ‘man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7), only the Lord knows ‘those who are his’ (2 Timothy 2:19). The members of the holy Christian church are known only to God; we cannot distinguish between true believers and hypocrites. The holy Christian church is therefore invisible and cannot be identified with any one church body or with the total membership of all church bodies.
“3. We believe that the presence of the holy Christian church nevertheless can be recognized. Wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered, the holy Christian church is present, for through the means of grace true faith is produced and preserved (Isaiah 55:10,11). The means of grace, therefore, are called the marks of the church.”
You can read the paragraphs quoted above in context via this link.
In short, visible churches are those gatherings of people where you might find believers and unbelievers and hypocrites. You can see who belongs to those churches. By contrast, only believers in Christ are part of the invisible church, and because only God can look into a person’s heart, only God knows who is a member of that church. The invisible church is what we have in mind when we say in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe…in the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.”
My child is very faithful and loves going to church and loves God. He recently said something to the point of, "I understand Communion and what reflection means. Why can't I take it?" I asked him what it meant and he really described it! This brought up a question. What can I do if my child, 12, wants to take the Lord's Supper? Can I put him in Confirmation Class early?
The Bible of course does not speak of the rite of Confirmation. It speaks of training children in God’s word (Psalm 78:1-8; Proverbs 22:6; 2 Timothy 3:14-16), confessing Jesus Christ as Savior (Matthew 10:32), examining ourselves before receiving the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28) and partaking of the Lord’s Supper often (1 Corinthians 11:25). Established in Christian freedom, Confirmation—the rite and the formal course of instruction that precedes it—addresses these important areas.
The common practice in our church body associates the time of confirmation with a child’s education in eighth grade. Good order in the congregation (1 Corinthians 14:40) is maintained when the youth of the congregation attend Confirmation Class at the time the class is normally offered.
It is wonderful that your son has a basic understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Thorough instruction in Confirmation Class will enable him to profess at the time of Confirmation that what he has learned is what the Bible teaches. Through the rite of Confirmation he will become a communicant member of the congregation. Among other privileges, that will enable him to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
Perhaps your son can use his desire to receive the sacrament and his Christian maturity to encourage his peers to be faithful in their Confirmation Class instruction. May he and we always cherish God’s gospel in word and sacrament. God’s blessings to you and your family!
Since going to every Sunday Communion we always say the Nicene Creed. I miss saying the Apostles' Creed at least two or three times a month. Is it possible to have a Communion service and use the Apostles' Creed? I feel like our worship is getting mundane and it saddens me.
It is possible, as the development and usage of the creeds are a matter of Christian freedom. At the same time, Christians have historically—for centuries—used the Nicene Creed in Holy Communion services. There is something to be said about worship practices that tie us to Christians throughout the ages.
Your question is one that you could certainly direct to your pastor and worship committee. Their rightful concern is that the worship of the congregation be vibrant and engaging and not mundane. That concern can manifest itself even in this regard: in explaining and educating congregational members on the liturgies we use week after week. God bless your worship of him!
Staying connected to God when your loved one has terminal cancer. How can a member stay connected and grow closer to God during his last days if pastor doesn't share word and sacrament, if treatment or illness keeps cancer patient from attending church? We get sporadic, at best, calls most initiated by family. Occasional phone calls from appointed member but never sharing God's word or sacrament. When asking, I am told pastor is too busy. Is there a way to help people who can't get to church stay connected to God and grow in faith and partake of the sacrament and hear God's word?
I trust that this is an unfortunate case of communication in the congregation that has gone awry somehow. The divine call that pastors receive to serve a congregation charges them: “To discharge toward all the members of our congregation the functions of a pastor, that is, to watch over their souls in an evangelical manner (Acts 20:28); in particular to visit the sick and the dying, to admonish indifferent and erring members (2 Timothy 4:2) and to be ever zealous for the winning of souls for Christ’s kingdom.” [italics added]
Your pastor has been called to do the very thing you are asking: to minister with word and sacrament to those who are unable to attend worship services and to visit the sick and dying. Do contact your pastor and make him aware again of your loved one’s situation. Request a visit. If necessary, enlist the help of a friend to make contact. When necessary, contact the chairman of your congregation’s board of elders.
I encourage you and your loved one to keep focused on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), knowing and trusting him that you are safe in his hands, possessing the eternal life he won (John 10:27-30). God bless you.
I saw something posted on Facebook about a Congregational Assistant Program. What is that, and what does it entail? I tried to do a search on the WELS website but to no avail.
Following this link will provide you with information on the WELS Congregational Assistant Program. The web site will also give you contact information if you desire to follow up on anything you read.
Having just participated in part of the CAPstone session as an instructor, I can assure you that those who finish the program are well equipped to serve in various ways in their congregations.
There is a possibility I may be working in the Munich area of Germany for two years and wonder if anyone knows of a church body there that believes similarly to the WELS. I found a group called SELK--but don't know much about them other than they say they are in fellowship with the LCMS in the States. Can you help? Thanks.
The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Germany (ELFK), a church body in fellowship with WELS, maintains congregations mainly in eastern Germany, but it does serve individuals in Munich. I have provided privately the email address of the pastor whom you can contact.
You might also be interested to know about the WELS European chaplaincy program. This link offers more information, including a means of signing up to receive devotional materials. God bless you—here in the States or overseas.
I have been to weddings and baptisms in Lutheran churches outside of WELS in which they confess their faith during the Creed in the Holy Catholic Church, instead of saying the Holy Christian Church like we do. Why would a Lutheran church confess the Holy Catholic Church?
For starters, it would be good to review the difference between “catholic” and “Catholic.” The former means “universal,” while the latter refers to a church body, the Roman Catholic Church.
There is a “catholic” or “universal” church of which the Bible speaks (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 1:23; 4:4, 12). There is a “catholic” or “universal” faith of which the Bible speaks (Ephesians 4:5). That faith is centered in Jesus Christ as Savior.
When WELS congregations used The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), worshipers confessed in the Athanasian Creed: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [i.e., universal, Christian] faith.” Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (1993) eliminated potential confusion with that terminology by recasting the opening line of that creed this way: “Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian faith.”
With these things in mind, a Lutheran church can confess belief in the “holy catholic church” but not the “holy Catholic church.”
From what I have heard regarding the office of the holy ministry, the three distinctive functions of the ministry are preaching, administering sacraments, and exercising the Office of the Keys. Is this correct? If so, could you explain where in the Bible these three functions are described as exclusive to the ministry? Thank you.
The Shepherd Under Christ, a textbook for practical theology, addresses your questions well. It explains, from Scripture, to our seminary students how the public ministry relates to the universal priesthood of believers.
“God has given the gospel to all Christians, individually and collectively. Jesus entrusted to each Christian and to groups of Christians gathered about the gospel the right to bind or loose, to forgive or retain sins, by declaring or withholding His gospel (Mt 18:18; Jn 20:21-23). Every Christian as a member of the royal priesthood has been called to proclaim the Lord’s praises (1 Pe 2:9). He is called to function as a witness and servant of His Lord, as a light to the world (Mt 5:16). He has this call as a member of the universal priesthood of all believers. This is the ministry that Christ has enjoined on His New Testament church and that has been committed to every Christian (Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15).
“The Lord has also established the public ministry in His church. This ministry does not set up a priestly caste apart from the laity, for, as noted above, all Christians are priests of God. The difference lies in the word public. The public ministry is a service performed in the church, in behalf of fellow Christians, in their name. Like the public official in a state who functions in the name of his fellow citizens that have elected him, so the minister has an office in which he carries out responsibilities that have been entrusted to him by fellow Christians. These responsibilities are not essentially different from those Christ committed to every Christian. The minister too is to serve in the gospel as did Paul and Timothy (Ph 2:19-23); to labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tm 5:17); to speak the Word of God (He 11:17). But the minister does this in the church, in behalf of the church, and as a representative of the church.
“While every Christian has the call to proclaim Christ to the world, for the public ministry, and this includes the pastoral office, a specific call is necessary. Within the church every Christian, being a priest of God, possesses the ministry in equal measure. Good order, therefore, requires that no one function publicly, that is, in behalf of the assembly of Christians, unless these Christians themselves by means of a call have commissioned him to do so (1 Cor 14:40; Ro 10:15; 1 Pe 4:15). [pages 21-22]
You might be interested in reading our synod’s doctrinal statement on “Church and Ministry.” This link will take you to that document. This second link will take you to the “Church and Ministry” chapter of “This We Believe,” a statement of belief of our synod.
Should you desire more in depth studies of the topic, this link will take you to our Seminary’s essay file where there are almost 200 papers on the public ministry.
Praise God for the gospel ministry he has entrusted to all Christians. Praise God for those who are called to labor in their behalf.
I am a high school student from one of the WELS high schools. I never had any intention of becoming a called worker, however, I took a trip to Martin Luther College and for the past half year I have had this constant calling in my heart to become a pastor. Having not explored many other career options, I do not want to be a pastor out of lack of trying anything else. How does one decide if their gifts can best be used to serve God through public ministry vs. in any other field? Has God destined some people for ministry? If so, how does that fit in with the fact that he gives us free will?
I am happy to hear of your interest in training for service in the public ministry. Such service is definitely an undeserved privilege.
I presented your questions, while preserving anonymity, to one of the classes I teach here at Martin Luther College (MLC). The students in this particular class are primarily sophomores in the pre-seminary program, so they could certainly identify with your situation.
Here are some of their responses to your questions:
– “Go ahead and consider other options. See what gifts has given you and how those gifts might match up to your passion for serving God in a particular way.”
– “Recognize that people can serve God in so many different vocations in life.”
– “It’s never too late. You could try other vocations and then consider training for the public ministry at another point in life.”
– “Talk to men who serve as pastors in the public ministry. See what they like about their calling. Compare their thoughts with your ideas about service in the public ministry.”
– “Don’t go looking for signs from God on what to do. He will bless whatever decision you make.”
– “See if you might be able to do some things in high school—like giving a devotion—that can help you picture yourself serving in the public ministry.”
– “Finally, if you’re not sure, come to MLC. You will be in an environment where you are surrounded by God’s word and Christian people. It’s a place where you can grow in your faith while you try to sort out the future.”
I thought the responses the students came up with were very good. I would especially underscore the one about “not looking for signs from God.” When it comes to serving God with your life, you have many good options from which to choose. Through prayer, discussion with others, and reflection on the gifts God has given you, you can determine how to live your life as a way of thanking God for his love for you (Romans 12:1).
If you would like more information on the pre-seminary program at Martin Luther College, please contact the Admissions Office at [email protected]
Finally, if you do enroll at MLC and wind up in one of my classes, please remind me of this question and answer! God bless you.
While the constitutions and bylaws of some congregations in our synod describe the responsibilities of a deacon or a board of deacons, those positions are like others in a congregation: they are staffed by volunteers who serve for a limited term of duty.
Perhaps the form of ministry that resembles a diaconate in our synod is staff ministry. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota provides the education for staff ministry students, and calling bodies have the freedom to provide titles of their choosing for the individuals who serve them. Some of those individuals have the title of “deacon” or “deaconess.”
If you are interested in more information on staff ministry in WELS, this link will provide that.
The answer can vary depending on which Lutheran church body you have in mind. Lutherans generally do not see the possibility or the necessity of having an unbroken chain of bishops going back to Jesus’ apostles.
Exceptions to that view would include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and some Scandinavian Lutheran church bodies. ELCA’s position on apostolic succession changed formally in connection with their full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church.
WELS does not recognize apostolic succession as being necessary or commanded in Scripture.
Should our WELS pastors be either attending or participating in the Change or Die Conferences sponsored by the Siebert Foundation?
We do not maintain a list of conferences and workshops that regulate the attendance of our pastors. If our pastors are interested in attending conferences that involve individuals outside our fellowship, they will want to be alert to any activities or events that would compromise our scriptural fellowship principles and then not participate in them.
Because of the unity of faith that exists in the pastoral conferences of our synod, our pastors certainly have reason to put attendance at those conferences at the top of their priority list.
I know the Catholic church trains some of its priests to be exorcists. I am wondering if the WELS has pastors trained to perform exorcisms. If so, where did the knowledge of how to do it come from, considering it isn't in the Bible (as far as I know)? Also, if we do have pastors who have performed exorcisms or have witnessed someone who is possessed by a demon, what documentation (if any) exists other than what's in the Bible? A different question, but along the same lines - in the WELS we believe that the Bible is the only true source of information about God. However, satanic cults or witchcraft seem to have other sources of information for their purposes. Is any of this legitimate? If so, do we know where it came from? Were these potentially texts that were thrown out at the Council of Trent?
Our pastors are not trained to perform exorcisms. Our pastors are trained so that they can personally—and help others—do what Scripture says: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10-12). Our pastors, like all Christians, wield “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Ephesians 6:17) in daily skirmishes with Satan and his evil forces.
If Scripture is the only true source of information about God (and it is), then sources of information that serve satanic cults or witchcraft do not originate from God. That information may have been written by people, but ultimately it came from the devil, “the father of lies” (John 8:44). That information was not a body of literature rejected by the Council of Trent.
Your questions are a good reminder that the devil is real. In a day and age when many people deny the existence of Satan and, thus, are unprepared for his assaults, we want to take to heart what God says: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9). As we implement those words, let’s thank God for what the great Reformation hymn reminds us about in our battles with Satan: “One little word can fell him.”
I've been watching an LCMS TV YouTube channel and was wondering what the main difference(s) are between WELS and LCMS Lutherans? I heard that one of the main differences is how we view the office of the ministry, but I do not understand this well. Can you elaborate? Thanks.
I will let the two synods speak for themselves, citing statements from their church web sites.
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod states: “With respect to the doctrine of the ministry, since the days of C.F.W. Walther our Synod has held that the office of the public ministry (the pastoral office) according to Scripture is the one divinely established office in the church, while the church possesses the freedom to create other offices, by human institution, from time to time to assist in the carrying out of the functions of the pastoral ministry.”
WELS states: “Christ instituted one office in His Church, the ministry of the Gospel. It is the task of proclaiming the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15; Jn 20:21-23; Ac 1:8; 1 Pe 2:9; Lk 22:19,20. This office or service, the ministry of the keys, has been given to the Church, i.e., to the believers individually and collectively. Mt 16:19; 10:32; 18:18; 1 Pe 2:9.
“There is, however, no direct word of institution for any particular form of the public ministry. The one public ministry of the Gospel may assume various forms, as circumstances demand. Ac 6:1-6. The specific forms in which Christians establish the public ministry have not been prescribed by the Lord to His New Testament Church. It is the Holy Spirit who through the gift of their common faith leads the believers to establish the adequate and wholesome forms which fit every circumstance, situation, and need. Various functions are mentioned in Scripture: 1 Ti 4:13; Eph 4:11; 1 Co 12:28; Ro 12:6-8; 2 Ti 2:2; Jn 21:15-17 (feeding); Ac 20:28 (watching); 1 Ti 3:2; 4:11; 6:2 (teaching); 1 Ti 3:5; 5:17 (ruling). In spite of the great diversity in the external forms of the ministerial work, the ministry is essentially one. The various offices for the public preaching of the Gospel, not only those enumerated above, e.g., in Eph 4:11 and 1 Co 12:28, but also those developed in our day, are all gifts of the exalted Christ to His Church which the Church receives gratefully and with due regard for love and order employs under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit for the upbuilding of the spiritual body of Christ; and all of them are comprehended under the general commission to preach the Gospel given to all believers.”
You may be aware that representatives of LCMS, WELS and ELS have had informal discussions the past few years to understand better each other’s positions on this and other subjects. It is our prayer that God bless those and future discussions.
How can our pastors be trained to focus on our doctrine without seeming to "bad mouth" other denominations? My daughter and family have left WELS partly in response to denigration of other denominations. Having come from a non-Lutheran background myself forty plus years ago, I understand her concerns. I have had moments over the years of seeing WELS Lutherans as self-righteous. Along with this, how can we follow the teachings of Luther without seeming to worship or elevate him? My children asked me once when young whether we were Lutherans or Christians. That was a red flag to me. Thank you.
Our pastors are trained to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). That includes speaking about others and other church bodies. Since I do not have personal knowledge of what the pastors in your question might have said and how they said it, all I can do is offer a general response.
Pointing out error nowadays is not popular with many people, no matter how it is said. Many in our world claim that there is no objective truth and that one person’s idea of faith is as valid and true as another’s. Many in our world consider that pointing out error flies in the face of what Jesus said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
The truth—the biblical truth—of the matter is that there is objective truth. There is right and wrong. There is true doctrine and false doctrine. The apostle Peter provides this information: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you” (2 Peter 2:1). Jesus instructs us to “Watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). Our God gives us this directive: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:17-18). In the context of your question, we carry out that directive when we judge the confession of a church body, comparing what it professes to what the Bible teaches.
Self-righteous thinking has no place in the life of a Christian, including and especially when we compare a church body’s teachings with the Bible and arrive at the conclusion that teachings of that particular church body are false.
Finally, I would want to remind you that we do not follow the teachings of Martin Luther. We follow the teachings of God, as he has revealed them in the Bible. Luther himself is on record in this regard. He wrote: “I ask that men make no reference to my name and call themselves, not Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? After all, the doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 would not allow Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian…Let us cast out party names and be called Christians after Him whose doctrine we have…” [What Luther Says. Volume II, page 856.]
Luther’s attitude was accurate: we are Christians, people who follow Jesus Christ in faith. While there is one holy Christian church throughout the world, the members of which God alone knows (2 Timothy 2:19), you and I operate in the world of visible churches where we can see who the members are. In the realm of visible churches, labels like “Lutheran” are helpful in readily and generally arriving at the doctrinal stance of a church.
In this 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, your question is a good reminder to stay focused on the all-important man—the God-Man, Jesus Christ. God’s blessings to you.
Our church has an early childhood program serving about 50 plus children. Recently a parent asked that their son be excused from the classroom when prayers are being said. Our literature given to all parents at enrollment states our beliefs and procedures. The program has children sponsored by state agencies so we do receive government money but have not changed any policy as a result of these children nor have we been asked to. We suspect the parent may be Muslim but has not given that as a basis for the exclusion. Our question is: are we required to comply with the request ? If the child is excused, we will have to provide an adult to be with the child while he is out of the classroom.
If the handbook for your congregation’s early childhood program is typical of other, similar programs in our church body, there is information in the parents’ handbook that addresses this situation.
Handbooks typically state that when parents who do not belong to the congregation enroll their children in our programs, they submit to the stated policies. One of those policies is that if children are not going to participate in devotional activities, they will remain in the room and be respectfully silent. There is no requirement to comply with a request that goes beyond that policy.
Is it proper for a WELS congregation to rent its facility (gymnasium, fellowship hall, etc.) to a money-making organization that is not affiliated with any religion (e.g. a community theater group)?
You will want to be aware that renting your facilities to a for-profit organization risks losing the tax exempt status of your property.
I also want to make you aware of a document from the WELS Resource Center that provides information on the potential use of congregational facilities by non-members. The document is titled “Safeguarding Religious Freedom. Sample Policies for WELS Congregations, Schools, Organizations.” This link will take you to that document.
Did you hear about the Lutheran World Federation and the Reformation and the Catholic church? Is this a small group of Lutherans?
If you are asking if we are aware that representatives from the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church participated in a worship service last Reformation Day in Sweden, the answer is “yes.”
This is not a small group of Lutherans. The Lutheran World Federation is comprised of 145 Lutheran Church bodies that represent 74 million people throughout the world. In the United States, the only member church of the Lutheran World Federation is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
We maintain this in This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body: “ We believe that the presence of the holy Christian church nevertheless can be recognized. Wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered, the holy Christian church is present, for through the means of grace true faith is produced and preserved (Isaiah 55:10,11). The means of grace, therefore, are called the marks of the church.” This link will take you to that quotation in its context.
The Bible, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the marks of the church.
The WELS Tax Information Manual provides helpful information for pastors and congregations when it comes to their involvement in politics. Following is a pertinent part of that manual.
“Under the IRC, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the exempt organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax.
“Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including the presentation of public forums and the publication of voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner does not constitute prohibited political campaign activity.
“In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not constitute prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in non-partisan manner. On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that: (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of
candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”
From the pulpit, our pastors will encourage good citizenship (Romans 13:1-7) without endorsing specific candidates.
Are there any churches in Europe that are in fellowship with WELS, or at least have the same teachings?
WELS is in fellowship with almost 30 churches throughout the world—including churches in Europe. All these churches belong to the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). This link will take to the web site of the CELC, where you can find information on the churches and the work of the CELC.
Christian fellowship is a wonderful blessing from God (Psalm 133:1). The CELC is an example of that blessing.
Why does WELS practice such restrictive and conservative beliefs regarding the roles of women? Why do you believe women cannot vote, be pastors or serve on church councils? This just seems so backwards.
Our aim is to be faithful to God and his word in applying biblical principles, including God’s design for the ways in which men and women go about their earthly lives. Considering that God made men and women to be different from one another, it does not come as a surprise that God gave them different but complementary roles (1 Corinthians 11:3ff).
The difference in roles or callings does not in any way change the status Christian men and Christian women have received from God. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29). In God’s kingdom there is perfect equality among his subjects.
Your questions have received extensive treatment on this web site and in our church body’s publications. I would simply refer you to a couple of resources. This is our doctrinal statement on man and woman roles. This link provides information on the booklet Man and Woman in God’s World.
Our aim is not to change Scripture to keep up with the times. If holding to Scripture and scriptural principles leads some to view us as “backwards,” we would simply invite them to study Scripture and let God speak for himself. Thank you for your question.
I was baptized and confirmed in the ELCA. I have recently become engaged to my fiancee, and she is WELS. She graduated from Martin Luther College and is now a called synod worker. I have heard from many that she is "at risk" for dating and getting engaged to someone who is not WELS and could lose her job. Is this true? I don't want her to lose her job because of me, but I am also "stuck in my ways."
If your fiancée were a student at Martin Luther College (MLC), her engagement to you would delay any assignment until the fellowship situation was resolved. That is the practice, in Christian freedom, that our church body has adopted.
We have no general policy regarding single graduates from MLC who become engaged and marry while serving as teachers in our congregations and schools. Situations like that are congregational matters.
Teachers contemplating marriage plans to individuals outside our fellowship will want to communicate such plans to the leadership of their calling body and perhaps also with their district president. I wish you both well!
Why do some pastors get a call so frequently? They get a call, turn it down, and then get another one like 4-6 months later? Seems to be too frequent.
From a human perspective, pastors might receive calls frequently for a number of related reasons. They might be known for their God-given gifts and their faithfulness in using them. They might be blessed with a good reputation in the church. They might offer more visible service to the church at-large, so that others—beyond the members of the congregation they serve—are familiar with them and their ministries. Numerous other factors can enter into the equation as well.
Your observation of the time frame of receiving calls approximates the practice of the Conference of Presidents. The general practice of the Conference of Presidents is that if a pastor has declined a call, he will not be eligible to receive another call for approximately six months. There can be exceptions, such as a pastor receiving a call to serve in a different type of ministry (a non-parish setting, for example). We make policies like these in Christian freedom, but at the same time we strive to maintain good order in the church (1 Corinthians 14:40).
I can assure you that receiving a call to serve elsewhere can be an unsettling time in life. Then again, receiving a call to serve elsewhere provides a good opportunity for a pastor to evaluate his gifts and ministry, and prayerfully determine where those gifts can best be used at that time in life. Pastors, and other called workers, who are deliberating calls put great value in the prayers of fellow Christians. So when your pastor receives a call, pray that God would enable him to see clearly where he can best serve. Pray also that he will be at peace with the decision he makes. And if declines the call and receives another call some time later, offer similar prayers.
Submissions are still being received at this time. It is anticipated that submissions will no longer be received sometime this summer or early fall.
This link will take you to the WELS Hymnal Project web site. Once there, look for the “Public Submissions” option.
Be sure to look at the top of the home page for more information on the hymnal project.
I am about as WELS as you can get in my generation, on the older end of "millennials." I attended a WELS grade school, and have regularly attended WELS churches my entire life. However, in a couple months' time, I will be marrying a man of another denomination, and who is currently in seminary school to become a pastor in that denomination. It is a Christian denomination that teaches the saving faith in Christ alone, yet its doctrine can be described as on shifting sand. My fiance is more faithful to Christ than any man I've ever met. He is conservative, and our views largely align - and even most doctrinal views align. It has been difficult, but I do plan to convert from the WELS to his denomination. However, my heart is with the WELS, because it is through its pastors and teachers that I know of Christ's saving faith. I will always be Lutheran at heart, but more importantly I will always be a Christian at heart. Is it wrong to convert because I do not fully adhere to the doctrine of my future husband's denomination? I want to convert, because I want support him in the church, and I pray that I will be more of Christ's tool in his denomination because of the firm foundation that the WELS has given me. But an even deeper question presents, does converting essentially slap the vow I made at confirmation in the face? I identify as a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, but first I am a Christian, who believes in the Triune God and who wants to fully support my soon-to-be-husband as I've seen so many WELS pastors' wives do throughout my life. Any insight into my difficult situation would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
I agree that you are in a challenging situation. Since I do not know with which denomination you are thinking of affiliating, I cannot speak about the steps you would take to join a congregation of that denomination or what the process is like.
On the other hand, you and I do know what happens when people desire to become communicant members of our churches. In the case of confirmation, people state publicly that the teachings they have learned from the Bible are true. In the case of people joining one of our congregations by the route of profession of faith or affirmation of faith, people declare that the teachings of the church as presented to them are biblical and that the teachings reflect their faith. Through these routes that people take to become communicant members of our churches, their membership is a public confession of their faith to other people; their membership implies that their faith is aligned with the teachings of the church to which they belong. Church membership is important because it is a tangible way of doing what Jesus said: “acknowledging him before others” (Matthew 10:32).
When people have membership in a church but have personal beliefs that differ from that church, they send inconsistent messages: the person’s confession of faith says one thing, but the person’s membership in a church says something else (that he or she believes what the church teaches).
With your situation, you have told me that your faith represents the teachings of WELS from Scripture. To join a congregation in a denomination that has its doctrine on “shifting sand” would send the signal to others that your faith embraces the doctrine of that church. There would be inconsistency in the confessions of faith you would be making—personally and through your membership.
As the vows for confirmation are not necessarily identical in all our churches, I am not sure what the specific wording was for your vows. Generally, confirmands declare their acceptance of the canonical books of the Bible; they promise, with God’s help and strength, to remain strong in the confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church; and, they state their intention, also with God’s help and strength, to live a Christian life and to use faithfully the means of grace to remain a life-long child of God. Joining a denomination with doctrine based on “shifting sand” would imply that a person has embraced the confession of that church.
I understand that it is your desire to support your husband and his future ministry that is the driving force to join his denomination. I imagine you need to ask yourself what level of support will be offered if your personal confession of faith does not match the confession of faith stated by your church membership. Will doctrinal differences be disruptive rather than supportive in your family life or your congregational life? I realize the same question could be asked if you marry and retain your WELS membership. This is why I began my response by acknowledging your challenging situation.
I trust you have spoken to your parents about this and your fiancé has done the same with his parents. I trust also you are sorting out all this with your conscience in mind. If you haven’t already done so, do speak to your WELS pastor about your situation. He is in a much better position than I to offer specific help, but I hope I have at least provided the requested insight. God bless you.
When the Bible talks about vain repetitions, what does that mean? Several times I have heard people say that the Lutheran liturgy is nothing but vain repetition. Thank you.
“Vain repetitions” is part of the King James Version’s rendering of Matthew 6:7 – “ But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Other Bible translations put it this way: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (NIV).
The verb in Matthew 6:7 in Greek has the idea of “repeating the same thing over and over, to babble, to speak without thinking.” And in context, that kind of prayer life takes place with the mistaken idea that people can somehow impress their god to receive their answer to prayer.
Is there repetition in historic Lutheran liturgies? Certainly there is a template for common items, but there are also numerous places where the worship service offers variety from week to week. Common elements in worship services do not automatically translate into “vain repetitions.” I think you would agree that “speaking without thinking” can take place in worship services that have no liturgy “template” from week to week.
The potential problem is not the form of worship but the worshiper. Consider how God rebuked his Old Testament people for their empty worship life even when they were doing outwardly what he had commanded (Isaiah 1:10-15). God-pleasing worship involves the head and the heart. Your question is a reminder and an encouragement to be involved in that worship regularly.
When will the new hymnal be out? Also, as far as psalm singing is concerned, is there a new version of the accompaniment available? I winter in the south and attend a WELS church. It seems they use something different, which I really liked.
The April 4, 2017 WELS “Together” newsletter includes this update: “The current hope is that the hymnal and accompanying resources would be available for purchase during the second half of 2021.”
Since I do not know what you may have experienced in singing the psalms in your southern home church, I can only guess what the accompaniment might have been. I am wondering if it could have been the Wittenberg Psalter. This link will take you to the WELS Resource Center where you can find more information about it. It is also possible that the congregation was field testing new psalm settings. For the best answer, you will want to contact the pastor where you worshiped in winter.
We are starting a praise band in our church. Does the synod have any guidelines to the question of paying the members or expecting them to use their talents to provide a service to the worship service? Thanks. We are working on our ministry plan for 2017-2018.
To my knowledge, there are no such guidelines. It is a congregational matter whether service of any kind by members is compensated or is voluntary. You would probably do best to speak to the leaders of congregations who oversee such musical ministries.
Can a lay person hold the pastor and leaders of a church accountable for overlooking open sin in the congregation?
Certainly. Following the example of the Christians in Berea (Acts 17:11), Christians have the responsibility of examining the teaching they receive from their spiritual leaders with the message of the Bible. As God instructs the leaders of his church to watch their life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), it follows that Christians will speak to those leaders when there are problems with their life and doctrine. When Christians think of having those conversations, they will follow the direction of Matthew 18:15-20. Seeking to restore the wandering is vitally important (James 5:19).
Finally, your question about accountability serves as a reminder that God himself holds pastors accountable for their work (Ezekiel chapters 3 and 34).
The answer is “no.” If you have knowledge of this, you want your course of action to be guided by Matthew 18:15-20.
The short answer is “uninspired people.”
Unlike the prophets and apostles who wrote the books of the Bible (Ephesians 2:20) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), the authors of the apocryphal books—unknown Jews—wrote at their own impulse and direction. Authorship is unknown or falsely attributed to well-known persons.
Can a divorced single parent become a pastor? Since the divorce and becoming a single parent happened before he became a Christian, is he eligible for the ministry? Most denominations would frown on this, but what is the WELS stance on this?
The matter of divorce in and of itself would not be a barrier to serving in the pubic ministry. What would have to be addressed at some point are the circumstances of the divorce, any sinful actions, repentance and fruits of repentance. The person in question would do well to speak to his pastor about this.
I have been reading your site for this past week looking for why WELS and LCMS are different and cannot be in fellowship together. We believe the same things. The only thing I can find different is that WELS determined a long time ago that they shouldn't be in fellowship with LCMS over the understanding of fellowship, and LCMS accepted ALC into their fellowship. But both WELS and LCMS believe that we don't take Communion, worship, or pray with those that don't believe as we do. You can see my confusion. I do not see the difference between our synods except that LCMS accepts WELS ,but WELS does not accept LCMS. Our pastor actually told me he thought we were in fellowship together. Can a WELS person be married in an LCMS church or vice versa?
Differences between the synods exist in the areas of church and ministry, fellowship, and the roles of men and women. They are well documented on this web site. (Your statement about the synods’ acceptance of one another is inaccurate.)
You may or may not be aware that representatives from WELS, LCMS and ELS (Evangelical Lutheran Synod) have met annually since 2012 to better understand each other’s doctrinal positions.
There is nothing to prohibit the weddings referenced in your question.
The great majority of our congregations use Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (1993). Work is progressing on producing a new hymnal in the second half of 2021.
Congregations determine which Bible translations they use. While many congregations in the recent past used the New International Version (1984), the introduction of the New International Version (2011) has provided congregations opportunity to examine and utilize other translations like the ESV, the Christian Standard Bible and the Evangelical Heritage Version.
Northwestern Publishing House, our church body’s publisher, recently produced a new edition of Luther’s Catechism. It is available with Scripture passages in the NIV (2011) or ESV.
From what I know, WELS and ELS train and hire exclusively from our own schools. Do other synods have the same training and consistency in hiring?
What you say is true for the most part. The great majority of pastors in our synod, for example, received their education at our worker training schools. It is possible for pastors who have been trained outside our fellowship and served outside our fellowship to serve as pastors of our synod if they successfully complete a colloquy process. Other, larger Lutheran church bodies have similar but not identical practices. Each synod spells out the educational requirements for those who wish to serve as pastors. A look at their web sites will provide more information.
In addition to our college and seminary, WELS is especially blessed in having two synodically-owned and operated preparatory high schools and 25 area Lutheran high schools. That educational system, under God’s guidance, can certainly offer consistency in the calling process, as you noted.
Is the Nicene Creed biblical, and where is it in the Bible? Do churches have to recite it at each service?
The Nicene Creed is biblical. You will not find in a book of the Bible the wording of the Nicene Creed as we speak it, but the creed does state biblical truths about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It was written in 325 A.D. to address false ideas about the divinity of Jesus Christ. That explains why the second article of the Nicene Creed is longer than its counterpart in the Apostles’ Creed.
Using creeds in our worship services is a matter of Christian freedom. There is no command of God telling us to use them or refrain from using them. Using the creeds enables us to confess our common faith.
The “stance” we have is that this is a matter of Christian freedom. Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, explains that Lutheran pastors, historically, have worn vestments for several reasons: “to identify him as the called spiritual leader of the congregation,” “to remind the congregation that its pastor serves as God’s representative,” and to connect to “the legacy of the church” (pages 98-104).
The resource that I cited puts your question into perspective when it states: “In all aspects of the church’s life of worship, artistic propriety and legitimate tradition must take second place to the proclamation of the gospel and the gospel’s glorious freedom. In the final analysis the Lord Jesus will not be so concerned about either the type of vestments or the kind of liturgy Christians use. He is concerned only that we worship the Father ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:23).”
Pastors and congregations will want to work together when thinking of changing customs and practices.
I grew up in a WELS church and attended a WELS high school. Work has taken me to a place where there are only two WELS churches in the entire state, with the closest one about 1.5 hours away. What are my options?
I would encourage you to contact the pastor of that congregation to alert him to your situation and location. It is possible that he may be able to serve your spiritual needs in ways that you and I are not aware of at this point. It could also be that there are other WELS members in your vicinity, and that could lead to exploring options of how best to serve everyone. Your pastor could also contact the chairman of your district’s mission board. This is how new mission congregations can get started.
In the meantime, you can find devotional materials on this web site to supplement your Bible and devotional reading. This link provides information on devotional media resources from congregations throughout our synod.
Finally, when you searched for a WELS congregation for your new location, I’m wondering if you looked also for an ELS congregation. If you use the WELS Locator tool, that will display WELS and ELS congregations in the search results.
God bless you!
Yes. When I used the WELS Locator tool, the results showed four congregations within 25 miles of Atlanta.
You can find the locator tool at the top of the home page of www.wels.net. Look for the “Find a Church/School” tab.
You will find the closing concert by going to: https://livestream.com/welslive
Simply scroll down a little and you will see the video of the closing concert.
I have always wondered why the song "In the Garden" is not accepted by WELS. Different pastors have told me that it was not acceptable. Can you enlighten me why "In the Garden" is not accepted?
I cannot speak for hymnal committees, but I can pass along what Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, states about hymns in general. It describes a good hymn as (among other things): being “doxological” (praising God for his great deeds), having “doctrinal content,” “making use of the word of God,” being “influenced by the ‘year of our Lord’” (recounting Jesus’ holy life, innocent death and glorious resurrection) and having “melodies that support the scriptural message and touch the heart of the worshiper.” “In the Garden” falls short of those criteria.
The greatest concern about that song is the way in which the author, C. Austin Miles, speaks of God communicating with people. Miles used the backdrop of Jesus’ Easter Sunday morning conversation with Mary Magdalene as the basis of his song. While Jesus spoke to Mary face-to-face “in the garden” that day, our Lord speaks to us through his word. While a walk in a garden can tell me that there is a God (Psalm 19:1-4; Hebrews 3:4), only in the Bible does God tell me that “I am his own” (Isaiah 43:1; 1 John 3:1). We want hymns in our hymnal to reinforce that truth.
Are you required to be a member of a Lutheran church to invest with the Church Extension Fund? My friend and boss is Lutheran.
You will find this statement on the Church Extension Fund’s portion of this web site: “You may invest with WELS CEF if you are a WELS member, a WELS congregation or an organization affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).”
I recently received a letter of peaceful release and termination of membership. Are there any guidelines for letters to submit for their release? A proper procedure in handling this matter is what I guess I am in need of.
As I am not entirely sure what information you are seeking, I’ll try to cover both sides of such a letter: the sender and the receiver.
If individuals wish to leave one of our congregations and join a church outside our fellowship, membership cannot be transferred. Membership transfers take place only among congregations of our fellowship. In a situation where individuals of our congregations wished to join a church outside our fellowship, the WELS congregation would release the individuals from membership. Because circumstances vary, there is no template or form letter for such letters of peaceful release. (Nor is there a template or form letter for individuals to request a peaceful release of membership.)
The individuals who were released from the WELS congregation could use that letter of release to inform their new church where they last had membership.
I hope this is the kind of information you were seeking.
I have been searching for resources on using a bell as a call to worship. I have found many resources describing the history and the different uses of a bell. I am looking specifically for a resource that would indicate the number of times a bell should be rung for a standard worship service. As our bell is outside (not near the sanctuary), it is not used during the Lord's Prayer (one ring at the start, one in the middle, and one at the end.) I realize that this is an adiaphoron, but many traditionalists expect the bell to ring. There is a bit of discussion on the exact number of times it should ring. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Christian Worship: Occasional Services offers these guidelines for ringing church bells:
“Church bells are used primarily to call people to worship and to announce the beginning of a service. In some areas it is also customary to ring the church bells to express joy, announce a death, to remind people to pray, and to encourage the absent to join in the prayers of the Church. These guidelines list some of the ways in which church bells have traditionally been used, though local customs may differ. Bells may be rung:
1) On Saturday evening at 6:00 PM to anticipate the celebration of the coming day (seven times)
2) Early Sunday morning to announce the arrival of the day (seven times)
3) One-half hour and one-quarter hour before each service (seven times) to call people to worship
4) At the hour of each service (seven times, a pause, then three single notes) to announce the beginning of worship
5) On weekdays at the early morning, noon, and evening (three times, a pause, then seven times) to remind the community to pray
6) At a marriage—when the service begins (seven times), when the bridal party leaves the church
7) At a death—at intervals of three to seven seconds to announce the death of a member of the congregation (sometimes tolling once for each year of the age of the deceased), when the funeral service begins (seven times), as the body is carried from the church
8) During the Lord’s Prayer (beginning, middle, and end) at all services to invite those who are absent to join in praying the Lord’s Prayer
9) At the Easter Vigil as the lights of the church are fully lit and during the Easter greeting to sound the Church’s joy at the resurrection of Christ.” (Page 334)
Keep in mind that these are guidelines only. As you noted, this entire matter is an adiaphoron: something that God has neither commanded nor forbidden.
How do I respond to my Catholic friends who insist that the Papacy/Pope Leo X was not responsible for the abuse of indulgence sales in the Middle Ages? Thanks very much.
You can refer your friends to Roman Catholic sources which acknowledge Leo X’s involvement in the abuse of indulgence sales. One such source is The Catholic Encyclopedia. It has the designations of nihil obstat and imprimatur, indicating that the Roman Catholic Church has reviewed the contents and declared the work to be free from doctrinal or moral errors. It is available online.
The Catholic Encyclopedia offers a summary of Leo X’s life and pontificate. The following information from the Encyclopedia is pertinent to your question: “The immediate cause [of the Reformation] was bound up with the odious greed for money displayed by the Roman Curia, and shows how far short all efforts at reform had hitherto fallen. Albert of Brandenburg, already Archbishop of Magdeburg, received in addition the Archbishopric of Mainz and the Bishopric of Hallerstadt, but in return was obliged to collect 10,000 ducats, which he was taxed over and above the usual confirmation fees. To indemnify hiim [sic], and to make it possible to discharge these obligations Rome permitted him to have preached in his territory the plenary indulgence promised all those who contributed to the new St. Peter’s; he was allowed to keep one half the returns, a transaction which brought dishonour on all concerned in it. Added to this, abuses occurred during the preaching of the Indulgence. The money contributions, a mere accessory, were frequently the chief object, and the ‘Indulgences for the Dead’ became a vehicle of inadmissible teachings. That Leo X, in the most serious of all the crises which threatened the Church, should fail to prove the proper guide for her, is clear enough from what has been related above. He recognized neither the gravity of the situation nor the underlying causes of the revolt. Vigorous measures of reform might have proved an efficacious antidote, but the pope was deeply entangled in political affairs and allowed the imperial election to overshadow the revolt of Luther; moreover, he gave himself up unrestrainedly to his pleasures and failed to grasp fully the duties of his high office.”
Another source—with the Roman Catholic Church’s approval of its contents—that I have in my library is The Question Box. It also acknowledges the abuse of indulgence sales during the Middle Ages: “Catholic historians have frequently mentioned the abuses connected with the preaching of indulgences in the Middle Ages…In the Middle Ages when men wished to build a church or support a worthy charity, the Bishop or the Pope granted an indulgence…While Catholics believe that the building of St. Peter’s in Rome was a matter of interest to the whole Catholic world, they heartily condemn the manner of financing the indulgence, and the exaggerations of the preachers in extolling unduly its effects and privileges” (pages 59-60).
Church history may contain embarrassing episodes, but they cannot be denied or ignored.
I am wondering what position the Lutheran church has on the use of incense in worship services, as I know is done during Catholic services. Did the Lutheran church ever use this and, if it was discontinued, why? Thank you.
We do not have a formal position on the use of incense in worship services. The practice is in the category of those things that God neither commands nor forbids.
I would say the use of incense has been a rare practice in the Lutheran church in general and an even rarer practice in our church body because of its association with the forms of worship of Roman Catholic churches and Orthodox churches.
In our church body the practice has been utilized in special worship services and in conjunction with the Evening Prayer canticle, “Let my prayer rise before you as incense” (Psalm 141:2).
I have been a WELS member my whole life. I am having issues with my church at the moment. If I have a problem, I am supposed to talk to that person, according to Mathew 18. Hard as it is, I would like to talk to my pastor, but he and the church council are involved in the problem. Who do I seek counsel with? I am lost. I don't know what to do. I believe they have lied and been sneaky to do things their way. I don't even know if I can talk to my pastor in a calm manner. I am truly saddened. I type these words with a heavy heart. What do I do?
You have noted correctly that you need to talk to the person involved: your pastor. If you believe he has done something wrong, then Matthew 18:15 instructs you to speak to him. While it could be a difficult conversation, as you suggest, it is the right conversation to have. Speaking to your congregation’s board of elders would be your next course of action. If those conversations do not yield positive and appropriate results, you could contact your circuit pastor. He serves as a representative of your district president to help at times like these.
Disunity in a congregation is definitely disconcerting. It runs contrary to God’s design for the communal life of his children. When sin disrupts unity, sin needs to be addressed. That applies to everyone in the church.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). Christian unity is a gift and blessing from God. Do what you can to restore and maintain that unity in your congregation. Pray for your pastor and your church leaders. I will do the same. God bless you.
Our WELS church is in the beginning stages of considering calling a second pastor. Are there any general guidelines as to when such an event is advisable: such as size of the congregation or some other criteria?
It is certainly a blessing from God to be in a position of considering calling a second pastor to serve your congregation.
If it turns out that you will indeed extend a call for a second pastor, you will be consulting with your district president. You would do well to seek his counsel at this point in time.
Another resource you could utilize is WELS Congregational Counseling. They offer numerous resources online. This link will take you to their portion of WELS’ website.
God bless your planning—and your congregation’s ministries!
What are the guidelines for calling a pastor? I am especially wondering about communication between members of the church that called your pastor and your pastor that holds their call. It seems as if guidelines have changed. How much can a pastor do to investigate conditions in the congregation calling him, and why are congregations who are calling a pastor directed to call/speak with the pastor holding the call and encouraging him to accept the call to their congregation? When did this all start?
I cannot point you to any specific guidelines that govern communication between a calling body and the person called. What drives that communication—and the amount of communication—is personal preference and circumstances.
When a pastor receives a call to serve another congregation, he is interested in receiving information about the congregation and community. The cover letter that accompanies the call document puts some of that information in print. Conversations with the calling congregation’s president and other lay leaders—and the laity in general—help round out that information. The pastor called to serve the new congregation desires information so that he has a good picture of both calls he is holding and that he can prayerfully determine where he can best use his gifts to serve the Lord and his people at that particular time in his life.
District presidents report that sometimes the pastor who has received a call from a second congregation expresses the desire to receive information from that congregation’s members. In that case, members are invited to communicate with the newly-called pastor. On other occasions, district presidents on their own initiative encourage congregation members to communicate with the person they have called to serve as their pastor. Any communication, again, is intended to help the newly-called pastor answer the question: “How and where can I best serve the Lord at this time in life?”
While communication between people in the calling process is important and can be helpful, there is another form of communication in the calling process that is even more important. That is prayer. When a pastor receives a call to serve another congregation, the members of both congregations want to pray for the pastor, not with “accepting” or “declining” the call in mind, but asking God to enable the pastor to see clearly where he can best serve at this point in his life and then to be at peace with the decision.
There has always been some communication between a congregation and the newly-called pastor. Perhaps in our day of instant and greater communication we are much more aware of that kind of communication.
Scripture directs us to respect and honor God’s representatives in the church (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17). We can do that by our communication—to pastors and to God.
Why does this new format not have an answer for any question asked like the old one did? Today I asked about polygamy. There was no answer even in the advanced search. Last time I asked where it said that women can't be pastors. I knew the answer, but it still did not come up. It happens every time. The old website always popped up with the answer no matter what I asked. I don't want to ask a question outside of WELS and get a wrong answer. If I find this frustrating, non-members may too.
I do commend you for using the search function to look for questions that have already been asked and answered. Questioners are encouraged to do that before asking their own questions. However, to keep our content fresh, we do not keep all the questions indefinitely, and do allow some to drop off and be replaced by new and more timely questions. If your search did not yield any results, you are certainly welcome to submit your own questions. They will become part of the database of questions which currently has over 1,200 questions.
What is your belief if someone comes to your minister multiple times to state they are going to take their life? Is this to be reported to anyone?
When pastors provide Christian counseling, they explain to counselees that they will maintain confidentiality with the exception of any talk of harming self or others. Any mention of suicide is to be taken seriously. Pastors will contact the proper authorities when they believe a counselee is in danger of bringing harm to self. Pastors will also determine if the state in which they live mandates the reporting of individuals who speak of self-harm.
If someone came to me multiple times and stated they were going to take their life, I would try to help the person by contacting the proper authorities. The person needs help.
What is the best way for us to help our sister congregations and their members who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey? Of course we are praying and will continue to do that. What help is given in a disaster on the Synod level? Through congregations? Through individuals? Thank you and God Bless.
I can suggest that you consider making a donation to our synod’s Christian Aid and Relief.
As stated elsewhere on this web site, “The mission of Christian Aid and Relief is to reflect Christ’s love and compassion to souls suffering from disasters and hardships. Because of what Christ has freely done for us, we eagerly show we care by offering our time, talents, and treasures to those in need.”
Monetary gifts to Christian Aid and Relief are precious in helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma.
This link will take you to the site where you can make an online donation for “Hurricane Disaster Relief.”
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). We have a significant opportunity at the present time. “Let us do good.”
Since you have a campus ministry, we were expecting that you would be catering to college kids. However, our granddaughter came home this weekend and said that she attended your service last weekend and found the songs depressing and sad. It left her with a bitter taste in her mouth. She told us that she will now be attending the Free Church. What's equally sad is that she has two friends from our area whom I'm sure she'll persuade to go to the Free Church with her. What exactly are you doing to leave this kind of impression?
As WELS pastors coordinate campus ministries in hundreds of locations throughout our country, I do not have knowledge which campus ministry you are referencing. Regardless, you and your granddaughter want to forward any concerns you might have to the pastor who is responsible for that campus ministry.
What I can do is encourage you and your granddaughter to keep music in proper perspective. So, I would ask: is it wise to attend a church that might have more upbeat music but that denies the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, turning them into “ordinances”? Is it wise to attend a church that teaches millennialism because its music is deemed more cheerful? Those are two of the doctrines of the Evangelical Free Church that are not biblical. It is a sad situation if your granddaughter trades biblical doctrine for music that meets her preference.
Again, I would encourage you and your granddaughter to keep in mind what is most important when it comes to our worship of God, and to speak to the pastor where your granddaughter worshipped. God’s blessings to you both.
I cannot point you to a single, specific answer. Different data yield different results.
In a recent favorite hymn survey, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” garnered the most votes. Among students, “In Christ Alone” was the top choice. When it came to congregational reporting of hymn usage, “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel” rose to the top.
Keep in mind that these results did not come from scientific polls, nor are they to be viewed as “official” in any way.
The popularity of hymns understandably varies from one person to another. We might have “all-time” favorite hymns; we might value one hymn over others in specific situations and times in life. Regardless, what a wonderful blessing we have in our hymnody. King David had it right: “I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6).
How can I truthfully and lovingly respond to a friend from church who is captivated by the messages of Sarah Young found in the best-selling devotional "Jesus Calling" and its "sequels" and is promoting the words and methods that Sarah invites us to use to experience the intense pleasure of the presence of God?
I would suggest first asking your friend some questions to understand her interest in the books you cited. The answers she provides will give you direction for your own responses.
I would also suggest reminding your friend how God communicates to us. While God can do anything and communicate to people in any way he chooses, he explains that he has spoken and revealed his will through inspired writers and his one and only Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). Because Jesus is the final and most complete revelation of the Father’s will, we do not look for revelations and communications from God apart from his word.
The Lord explains that his word is all-sufficient for salvation (Luke 16:29). It is through the word of God that the Holy Spirit works in people’s hearts (John 6:63; Romans 10:17). It is God’s word that provides direction for life (Psalm 119:105). Christians recognize that it is their Lord who speaks to them through his word (John 10:27-28). A section of Scripture like Psalm 119 teaches us that it is through the word of God—and not by mystical experiences—that God speaks to us.
If, by “promoting the words and methods” of the books you cited, your friend is a disruptive force in the congregation, you may eventually need to have a conversation with your pastor.
God bless your conversations with your friend.
Since my church does not exist, I am looking for a return to a Lutheran Church. Would I be accepted by your Synod?
I encourage you to contact the pastor of the WELS church that is closest to you. He will be able to receive more complete information from you and explain the path to church membership. God bless you.
As you know, the South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) was accepted into fellowship with the WELS. The South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) is a member of Hong Kong Lutheran Association. Does this mean the WELS is also in fellowship with the other church bodies of the Hong Kong Lutheran Association? Thanks for the clarification!
SALEM is no longer a member of Hong Kong Lutheran Federation. The information on the website you supplied with your question that indicates such membership needs to be revised. WELS is not in fellowship with the churches of the Hong Kong Lutheran Federation.
Pastor, did WELS adopt the Catholic Old Testament readings after Vatican II or did you formulate your own?
WELS did not adopt the three-year cycle of Scripture readings, including Old Testament readings, as Vatican II designed them. The Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, which did not include WELS participation, revised the assigned Scripture readings in the 1970s for use in Lutheran churches.
In 2008 WELS did produce a supplemental cycle of Scripture readings in connection with Christian Worship: Supplement. Because of this, different WELS churches might have different Scripture readings on the same Sunday of the church year.
Why is October 31 (or the Sunday before) celebrated as Reformation Day? I realize that's the day Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses, but there were other writings before and after that. When did the "Lutheran" Church as such come into existence with its own organizational structure separate from the Roman Catholic hierarchy?
Because the 95 Theses were translated, published and spread throughout Germany and other parts of Europe very quickly, and because the theses set in motion a chain of events involving the Roman Catholic Church and Martin Luther, the date of their posting is considered the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation.
Luther recognized he had no home in the Roman Catholic Church when the church excommunicated him in 1520. Lutheran churches began organizing in Germany as early as 1523. The organizational structure of Lutheran churches in Germany and elsewhere in Europe was not consistent, but Christian freedom allows such variety.
Northwestern Publishing House has many resources on the Reformation available. This link will take you to the appropriate section of their web site.
What do we know about Stephen Ministries? Should a WELS church leader attend a seminar of theirs? Second question: Does WELS have deacons? What exactly are they?
On their web site, Stephen Ministries explains its history and purpose well. There is anecdotal evidence that some WELS congregations are among the 179 different denominations that have received training in this visitation ministry. Because the organization uses training materials to instruct individuals in so many different churches, WELS pastors have seen a need to supplement the materials for a more gospel-centered approach.
WELS congregations might or might not have deacons. A congregation’s Constitution and Bylaws will detail any information on deacons. A deacon in one of our congregations might refer to an elected position on a board that has representation on the church council, or it might denote the title a congregation has given one of its called workers: a staff minister.
Our WELS church permits alcohol consumption at church functions held at our church, and at in-home Bible studies. Why is this allowed if the Bible is very clear that we are to be sober and vigilant, sober and righteous, not to be drunkards, etc.? There are recovering alcoholics in our church and I believe this presents a stumbling block to a brother or sister and even excludes them because of the added stress it causes them to be around a substance that is unnecessary at a church function and harmful to them. This has been brought to the attention of our pastor and congregational leaders, and they support alcohol at church functions and at in-home Bible studies. Your position on this matter would be greatly appreciated as we struggle with maintaining our membership at a church that does not have our best interest at heart.
As I am not knowledgeable of the discussions that have taken place in your congregation, let me respond in a general way.
A starting point is that the Bible condemns the abuse of alcohol not its usage (Psalm 104:15; Ephesians 5:18; 1 Timothy 5:23). While the Bible allows the responsible use of alcohol, 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, along with Romans 14, provide guidance for Christians as they exercise their freedom—including their use of alcohol.
Those chapters from 1 Corinthians and Romans direct Christians to use their God-given freedoms not in their own best interest but in the interests of others. Christian freedom does not mean simply that I have the right to do something. Christian freedom also means that I have the right not to do something if that course of action is better for others. Certainly, not using alcohol because of a concern for others fits that loving exercise of Christian freedom.
I would encourage this kind of scripturally-based conversation in your congregation to address the situations you have described.
I have a Catholic friend who raised this question to me: I have searched Q&A and have not found a specific answer to her question. Could you please write me a response based on God's Word about this that I can share with her? "Can a minister be divorced and still be a minister in your (WELS) church? Or remarry and be a minister?" Thanks so much.
A divorce would not necessarily and automatically disqualify a man from the pastoral ministry. There are a number of unknown factors with your question. What were the circumstances of the divorce? Was the pastor’s wife unfaithful to him (Matthew 19:1-9), or did she desert him (1 Corinthians 7:15)? Was the pastor guilty of unfaithfulness or desertion?
There can certainly be circumstances whereby a pastor disqualifies himself from the public ministry through a divorce. There can be other circumstances whereby a pastor is not guilty of sin in his divorce, but it might be best for the gospel ministry if he resigned from that particular call—whether or not he seeks to remarry. There can be additional circumstances whereby a wife divorces her husband, a pastor, and the pastor remarries and continues serving in the public ministry.
Again, different factors like these prevent giving a simple “yes” or “no” answer to your question.
The Magdeburg Confession saved the Reformation, as other Lutherans cut and ran from the teaching of salvation by God's grace alone through faith in Jesus alone. So how come it's not taught? We aren't saying they were not real Lutherans, are we ? They put their own lives on the line in place of just mouth-service to the Augsburg Confession. So how come we're not teaching about these brave Lutherans?
Lutheran church history has not forgotten the Magdeburg Confession and the Lutherans who stood up to Emperor Charles V’s decree that they return to the fold of Roman Catholicism.
Here is one example of such remembrance. “The Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books” in the Concordia Triglotta states: “In Southern Germany, Charles V and his Italian and Spanish troops, employing brute force, succeeded in rigidly enforcing the Interim outwardly and temporarily. Free cities rejecting it were deprived of their liberties and privileges…Magdeburg offered the longest resistance and was outlawed three times. Defiantly its citizens declared: ‘We are saved neither by an Interim nor by an Exterim, but by the Word of God alone.’”
“…Foremost among the champions of true Lutheranism over against the Interimists were…especially Matthias Flacius Illyricus….a member of the Wittenberg faculty.”
“In 1549, when he was no longer safe in Wittenberg, Flacius removed to Magdeburg, then the only safe asylum in all Germany for such as were persecuted on account of their Lutheran faith and loyalty, where he was joined by [other] ‘exiles of Christ’….Here they inaugurated a powerful propaganda by publishing broadsides of annihilating pamphlets against the Interim, as well as its authors, patrons, and abettors. They roused the Lutheran consciousness everywhere; and before long the great majority of Lutherans stood behind Flacius and the heroes of Magdeburg…Because of this able and staunch defense of Lutheranism and the determined opposition to any unionistic compromise, Magdeburg at that time was generally called ‘God’s chancellery.’” (pages 96, 100)
Lutheran Reformation history covers many personalities, events and writings. The Magdeburg Confession certainly has its place in that history—especially as it sought to outline biblical principles that addressed tyrannical governments that encroached on the mission and responsibilities of the church.
From all of the different churches I have been to, why is it that all of the WELS pastors all seem to be very kind and want to help people? It hasn't happened in most other places.
What a wonderful observation for you to make and pursue with a question.
Why are the pastors you met kind? I would suggest that it is the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Love is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The Spirit works and develops that attitude in Christians—clergy and laity alike—as they come into contact with God’s gospel in word and sacrament.
If you met pastors who wanted to help people, I would say you saw pastors who were “practicing what they preach.” Our pastors encourage showing love to others (1 John 4:7), even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). Our pastors speak of helping people as opportunities arise (Galatians 6:10). Above all, our pastors preach about the need to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others (Matthew 28:18-20).
Your words are very encouraging! Thank you for sharing them. I hope many of our pastors read your message. God bless you.
What is the WELS doctrine regarding non-WELS members participating in worship services, weddings, Sunday School education or Adult Bible Classes?
If you are looking for a statement in print, I can pass along this paragraph from This We Believe, a statement of faith of our church body.
“We believe that those whose confession of faith reveals that they are united in the doctrines of Scripture will express their fellowship in Christ as occasion permits (Ephesians 4:3). They may express their fellowship by joint worship, by joint proclamation of the gospel, by joining in Holy Communion, by joint prayer, and by joint church work. God directs believers not to practice religious fellowship with those whose confession and actions reveal that they teach, tolerate, support, or defend error (2 John 10, 11). When error appears in the church, Christians will try to preserve their fellowship by patiently admonishing the offenders, in the hope that they will turn from their error (2 Timothy 2:25, 26; Titus 3:10). But the Lord commands believers not to practice church fellowship with people who persist in teaching or adhering to beliefs that are false (Romans 16:17, 18).”
Individuals outside our faith and fellowship are welcome to attend the services and classes you mentioned. They can participate as they wish, with the exception of receiving the Lord’s Supper. The reception of the Lord’s Supper is an expression of unity of faith (1 Corinthians 10:17). Apart from serving in a leadership role in worship, individuals outside our faith and fellowship can be attendants in a church wedding.
I hope this was the information you were seeking.
Since Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins, and all sins have been forgiven, including Eve's sin, why is it that women still shouldn't be pastors or teach in service?
The lead-in to your question seems to imply that the inability for women to serve as pastors is a consequence of sin. That is not the case. 1 Timothy 2:11-13 and 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 make it clear that the roles God established for men and women have their origin at their creation—before the fall into sin. The roles of loving leader for men and loving helper for women are part of God’s design for people.
Jesus definitely was the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins (Hebrews 7:27). Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). In gratitude to God for that forgiveness, we strive to live lives that follow his will (2 Corinthians 5:15).
This being the 500th anniversary of the start of the Lutheran Reformation, I have been finding myself involved in more than a few interesting conversations with Roman Catholic friends/coworkers. One topic that comes up nearly every time is Ministry of the Keys or Universal Priesthood. I was taught to use Matthew 18 and John 20 as my proof passages for what we in the WELS believe. When I bring these passages up, however, I am usually confronted with an interesting argument for which I have no good response. In both passages there is no mention that Jesus is speaking to believers in general - both passages seem to give a setting that includes only the disciples – the eleven. I understand that just because Matthew and John do not mention others does not exclude the possibility that they were present. However, I am still left wondering if we can use these passages in support of the Ministry of the Keys as being meant for all Christians. The Roman Catholic position that the Roman Catholic Church has sole possession of binding and loosing is not refuted by our proof passages. Instead, Roman Catholics use these, as well as others, to support their own position. I thought I was prepared, I guess I was wrong. May I please ask for some help with this? Thank you.
You can certainly keep using Matthew 18 and John 20 as proof passages for each Christian possessing the “keys.” Matthew 18:18-20 makes clear that it is Jesus’ church on earth, not just his small band of disciples then, who have received his authority to forgive or retain sins. When we remember that Luke 24:33 describes who was present in the narrative of John 20:19-23, we will recognize that Jesus gave the authority to forgive or retain sins to his followers, not just the eleven disciples in Jerusalem.
Other parts of Scripture inform us that Christians are to forgive those who sin against them and seek their forgiveness (Luke 17:4; Matthew 18:21-35). Christians can forgive others only if they have the Lord’s authority to do so. In that regard, the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer (“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”) reminds Christians that they possess the “keys.”
As you intimated, Christians are priests before God (1 Peter 2:9) who can announce to others the news of God’s forgiveness, or the message of his law.
God bless your spiritual conversations with others—in this Reformation anniversary year and beyond!
Matthew 18:15-20 explains what church discipline is all about. It is an act of love by which Christians seek to restore someone who has sinned and is impenitent. Because impenitence bars people from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), Christians seek to share God’s word with the impenitent so the Holy Spirit can work through the word to bring people to repentance, make it possible for them to enjoy the forgiveness of sins through faith and then move them to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
The book of James ends on this note: “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Those words underscore the importance of speaking to fellow Christians about sin and impenitence.
What drives church discipline is concern for the impenitent sinner and also concern for the congregation of believers (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Are there any WELS congregations in the USA that may still occasionally have worship services entirely in the German language?
A recent survey to WELS congregations asked for information on worship services offered in languages other than English. Of the congregations that responded to the survey, the following indicated that they offer occasional worship services in German. If you are interested in following up with any of the congregations, you will find contact information elsewhere on this website.
Christ the King, Palatine, IL
Faith, Radcliff, KY
Hope, Andover, MN
Salem, Loretto, MN
Trinity, Winner, SD
Sanct Michaelis, Milwaukee, WI
Christ, Pewaukee, WI
First, Racine, WI
Friedens, Kenosha, WI
St. Mark, Watertown, WI
Trinity, Waukesha, WI
With no context for your question, all I can suggest is that Divine Service is part of the title for two orders of service in Christian Worship: Supplement. There is Divine Service I and Divine Service II. The titles speak of the praise and worship we give to God.
The altar in a church reminds us of how all the Old Testament sacrifices on an altar pointed ahead to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and “that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
For New Testament worshipers, the altar in a church also represents the presence of God through Word and sacraments. For this reason, a pastor will face the altar when he speaks to God with worshipers or for worshipers. A pastor will face the congregation when he speaks for God, as in announcing the forgiveness of sins.
God has not commanded that pastors conduct the liturgy in this manner. These are practices that the Christian Church has developed in Christian freedom, but these practices are meaningful when we understand what is behind them.
As I understand it, the WELS position on women in the church deals with authority over a man. Yet nothing is stated about shared authority. In other words, if a woman casts a vote at a voters' assembly meeting, isn’t it really that she is exercising authority with a man? To me it seems like the only authoritative vote is one cast that breaks a tie because that vote carries authority. Isn’t Paul talking about authority in such a way as over a man? The Scriptures don’t address voters assemblies, but it appears that WELS has defined the application of authority for every one of its churches. Shouldn’t each church decide what constitutes authority and what doesn’t? Some churches might not allow women voting but others might. Isn’t it okay for churches to apply the same principles differently and still walk together?
The voters’ assembly is the authoritative governing body of the congregation. It calls and removes pastors, teachers and staff ministers. It accepts and excommunicates members. These are all authoritative decisions. A woman would not be exercising authority with a man by casting votes on these or other matters.
In addition, we want to keep in mind that there are more authoritative actions than voting in a voters’ meeting. There is often a good deal of authoritative action in the debate that precedes a vote.
As a synod, we have made this confession: “We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11.12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).
None of this negates what God says about men and women in his kingdom: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
Northwestern Publishing House offers a couple of resources on this topic. This link will take you to those resources.
Is wearing of a clerical collar becoming more acceptable? I hope so. I never had a WELS pastor yet that wouldn't be fit to wear one. I have loved all my WELS pastors - best pastors on the planet. And my pastor came to church wearing one for the first time. He said it gives him more opportunity to talk about Jesus to strangers.
I do not know if I can point to any kind of trend developing in our synod.
The wearing of clerical collars fits into the category of adiaphora: those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. While wearing a clerical collar might more commonly be associated with clergy of other denominations, it is an option for clergy of our church body.
As you indicated, and as the term suggests, a clerical collar identifies a person as a member of the clergy. That identification can open doors for conversations about the faith.
As it is with any change in congregational life, pastors will do well to speak to their members about the rationale behind their use of a clerical collar. Such conversations can address any misunderstandings that might exist.
Thank you for your kind words about our pastors. I hope many of them read your words.
There is a community program that helps with homeless families in the area. They are sponsored/supported by many local churches. Is it wrong to also support this work that is not affiliated directly a specific church, but supported by many churches and the community at large? Thanks.
You will want to examine the organization’s goals and purposes to see how biblical fellowship principles might apply as it carries out charitable work in your community. Your pastor will be a good resource to help you sort out the information.
As I understand it, WELS teaches that there must be complete doctrinal unity before any kind of joint Christian activity can take place amongst believers. And yet when I read your proof passages they all seem to be related to the key teaching of Scripture -- justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Isn't it impossible on this side of heaven to be "in perfect agreement?" It seems like WELS would say that if we agree on everything except who we identify as the Antichrist, we can't pray together. Yet, in Philippians 3:15-16, Paul seems to imply that there is room for disagreement on non-fundamental teachings yet still be together.
The “Church and Ministry” section of This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, explains what we teach and profess about doctrinal unity and fellowship.
“We believe that God directs believers to acknowledge oneness in faith with Christians whose confession of faith submits to all the teachings of Scripture (John 8:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). We believe, furthermore, that individuals through their membership in a church body commit themselves to the doctrine and practice of that church. To assert that unity exists where there is no agreement in confession is to presume to look into people’s hearts. Only God can look into people’s hearts. It is not necessary that all Christians agree on matters of church ritual or organization. About these the New Testament gives no commands (Romans 14:17).
“We believe that those who confession of faith reveals that they are united in the doctrines of Scripture will express their fellowship in Christ as occasion permits (Ephesians 4:3). They may express their fellowship by joint worship, by joint proclamation of the gospel, by joining in Holy Communion, by joint prayer, and by joint church work. God directs believers not to practice religious fellowship with those whose confession and actions reveal that they teach, tolerate, support, or defend error (2 John 10,11). When error appears in the church, Christians will try to preserve their fellowship by patiently admonishing the offenders, in the hope that they will turn from their error (2 Timothy 2:25,26; Titus 3:10). But the Lord commands believers not to practice church fellowship with people who persist in teaching or adhering to beliefs that are false (Romans 16:17,18).”
As indicated, the Scripture passages used to explain what we teach and profess about doctrinal unity and fellowship are not limited to the subject of justification by faith alone in Christ alone.
When it comes to Philippians 3:15-16, the phrase “such a view of things” in verse fifteen takes us back to the previous verses where the apostle Paul was speaking of zealousness in living the Christian life not classifying doctrines of the Bible.
Unity in the faith is a precious gift of God the Holy Spirit. We thank him for it. We seek to preserve it. We look for greater expressions of it.
In the past we were able to get calendars from Thrivent that would tell us what each Sunday was, like Advent 2, or when Pentecost began. They no longer supply these calendars. Can you let me know where I can find this schedule for the 2018 year? We use this to plan our ushering and attendance charts. Thank you.
Northwestern Publishing House has a church year calendar that you can download for free. This link will take you to that calendar.
Our Synod’s Commission on Worship also has the same calendar available for downloading. In addition, the Commission has a church year calendar that you can download to your smart phone or other electronic device. This link will take you to the place where you can download those calendars. (Once you land on that page, scroll down to see the resources that are available.)
God bless your planning!
I am a life-long WELS member. My wife and I were married in a WELS church and she is a life-long Lutheran - Missouri Synod until after we met. My kids all attended a WELS church K-8. Now that the kids are all out on their own, my wife and children have chosen to no longer be members of the church. They no longer attend any church. My question is, what words can I use to help share with them the importance of regular church attendance? They have said, "I can be a Christian without attending a church."
I am sorry to hear about your family’s attitudes toward worshiping God in church. Let me put your question and situation in scriptural context.
The new self of a Christian readily agrees with King David, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1). Our new self loves God’s word, desires to hear God’s word, longs for opportunities to worship God in church and seeks to praise God in everyday living (1 Corinthians 10:31).
On the other hand, the old self, the sinful nature, of a Christian hates God’s word, wants nothing to do with worshiping God in church and desires to live only for self (Galatians 5:17).
If people who profess Christian faith express ideas that are contrary to God’s word, it is their old self, not the new self, that is responsible for those ideas.
So, what does God’s word say about worshiping him? The Bible stresses the importance of gathering for worship with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:25). Jesus promises his gracious presence to those assembled for worship (Matthew 18:20). Jesus explained how his followers hear his word and continue in it (John 8:31, 47). Worship services provide opportunities for the message of Christ to dwell among us richly (Colossians 3:16). Worship services provide opportunities for God’s people to receive the Lord’s Supper. Through the Lord’s Supper, God offers and gives forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. God’s will is that we are guests of his Supper often (1 Corinthians 11:25-26). When we worship God in church, we are engaged in the important work of acknowledging him before others (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). Worship services provide opportunities for God to nurture and strengthen faith through his gospel in word and sacrament (Romans 1:16). You can remind your family of these truths.
You can also remind them that the use of God’s word in worship services will provide ongoing “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). One wonders how regularly that happens apart from worshiping with fellow believers.
I encourage you to be an example for your family in your own church attendance and personal devotional life. Let them see godliness in action. Keep praying that God will change their attitudes and actions. God bless you and your family.
Is it true that some of our new home missions do not have Lutheran as part of their name? If so, what is the reason?
Those whom I consulted regarding your question explained that, to their knowledge, our churches have “Lutheran” in their official name. It is my understanding that some churches might not use the name Lutheran in their outreach materials because in their part of the country people either tend to equate Lutheranism only with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) or they have little or no knowledge of Lutheranism in general.
An appropriate mission mindset is one that seeks, first and foremost, to connect people to Jesus Christ. God brings about that connection as he works in the hearts of people through his gospel (Romans 10:17). Because God wants Christians to gather together for worship (Hebrews 10:25) and to work together to spread the gospel (Mark 16:15), we also seek to connect people to a home congregation and the wider church body.
Why do we emphasis Martin Luther by using "Lutheran" as part of our church name when we learned in 1 Corinthians 3 that Christ is to be the focus not his disciples? Likewise, why do we name our churches St. Paul's, etc.? Shouldn't our church names instead emphasize "Christian" rather than "Lutheran" or "John, Peter, Paul..."? While all of these men are followers of Christ, there only is one Christ and only through Him are we saved. Isn't naming a church after a human taking the focus off of Jesus Christ our Savior?
Elsewhere on this website, you will read this: “Nearly 500 years ago, the Christian church was corrupted by many false teachings. A man named Martin Luther led people back to the teachings of the Bible. His work, and that of his friends, is called the Reformation. Through Luther God restored the church to purity of doctrine and a new life of faith in Christ.
“The doctrines of the Lutheran Church are not new. They are the teachings of the Bible. Thus the Lutheran Church is not a new church. It is not a sect or cult. It is a church whose teaching is based on the words written by the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament. The Bible tells us about Jesus Christ.
“The teachings of the Lutheran Church are those of the original, ancient church of the apostles and early Christians.”
During this 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, many writers (myself included) have cited Luther’s words in which he stated his desire that a church not be named after him. However, people called those who taught what he taught from Scripture “Lutherans,” and the name has stuck.
It is not that we apologize for the name. The name is helpful. Yes, we are Christians first, but many people who deny truths of the Bible also call themselves Christian. The “Lutheran” title helps to differentiate churches in the Christian world.
When it comes to the names of individual Lutheran churches, we are in the realm of Christian freedom. Founding members will often determine the name of their new church. Can churches take on human names in their titles? Yes. Consider how the Bible speaks of the foundational nature of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20), in that God used them to deliver his word to us. Yet, the Church is built squarely on Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20). He alone is Savior (John 14:6).
The problem in Corinth that you cited was that Christians were putting more emphasis on the messengers of the gospel than the gospel message. They were taking sides over God’s messengers who served them—past and present. Paul wanted them to focus on Christ.
There would be a similar problem today if a Lutheran church called itself “St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church” and then focused so much attention on the apostle John that Jesus and his gospel faded into the background. You do not find that happening in our churches. Even with names that include apostles, our churches focus on Jesus Christ. The symbol of a cross, along with the church name, helps keep the focus on Christ.
Your question illustrates that church names have value and can be helpful, but we really understand what a church is all about by its confession and preaching and teaching.
It is safe to say that over the years musicians have played Canon in D at many weddings in WELS churches. (It was even the processional when my wife and I were married.)
If you or someone you know has plans for marriage in one of our churches, a conversation with one of our pastors will provide more information on the service of Christian marriage.
It is a parasynodical organization. That terminology describes organizations and ministries that do not receive funding from WELS’ ministry financial plan (budget) but are in doctrinal fellowship with WELS. It is listed in the “Church-Related and Charitable Organizations” section of the WELS Yearbook.
Should I feel guilty or let leaders of my current congregation make me feel guilty if I want to move away and be closer to my adult children? There is a WELS church where I am moving to, so why do I get the feeling from others that I am doing something wrong?
There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be closer to your children, so there is no need for you to feel guilty about leaving your current congregation and transferring to another one of our churches.
In addition, there is no reason for others to put you on a guilt trip about relocating. If others have differing thoughts on your potential move, speak to them kindly and offer explanation as you like.
God bless you!
The lectionaries used in Lutheran churches don’t cover the whole Bible, not even the New Testament. Doesn't this contradict the instruction to preach God’s whole counsel if so many Bible passages are never preached on?
If Lutheran Churches follow the ILCW three-year lectionary series, they will offer readings from 57 of the Bible’s 66 books. That is a good amount of variety. Of course, when pastors preach on one of the readings, they will very likely refer to or quote other sections of Scripture. That means that worshipers will be on the receiving end of even more portions of Scripture than the readings themselves.
I am not aware of any lectionaries that cover the whole Bible (all the chapters). And that is really not the point of the Scripture passage to which you allude. In Acts 20:27 the apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders, “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” The King James Version had translated that verse as: “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
The point the apostle Paul was making was that he had taught God’s revealed will, his will as revealed in Scripture, to those Christians. He did not cover up or hide any truths of Scripture. That does not mean he read the entire Old Testament to them.
So, using a lectionary does not in any way contradict what we find in Acts 20:27. There would be something wrong if our pastors were holding back from teaching what God’s word says. That is not the case. They are proclaiming the whole will of God.
Much has been written on this subject. You can find some of those materials on this website. Type “Church of the Lutheran Confession” (including the quotation marks) in the search box to access pertinent information.
In short, pastors and congregations in the 1950s left the Wisconsin Synod because they were of the conviction that WELS was not acting in accordance with the scriptural principles articulated in Romans 16:17 in regard to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
You may or may not be aware that representatives of WELS, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) have met the last three years to review what led to the formation of the CLC and to discuss how fellowship could be restored.
Representatives from all three church bodies drafted a “Joint Statement Regarding Termination of Fellowship.” Agreement on the doctrine of fellowship would be a necessary first step toward the restoration of God-pleasing fellowship relations. WELS and ELS adopted the joint statement in their respective synodical conventions. The CLC has not yet adopted the statement.
“Ninety-Five Theses for the 21st Century” was prepared by the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC)—the worldwide fellowship of churches to which WELS belongs.
You can obtain the booklet through Northwestern Publishing House. This link will take you to the appropriate part of their website where you can order the booklet.
The introduction to the booklet offers this description: “The CELC’s Ninety-Five Theses for the 21st Century, unlike Luther’s, present all the basic teachings of the Bible as confessed in the Lutheran Church. They are organized according to the outline of Luther’s Catechism, which to this day is treasured as a teaching tool in the churches of the CELC.”
I am 58 years old. I have been baptized, celebrated first reconciliation, and was confirmed and married in a Catholic church. I left the Catholic church 30 years ago, but never ever lost my faith in God. There was something missing. I have been to church in a Lutheran church several times. Everything makes sense to me, and everyone is so nice. I would like to join the Lutheran church I have been going to. Would I be accepted into their congregation? And what would I have to do, if so?
It is wonderful to read about your experiences with our churches.
You will want to contact the pastor of the church you are interested in joining. The pastor will be able to provide information on a Bible Information Class (or a course of instruction that is similarly named). Adult confirmation is available upon completion of the course. Confirmation is the means by which you would join one of our congregations.
God’s blessings to you as you explore affiliating with our church body by searching the Scriptures.
Have you ever had worship effect envy? I saw a video of a beautiful worship service in which they used smoke in connection with a hymn that spoke of Jesus coming with the clouds. Would that be done in our churches?
If you are wondering whether I have seen something impressive in a worship service outside my own congregation, the answer is “yes.” Sometimes what is seen is worth adapting and repeating; other times, not.
When it comes to the use of smoke or incense, that is probably a rare practice in the Lutheran church in general and an even rarer practice in our church body because of its association with the forms of worship of Roman Catholic churches and Orthodox churches.
Some in our church body have utilized the practice in special worship services and in conjunction with the Evening Prayer canticle, “Let my prayer rise before you as incense” (Psalm 141:2).
Are there any good books that provide a conservative, evangelical perspective on pre-Nicene early church history?
You could find good information in the following books:
“The Early Church” by William H.C. Frend
“The Way to Nicaea: Formation of Christian Theology” by John Behr
“Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction” by Bryan Litfin
“The Early Church” by Henry Chadwick
“The Story of Christianity” by Justo Gonzalez
When I scan your website, it seems to focus almost exclusively on "WELS" activities. I almost never read or hear about what other Christians or even other Lutherans are doing to spread the gospel of Jesus. Perhaps I'm over-analyzing things, but your website doesn't seem to rejoice in ministry outside of itself. Is there a reason for this?
It is very common for a church and a church body to design a website that provides information about the congregation and the church body. Providing general religious news is not typically part of that purpose.
While our website achieves the purpose of providing information about our church body, the most important information it shares with people concerns Jesus Christ. The website seeks to connect people with Christ. For that reason, you will find many resources consisting of prayers, Bible studies, devotions, explanations of Christian beliefs, and even this question and answer forum.
Please do not misunderstand the contents of the website. We rejoice when God’s word is spread. In one of the prayers in our hymnal, Christian Worship, we pray: “Wherever your word is proclaimed, O Lord, grant it success. Let your kingdom come to us and others, so that we and many more might join the assembly of saints and angels to sing your praise forever.” We acknowledge and confess “the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.” We confess that the Christian Church consists of people everywhere who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin.
So, with that explanation in mind, do explore more of our website!
I have been WELS most of my life. Over the last three years, I have seen WELS churches not only change the liturgy and the creeds but even the Lord’s Prayer. Since the Lord's Prayer came from the mouth of Jesus himself, how do WELS pastors feel they can change those words? Also, the benediction, as spoken now, takes away from the majesty of God's house. “Look upon you with favor" does not carry the same impact of "May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you.” I also learned from a synod convention a few years ago that a decision was made to allow pastors to use three different Bible translations to pick and choose from to use as their resource(s) for their sermons, etc. I have found that I may move to a city where a church uses the old blue hymnal and the KJV, both original and new versions as their only Bibles. Also, they use the "Thee, Thy, and Thou" as written. The changes in WELS have made me sad.
The items that you listed—that sadden you—are called adiaphora. That word (adiaphoron, singular) describes matters that God has neither commanded nor forbidden.
God has not prescribed a specific way of worshiping him as a family of believers. He leaves that to our Christian freedom and judgment. Yes, Jesus spoke the Lord’s Prayer, but we have to translate his words from Greek into English. There are many ways of putting the Greek words into English.
When it comes to “Thee, Thy and Thou” in the King James Version (KJV), those words reflect Elizabethan English usage of pronouns. And so in the KJV we find Jesus addressing Pontius Pilate with “Thou” (John 19:11). God even addressed Satan in the Garden of Eden with “thee” (Genesis 3:15). Because we do not speak as the translators of the KJV did in 1611, it is appropriate and useful for our Bible translations to read as we speak today. The original languages of the Bible do not have special pronouns to give reverence to God. It is the nouns, the names and titles of God, that engender our respect.
In a similar way, one wonders how many people know what “countenance” is and what it means for the Lord to “lift up” his countenance toward them. Hearing that the Lord “looks on you with favor,” and does not turn his back on you because of your sins, can bring home the intended meaning of that part of the benediction.
In the recent past, synod conventions addressed the subject of what Bible translations to use for our synodical publishing purposes. Congregations and their pastors have been, and are, free to use Bible translations of their choosing.
The changes you have cited are not doctrinal; they are matters in the realm of our Christian freedom. I would encourage you to recognize the difference and put changes like these in perspective. Forms of worship are helpful, but we do not want to let them become more important than the content of our worship: praising a merciful and forgiving God (Psalm 103).
How does the WELS view the modern social justice movement, and is being liberal compatible with the teachings of the Synod?
“Social justice” can mean different things to different people. If the term means to treat people equally and without prejudice, we are all for it. Often, the term can be associated with the social gospel, which emphasizes the idea that it is the church’s responsibility to reform society. We do not endorse that idea. In This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, we explain the role of the church and the role of the state.
“We believe that God has given the church and the state their own distinct responsibilities. To the church the Lord has assigned the responsibility of calling sinners to repentance, of proclaiming forgiveness through the cross of Christ, and of encouraging the believers in their Christian living. The purpose is to lead the elect of God to eternal salvation through faith in Christ. To the state the Lord has assigned the duty of keeping good order and peace, of punishing the wrongdoer, and of arranging all civil matters in society (Romans 13:3,4). The purpose is ‘that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (1 Timothy 2:2).
“We believe that the proper relation is preserved between the church and the state only when each remains within its divinely assigned sphere and uses its divinely entrusted means.” You can find the quotations in context via this link.
When it comes to your question of being “liberal,” I do not know if you mean that in the context of politics or religion; that term also is subject to different shadings of meaning. In general, Christians will want their political views to line up with the convictions of their faith. In the context of religion, “liberal” usually describes views that depart from biblical teachings. Such views are not compatible with the teachings of our church body.
I think your question and answer website is wonderful. I wish it was easier to find on the website so it could help more people. It could be a great resource for people seeking the Lord, but why is it hiding in the website?
Thank you for your kind words regarding the question and answer forum. We really aren’t trying to hide it! I can assure you by the volume of questions that the resource is not hidden.
Individuals can find the question and answer resource by clicking on the “Serving You” tab at the top of the home page or by scrolling down. Scrolling down will reveal the question and answer forum under a “Serving You & Serving Others” banner.
For what reasons (what charges) can a pastor in the WELS be "defrocked"? I assume heresy, moral turpitude, and incorrectly dividing the word of truth apply. Anything else?
You have highlighted the main issues. Persistent false doctrine, immoral and criminal behavior, unfaithfulness and incompetence are issues that can lead to the termination of a pastor’s call.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 lay out qualifications for service in the public ministry. With their actions, people might disqualify themselves as they prepare for service in the ministry or as they serve in the ministry.
Our former pastor was well respected and recently passed away. His replacement is not very well liked. Several of us are considering moving on. Would it be wrong to leave the congregation?
I would encourage you and your fellow members to read the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians. In that part of the epistle, you will find that the Christians in Corinth were putting too much emphasis on their spiritual leaders. They were taking sides and rallying around their spiritual leaders—past and present.
What is interesting is seeing how the apostle Paul addressed that situation. He told the Corinthians to keep their spiritual leaders, including himself, in perspective. He reminded them that their leaders, their pastors, were only God’s instruments to plant the seed of God’s word and water it (1 Corinthians 3:5-9); they were servants of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). None of them were foundations of their faith (1 Corinthians 1:13). Paul wanted the Corinthians to see beyond the messengers of the word and focus on Jesus Christ. That would be my encouragement to you and your friends.
The Bible directs us to respect ministers of the gospel (Hebrews 13:7, 17). If your current pastor is faithfully carrying out his God-given responsibilities, he is worthy of your respect and honor (1 Timothy 5:17). The fact that he might not, in some people’s eyes, measure up to his predecessor, does not provide reason for withholding respect and honor. It also does not provide legitimate reasons for leaving the congregation.
With the context of 1 Corinthians 1-4 in mind, it is understandable that Christians can become closer to some pastors who minister to them more than others. Christians might really appreciate a pastor who baptized them, another who confirmed them, still another who married them, and finally another who served a family member in illness and at death. It is wonderful that Christians appreciate faithful service by a faithful servant. But, as with the Corinthians, there is a problem if we put too much emphasis on the messengers of God’s word and fail to put the focus on the content of their message: Jesus Christ, our Savior from sin.
If you and your friends, for whatever reason, do not like the messenger of the word who is serving you, I hope you can see the need to speak to your pastor and relay any concerns you may have. Nothing is resolved, and the eighth commandment is abused, if people merely talk about their pastor. On the other hand, good things can happen when people have difficult conversations and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Another “speaking” you can do is to continue to pray for your pastor. God bless you and your congregation with unity and peace (Ephesians 4:3).
I am a member of WELS. I have not attended church for over 20 years. Can I consider myself a Lutheran still? When I die, can I ask a WELS pastor to officiate at my funeral?
A number of questions come to my mind. Why have you not attended church for over 20 years? Are you sure you are still a member of one of our congregations after not being in your church for over 20 years? If you have not attended church for so long, why do you feel a need to have a WELS pastor officiate at your funeral?
If disabilities or other life circumstances prevent you from attending church, please contact one of our pastors. If members are not able to get to church, pastors will “bring the church” to them by delivering Word and sacrament in their homes or other facilities where they might be residing.
If you are able to attend church but just don’t go, that’s a different matter. The Bible says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). God’s will is that we worship him, hear his word, give him our prayers and praises, support kingdom work and receive the Lord’s Supper.
The message of the Bible is this: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Because the end of our earthly lives brings our time of grace to an end, Scripture urges us to address our relationship with God now. We do that through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Not knowing your specific situation, I pass along that same concern and encouragement.
If congregations are using Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, it is likely that Christian Worship: Altar Book is the book you see on the altar. As there is no directive to use a certain book, pastors and their congregations enjoy freedom in this area.
There is a trend in the LCMS towards "confessionalism," which promotes a high view of the Book of Concord (which is nothing new) and elaborate ceremonialism while denigrating contemporary worship. It's also fashionable to ridicule the term "Protestant," downplaying evangelism in favor of an inward focus on liturgy, and an embarrassed silence on the topic of "the priesthood of all believers." Churches that don't have Communion every Sunday, or embrace chasubles and genuflection, or aspire to purchase a censer are perceived as backwards, misguided, and "Reformed." Recent blog articles even question whether it is necessary to be "distinctively Lutheran" at all. Is the WELS drifting in this direction as well?
From my perspective, I am not able to point to any widespread trends. You will find diversity of worship styles in our congregations. That is an expression of Christian freedom. You can find contemporary worship in mission settings and well-established congregations. You can find traditional and blended worship in well-established congregations. Might individual pastors and lay people have preferences for worship styles? Certainly, but I am not in a position to state that the Synod is “drifting” in any particular direction. I can say that we are not looking to hide our Lutheran identity.
I have not seen many people in the WELS bring their Bibles with them to church. Does the WELS encourage people to bring their Bibles with them to church?
Nowadays, people might have their Bibles with them in ways you might not know: on their phones or other devices.
When it comes to using Bibles in our worship services, there is generally not a great need for that. That is because the Scripture readings and sermon text are often printed for the worshiper (or there may be Bibles available in the pews or by chairs, or the words may be projected on a screen). In addition, the style of preaching that fits many of our pastors reduces the need for having Bibles. While pastors reference other parts of the Bible in their sermons, they often concentrate on the portion of Scripture that serves as the sermon text.
For reasons like these, there may not be a great deal of encouragement for worshipers to bring Bibles with them to church. There is certainly no discouragement.
At what point in history did the Church need a reformation? I have heard people say that the Church needed a reformation as early as the 2nd century because it had become Roman Catholic in its teaching. I have heard others say that the Church did not need a reformation until the 16th century, and these people support reading books such as The Imitation of Christ that are generally considered Roman Catholic. I have even seen some Lutheran Franciscans! At what point did the Church become corrupt and need to be reformed?
I suppose the answer can depend on what you see in the word “reformation.” If “reformation” is simply the church addressing doctrinal errors and removing them, then reformation was needed and implemented already in the first century. The church meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 15) addressed the error of the Judaizers.
The Judaizers taught a way of salvation that combined faith in Jesus and the works of the law. The church rejected that and restated what all of Scripture teaches—that people enjoy salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
You might enjoy an article from the “Reformation issue” of Forward in Christ last October. The article speaks of “a constant need for reform.” This link will take you to that article.
Why does the Book of Concord quote from the church fathers? I have always been told that the church fathers are Roman Catholic.
Many of the church fathers quoted lived at a time before we would recognize a “Roman Catholic Church” (approximately 400 A.D.). Because of that, they would not be Roman Catholic.
Such quotations from church fathers, of course, are not presented as being of equal weight as Scripture. The quotations describe how the early church understood and taught biblical doctrines.
Since there is no perfect church on earth or a church that can be 100% accurate this side of heaven, what would be areas of doctrine or teachings that WELS might possibly be wrong on?
Personally, I am not plagued with doubts about our church body’s doctrine or practice. As a church body, we do not pretend to be the only church whose teachings are entirely biblical; the kingdom of God is not limited to WELS. We believe we are holding to the truths of God’s word. If others accuse us of error in doctrine or practice, we are certainly willing and interested to listen, and see what Scripture says about their claims and our confession.
I am a confirmed Missouri Synod Lutheran and have been attending a WELS church for three years. I am now interested in joining the church. Do I need to take the Good News classes? It appears to be taking more than a year to finish the classes at the church I attend. I feel I need to participate in the Lord's Supper once again. Please guide me. Thank you!!
A common route to membership for someone in your situation is called “profession of faith” or “affirmation of faith.” That route to membership often bypasses the longer series of classes that leads to adult confirmation.
Because each congregation has freedom to address membership questions like this, you will do best to contact the pastor of the WELS church where you have been attending. He will explain the path to membership. God’s blessings on your affiliation with our church body and your walk with Jesus.
The new seminary graduate who recently began serving our congregation has an unusual approach to consecrating the elements during the Lord's Supper. When it is time for him to read the Words of Institution, he takes a step or two away from the altar (it is built into the chancel wall), turns his back to the elements on the altar table, and reads the Words of Institution to the congregation. He doesn't make the sign of the cross over the cup and paten, or make a simple hand motion to indicate what is being set aside for the Sacrament. One would be hard pressed to know we were celebrating the Sacrament until the distribution begins. Am I wrong in asking him to at least stand next to the elements when reading the Words of Institution instead of turning his back to them?
I contacted Professor James Tiefel of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary regarding the training seminary students receive to consecrate the elements in the Lord’s Supper. Prof. Tiefel serves as Dean of Chapel and teaches worship and homiletics courses.
He explained that when the consecration takes place at a wall altar, the presiding minister is either to take the vessels in his hands and turn toward the people (and make the sign of the cross at “This is my body/This is my blood of the covenant”) or stand at the side of the elements and speak to the people while pointing to the elements, alternately looking at the people and the elements. He demonstrates how this done.
You can certainly speak to your pastor about the instruction he received and his current practice.
You might be interested in an article Prof. Tiefel wrote: “The Orientation of the Presiding Minister to the Altar During the Words of Institution.” While your question addresses a subject that Scripture does not address specifically, the article explains how liturgical actions can help communicate doctrine clearly. This link will take you to that article.
What part should fundraising play in the church and in our schools? What scriptural principles can we look to for guidance when approaching people for needs that arise in the church? It seems that the numerous gimmicks and matching funds and golf and wine outings take away from the true heart of giving. It seems that this leads to a selfish kind of giving, one where people will only give, or will give more, if they are getting something out of it. (Is it potentially a lack of trust for us to think we need to go beyond simply presenting whatever needs there are to the members and asking that the Lord bless the effort if it is His will?)
When needs arise, we can inform people of the special opportunities those situations present for special giving. We see the apostle Paul doing that in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (and other epistles), where he informed Christians of the opportunity of helping fellow believers in Jerusalem. We do that today when we inform God’s people about natural disasters that have brought about financial hardships in the lives of others.
When needs present Christians with additional, specific opportunities for giving, Christians will again examine how God has blessed them and how they might “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). Christians will want to respond to those opportunities without thoughts of guilt or obligation or reward. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) is true whether we are talking about regular giving or special giving.
When it comes to fundraising in the church, Christians will want to exercise caution—out of interest for fellow Christians and for the unchurched in the community. Fundraising that targets the community can reinforce the common, wrong idea that people can have: that the church is concerned only about money. Such fundraising can also send the signal that the church cannot carry out its mission but needs the help of others.
Some fundraising efforts include benefits for the giver, as you noted. In instances like that, the people donating money might very well be purchasing products they would be buying elsewhere. The fundraiser can enable people to purchase that product, perhaps give an additional amount of money, and fund a specific effort or project. In other words, the fundraiser might be providing an opportunity for donors to redirect their purchases of items for a worthwhile cause.
There certainly is a danger that fundraisers can fuel the idea that giving involves getting or receiving something in return. Here is where biblical principles of giving are helpful.
The starting point is that God owns everything (Psalm 24:1). We don’t own a thing. God entrusts his possessions to us for faithful management of them (Matthew 25:14-30). It is love for God and gratitude for his love that provides the motivation for giving back to God what is his in the first place (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 4:19). You and I have reason for planning our giving and planning offerings that are proportionate to how God has blessed us individually (1 Corinthians 16:2). Those are just some biblical principles of giving that come to mind.
“Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Jesus’ words were certainly applicable to his first disciples. They are applicable to Christians today as well.
Elsewhere on this website you will find This We Believe: A Statement of Belief of the WELS. The “Church and Ministry” section addresses your question on the basis of Scripture: “We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).” One of those assemblies is the voters’ assembly.
Another resource on this website that may be helpful for you is the document titled “Man and Woman Roles.” This link will take you to that document.
While women in WELS congregations do not cast votes in voters’ assemblies, that does not speak at all to their status in God’s sight. Scripture says to Christians: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
I noticed that WELS made no official condolence statement following the passing of Rev. Billy Graham. Considering his worldwide impact on preaching the gospel during the 20th century, is there a reason for WELS saying nothing?
It is not the regular practice of our church body to issue press releases on the announcement of an individual’s death.
Like the apostle Paul (Philippians 1:18), I am glad when Jesus Christ is proclaimed as Lord and Savior. Through many people and various means, the gospel is reaching more and more people. Also, like the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:8-9, I am desirous that people understand that faith in the gospel message is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, like the apostle Paul, my prayer is that “the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Christians pray that prayer for the glory of God and the growth of his kingdom.
Reading the writings of the early church fathers can be valuable. What you will find from such reading is that some early church fathers expressed biblical truths, while others did not. Even the ones who wrote accurately about the Bible did not always do so consistently.
That observation simply underscores the conclusion that we make: that their writings can be valuable and insightful, but Scripture alone is the source of our faith. That is because Scripture is truthful in whatever it says (John 17:17).
I'm wondering if our Synod offers scholarships to our Lutheran High School students who have chosen not to attend a Lutheran College?
There are no synodical scholarships for students in your daughter’s circumstances. Synod mission offerings help subsidize educational costs for students who attend the schools that the Synod owns and operates: Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wisconsin; Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Michigan; Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota; and, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.
Why are women not put on call lists for principals? I know there are two at one of our schools in Milwaukee.
Because of the biblical principles of the roles of men and women (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12), a woman would not ordinarily be put on a call list to be principal at a school whose staff consists of men and women teachers. There have been instances of a woman serving as principal of an all-female staff. If women serve as principals in other settings, the position is structured in such a way as to follow the biblical roles of men and women.
Why does Easter move from year to year? I understand that it is always on Sunday but why not the same Sunday in either March or April? Thank you.
The history behind the dating of Easter Sunday is involved and associated with some controversies. Early Christians were not agreed on when to celebrate Easter. Then, in 325 A.D., the Council of Nicea adopted the formula that Easter Sunday would be the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the vernal equinox (March 20/21). That means that the date for Easter can range from March 22 to April 25. While the western Christian church follows this formula, the eastern Christian church does not.
We want to keep this information in perspective by remembering that God did not command his New Testament followers to establish a church calendar. While the establishment of a church calendar is an exercise of Christian freedom, such a calendar is certainly worthwhile and helpful because it puts regular focus on the saving works of Jesus.
The designation of Easter Sunday on a calendar is an arbitrary decision. For New Testament Christians, the same is true regarding Sunday as the regular day of worship. And yet, there is a connection between that day of the week and Easter. With the Old Testament Sabbath day laws abolished, early Christians chose Sunday as a regular day of worship. They did that to have a “little Easter” celebration each Sunday.
So, whether it is a little Easter celebration in the middle of July or the big Easter celebration on April 1, 2018, this is what is truly important: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
I just happened across a YouTube channel produced by a pastor from the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA) church body who claims WELS is teaching false doctrine in regard to universal justification vs. justification by faith. Please enlighten me and others where such a claim might be derived.
This We Believe, a statement of belief of WELS, states:
“1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for ‘the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men’ (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for ‘the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men’ (Romans 5:18).
“2. We believe that individuals receive this free gift of forgiveness not on the basis of their own works, but only through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). Justifying faith is trust in Christ and his redemptive work. This faith justifies not because of any power it has in itself, but only because of the salvation prepared by God in Christ, which it embraces (Romans 3:28; 4:5). On the other hand, although Jesus died for all, Scripture says that ‘whoever does not believe will be condemned’ (Mark 16:16). Unbelievers forfeit the forgiveness won for them by Christ (John 8:24).”
Paragraph number one speaks of objective justification. The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America rejects WELS’ teaching of objective justification. The website for the diocese contains “Articles on Justification” that offer explanation for their position.
What role or place should businesses have in our churches? I am referring specifically to the prominent place Thrivent seems to have in our church's activities (many funded in part by Thrivent action grants). This seems problematic on many levels. I am wondering if the WELS leadership has studied this practice which is common in many WELS churches. Pastors of WELS churches with whom I have spoken have expressed differing opinions about this issue, and there does not seem to be a consensus or any study they can point me to when I voice my concerns.
About four years, changes in Thrivent’s policies resulted in WELS issuing a statement. Here are excerpts from that statement.
“Late last year , it was learned that Thrivent had permitted its members to direct their Choice dollars to Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of abortion services in the nation. Many conservative and confessional Lutherans expressed their dismay and even outrage that a self-described ‘faith-based’ organization would allow people to direct their funding to an abortion provider. Thrivent’s response to those concerns came in the form of a new ‘neutrality’ policy, in which it stated that it would no longer permit Choice dollars to be directed to any organization whose primary purpose was to advocate for or to oppose controversial social issues such as abortion, sexual orientation, or guns. While organizations providing abortion services were no longer eligible, funding was also cut off from organizations dedicated to protecting the unborn and promoting the biblical teaching of marriage and sexuality. By adopting this policy, which Thrivent had every right to do, it clearly took the position that it is an organization that is not willing to take the correct stand on issues that we recognize to be clearly decided by the Word of God.
“After thorough consideration, we have concluded that, on a synodical level, to do nothing or say nothing would be a failure to make a faithful confession.
“For that reason, our synod’s relationship with Thrivent, small and informal as it has been, has come to an end. As a result, regular meetings will no longer take place, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod will neither seek nor accept any funding from Thrivent.
“This decision of the synod should not be understood to bind the consciences and decisions of congregations, organizations, or individuals. Individual members of Thrivent will need to make their own decisions regarding their use of Thrivent’s financial services, evaluating it with the same standards that they use to evaluate and patronize any other financial services company. Members will need to make their own decision as to whether or not they continue to direct their Choice dollars to organizations. Congregations, schools, and organizations, while not compelled to refuse Choice dollars, are encouraged to consider carefully whether or not the Thrivent name should be publicly promoted in congregational or organizational literature.”
In This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, we state: “We believe…that individuals through their membership in a church body commit themselves to the doctrine and practice of that church.” Church membership sends the signal that the individual member’s faith and the church’s teachings are in harmony with one another.
We reflect that consistent profession of faith in our rite of Confirmation. At the Confirmation of youths and adults, there is often a question that asks the confirmands if they acknowledge that the doctrines and teachings the church presented to them are in line with God’s word. It would make sense that a person who disagreed with our teachings would not want to join our church. On the other hand, an acknowledgement that our church teaches biblical doctrines accurately would welcome and also receive church membership.
It is possible that a person who intends to join one of our churches struggles with a particular teaching of the Bible. If the person was willing to be instructed in God’s word, it is possible that the person could join the congregation under those circumstances. That would be a pastoral decision.
Some in our church say our pastor is preaching too much of the law and some feel as if they are being scolded. One of our council members said that if a new person attends one of our services, they won’t come back; it doesn’t make them feel good. I have talked to several of members and some don’t like the changes that our pastor has made, but they do enjoy his services and the energy he brings. My wife and I thoroughly enjoy his sermons. He has made us look deeper into our faith and to learn. I guess I don’t see how his style would upset or scare away anyone. Can too much law be preached? Is it a minister's job to make people “feel good”?
Part of the silent prayer I offer before preaching is that God would use me to “convict and comfort” the people who are on the receiving end of my sermon. I ask that God convict them and me through the preaching of the law and comfort us through the preaching of the gospel.
Can too much law be preached? Yes, if there is little to no gospel content in a sermon.
Is it a minister’s job to make people feel good? No. The minister’s job is to be faithful in preaching God’s word to people. God will take over after that. The person preaching the sermon cannot bring about reactions or feelings to his sermon.
Pastors will look to have a balance of law and gospel in their preaching, with greater emphasis on the gospel message. The gospel is “good news.” There is certainly reason for joy and happiness when the good news is received in faith.
The apostle Paul first gave these inspired words and instructions to Timothy, a young pastor: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Those instructions are valuable for pastors of all ages.
God’s law can be an unpopular message with people because it stirs up consciences and makes them feel uncomfortable. Regardless, pastors are to preach God’s law.
God’s gospel can also be an unpopular message with people because they consider the idea of salvation through Jesus Christ alone an offensive, exclusive message. Regardless, pastors are to preach God’s gospel.
The right kind of conversations about sermons in your church are the ones that take place between the members and the pastor. Do encourage your fellow members to have that kind of conversation.
How long should a pastor stay in one place? Would 18+ years be considered lengthy? Our sermons are repetitive and our spirituality is stale.
There is no set time or recommended time for a called worker’s length of service in a particular congregation. Studies and surveys that I found indicated that 18 years of service in a congregation is longer than the average.
It goes without saying that there can be blessings and challenges for a pastor to serve many years in the same congregation. Some of the positives are that the pastor knows the membership well, he can become a trusted friend on whom members rely, and he provides steady leadership when there might be regular changes in lay leadership. Some of the challenges are that the pastor can be tempted to become complacent and lax in carrying out the duties and privileges of his call, he might think of the congregation as “my church,” and congregational members might prove the adage that “familiarity breeds contempt.”
“How long should a pastor stay in one place?” Because of the doctrine of the call and the practice we have in our church body, pastors are not able to answer that question on their own. What I mean is that some pastors might be serving for many years in the same congregation because they have not, for many different reasons, received a call that would have them think of serving elsewhere. Or, perhaps they did receive a call to serve elsewhere and they declined the call after prayerful deliberation.
A change in ministry can be good for the called worker and the congregations involved when there are good reasons for that change, but change for the sake of change is ill-advised.
The person who would benefit from comments about sermons is the pastor who preaches them. I encourage you to share your thoughts, comments and concerns with your pastor. And, remember him in your prayers.
While trying to understand our fellowship principles, I've read several questions regarding the participation of people of other denominations or synods in services such as funerals. Some asked whether they could sing, or even play the organ for services. The answers trended toward, "No, as they would be leading the services and could cause confusion over what we believe concerning scriptural matters." I'm okay with that, but it leads me to another question about the roles of women in our church. If women aren't supposed to lead our services, how can they play the organ, or solo singing a hymn? Or are they assisting the pastor as opposed to leading?
It looks like you are understanding correctly that your questions address two different subjects: church fellowship and leadership. The “participation of people of other denominations or synods in services such as funerals” is a matter of church fellowship. That is true whether the individuals involved are male or female.
Men and women of our fellowship who offer assistance in the worship service do so in keeping with the biblical roles of loving head and loving helper (1 Corinthians 11:3).
I am looking for answers to see why women have not been allowed to usher during church services, but now it seems like there is talk going around it is OK? If it is OK now, why not before?
Because Scripture does not mention a service role like ushering, we find ourselves in the area of Christian freedom and the application of biblical principles.
What is helpful for your answering your question is knowing the job description of ushers: what are the responsibilities of ushers? Is it greeting worshipers, distributing service folders, assisting with the offering and taking part in the dismissal of worshipers? One has to ask: is there any authoritative responsibility in those actions that would violate the biblical principles of loving head and loving helper (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:12)?
In the past (and perhaps still today, according to their job description in some churches), ushers had the responsibility of being the “gatekeeper” for the congregation’s close communion practice. In that way they assisted the pastor and the board of elders in controlling who would be guests at the Lord’s Supper. Today, many congregations have other means of addressing the implementation of their close communion practice, so there is often not any authoritative role for ushers in that part of the worship service. Again, a key is understanding what our congregations are asking and directing ushers to do. If the responsibilities for ushers change, the practice can also change.
If you are interested in pursuing this further, this subject is one of many discussed in more detail in A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God’s World. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.
I have read the Report to the Twelve Districts 2016 regarding the congregational constitutions resolutions. I have heard that they have asked for a special committee to discuss changes. I could not find any updated information in the 2018 COP meeting summary. Please advise if the changes have been made. We do not have a voters' assembly, but would like to consider making the change.
The 2018 Report to the Twelve Districts offers this information: “Some congregations have expressed an interest in adopting congregational structure and governance that differs from the synod’s model constitution and bylaws. A special committee has been appointed to discuss alternate constitutions and to create guidelines that will assist congregations in developing structures and governance that uphold biblical principles while still allowing for freedom and flexibility. The guidelines will be shared with congregations and with district constitution committees when completed and adopted by the COP.”
Why do called workers' children get such a break on tuition both in grade school, high schools, etc.? There are many instances where the spouse works and together make a very nice salary, more than members paying full tuition.
That is really a question you would want to ask of administrative personnel at schools where such discounts exist. (As a called worker, I never was the beneficiary of discounted tuition for my children.)
I imagine that if churches and schools designed a tuition break for their called workers, it was in consideration of the called workers’ salary only. Employment and accompanying salary on the part of called workers’ spouses is an entirely separate matter.
Perhaps a tuition break like you mentioned represents the attitude of a congregation giving “double honor” to its called workers (1 Timothy 5:17). If that is the case, neither you nor I want to begrudge that.
What are the criteria/requirements for youth confirmation in the WELS Synod? (i.e. age, grade, years of instructions) Does the pastor and/or principal determine when each individual child is ready to be confirmed? Would a public school 7th grader be considered ready for confirmation? Also, is it up the each pastor to decide if there is a public confirmation examination or reading of an essay they have written? This year there was only the Rite of Confirmation.
The Bible of course does not speak of the rite of confirmation or the practice of public examination. It speaks of training children in God’s word (Psalm 78:1-8; Proverbs 22:6; 2 Timothy 3:14-16), confessing Jesus Christ as Savior (Matthew 10:32), examining ourselves before receiving the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28) and partaking of the Lord’s Supper often (1 Corinthians 11:25). Established in Christian freedom, confirmation—the rite and the formal course of instruction that precedes it—addresses these important areas.
A common practice in our church body associates the time of youth confirmation with the completion of elementary education. There are no biblical mandates or synodical rules that demand this practice. As Christians who walk together in a synod, we recognize practices that can offer uniformity and orderliness, but we also acknowledge differing practices based on local circumstances. Confirmation and examination practices are ultimately the responsibility of local congregations and their pastors.
Much has been written about our confirmation practices. Following are excerpts from an article in Forward in Christ a number of years ago:
“Lutherans have never had a consistent confirmation practice. In fact, only in the last century or two has confirmation become a nearly universal practice among Lutherans. Martin Luther did not use a rite of confirmation because he wanted to avoid any suggestion that confirmation was a sacrament. He wanted to distance himself from the Roman Catholic practice. Luther placed his focus on the careful instruction of the youth in the basic teachings of the Bible…Nevertheless Lutherans began practicing a rite of confirmation even during Luther’s lifetime. The great Reformer did not object to it so long as people recognized that it was neither a sacrament commanded by God nor necessary to be observed.
“Confirmation is intended to give those who have received basic instruction in the truths of God’s Word the opportunity publicly to confess their faith before the church. The rite informs the congregation that these catechumens have sufficient scriptural understanding and spiritual maturity to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
“The importance of confirmation does not lie in the rite itself. The focus must always be on the means of grace..The ceremony stresses the importance of Christian instruction and continuing in God’s Word. It points to the glorious gift our Savior gives us in his Supper. It reminds us that he gives us his very body and blood to assure us of his forgiveness and to strengthen our faith. Confirmation is meaningless if viewed apart from the instruction in God’s truth given in preparation for the rite. This instruction imparts the basic teachings of Christianity and provides the knowledge necessary for growth toward Christian maturity. Catechism class lays a foundation upon which the Christian will build for a lifetime.
“God has commanded us to instruct children and adults in his truth. He has not commanded us to have a rite like confirmation. The rite is valuable only so long as people understand its purpose and recognize the importance of continued instruction and participation in worship and the Lord’s Supper. But when confirmation is understood and practiced properly, it can be very meaningful.”
Do you have any online sources or advice for someone trying to learn more about the WELS Church? I was raised in the ELCA, but did not go to church very often growing up or during college. My boyfriend is WELS, grew up in a very faith based household, and went to a WELS college. Definitely more “religious” than me. I’m working on my own faith and making that a bigger part of my life, but talking about marriage scares me because I feel like we have vast religious differences despite both being Lutheran. I’m a strong-willed, liberal woman and there are some fundamental beliefs that I hold that are inconsistent with certain WELS beliefs. I’m open minded and understand the rationale behind certain WELS beliefs, but I know I will never share certain beliefs. I’m looking for some resources perhaps to help me get a better grasp on how drastic the divide between ELCA and WELS is. Thank you in advance!
There are some good resources from Northwestern Publishing House I can recommend to you: WELS and Other Lutherans and What’s Going on Among the Lutherans? The first book is available in print and digital versions; the second is available only in print.
The online Essay File of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary has numerous papers that sort out the differences among Lutheran church bodies. Searching the subject of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America can get you started.
Finally, I encourage you to speak to your boyfriend’s pastor. He is in a position to respond to other questions you might have.
I wish you both well as you discuss some very important items in your relationship.
If the construct of a voters' assembly is adiaphora, as in there is no explicit biblical basis for this practice, why is it that the idea of women participating in these positions is seemingly impossible? I understand the spiritual authority aspect, however, as an adult, unmarried female my opinion does not have a way to be heard, due to my inability to attend these voters meetings (not true of every congregation). Applying general passages to a very specific system does not seem like the logical basis to create a system. Could not the women of a church better understand the needs of a church from a different perspective than that of a man? If I, as an unmarried female, wish to raise a concern about who the congregation is calling, for example, how could I go about that in the current system, besides going to my pastor outside of a voters' meeting? This situation then removes my concerns from the congregation, which could have helped raise discussion to help choose the person best fitted to the needs of said congregation. This topic has often troubled me, and I would like more explanation as to why we practice what we do.
Providing adequate detail in the responses to your questions can be challenging in a forum like this. So, perhaps the best way I can help is by steering you to a couple of Bible study resources that congregations can use as they address questions like yours.
The resources apply Scripture passages to congregational life that we have, in Christian freedom, developed today.
As congregations apply the scriptural roles of loving head and loving helper (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8; 1 Timothy 2:11-13) to the context of voters’ assemblies, they want to do so with love and respect for one another. That certainly means trying to receive input from those who are not part of the voting process. God bless your study of this topic.
Why and when did the clergy go from the black robe to the white robe and stoles? Years ago the pastor wore black, as it was a sign of humility. What is the thought process of this change?
Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, has a helpful section of information (pages 95-104) that addresses your question. Here are some excerpts:
“During the first four centuries after Christ, pastors did not have the custom of wearing special clothes for worship…The alb became the customary worship vestment only as public worship became more formal and ceremonial, sometime around the fifth century.
“…The garment the medieval pastor would have worn when he came to church was the street attire of his own era, the cassock…Since the clergy were also the teachers at the schools and universities, the cassock was what teachers and professors wore when they taught. One might compare the cassock to our modern sport jacket and slacks, or to a pinstripe suit…Only under the influence of the Reformed (who rejected almost all of the church’s historic worship legacy) did the ‘Geneva’ or academic robe come to replace the alb as the worship vestment.
“…Those who rejected the historic worship vestments, first in Germany and later in America, were aligned more often with the Calvinists, Pietists, and Rationalists than they were with the orthodox Lutherans…The Rationalists were decidedly anti-authoritarian…Their clergy dressed in the black academic robe not because it was a worship vestment, but because it was not a worship vestment. Like many Protestants today, they wore the everyday professional garb of the medieval scholar and the modern magistrate, the Geneva gown.”
When it comes to the color of the pastors’ vestments, Christian Worship: Manual, explains the significance of liturgical colors. “White: color of the godhead and eternity; color of the robe of the glorified Christ and of the angels and saints in heaven; color of perfection, joy, purity.” “Black: the absence of color; symbolic of death.”
“The stole is traditionally reserved for those who hold the office of the pastoral ministry.”
In all of this, we want to keep Christian freedom in mind. God has neither commanded nor prohibited the use of vestments like these.
In today's current climate, is it appropriate for a pastor and congregational leaders to be vocal supporters of the NRA, host trainings for current/potential gun owners on church property, and post signs stating that the church property is protected by armed security? Should we be portraying our church to our community as a "Pro-Gun Church" and isolating members/visitors that disagree politically? How can this be addressed without hurting anyone's feelings? Thanks!
These are matters that are best addressed at the congregational level. Your congregation might be in a rural setting where there is a long-established culture of hunting; it might be in an urban setting where there is a high crime rate.
As churches and schools react to the shootings that have taken place across our country recently, they are interested in the safety of their constituents. How to keep people safe and vigilant is where discussions and plans can vary.
All I can say in general about your questions is that congregations will want to apply their regular decision-making policies and procedures to this matter. They will want to see if any proposed action aligns with the mission of their congregation (their mission statement). They will seek input from congregational members—especially those who are not part of the decision-making process. They will be interested in listening to and addressing the concerns of those individuals whose opinions did not prevail. They will want to know if any proposed actions could benefit from legal review. These are some thoughts that congregations regularly keep in mind as they attend to their business matters and which can be applied to your situation.
Do FAQs on the wels.net site reflect the official teachings of the Wisconsin Synod? They are sometimes used by our detractors on social media sites, but should they be cited in defense as "official teachings"? On such issues as (salvation and suicide), isn't there diversity of opinion and teaching within the WELS pastorate?
Below the area where people submit questions on this website, there is this information: “The answers provided through this Q&A service are not to be construed as the official opinions, statements, or representations of WELS. Answers provided through this Q&A service are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to replace consultation with your parent, pastor, Christian counselor, financial advisor, or other similar person.”
You will not find diversity of opinion among our pastors regarding salvation. There is unanimity regarding this passage that speaks of Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Might there be differences of opinion on whether or not to officiate at the funeral of a person who committed suicide, because of the circumstances and nature of the death? Yes, but there we are dealing with judgment calls regarding human behavior and not clear-cut biblical doctrines like salvation.
How do the names of our WELS pastors get on the call list? Some pastors' names seem to appear quite often on the Call Reports. Do pastors sometimes ask their name to be put on the call list? Thank you for your reply.
District presidents, who are responsible for assembling call lists for pastors, will consult with one another. On occasion, members of a congregation experiencing a vacancy might suggest the name of a pastor to be considered for inclusion on their call list. In such cases, district presidents will take those suggestions under advisement.
There can be circumstances—on the rarer side—that lead a pastor to contact his district president and request consideration for inclusion on a call list to serve elsewhere. Those circumstances have the best interests of the pastor and the public ministry in mind.
From a human perspective, pastors might receive calls frequently for a number of related reasons. They might be known for their God-given gifts and their faithfulness in using them. They might be blessed with a good reputation in the church. They might offer more visible service to the church at-large, so that others—beyond the members of the congregation they serve—are familiar with them and their ministries. Numerous other factors can enter into the equation as well.
I can assure you that receiving a call to serve elsewhere can be an unsettling time in life. Then again, receiving a call to serve elsewhere provides a good opportunity for a pastor to evaluate his gifts and ministry, and prayerfully determine where those gifts can best be used at that time in life. We all would do well to remember our pastors in prayer—especially when they are holding multiple calls.
Yes, they are. Congregations will send delegates to district conventions, that meet in even-numbered years. In odd-numbered years, congregations will send delegates to the Synod convention on a rotational basis that is established by their district.
I understand the role relationship with men and women in a WELS church, and specifically that women cannot be on a church council or vote at a voter’s meeting. My question is what happens when a small rural congregation no longer has enough adult male members to fill the Council positions, or in the extreme, no adult male members at all? Would such a church be required to close and its members instructed to join another church, or would women be able to vote and hold offices even though the pastor is male? Thank you.
If the demographics of your congregation approach the situation you are describing, your congregation would need to be in contact with your district president to explore appropriate courses of actions.
Regarding the constitutions and bylaws of congregations, each district has a constitution committee that reviews and approves proposed changes.
I have been a Lutheran only very recently, and read that certain synods do not have bishops. Does WELS have bishops? If so, how can I find out who my bishop/arch-bishop is? If not, why not? Thank you very much for your consideration and time.
The organizational structure of WELS includes a Synod President and twelve District Presidents.
The WELS website includes information on synodical and district leadership, including who your district president is.
This link will take you to the section of the website that includes that information. Once you land on the new page, look for a link under “Synod Leadership and Related Organizations.”
Welcome to our church body. God’s blessings!
What times on what days should be considered the beginning and end of the Paschal Triduum? I've heard versions including Thursday evening through Saturday night, Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, and Thursday evening through Sunday evening. I recently taught a class on our church year and there was confusion on this topic among members, including some lifelong WELS members. Thanks in advance for clarifying this for us.
With human customs, it is not surprising to find variations. I can pass along to you this introductory information about the Triduum from the WELS Resource Center.
“For more information about the history of the Triduum, see page 183 and following in Christian Worship: Occasional Services. However, a simple explanation would be this. The Triduum adds one service to Holy Week from what most WELS churches are used to. Specifically, it adds the Great Vigil, one of the most ancient services in the Christian Church. And it organized the services of the ‘three days’ (i.e. triduum) so that they go together. There is no benediction after Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, because they are just parts 1 and 2 of a three part observance.
“Some churches have arranged the three services into one large worship folder. For ease of printing and customization, we have kept them distinct. This allows churches to modify the services using sound pastoral judgment to be appropriate for each congregation’s sensibility. In some locations, it might cause confusion to not have a benediction and to ask people to leave the church in silence. That portion of the worship folder can be easily modified.
“The Great Vigil is growing in popularity throughout the WELS. There are churches that have used it for years now and find it as well attended as Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. Traditionally, it is held late on Saturday night. However, one possibility to introduce it to your church would be to do it as your Easter sunrise service. It has a very different tone than a festival Easter service. Members would be encouraged to come to it and a festival service on Sunday morning. You could have an Easter breakfast in between.”
Does our synod provide any resources for congregations who are wanting to do some "long-range planning"?
You will find resources for planning at the Congregational Counseling section of the synod’s website. Some of the resources include “Self Assessment and Adjustment,” Ministry Organization and Staffing” and “School of Strategic Planning.”
This link will take you to that section.
God bless your congregation’s planning!
Are WELS pastors required to submit unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions? Thank you in advance!
The order of service for the ordination and installation of pastors from Christian Worship: Occasional Services includes the following questions to WELS pastors.
“Do you believe that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is a true exposition of the Word of God and a correct presentation of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and that the other confessions in the Book of Concord are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith: the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord?”
“Do you solemnly promise that all your teaching and your administration of the sacraments will conform to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions?”
The answer WELS pastors speak to both questions is “I do.”
WELS is a member church of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). The website of the CELC (celc.info) shows that WELS is in fellowship with more than 30 church bodies throughout the world.
If you go to the CELC’s website, you will find links to the websites of many of those church bodies.
Member churches of the CELC have regional meetings and a triennial convention. The most recent convention took place in 2017 in Grimma, Germany.
The CELC illustrates the truth of Psalm 133:1 – “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Does WELS have any policies or guidelines for how its congregations or affiliated organizations are supposed to handle personal data of their members or people whom they are in regular contact with? There are especially a couple of practices I've noticed in some congregation (not necessarily WELS) that some people find objectionable: 1) Demanding that people who participate in certain activities as a prerequisite accept to have their photos etc. appearing in various "promotional material" on social media or church websites. 2) Revealing personal information on individuals in prayers or prayer requests that are broadcast in video or audio, and thus accessible to a larger audience.
There are no synodical guidelines or policies to which I can point you. Church insurers do make available to churches information on risk management and privacy issues. It is important for churches to review that information and follow procedures that are outlined.
In addition, it is wise for churches to retain legal counsel to assist with these and other matters.
You might be interested in a recent blog by WELS’ Chief Technology Officer that addressed questions about the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations. This link will take you to that blog.
Is there a WELS stance on garage or rummage sales? As a young adult, while moving from LCMS to WELS, I was led to believe that church members are responsible for supporting the local congregation. Still learning!
There is no synodical policy on the activities mentioned in your question. Differing local circumstances can lead to different practices. What I can do is pass along some observations from personal ministry experiences.
What congregations will want to keep in mind is the impression given by such sales. Congregational fundraising can reinforce what many people wrongly think in the first place—that “all the church is concerned about is money.” Congregational fundraising can reinforce work-righteous thinking in the minds of the unchurched, leading them to conclude that “I’ve given to God, so I’ve done my duty.” Congregational fundraising can undermine a church’s efforts to encourage its members to grow in their management of God’s blessings by relying on community revenue.
Congregations might utilize numerous community outreach efforts, including the sales you mentioned, to establish connections with their neighbors. As noted above, congregations will want to balance their exercise of Christian freedom with proper concern for all involved.
It seems like WELS Lutherans put a lot of emphasis on Luther's Small Catechism but not on the rest of the works in the Book of Concord. Why is this? Is it okay the read the King James Version of the Bible? It is my favorite translation. You say in the introduction to Luther's Catechism that it is a good translation of the Bible, though I heard someone say WELS members are not allowed to read it.
Not knowing how you arrived at that conclusion, allow me to pass along some thoughts. As confessional Lutherans, we profess that God’s word is the sole foundation of our faith (Ephesians 2:19-20). We state that the Lutheran Confessions, including Luther’s Small Catechism, are true expositions of the word of God. We place appropriate emphasis on all the confessions of our faith.
There is nothing wrong with reading the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Members of our church body are not prohibited from reading it. If you can understand the content of the KJV, keep reading it. If the language is a barrier to understanding what you are reading, you may find it helpful to use another translation.
If WELS and LCMS are not in fellowship, why does my WELS church provide Portals of Prayer as a devotional in our narthex as a service to our members? For a donation I can pick up a copy of Meditations as well as Portals of Prayer on any Sunday. This has been going on for decades. Could it be that fellowship has become a more relative term nowadays and is no longer strictly enforced?
This is a question you want to direct to the individuals who are responsible for the distribution of devotional materials in your congregation. While the synod controls the content of materials available from Northwestern Publishing House, it does not monitor materials at the local level. That is why you want to re-direct your question.
With such a pastor shortage, why don’t we just have congregations go to one pastor, then have staff ministers help the pastor? We have a staff minister at our church and he is basically an associate pastor. Why doesn’t the WELS just do this until the pastor shortage is lessened?
Ministry staffing decisions are made at the congregational level. Congregations can receive guidance on staffing needs at the circuit, district and synodical levels, but congregations are entrusted with assessing their ministry needs and calling qualified individuals to meet them.
With a shortage of pastors, staff ministers are certainly in a position to help meet the ministry needs of congregations. Students who prepare for staff ministry receive basic theological skills and practical skills to focus on specific areas of parish ministry. They do not receive the training to replace the sole pastor of a congregation.
When congregations consider adding to or replacing ministry staff, they will want to examine their preaching needs. If they need additional preaching assistance, they will want to call a pastor. If current staffing meets their preaching needs but they want a called worker to focus on other areas of ministry such as visitation, outreach, youth and family, administration, Christian education within the congregation or parish music, then a staff minister can serve them well.
It sounds like you are well acquainted with the staff ministry program of our synod. For others who may want additional information, this link will take you to the appropriate section of the Martin Luther College website.
In the unfortunate case when a congregation has to close, how does the church handle the remaining members if there are no WELS/ELS congregations nearby.
The pastor or circuit pastor will advise the members of their options. Options might include periodic visits by a neighboring pastor, lay-assisted services using printed and digital worship materials, a possible re-start of the congregation, among others. Because congregational and community circumstances vary, the options are going to vary as well.
Congregations do well to learn about and utilize the resources available from WELS Congregational Counseling.
When a congregation has to close, it is an emotional time for all involved. What church leaders are primarily concerned about is that the people involved stay connected to the means of grace.
What is the difference between this synod and the Missouri Synod? Any theological variance, or just geographic? I was raised in the Missouri Synod and, due to relocation, am looking for a new church to call home.
The main differences fall in the categories of church and ministry, the application of fellowship principles, and the roles of men and women.
There are many, many essays on the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File that document the history, theology and practices of the two synods, and their relationship to one another throughout the years. This link will take you to those essays.
You will also find other questions about WELS and LCMS in the Church and Ministry category of the Q & A section of this website.
You might also be interested in A Tale of Two Synods, a book that is available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Finally, if there is a WELS church in your new community, do contact the pastor. He will be glad to provide further information and answer your questions. God’s blessings on your relocation!
What Psalms are sung on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day? What Bible passages are read in the church on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day?
If you look on pages 163-166 of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, you will find Scripture readings and psalms for worship services, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The Scripture readings and psalms for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are not limited to those lists. Many other sections of Scripture can be used in those worship services as well.
The pastor and council of our congregation want to change portions of our congregation's constitution that are stipulated to "remain unalterable and irrepealable." Is this even possible?
Congregational constitutions will designate vitally-important articles as “unalterable and irrepealable.” That means they cannot be changed.
What you will want to keep in mind is that each district of WELS has a constitution committee that reviews and approves proposed changes to congregations’ constitutions and bylaws.
You may or may not be aware that Northwestern Publishing House offers a Model Constitution and Bylaws. This link will give you more information on that product.
How many Ecumenical Councils are recognized by Lutherans? Historically I think there are seven, however, so far I can only say I understand the doctrinal issues debated and clarified in the first four. 1st Council of Nicaea (325 – Arian Heresy). 1st Council of Constantinople (381 – rejected Apollinarianism; confirmed Divinity of the Trinity; re-affirmed Nicene Creed). Council of Ephesus (431 – rejected Nestorianism & Pelagianism; re-affirmed Nicene Creed). Council of Chalcedon (451 – Affirms Christ is fully God and fully human; Rome and Constantinople Patriarchs are equal). Trying to figure out if the 2nd Council of Constantinople (553), the 3rd Council of Constantinople (680), and the 2nd Council of Nicaea (787) are recognized Lutherans as Ecumenical.
The Second Council of Constantinople (553) affirmed previous creeds and condemned heresies that were plaguing the church at that time.
The Third Council of Constantinople (680) addressed the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ and his will.
The Second Council of Nicea (787) addressed the veneration of objects.
If you are interested in reading more about these councils, there are a couple of articles I can recommend. This first link will take you to “The Seven Ecumenical Councils.” This second link will enable you to read “The Christology of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.” The articles will also explain what “ecumenical” meant then and now.
I am a practicing WELS member. Is there any chance the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods reunite in fellowship?
You may or may not be aware that representatives of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) have met annually for the past six years. Together updates from WELS have noted that “The main purpose of these meetings is to provide the synods with the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of their respective doctrinal positions and how the synods put those doctrines into practice as they carry out their ministry… None of the participants at these informal meetings anticipate a restoration of church fellowship between ELS/WELS and the LCMS in the near future. Yet, the sessions themselves were once again helpful as areas of agreement, as well as specific differences, were addressed in a cordial but candid manner.”
The annual meetings have done much to remove old, inaccurate stereotypes and to replace them with accurate, current information on the doctrinal positions and practices of the church bodies.
The ultimate result of these meetings is known to God alone. We can certainly pray that God will bless these and future meetings to the glory of his name and the good of his kingdom. And that is a prayer I offer.
The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America criticizes WELS' use of the NIV, allowance of contemporary worship and “praise bands,” and the WELS “functional” doctrine of ministry as liberalism. What is the WELS response?
I can offer you a personal response. By synodical convention resolution, our church body has taken an “eclectic approach” toward the use of Bible translations in publishing our materials. That means authors can indicate which translations they would like used in their works. Individual congregations have always determined for themselves which Bible translation(s) they are going to use for their worship services and Christian educational purposes.
Because God has not prescribed how we are to worship him, we enjoy Christian freedom in our worship life. Still, we desire to apply this biblical directive to our worship services: “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40).
When it comes to the public ministry, I can direct you to these words from This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body: “We believe that God has also established the public ministry of the Word (Ephesians 4:11), and it is the will of God that the church, in accordance with good order (1 Corinthians 14:40), call qualified individuals into this public ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 9:14). Such individuals minister publicly, that is, not because as individuals they possess the universal priesthood but because they are asked to do this in the name of fellow Christians (Romans 10:15). These individuals are the called servants of Christ and ministers of the gospel. They are not to be lords over God’s church (1 Peter 5:3). We believe that when the church calls individuals into this public ministry, the Lord himself is acting through the church (Acts 20:28). We believe that the church has the freedom to establish various forms within the one ministry of the Word, such as pastors, Christian teachers, and staff ministers. Through its call, the church in Christian liberty designates the place and scope of service.”
While they may not use the title of “precentor,” some of our churches will utilize individuals to lead singing during worship services. “Cantor” is a term more likely to be found in some of our congregations.
I have a friend who invited me to their church (ELCA) to have my dog blessed. I have heard of other churches doing this, but is there any biblical reason for this type of blessing? I turned the invitation down because I'm not in fellowship with my friend's church and it seems strange to be blessing animals. What is the WELS view on blessing animals?
We do not have a practice of blessing animals, nor does the Bible lead us to establish such a practice. We recognize that animals are part of God’s creation (Genesis 1), and pets can provide wonderful companionship. Considering all of God’s creation leads us to praise him: “Lord God, open my eyes to the beauty of your created world. You made all things to nourish my life and to fill me with wonder and joy. Open my mouth to praise and thank you for your gifts.” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, page 134, a prayer “For God’s Creation.”)
We do have a connection. WELS is in doctrinal fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia. WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia are member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.
What Psalms are sung on Thanksgiving Day? What Bible passages are read in the church on Thanksgiving day?
You will find “lectionaries” on pages 163-166 in Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. Those lectionaries contain Scripture readings, including Psalms, for worship services.
Pastors might use those Scripture readings for Thanksgiving Day worship services, or they might use other sections of Scripture. We enjoy this kind of Christian freedom in planning and carrying out our worship services.
Is it correct to make members feel somehow inadequate or sinful if they do not feel they have abilities to contact other members of the church who are delinquent?
It appears that you have information about a situation which I do not. For that reason, I can respond only in general terms.
When it comes to our relationship with fellow believers, we are our “brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9). We have obligations and responsibilities to speak to fellow Christians when they fall into sin (Matthew 18:15-20; James 5:19-20). Love for others (1 John 3:11-24) moves us to action when sin takes a foothold in their lives.
Church leaders, including pastors, will want to encourage church members to take these responsibilities seriously and exercise Christian love and concern. Those leaders will certainly want to provide proper, God-pleasing motivation for speaking to fellow members who are not faithful in their use of the means of grace.
If, for whatever reason, Christians feel they lack the abilities to speak to straying members of the congregation, the very least—but very important work—they can do is pray for those members. God bless the work of your church in regaining the straying.
At worship service today, we sang "In Christ Alone" by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend. It is one of my favorite Christian songs that I can listen to over and over. In researching the song today on the internet, I noticed that the PCA of America excluded it from its church hymnal, according to Wiki. I truly don't understand how such a beautiful song that clearly articulates what Christ did for us can be excluded from any church hymnal. I would appreciate any insights or thoughts you can offer about why some would think about this song in a negative way.
Back in 2013, the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song was interested in including “In Christ Alone” in the new hymnal for its church body, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The committee wanted to change a line in stanza two from “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied” to “on that cross, as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified.” The committee proposed the change because its members did not see room for God’s wrath at the cross of Calvary. When the copyright holders of the song did not approve the proposed change, the committee voted not to include the song in its church body’s new hymnal.
The wording that stands (“on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied”) is biblically accurate. God’s mercy and God’s justice intersect at the cross of Christ. At Calvary, a just God punished people’s sins. At Calvary, a merciful God punished his Son instead of us (Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 3:22-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
I was baptized in the Methodist Church when was a child, but never attended the church. I started to attend a Presbyterian Church but didn't make a profession, and I don't know if I will do, because I think that maybe they will ask me if I believe in the Scriptures as explained in the Westminster Confession, and I think that the Book of Concord is more faithful to the Scriptures. My question is: I can't say that I agree 100% with the Lutheran Church, specifically about the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the end of the times (amillennialism). Would that be an impediment? Also: As I said, I have a lot of doubts about faith, and probably I more disbelieve than believe. Would it be wrong to make a confession of faith in this situation? One more thing: what should be said to someone with scrupulosity and an "anxious conscience," who always is in doubt if something is sin or not? And what about someone who suffers from OCD and is afraid about disrespecting oaths made in the mind or hastily, or to blaspheme in moments of anxiety and anger? Thanks.
For someone in your situation, the route to membership in one of our congregations would be adult confirmation. After attending a series of lessons on the teachings of the Bible, you would be given the opportunity to declare that you believe the instruction you received is biblical and true. Since that instruction would include biblical information on creation and the end times, you do not want to make declarations or promises that are not true.
Our churches do offer Bible Information Classes (or similarly-named classes) that provide basic instruction in God’s word. There are no commitments in attending the classes. The classes would provide a good forum for you to receive instruction, ask questions and receive answers.
When it comes to faith, many a Christian can identify with the man who approached Jesus one day and said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Faith is strengthened and doubt is lessened the more we use God’s gospel in word and sacrament. Through ongoing use of God’s word, you can better understand your Christian freedom and the proper role of your conscience.
When it comes to the last item you mentioned, you could find it valuable to talk to one of our pastors. God bless you.
At the top of the WELS website home page, you will find a heading “Find a Church/School.” That website feature will enable you to find our churches in various locations.
It is a ministry within WELS, directed by a WELS pastor.
Is there a WELS church in New York, NY - preferably a small church, with a Chinese influence? May God continue to bless your work. I remember you starting out in my church in Milwaukee. God Bless.
There is a tab at the top of the home page of the synod’s website: “Find a Church/School.” The search results for your question indicated that the church that could serve your family is Sure Foundation Lutheran Church. It is located at 6230 Roosevelt Avenue, Woodside, Queens, New York.
The congregation’s website offers this description: “A Gospel-centered, multicultural church for the world’s most diverse community, Woodside, Queens, NY.” This link will take you to the congregation’s website.
Thank you for your kind words and remembering the early years of my ministry.
My wife and I are members of an ELCA church. She joined this church in 1998 and I joined in 2004. She was raised Lutheran while I was raised Baptist. Neither one of us understood that there were separate factions within Lutheranism and that certain beliefs were different. We have stayed with our congregation because the majority of them are like us- we believe homosexuality is a sin and that abortion is murder. Recently we have hired a pastor that is very liberal and is pushing his views on the congregation. The two of us have discussed in length that it is past time for us to find a church that is more in line with our views. The research I have done shows that a WELS congregation would most likely be a better fit for us. My question is how welcome would we be in a WELS congregation if we decide to become members? Will the congregation judge us for being members of an ELCA church? This is very important to me because I have not felt God's presence during worship for a long time and am about to stop going to church altogether.
In the last congregation I served as pastor, I can think of members who had been Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, ELCA, Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, non-denominational—just to name a few. There was not any problem for those people to feel welcome in the congregation. There was a recognition on the congregation’s part that people come into a church family at different times of life and from different backgrounds. What was important was the present common faith.
I would encourage you and your wife to speak to the pastor of the local WELS congregation. He will be glad to explain to you in more detail the teachings and practices of our church body and how you might join our fellowship. God bless you.
What’s your position on whether Luther ever said the "Here I stand“ phrase at Worms, and whether he really nailed the 95 Theses to the Schlosskirche door on 31 October 1517? Thanks.
When Martin Luther made his courageous stand on God’s word at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521, he spoke in German and in Latin. Eyewitness accounts and transcripts of the proceedings vary. Some accounts include “Here I stand…” Others do not. All the accounts are in agreement with the substance of Luther’s words—that he upheld the authority of Scripture and that his conscience was captive to Scripture. Personally, as I think of that dramatic scene, I am happy to include that phrase in Luther’s speech.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, accompanied by Johann Schneider, nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. He also sent a copy of the Theses to Archbishop Albert of Mainz. Twentieth-century historians questioned whether Luther actually posted the Theses. There is a good treatment of this topic in a 2018 companion volume to Luther’s Works: “Sixteenth-Century Biographies of Martin Luther.”
I am wondering what the duties are for a staff minister. Also, can that position be held by a woman? Thanking you!
Through the staff ministry program at Martin Luther College, individuals can receive training in the areas of outreach and assimilation, leadership, member care, parish education, administration, youth and family ministry, and parish music.
Current position titles include the following: Minister of Music and Education, Minister of Family and Youth, Minister of Discipleship, Director of Christian Education, Family Minister, Director of Discipleship, Program Director, Minister of Music, Minister of Evangelism, Church Administrator, Minister of Administration, Deaconess, and Parish Nurse.
Calling bodies define the scope of ministry for staff ministers. Women do serve as staff ministers. Calling bodies outline their responsibilities in keeping with the scriptural roles of men and women.
This link will provide you with additional information on the program.
Since the Bible is silent on a matter like this, “right” or “wrong” becomes very subjective. What I can point you to are long-standing customs and traditions that have developed over the years. What you will notice is that there is variety among those customs.
The first candle is known as the prophecy candle or hope candle or expectation candle. The second candle is called the Bethlehem candle or the peace candle or the preparation candle. The third candle has acquired the titles of the shepherds’ candle or the joy candle. The fourth candle has become known as the angel candle or the love candle.
Three of the four candles are usually blue or purple, and one is pink or rose. Traditionally, since the pink/rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, the blue/purple candle opposite it is lit on the first Sunday of Advent.
Use of a white Christ candle in the center of the wreath varies by local custom.
With all this variety available, it is helpful for churches to offer to worshipers an explanation of their particular usage of an Advent wreath and candles.
What is the significance of transferring my membership? I was baptized and confirmed WELS and have always attended a WELS church. I just move for my job quite a bit and have always left my membership at the church my parents still attend to this day. The WELS church I have been going to is trying to get me to transfer to their WELS church, but I don't see what the big deal is.
One of the blessings of a synod is that members can worship and commune in other churches of its fellowship. It sounds like you have been and are enjoying that blessing.
Belonging to an individual congregation affords “all the rights and privileges” of membership, as you sometimes hear during the rite of Confirmation. Membership in a specific congregation presupposes that people will be utilizing those rights and privileges by primarily worshiping and communing in that congregation.
In addition, when people join a specific congregation, they place themselves under the governance of that church and the spiritual oversight of the pastor. It can be challenging for a pastor to provide direct spiritual oversight, which also includes the possibility of church discipline, if people are not able to utilize their membership because of distance.
For these reasons like these, pastors will often encourage members to align their church membership with their current location.
Hello! I'm not sure if this is the best place to ask, but I couldn't find another place. If my family has to leave the US for a year for work reasons, and the European country (British Isles) we go to does not have WELS, ELS, or CELC churches, is there still a chance that there might be a church/gathering we can go to that's in fellowship, or are those the only ones in fellowship? I know we'll be able to watch our home church's livestreaming, but we hoped to still be able to meet with other Christians, especially for Communion.
There is a WELS European civilian chaplain who serves military personnel and civilians in Germany, Italy, England and Switzerland.
This link will take you to the appropriate section of WELS’ website, where you can obtain further information. You will notice that there are monthly worship services that take place in London, England.
That area of the website also enables you to submit your contact information, should you move overseas. God’s blessings to you and your family!
Are there any official pastoral handbooks that are given to seminarians with Q&A type formatting to help pastors, and if so, are they available for laypeople to purchase?
While it does not feature a question-and-answer format, The Shepherd Under Christ is a book on practical theology that students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary have been using for quite a number of years.
The book is available for purchase from Northwestern Publishing House (NPH).
This link will take you to the appropriate section of NPH’s website where you can obtain more information about the book.
Doctor of Souls is a recent publication that addresses more contemporary ministry subjects.
As women can exercise leadership roles in relation to other women and youth, I am thinking that your question addresses women’s leadership roles and men.
Passages like 1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 provide guidance as congregations seek to involve men and women in Christian service.
Your question has received extensive treatment on this website and in our church body’s publications. Using the Questions and Answers search feature will give you additional information. This link will take you to our synod’s doctrinal statement on man and woman roles. This link provides information on the booklet Man and Woman in God’s World.
I would like to understand if/how many ELC programs that the Synod provided seed money to get started/determine need/etc.
While the Commission on Lutheran Schools provides resources for congregations exploring early childhood ministries, it does not have funding for congregational startups. Some congregations have sought seed money through grants that they pursued on their own.
I have a question about the origination of the word Easter. My husband is a former WELS member who says he cannot attend any church that uses the word Easter to refer to our Lord's resurrection due to the origin of the word being Ishtar, who was a Babylonian fertility goddess. He also says that man's tradition of Easter eggs and the Easter bunny refer to ancient pagan fertility rites and that Christians should never take part in this. I have tried to research this topic online and have come across explanations that both support and refute this viewpoint, but either way I am very sad that my husband does not want to attend my WELS church with me (I attend and participate regularly by myself) and I would like to know the church's view on this subject. Thanks!
It is difficult to determine the origin of the word “Easter.” Some people have tried to identify it with the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring “Eostre.” Others see the word coming from the German “Ostern,” which means “East.” “East” points our eyes to the direction of the sun’s rising. “Rising” is certainly what Easter Sunday is all about: it is all about the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
It is unfortunate that your husband places so much emphasis on the word “Easter.” Regardless of the etymology of the word, Easter Sunday points to the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. And the empty tomb means that God accepted Jesus’ holy life and innocent death as the full payment of the world’s sins (Romans 4:25).
Christian churches that use the word “Easter” do not sanction pagan deities any more than people who use the days of the week and the months of the year in their vocabulary. It is very clear that the days of the week and several months have their origin in pagan deities and mythologies. Yet, Christians can use those names because they recognize that they are not endorsing the original meaning behind them.
Certainly, we want to avoid human traditions that obscure or deny Christian truths. Traditions that lie in the area of Christian freedom are available for Christians to follow or ignore. Scripture instructs Christians to be careful in their exercise of Christian freedom and their judgments of others (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8).
Perhaps your husband will feel better if he looks at the Christian church year calendar in Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. On page 158 Easter Sunday is called “The Resurrection of our Lord.” Christian Worship: Manual uses the same terminology on pages 412 and 413. Using “Easter” and “The Resurrection of our Lord” interchangeably is common in Christian churches.
“Easter” or “The Resurrection of our Lord”? With either term, the emphasis is on the Son of God who said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18). I pray that your husband is able to keep Easter terminology in perspective and that you can both worship together.
What are the differences between a called deacon and a called vicar in the WELS? Can both preach, serve Communion, be a lector, etc.? What limitations does each position hold?
By “deacon” I understand that you are referring to a male staff minister. Calling bodies can give staff ministers titles like “deacon” as they determine the areas of responsibility in the person’s public ministry.
With that understanding and the activities listed in mind, a male staff minister is able to assist with the distribution of the Lord’s Supper and serve as a lector. While the male staff minister receives training in administration, youth and family, member care, outreach and assimilation, and education within the congregation, he does not receive training in preaching. While his training enables him to lead devotions, he is not prepared for regular preaching. Ordinarily, a vicar has received two years of seminary training in crafting and delivering sermons, so he will be preaching during his vicar year.
As far as limitations are concerned, a vicar is still a student of the seminary. Together with the congregation to which he is assigned, his supervising pastor will determine the scope of his activities. On the other hand, a male staff minister serves in a part-time or full-time position, carrying out responsibilities outlined in his call.
I hope this helps explain the differences between the two positions.
Hello, I am a lifelong male WELS member and I am having difficulty with the prohibition of women's suffrage in WELS. It is my understanding that 1 Corinthians 14 is cited as one of the reasons that women cannot vote in church elections. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 seems to indicate to me that women should cover their head (or maybe it is interpreted as having long hair). If that is so, why then are women with no head covering or with short hair allowed to participate in worship? Doesn't verse 14 suggest that men with long hair is a sin?
In 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul was speaking of a custom or practice that existed only in the city of Corinth. The practice included women having long hair or wearing head coverings and men having short hair or not covering their heads.
In the everyday, pagan culture of Corinth, men and women adorned themselves this way because they recognized the different roles of men and women. They came to that recognition not on the basis of Scripture, which they rejected, but from the natural differences that they observed between men and women.
The directive in 1 Corinthians 11 was that the Christian women in Corinth not to be social renegades by disregarding what their heathen counterparts were doing, but be living examples of biblical principles regarding men and women (1 Corinthians 11:3). By mirroring cultural practices that were occasioned by the natural knowledge of God and conscience, the Christian women of Corinth could reinforce that knowledge and display their faith so others could be positively influenced (Matthew 5:16).
We keep the observation about men’s hair in verse fourteen in perspective when we look at verse sixteen: “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.” In the original Greek, “other” is really “such.” The apostle explains that the hair/head covering situation in Corinth was a local practice and not a universal principle that binds all Christian women of all time. That explanation also includes men and what was said about their long hair.
In summary, the answer to your question means recognizing the difference between a local custom (hair/head coverings) and the biblical teaching of head and helper (1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9). Congregational voting is an application of the biblical teaching of head and helper.
You might be interested in “A Bible Study on Man and Woman in God’s World.” Your congregation may have it in its church library. It is also available from Northwestern Publishing House.
I enjoy attending church as an opportunity to grow and foster my faith, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by attending church so frequently. Is there a standard for how often I should attend worship?
As Christians, we recognize that our sinful nature is hostile to God and wants nothing to do with worshiping God (Romans 8:7). As Christians, we also recognize that our new self delights to do what God says, including worshiping him with fellow believers (Psalm 122:1). When it comes to worship opportunities, then, Christians can be torn between two desires. Martin Luther’s explanation of the meaning of Baptism for our daily life describes the desired outcome in the battle between those two natures: “Baptism means that the Old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (Small Catechism).
Led by the Holy Spirit and our new self, we love God’s word (Psalm 119) and we love God’s house (Psalm 84:10). We look to gather with fellow believers for mutual encouragement (Hebrews 10:25), to hear our God speak to us through his word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), to receive the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28), to offer him our prayers and praises (Psalm 149:1) and to support the work of the Lord’s church (Galatians 6:6).
God’s standard for us in everything in life is perfection (1 Peter 1:15-16). Sadly, we fail to meet that standard (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, Jesus met that standard of perfection for us (Hebrews 4:15). In thankful response for God’s forgiveness, we now strive to what God says. We know we can’t be perfect in life, but we try to lead God-pleasing lives as best we can (2 Peter 3:14).
Rather than setting up and trying to meet an arbitrary standard for worship, I would encourage you to seize all the worship opportunities that are available to you. You may want to share with your pastor why you feel overwhelmed with your church’s worship schedule.
Your question provides an opportunity to be reminded of what the Bible says about worship: “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6).
I am an organist at my WELS church. I have been looking for information on the old Sampler: New Hymns and Liturgy books that were first published in the late 1980s. Are they still in print or for sale/available anywhere? I can't find much about them online. Any information will help!
I am not aware of any place where you might obtain a copy. The booklet contained 21 hymns—20 of which are in Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal.
The liturgy was a revision of the Common Service—with and without Holy Communion. The revision of that order of service included: “a) A single, new Confession of Sins — Briefer and with the Kyrie sung between the confession and absolution. b) The traditional Introit is omitted. c) Psalmody is introduced before the scripture readings and functions somewhat as the traditional Introit. It may be spoken responsively or sung. d) Provision is made for an Old Testament reading in non-Communion services. e) A new proper, the Verse, is sung just before the Gospel. This is basically a New Testament verse, often a “gem” of Scripture, relating to the season and the particular Sunday. It is intended to be sung by the choir. If there is no choir, it may be spoken by the pastor and concluded with the familiar triple Alleluia of the congregation. f) When there are three readings, no Gradual or other type of response is provided between the first and second readings. g) Prayer of the Church: A responsive form of our present General Prayer is provided which may be used when desired.” (from the essay Enriching our Worship Heritage)
Pastors like myself who served in parish ministry at the time of the Sampler may have personal copies of the Sampler you could borrow. Church libraries could be another source.
Communicant membership in a congregation of our synod can come about by way of transfer from another congregation in our fellowship, adult confirmation or profession/affirmation of faith.
If an individual with a non-Lutheran background desires to become a communicant member of one of our congregations, a pastor would invite the person to attend the Bible information class (or one that is similarly named). There is no obligation to complete the course of instruction, but adult confirmation would be available to those who do so and confess that the instruction they have received is what the Bible teaches.
If an individual with a Lutheran background from outside our fellowship desires to become a communicant member of one of our congregations, a pastor would meet with the person and determine the best course of action to establish membership. One option would be to attend the Bible information class. Other options are available. Along with their pastors, our congregations enjoy some flexibility in determining how church membership is established.
Can some funds in a cemetery endowment fund be used to replace cemetery markers, repair cracked gravestones, or be used for special projects? Or, are the funds in a cemetery endowment fund untouchable?
Ideally, your congregation has spelled this out in the “purpose” section of the endowment fund. Or, perhaps the bylaws for your congregation or its cemetery designate how the proceeds can be spent. These are details that are going to vary from congregation to congregation.
A good resource for your congregation is the Congregational Planned Giving Manual available from the WELS Resource Center. A section of the manual addresses “how to establish and administer an endowment fund.”
My WELS church announced they were providing ashes for those who wanted it. Is this a synod suggestion for all WELS churches, or is it being suggested for individual churches who want it?
I am thinking your question addresses the imposition of ashes for worshipers during Ash Wednesday worship services. With that understanding, let me say that the practice is entirely optional for congregations of our synod.
WELS Commission on Worship does provide resources for congregations who utilize that practice or are considering it. This link will take you to the WELS Resource Center and an “Explanation of the Imposition of Ashes.”
I am a member of a WELS church that uses Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (CW) and Christian Worship: Supplement (CWS) as our main hymnals. I know that CW is the main hymnal of the synod, but some churches within the WELS still use The 1941 Lutheran Hymnal (TLH). I also know that soon the WELS will be publishing a new hymnal. My question is, do WELS congregations have to use the CW/CWS or TLH, or can congregations choose to use another confessional Lutheran hymnal, such as the 2006 LCMS Lutheran Service Book or even hymnals of other Christian denominations as either the main hymnal or a supplemental hymnal to the CW/TLH?
Since God, in his word, has not specifically addressed a subject like this, the matter lies in the area of Christian freedom. When it comes to Christian freedom, the Bible does provide guidance. It instructs us to use our Christian freedom with an eye toward others (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8, 10). That means that we don’t necessarily or automatically do what we want to do, but we take into account the thoughts and consciences of others.
While our congregations and their choirs might occasionally use music and liturgical pieces from churches and organizations beyond our fellowship, the regular use of a hymnal from church bodies with whom we are not in doctrinal fellowship could easily prove to be confusing and bothersome to members of our congregations and the people who visit them. Personally, I would not want to generate such confusion and potential offense. More than providing me with outlets for action, Christian freedom also furnishes me with the right not to do something out of concern for others.
As with many other decisions that can be made, the choice of regular worship materials provides an opportunity for congregations to “walk together” (that is the picture behind “synod”). We walk together not because we have to but because we want to. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
A very recent Q & A mentioned a Lutheran church body that is pietistic in nature. WELS is not affiliated with that church body.
There was a Pietistic Movement in the history of the Lutheran Church and, years later, the movement’s influence was felt in the early years of our church body.
If you are interested in reading more about the topic, this link will take you to an essay from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File. This link will provide you with information on two books from Northwestern Publishing House.
I think the Bible is quiet on this topic but what is the proper way/tradition for lighting the candles placed on the altar? Also, when should the Paschal candle be lit?
You are correct in noting that the Bible does not address this topic. That puts the matter in the area of Christian freedom. This freedom recognizes that there are commonly-agreed upon practices and also local customs concerning the lighting of altar candles.
I do not know the worship practices of your church (for example, traditional altar or freestanding altar; number of candles, etc.), but it is common to light altar candles for every worship service and also to light other candles for Holy Communion worship services.
When it comes to the lighting of the Paschal candle, again, I do not know the worship practices of your congregation. If your church offers the Triduum (a service encompassing three days), then the Paschal candle is usually lit at the Vigil of Easter. If there is no Triduum, the Paschal candle is usually lit at the first Easter Sunday worship service. Common practice is that the Paschal candle is lit throughout the Easter season and then removed at the Ascension worship service. It is used again at baptisms and funeral services.
We want our worship practices to be meaningful and sensible. Thinking of how you would explain the meaning and purpose of your congregation’s worship practices to fellow members and guests can be helpful in retaining or revising those practices.
The Altar Guild Manual by Lee Maxwell is a book that could benefit your altar guild.
I hope this gives you some help.
I feel my question should be addressed by WELS President. How can it happen that a pastor can receive two calls on the same day? This certainly seems like overkill and places unnecessary stress on that pastor and his family and also the involved congregations. I realize there is a shortage of pastors. Some receive two calls on the same day, some never receive a call. That is also something synod should address. If those pastors never receive a call, shouldn't there be some coaching involved to possibly assist them in their calling and guide them? It would also take strain off those who receive 10 or 11 calls. I appreciate your comment.
A pastor can receive two calls on the same day if, for some reason, he is on two call lists that are presented to two different calling bodies on the same day. District presidents, who assemble the call lists, do maintain close contact with each other so that the scenario of a pastor receiving two calls on the same day is exceptional rather than routine. Even though the Call is divine and from God, our process is a human one. That means that, while we try to do the best we can, the process itself might not always work as we intend it to work.
In the case of a pastor not receiving another call for an extended period of time, the synod through its district presidents can do only so much. Unbeknownst to you and me, a pastor can be on call lists in different locations and not be the one called, and so it can seem like the pastor is not being considered for other calls. That situation does not call for “coaching” of any kind. I would say that God has his good reasons for that pastor to continue his ministry in that location.
With the pastoral vacancy rate that currently exists in our synod, it is not surprising that pastors are receiving calls from other calling bodies more frequently than in the past. Your question is a good reminder for all of us to “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:38). The recruitment of young people to serve in the public ministry has always been important. It is very important today.
(I did provide President Schroeder with an opportunity to view your question—and the answer, which he approved.)
Recently our congregation has begun to applaud the singing groups in our church. Some of those who do not clap are offended. If we discouraged the clapping, we would offend those who do clap. What advice can you give about how to deal not only with the clapping but how to deal with those who are offended by it?
You are asking about something that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. When it comes to a subject like that and the exercise of our Christian freedom, Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 provide good food for thought and action. I would encourage you and others in your congregation to see what applications you might find for your situation from those sections of Scripture.
As you study Scripture, you and others in your congregation might want to consider questions such as these: What is the intended purpose of applause in a worship service? How might some wrongly interpret the applause? How do the singing groups in your church understand the applause that is given? Is applause given selectively or consistently for people’s participation in worship services? (Applause for singing but not preaching?) What is the purpose of applause in secular settings in our society? How does applause given in performance settings relate to applause in worship settings? Does applause fit with Christ-centered worship or detract from it? How can 1 Corinthians 10:31 (“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”) apply to your situation?
Undoubtedly, there are many more questions that can be considered, but these can get you started. I pray that your congregation can work through this issue in Christian love and selflessness.
What is a customary gift ($) for a church and or pastor for performing a wedding, baptism, funeral, etc.?
That is entirely up to the people who receive those services of a pastor. As a parish pastor, I was happy to tell people that the congregation called me to perform services like these and honoraria were not necessary. Much more often than not, the individuals still wanted to express their appreciation for my time and effort and so gave a gift of their choosing. It was also my experience that some funeral directors provided guidance to families regarding an honorarium they could give their pastor.
So, it is entirely up to people what they would like to do when they receive personalized service from their pastor. Pastors are happy to serve.
Why does WELS not require their teachers (K-12) to have their state teaching licenses? Also, why does WELS call teachers for positions where their degree qualifications do not line up (for example, a teacher with a degree in physical education teaching science)?
Martin Luther College (MLC), where I presently serve, states this on its website: “Students who successfully complete program requirements and meet the Minnesota requirements for licensure are eligible for a Minnesota license. To ensure that all teacher graduates are assignable anywhere in our country, MLC requires all teacher graduates to be eligible for a Tier 3 Minnesota license.”
Once MLC graduates receive their assignments, even though they have their Minnesota license, the state to which they are called may ask the graduates to also be licensed in that particular state.
In addition, Martin Luther College conducts a Post-Baccalaureate Licensure Program to work with teachers who graduated from Dr. Martin Luther College or Martin Luther College before 2002 “to be eligible for their initial Minnesota teaching license or add-on to an existing Minnesota license” (MLC Website).
Schools that extend calls for specific teaching responsibilities might consider the gifts, abilities and teaching experiences of individuals, along with their degree qualifications. It can also happen that a school is not able to find a “specialist” at a time a position needs to be filled and a person with other qualifications is called. As a recent answer explained: “Even though the Call is divine and from God, our process is a human one. That means that, while we try to do the best we can, the process itself might not always work as we intend it to work.”
What is the WELS position on organizations and congregations accepting Choice Dollars from Thrivent Financial? This question was partially addressed in Q&As from 2014, and a restatement of the answer again in 2018. The gist of the reply was, "Members will need to make their own decision as to whether or not they continue to direct their Choice dollars to organizations. Congregations, schools, and organizations, while not compelled to refuse Choice dollars, are encouraged to consider carefully whether or not the Thrivent name should be publicly promoted in congregational or organizational literature.” This issue has become contentious within our congregation and may lead to a serious divide. The issue is due to be brought up at an upcoming Voter's Meeting. Our pastor sees the merits of both sides of this argument and stated that he sought further guidance from the Synod. Please provide a current answer to this question, rather than another restatement of a 5 year old answer. While it appears that WELS itself doesn't accept Thrivent money, it appears that many WELS organizations do, and publicly acknowledge it. 1 Corinthians 8 comes to mind in this matter. Is this a parallel to the Thrivent issue?
Because circumstances have not changed, this response will largely be another restatement of answers already available on this website. Perhaps, in response to your question, I can emphasize the “consider carefully” phrase of previous responses.
Careful consideration of the issue will take into account principles outlined in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14. Among those principles is thinking of fellow Christians and being ready to withhold action out of consideration for them. If there are congregational members whose Christian judgment leads them to object to Choice dollars, the congregation and its leaders will want to deal with those concerns evangelically and lovingly. It could very well be the case that a congregation would decline such funds if the issue becomes a source of division or controversy.
Romans 14:17-20 (“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.”) puts matters of Christian judgment in perspective and encourages Christians to do what they can to maintain peaceful relations with one another and build each other up in the faith. May God lead you all to a peaceful resolution of the issue.
What would Jesus do here? Should our church receive monies from an outside organization that requires by their agreement that our church to publicly acknowledge these monies for the purpose of advertising for the outside business and requires our churches agreement to participate and our church members to subscribe to a confession of faith that is in conflict with our church doctrine?
A response to a question very similar to yours was published on the website earlier this week. This link will take you to the question that was asked and the response that was provided.
You will see that the response centers around careful consideration of biblical principles, concern for fellow church members and a desire to maintain peace and harmony in the congregation.
Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) offers a free, downloadable church year calendar that shows very clearly what colors are associated with the days and seasons of the church year. This link will take you to the section of NPH’s website where you can access the calendar.
While the calendar mentioned above is for the 2018-19 church year, you can find a generic church year calendar that lists the colors of the church year on pages 157-161 of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal.
The confessions speak of Mary as Semper Virgo (always-virgin) in the Smalcald Articles . What defense do we have of this? Can I be a called worker if I don't agree with this portion of the Book of Concord?
Your question is one that numerous people over the years have asked. Below is a good response from an essay titled “Why Bible-Believing Lutherans Subscribe to the Book of Concord.”
“…critics of the confessions often raise the charge that the confessions teach the perpetual virginity of Mary in Article I, IV of the Smalcald Articles. First of all, it should be noted that Article I, IV is not about Mary. It is about the two natures of Christ.
“The Latin refers to Mary as pure, holy, and always-virgin. It is noteworthy that the German simply refers to the pure, holy Virgin Mary. If the confession was concerned to assert perpetual virginity for Mary, the author of the German version bungled the job totally because no reference to always-virgin appears in the German. It seems that the Latin sempervirgine was simply a stock phrase for describing the virginity of Mary. The article is not concerned to make any assertion about Mary beyond the fact that she bore a child without any participation by a human father.
“Scripture makes no assertion that Jesus was born without the normal physical effects of childbirth on the body of his mother. It makes no assertion that Mary remained virgin after the birth of Jesus. Already in the ancient church there were three theories about Jesus’ brothers and sisters who are mentioned in the gospels. One theory is that these were actually Jesus’ cousins. Another is that these were children of Joseph, whose first wife had died before he married Mary. Both of these theories were motivated at least in part by the desire to preserve Mary’s virginity even after Christ’s birth. There is no direct evidence to support them in Scripture. The third idea is that these ‘brothers’ were children of Mary and Joseph born in a natural way after Christ’s birth. This third view is the most natural understanding of the passages in which Jesus, Mary, and these brothers and sisters appear together. See, for example, Matthew 12:46 and 13:55. Luther and many of his contemporaries seem to have retained the opinion that Mary had no other children besides Jesus, but most recent Lutheran theologians lean toward the third view. In the quotation from his ‘Large Confession concerning the Holy Supper’ which is cited in FC, TD, VII, Luther refers to the belief that Mary bore Jesus ‘with a closed womb’ as a possibility believed by some. Pieper treats both matters as open questions (III, p. 307-309). Our subscription to the confessions makes no assertion about the duration of the virginity of Mary because neither Scripture nor the confessions make any such assertion.” [Why Bible-Believing Lutherans Subscribe to the Book of Concord, pages 7-8]
I hope this explanation eliminates your concerns, making future ordination/installation vows—God willing—possible.
We recognize that God has not prescribed how we are to worship him. Because of that, we enjoy Christian freedom in our corporate worship life. Decisions about worship styles are made at the congregational level.
What guides congregations in their worship life is a desire to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31), to do things in an orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40) and to give God our best (Isaiah 1; Malachi 1). Recognizing the diversity of the body of Christ (Revelation 7:9) will also lead congregations to conduct worship services in ways that reflect the culture(s) of their members.
Regardless of worship styles, our worship is and needs to remain focused on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior. Our worship is and needs to remain focused on the Triune God. Our worship is and needs to remain focused on the precious gospel of our Lord. When that focus is maintained, then the “how” of worship can be kept in proper perspective.
For a variety of reasons, our congregation has lost many member families. As a result, the monthly tithe does not meet our "budgeted" expenses. Can we ask the pastor to take a lower salary? As we take funds from the savings account to cover his salary, the account will be depleted in 9 months and the church will have zero money. What happens to our church? I am a worried member.
When you mention “monthly tithe,” I have to wonder what that means. It would be wonderful if “monthly tithe” meant that your fellow members, in Christian freedom, were giving ten percent of their income back to God. As it is, the current estimate is that the average percentage of giving compared to income of all WELS communicant members is 2.5%. It goes without saying that if that number were higher, there would be far fewer financial difficulties in our synod. God willing, the level of giving on the part of your fellow church members is higher than the percentage listed.
If expenses continue to outpace offerings in your church, the leadership of your congregation, along with your pastor, will need to explore different options. Because I am unaware of your congregation’s circumstances, I do not know if any of the following ideas might be applicable to your situation.
Is it possible to combine your congregation’s ministries with those of another, nearby WELS congregation? Is a multi-site strategy one that your congregation would consider? Would your congregation be interested in the services of WELS Commission on Congregational Counseling?
Reducing your pastor’s salary would be only a stopgap measure. Certainly, Christian love would call for your pastor’s input on any discussion of reducing his salary and benefits. Your congregation wants to be mindful of this biblical instruction: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).
I encourage you to cast this anxiety (1 Peter 5:7) on the Lord in prayer and dismiss your worries. Be concerned, yes, but don’t cross the line into worry. God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). God bless you and your congregation.
Your district president has information on the vicar program. You will want to contact him about this and other questions regarding the vicar program.
The following is from the Book of Reports and Memorials (page 47): “This conference [National Conference on Worship Music and the Arts] has been held every three years since 1996. But we are skipping 2020 to better take advantage of new hymnal resources and to link the summer conference with the fall release of the new hymnal. In addition, 2021 avoids competition with some other national WELS events in 2020. While firm dates are not yet available, the plan is to schedule the conference some time from the middle of June to the middle of July [in 2021].”
I travel to Wittenberg every year for the Reformationsfest. I have seen pretty much every "Luther point of interest,"but I have never learned of the exact location of Luther‘s kidnapping. Where is that location? Thanks so much.
The following narrative will steer you in the right direction: “Luther spent the night with his relatives and preached in the village [of Moehra] the next morning before proceeding on the journey home. A relative supplied them with fresh horses. To return to the Gotha highway from Moehra, they had to travel over the Schweina road past the Castle Altenstein and through the forest of Waltershausen. Some of the relatives accompanied the party until nearly nightfall, by which time they had reached the neighborhood of the Castle Altenstein. Here Luther bade his relatives good-by and continued the journey. His friends were scarcely out of sight when four or five armed horsemen rushed from the woods near the chapel and surrounded the helpless travelers at the spot which today is called Lutherbuche. The monk Petzensteiner leaped from the wagon and ran through the woods toward Waltershausen, but Luther whispered to Amsdorf, ‘Do not become excited. We are among friends.’” [E.G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950), 514]
There is a monument in Glasbachgrund, on the Luther Trail, that commemorates the event described above.
I am currently without a church home. The last WELS church I attended left a foul taste in my mouth from the way the pastor treated my children's learning. Now all the churches in close proximity to me are not WELS; most are non denominational or ELCA. Is it better to be without a church or better to go to one that doesn't believe as I do? Also where in the Bible does it say I will go to hell if I do not attend church?
There is much I do not know about your situation, so I will not limit myself to the options you listed. I am unaware of the distance between you and the nearest WELS church. I have known people who regularly drove many miles to attend worship services in our congregations. I also wonder if you could be living in an area where there are other WELS members who could be served by one of our pastors. Individuals in your situation have been served in a variety of ways including worship via livestreaming, supplemented by periodic Holy Communion services. It would be good for you to contact the church where you and your family last had membership to know where the closest WELS church might be.
I hope you are able to make such contact and that there is no bitterness (Ephesians 4:31) from your most recent experience with one of our churches.
It is unbelief that condemns (Mark 16:16). Despising preaching and God’s word (the third commandment) is sinful. I catch in your words a desire to worship and hear the word of God. I pray that you are able to connect to the spiritual resources you and your family need. God bless you all.
Previous answers to questions like yours stated: “Membership in one of our churches is determined by your consultations with the pastor of the church. A person who has doubts or still has some reservations about a doctrine could be a member if that person was continuing to work with the pastor and in personal study to resolve that doubt, but such a person could not be a member if he or she was speaking against the doctrine in the church or making propaganda for opposing views. However, if you are convinced that our doctrine is wrong and unscriptural, you should not join the church because you would be sinning against your own conscience. This is a matter that you would have to discuss with the pastor of the church you are thinking about joining, both as to the substance of those doctrines and concerning your attitude toward them.”
The pastor at our former congregation would worship 3 to 4 times a year at a large non-denominational church in the Chicago area. He would also attend seminars there regularly. Is this an accepted practice now in the WELS?
Pastors are not exempt from following biblical fellowship principles. Such principles apply to all Christians.
Not knowing what you might know, I would simply offer the reminder that there is a difference between being present at a worship service in a church outside our fellowship and participating as a worshiper. Similar conclusions could be made about attending a seminar.
As a church body, we would be unfaithful to the word of God if violations of biblical fellowship principles—or violations in other doctrinal areas—became accepted practice.
Community Lutheran Church (WELS) offers worship services in Honolulu and on Maui. The worship service on Maui is held Sundays at 10:00 AM. Bible class follows.
You can obtain more information about the congregation, including their location, via their website.
Information about WELS churches and their service times is available via this Yearbook link on the synod’s website. Safe travels!
In viewing many of the websites and social media accounts of various WELS churches, I've noticed many of them focusing on items like blood drives and "National Hot Dog Day." It appears their preaching has also become more "culturally sensitive" with less emphasis on the text. At the same time we hear of our synod membership shrinking every year. Coincidence?
I am not familiar with the websites you viewed. It looks like you came across information from congregations that planned community events as part of their outreach strategy.
I cannot speak to pastors’ treatment of sermon texts, since I do not have the information you do. What you can certainly do is contact pastors about the sermons they post online. Speaking to them first would be appropriate and scriptural.
As far as synodical statistics are concerned, a recent demographic survey identified the following factors that have contributed to a decline in membership in our synod:
“Families today are having fewer children.
“The number of WELS members dying and going to heaven is increasing as the overall population ages.
“It has grown increasingly difficult to retain members, especially younger members. Since 1986, WELS lost between 240,000-260,000 members through removal/excommunication or from those members joining other Christian churches. These are sometimes referred to as ‘back door losses.’
“Fewer people are living in rural areas, and this is impacting more than 100 churches who now face the ‘50/60 challenge’—fewer than 50 people worship each week and the average age worshiping is above 60 years old.”
As you and I think of membership in our individual congregations and in our synod, the following instruction can be helpful and productive: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Prior to the fellowship split in 1961, were teachers and perhaps pastors from both WELS and LCMS, for a lack of a better term, interchangeable? In other words, could an LCMS pastor or teacher accept a call to the WELS and vice versa? I'm almost 55 and grew up in the LCMS (later joining a WELS church in 1992 and been a member ever since). Recently, I learned that a teacher at the LCMS grade school I attended passed away. So would I be correct to conclude without knowing his complete work history that he may have gone back and forth between the WELS and LCMS prior to the 1961 split? So what happened to teachers and pastors that had LCMS upbringing and education were serving in the WELS right after the 1961 split? Were they grandfathered in or were they required to take some instructions at the various WELS colleges in order to keep their job? Now of course things are different so I don't know how the LCMS handles such things but I would imagine that an LCMS pastor that desires to be called to a WELS church would, in addition to becoming a member, be required to have extensive training at a WELS college and/or seminary first regardless of previous education in the LCMS system? Any help or correction would be appreciated since I'm very curious on both the current and historical practices.
Your understanding of the “interchangeability” of WELS and LCMS pastors—and the teacher you had—prior to 1961 is correct. When, prior to 1961, WELS and LCMS pastors accepted to calls to congregations beyond their synod, they became rostered clergy of that synod.
You are also correct in noting the importance and necessity of a colloquy process for an LCMS pastor who today desires to serve in WELS.
With your background, you may be interested in reading A Tale of Two Synods: Events That Led to the Split Between Wisconsin and Missouri. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.
I am concerned with the leadership of our church council when it comes to decision making. I recently had a discussion with our board of education chairman and he stated that while he does serve as the board chairman, all decisions are made through him. He says that if the board has an idea that he personally disagrees with, he has no obligation to share it with the church council. Is this the right way to run a board? Why even have a board? I know some decisions need to be made quickly, but should there be parameters on what decisions are made solely by the chairman?
In one of the courses I teach, we examine the following leadership styles: dictatorial, authoritative, consultative and participative. While there can be instances where a church leader like a pastor needs to exhibit a dictatorial leadership style (for example, in the implementation of biblical doctrine and practice), such a regular leadership style is not compatible with the constitutions and by-laws of our congregations or biblical principles.
The chairman of a committee, like committee members, might have an opinion on a matter, but his opinion does not trump the opinions of others. The constitutions and by-laws of our congregations establish a democratic way of conducting business—often citing the use of Robert’s Rules of Order.
Biblical principles (Proverbs 27:5; Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) guide you to speak to that committee chairman about his actions before you speak to others. God grant you strength and wisdom. God bless your congregation with peace and unity.
Are there plans for the Synod to produce commentaries (like People's Bible series) to accompany the new EHV?
My own inquiry into this concluded that there are no current plans for such a series of commentaries.
So I go to an area Lutheran high school, and every night we have devotion and students read them. So, I was wondering if it’s okay to have females read the devotions at night?
I do not know if you are inquiring about a present practice or an idea for the future. Regardless, you want to direct your question to the individuals at your school who have appropriate responsibility. Those people are best suited to know your circumstances and apply scriptural principles.
How many ways does WELS reach beyond the synod to lend support and aid to people in need throughout the world?
The greatest amount of support and aid comes through WELS Christian Aid and Relief. Elsewhere on this website you can find this information: “Christian Aid and Relief continues to work with the WELS Board for World Missions, our WELS Missionaries, our sister congregations of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference around the world, and the Board for Home Missions in funding humanitarian aid projects which reflect Christ’s love to people in need and build bridges to proclaim the gospel.” This link will enable you to read about some of the support and aid given to people in more than a dozen countries.
In addition, the 2019 Book of Reports and Memorials includes this information: “In 2017–18, $327,475 was granted for humanitarian aid projects. For 2018–19, $317,403 has been approved. Major items funded in our world mission fields include borehole drilling to provide clean water, English as a second language (ESL) classes, home-based care for the chronically ill and dying, food assistance to the needy, food and nutrition to orphans, serving people with special needs, skill training and care for women, technology training, and medical equipment and health clinics…We thank our gracious Lord for moving the hearts of WELS members to show how much they care with their prayers and gifts of love” (Page 72).
All this is a way of trying to do what Scripture instructs: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10).
Of course, the greatest need people have is a Savior: Jesus Christ. A healthy percentage of our synod’s ministry plan is allocated for home and world missions. We seek to carry out what Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
My question concerns women serving in the church. The WELS model constitution cites Acts 6:1-6 as the scriptural support for choosing church officers and board/committee members. Verse 6:3 reads "Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom." Is Paul endorsing the women's participation in a role of leadership by helping choose the deacons? If so, why doesn't that apply to women's roles in the church of today? Also, they are to choose men. Does being a man fall under the phrase "with like qualifications?" I doubt the people who wrote the model constitution ever envisioned the issue of women serving would be the issue it has become, which leads me to my next question. It is perhaps best suited for the Synod parliamentarian. I believe the authors' intent in the sections concerning councils and boards etc. was to limit the positions to men. How does Synod interpret the model constitution concerning this matter? I realize the COP is working on new model constitutions addressing women's proper role concerning service in the church. I look forward to reading the Bible study they are putting together for approval at next summer's Synod convention. However, I would appreciate clarification concerning the document currently in use. Thanks!
The current WELS Model Constitution simply references Acts 6:1-6 without including the text. The verse you cited and quoted does illustrate how some Bible translations like the New International Version moved from a translation of “brothers” (1984 edition) to “brothers and sisters” (2011 edition).
The significance of Acts 6:3-5 is that the apostles delegated the selection of the seven men to the congregation in Jerusalem. As with any congregational matter, the church would have addressed this situation with the roles of men and women in mind.
For an answer to how the Synod interprets “the model constitution regarding this matter,” I would refer you to the “In the Church” section of the “Man and Woman Roles” doctrinal statement. This link will take you to that statement.
Finally, do be aware that the Conference of Presidents is not “working on new model constitutions addressing women’s proper role concerning service in the church.” What the Conference of Presidents is working on is an updated statement and accompanying Bible study on the roles of men and women. The October 15, 2019 Together newsletter provided information on those materials.
Is the pastor considered a member of the church and does he have voting rights at a congregational meeting?
A pastor is a member of the congregation to which he has been called.
A church’s constitution and bylaws spell out if a pastor has voting rights—at various meetings of the congregation—or if his status is advisory.
“Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry” is an online course offered through the WELS Chaplain Certificate Program. Course delivery is through Martin Luther College.
This is the course description: “A team-oriented approach to ministry for people who are aging or residents in care facilities. Provides both knowledge and skills for congregation members to provide spiritual care for homebound and institutionalized.”
This link will show you when the course is scheduled to be offered in the future.
Thanks for this site! Who are "our brothers and sisters in Christ?" I have heard the term used to describe all, and only, the members of our WELS' churches and those with whom we are in doctrinal fellowship. Would we also use the same term to refer to the Christians in false visible churches? Thanks!
This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, makes this profession:
“1. We believe that there is one holy Christian church, which is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16) and the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23; 4:12). The members of this one church are all those who are the ‘sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26). The church, then, consists only of believers, or saints, whom God accepts as holy for the sake of Jesus’ righteousness, which has been credited to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). These saints are scattered throughout the world. All people who believe that Jesus is their Savior from sin are members of the holy Christian church, regardless of the nation, race, or church body to which they belong.
“2. We believe that this holy Christian church is a reality, although it is not an external, visible organization. Because ‘man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7), only the Lord knows ‘those who are his’ (2 Timothy 2:19). The members of the holy Christian church are known only to God; we cannot distinguish between true believers and hypocrites. The holy Christian church is therefore invisible and cannot be identified with any one church body or with the total membership of all church bodies.
“3. We believe that the presence of the holy Christian church nevertheless can be recognized. Wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered, the holy Christian church is present, for through the means of grace true faith is produced and preserved (Isaiah 55:10,11). The means of grace, therefore, are called the marks of the church.”
The preceding paragraphs explain that we can have brothers and sisters in the faith “wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered.” When the Holy Spirit works through the gospel and leads people to confess that Jesus Christ is their Savior from sin, those people are our brothers and sisters in the faith.
But you recognize from the preceding paragraphs that we are speaking about the invisible church: the holy Christian church, the communion of saints. God alone knows who belongs to that church; God alone can see what is in a person’s heart.
You and I operate in the world of visible churches—where we can see who the members are and what confession of faith they uphold by their membership. That is why when it comes to visible churches, the use of “brothers and sisters” is especially appropriate when we think of those with whom we are in church fellowship. So, we speak of “sister” churches and “sister” church bodies.
My friend wants to come to check out our church as she is thinking of switching synods, but she wants to know what is appropriate attire for a service.
As you are a member of that congregation, you are really in a better position than I to explain the culture of your congregation. You can explain to your friend how you normally dress for a worship service.
You can explain to your friend that our churches do not have dress codes. The area and culture of some congregations lead to more formal attire on the part of worshipers, while more casual attire is found elsewhere. The age differences of worshipers in the same congregation also leads to a variety of attire.
Do make it clear to your friend that the attitude of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) is much more important than how we dress for church.
Perhaps you can sit with your friend and guide her through the worship service. That would make for a comfortable first-time worship experience in a new church.
If a person wishes to transfer membership to a different WELS church from their current WELS church, who decides if they can transfer? I know we vote on transfers in our voters' meetings. Does a person just request to transfer to the church president and leadership which then allows it to be voted on or, does it have to get approved by the pastor before a congregational vote?
A church’s constitution and bylaws will lay out the procedure for membership transactions like transfers. A pastor will certainly be involved in the process. Examining your church’s legal documents will provide answers to your specific questions.
“Pass It On” is included in the “Let All the People Praise You” songbook that was compiled by WELS Commission on Worship. It is available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Discussions among church leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) have taken place annually since 2012. This year’s meeting was held earlier this week.
President Schroeder will write a story in next week’s (Dec. 17) Together, the official WELS e-newsletter, and on WELS social media channels. To subscribe to Together, visit wels.net/subscribe.
When deciding if a second pastor is needed, should you look at the number of baptized members or communicant members?
The baptized membership of a congregation of course will reveal the congregation’s overall ministry needs. Beyond that, congregational needs and opportunities are unique when it comes to adding staff.
As you look at the demographics of your congregation, you would do well to examine the laity’s involvement in the congregation’s ministries. Are there things your pastor is doing that others could be doing—along with him or instead of him?
God’s blessings to you and your congregation.
We do not put flowers on the altar during holy week or the midweek services during Lent. Does this include Ash Wednesday? What about the regular Sundays during Lent?
Your questions, of course, concern matters of adiaphora—issues that God, in the Bible, has not addressed specifically. Because of this, opinions and practices will vary.
Some people, desirous of promoting austerity and solemnity in worship settings, speak against the use of altar flowers during the times you mentioned. Other people, advocating Christian freedom, contend that regular and judicious use of altar flowers is a way of beautifying God’s house of worship.
All I can suggest is that congregations be ready to explain their practices. For example, because the Sundays of Lent are not counted in the 40 days of the Lenten season, some churches use altar flowers on those Sundays but not during the midweek services of Lent. A congregation with such a practice would be able to explain why they do what they do.
One of the principles of Christian worship (and the Christian life) is that we glorify God in our actions (1 Corinthians 10:31). To me, your questions illustrate a desire to do just that.
Generally speaking, how welcoming is the WELS church to visitors? Since the denomination shares minimal fellowship with other church bodies, can I expect to receive the cold shoulder or shunning? Lastly, why are sermons in the WELS church so brief? Relatively speaking,13-15 minutes is much shorter than other Reformed Churches I have visited. Additionally, the local WELS church I watched online did not use his Bible, during the sermon and all in all it seemed very simple and shallow in content. Lastly, if you had to pick just one, what would you identify as the biggest obstacle/challenge the WELS is currently confronting? Thank you!
Like other church bodies, each of our congregations can have a personality of its own. Tradition, culture and local leadership are some factors that can help shape a congregation’s personality. I would like to think that our congregations are welcoming to visitors. Could some of our congregations grow in that regard? Probably. Undoubtedly, there is room for growth in welcoming visitors in any gathering of Christians in any location.
I would not expect you to receive the cold shoulder or be shunned if you visited one of our congregations. Do keep in mind though that the ways in which visitors and guests are acknowledged and welcomed can vary from congregation to congregation.
Sermon length is also going to differ from one church to another. Even within a congregation, sermon length might vary from week to week. Factors such as Holy Communion distribution and special singing can impact sermon length. When it comes to the length of a sermon or a pastor’s use of the Bible, I would encourage you not to let an experience with a congregation describe an entire church body.
What is our church body’s biggest obstacle or challenge? We do not have a list, so I can offer only a personal observation. Our challenge is to be faithful to God and his Word in the face of growing opposition to God and his Word (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Finally, you might be interested to know that WELS is in fellowship with over 30 church bodies throughout the world. This link will provide you with more information.
I hope you do visit one of our churches and receive a warm welcome. God bless you.
WELS has a Commission on Special Ministries. Its mission statement explains that it “offers spiritual and practical guidance and training to congregations and individuals as they share God’s love to those with special needs or in special circumstances.” Mental health is included in those “special needs.”
This link will take you to the Commission’s presence on our synod’s website.
I'm just curious as to the average reimbursement that organists may be getting for playing for a service. Our congregation is in the process of possibly modifying our policy in this area. We currently pay the organist/pianist $30 per service. Thank you.
I do not believe I will be able to help you much with your congregation’s assessment and planning. It has been years since WELS last surveyed congregations regarding the honoraria they provide their organists. A number I can reference is what the Synodical Council recently approved for reimbursing congregations when their “personnel need to be away from their vocations while serving the synod voluntarily for a specified term” – $82 for a single service.
If you are not able to find a common or average honorarium for organists or pianists to use as a guide for your purposes, perhaps you and your congregation could simply take a philosophical approach to the reimbursement you provide. Maybe you could arrive at a reimbursement figure by asking and answering questions like these: “What value do we place on having organists/pianists to assist us in our worship? At a time when many congregations within and outside our fellowship struggle to find and retain organists/pianists, what does our reimbursement say to our organists/pianists? How can we show our appreciation for the time our organists/pianists commit to finding music for Sunday services, practicing it and then playing it in our worship services? What does the amount of reimbursement say about the excellence in worship for which our congregation is striving? Are there ways our congregation could help organists/pianists build a music library?”
A worship and music leader in our church body has made this observation: “Honoraria or salaries for organists are best understood when related to goals set for music in worship. A congregation wanting to encourage excellence and creativity may set higher rates than a congregation (maybe without really thinking about it) being content in the status quo.”
God bless your congregation’s worship life and your management of his resources. May he guide you as you imitate King David’s actions: “I will sing and make music to the Lord” (Psalm 27:6).
I was wondering about raffles, tag sales and other type events in the church. I was raised in the conservative Lutheran church and our churches were always self- supporting, which I still favor. What is WELS' view on this? Is it just an opinion of man all of these years that giving come from the church rather than sales to the public to help support them?
There is no synodical policy on the activities mentioned in your question. Differing local circumstances can lead to different practices. What I can do is pass along some observations from personal ministry experiences.
What congregations will want to keep in mind is the impression given by such sales. Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce what many people wrongly think in the first place—that “all the church is concerned about is money.” Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce work-righteous thinking in the minds of the unchurched, leading them to conclude that, if they have contributed something, “I’ve given to God, so I’ve done my duty.” Congregational fundraising in the community can undermine a church’s efforts to encourage its members to grow in their management of God’s blessings by relying on community revenue. Congregational fundraising in the community can lead people to think that the church cannot survive on its own but needs their resources.
Congregations might utilize community outreach efforts, including the sales you mentioned, to establish connections with their neighbors. As noted above, congregations will want to balance their exercise of Christian freedom with proper concern for all involved.
In addition, sales events within congregations can provide members with a service or product they might purchase elsewhere, and by purchasing said service or product, members are not diverting their regular offerings with these purchases.
Your questions are reminders to keep biblical principles of stewardship of money in mind: God owns everything (Psalm 24:1). We do not own a thing. God entrusts his possessions to us for faithful management of them (Matthew 25:14-30). It is love for God and gratitude for his love that provides the motivation for giving back to God what is his in the first place (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 4:19). You and I have reason for planning our giving and planning offerings that are proportionate to how God has blessed us individually (1 Corinthians 16:2).
You hear the word "evangelical" thrown around in the media as a generic word for a conservative Protestant. What does it mean that the WELS is evangelical?
The following excerpts from a column in the April 2007 Forward in Christ address your question nicely.
“Some of our congregations retain the name ‘Evangelical.’ They put Ev. as part of their name. Perhaps many people have no knowledge that Ev. is short for evangelical. Because it’s a long word, sign makers find it hard to put all that on the sign out in front. So the sign reads ‘St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church’ or ‘Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church.’
“Evangelical has come to mean a group of Protestant Christians. In the media they are usually considered conservative Christians. They often are politically active. Evangelicals are different from fundamentalists. Fundamentalists assert five fundamentals: inerrancy of the Scripture, the virgin birth, the vicarious atonement, the physical resurrection of Jesus, and the authenticity of Christ’s miracles. Evangelicals agree that the inerrancy of Scripture is important and that God is triune. The difference seems to be in their activism—a desire to make society more godly.
“Although ‘evangelical’ still seems to stand for people who espouse Christian values, the term has been diluted to include almost everyone who espouses values embodied in the Ten Commandments. There is little room for differences about human depravity, bondage to sin, the millennium, or the sacraments. These things are left open and non-essential.
“So are we ‘evangelical?’ After all we do hold rather conservative views, and our churches are labeled ‘Ev.’ or ‘evangelical.’ We are members of a synod that even has evangelical in its name, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. We could even agree with the five teachings of fundamentalists.
“But we are different! Our congregations used the word ‘evangelical’ long before the popular religious movement of the past few decades. Many were established a century or more ago. Our synod was founded in 1850 and used the word ‘evangelical’ as part of its name.
“So what do we mean? Evangelical describes an approach and attitude that is centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. That definition of the word has almost disappeared today. One does not hear an emphasis on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus very often in the media’s description of evangelicals. One might wonder if evangelicals have forgotten it too. We could ask if they have turned more toward conservative activism than proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through Jesus and victory over death by his resurrection.
“We are evangelical in that sense—centered on Jesus Christ and his message of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
“We are evangelical Lutherans. Some will scratch their heads and ask, ‘What is an evangelical Lutheran?’ At that point, the door swings open for our witness to Jesus, who suffered, died, and rose again to give us forgiveness, life, and salvation by grace through faith. It’s all about Jesus. That’s the kind of evangelical we should be.”
I am a practicing WELS member and would like thank all those who take time to answer so many interesting and challenging questions on this website. I follow the Q&As closely and have grown in my faith as a result. Considering this, can you tell me if all questions are posted and answered, or do you exclude some that may be inappropriate given your audience? Also, is there a team of people that answer questions or is it limited to one or two?
It is encouraging to read that you are finding value in the questions and answers section of the synod’s website!
All questioners receive a response via email, and the great, great majority of questions submitted are also published on the website. A question and answer does not appear on the website if the questioner makes that request, if the information in the question might identify the questioner or anyone associated with the question, or if the content of the question and answer is not suitable for a wider audience.
Prior to November 2013, a number of individuals answered the questions that were submitted online. Since that time to the present, there has been a different structure to answering the questions. This article from the December 2019 Forward in Christ explains that structure.
The main differences are in the categories of church and ministry, the application of fellowship principles, and the roles of men and women.
There are many, many essays on the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File that document the history, theology and practices of the two synods, and their relationship with one another throughout the years. This link will take you to those essays.
You will also find other questions about WELS and LCMS (The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) in the Church and Ministry category of the Q & A section of this website.
You might also be interested in A Tale of Two Synods, a book that is available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Finally, you may or may not be aware that representatives of WELS, ELS (Evangelical Lutheran Synod) and LCMS have met annually since 2012. As a Together newsletter noted recently, “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.”
I became a WELS member in 1968 when I married my husband who was born and raised WELS. I love being a member of a church that is totally based on the teachings of the Bible. The only thing I have a hard time understanding is why women are not allowed to vote in the WELS. Where is this decided in the Bible? Thank you.
As can be the case with other contemporary issues of church life, the Bible does not specifically address the subject of authoritative voting in church assemblies. Our practice is based on applying general scriptural principles to our form of church governance.
This section of This We Believe: a Statement of Belief of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod addresses your question: “We believe that women may participate in offices and activities of the public ministry except where that work involves authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women may not serve as pastors nor participate in assemblies of the church in ways that exercise authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).”
The restriction of those actions listed above does not in any way diminish the status of Christian women in the sight of God. Scripture says to Christians: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
You might be interested in reading a Together newsletter that described the materials and process by which WELS is studying a restatement of our doctrinal statement “Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles.”
How long has Apacheland been a World Mission? When did they celebrate their latest mission anniversary?
WELS World Missions has been overseeing gospel ministry in the Apache reservations for over 125 years. The 125th anniversary of this mission work took place in October 2018. This issue of the Together newsletter will provide more details on the celebration.
This link will take you to the website of “Native Christians.” There you can learn more about the history and current events of the Apache Mission.
I understand that as a woman I am not to have authority over men in the church. What I don't understand is why women can't have the same level of education men receive at seminary in order to hold a position in the church to teach and counsel other women. Women in the church are often not comfortable going to a male pastor with questions and life situations that men do not have an understanding of like a woman does. Thank you for your time.
I understand and agree that a woman might find it more comfortable to speak to another woman about life situations. Having that option in a congregation would be beneficial.
Women can certainly seek training to “teach and counsel other women.” An example of that would be a female staff minister. While the program plan for staff ministry at Martin Luther College contains an introductory course in the basics of Christian counseling, a woman would want to receive more in-depth training to provide regular, formal counseling in a congregation.
You might be interested to know that the program plan referenced above also calls for eighteen credits of theology courses. That makes for a good foundation of biblical knowledge.
What is the truth, if any, on this post that is currently making the rounds on Facebook? "In one night, in response to Luther's anti-Semitic sermon, synagogues were burned to the ground and over 2000 Jews were slaughtered." A friend posted this and would like to respond intelligently with what is or isn't true about this, citing historical facts if possible. Thanks.
Much has been written about Martin Luther and his views toward Jews. An article in the October 2013 Forward in Christ provides something for you to pass along to your friend. The article addressed the question: “How can we respond to those who say that Martin Luther was an anti-Semite because of his condemnation of the Jews? My friend thinks that we Lutherans shouldn’t follow such a man.” The following is the response to that question and statement.
“There are two questions here, one asking why we ‘follow Luther’ and another asking if Luther was anti-Semitic. Both questions are worth asking and answering.
How do Lutherans regard Luther?
“Perhaps uninformed people really think that Lutherans idolize or inappropriately revere Luther. We can assure them we don’t. Rather, we cherish and thankfully embrace key concepts that God restored to their rightful place in the church through Martin Luther. By grace alone, through faith alone, by Scripture alone, and through Christ alone are truths the Reformer championed. Highlight these truths for your friend. This is what true Lutheranism is all about.
“Lutherans have never believed or taught everything Luther said or wrote was correct. Luther said and wrote some things that would have better remained unspoken and unwritten. This should not be surprising when one considers how much he wrote. Let’s be quick to cherish divine truths given renewed prominence through Luther and equally swift to acknowledge the man’s imperfections.
Was Luther an anti-Semite?
“Accusations of anti-Semitism against Luther usually stem from reading his 1543 tract On the Jews and Their Lies, in which the Reformer used immoderate language and gave questionable counsel on how to deal with Jews at that time. While we have never endorsed what and how he wrote in that treatise, we also believe a fair, historically-sensitive appraisal of the man and his message will show the Reformer was not anti-Semitic. Excellent books have been written on this topic, but here we must limit ourselves to these brief points:
“• Luther also wrote about Jews in sympathetic ways and rebuked European Christians for their treatment of Jews. Here’s one example: ‘The fury of some Christians (if they are to be called Christians) is damnable. They imagine that they are doing God a service when they persecute the Jew most hatefully, think everything evil of them, and insult them. . . . Whereas, according to the example of this psalm (14:7) and that of Paul (Romans 9:1), a man ought to be most heartily sorry for them and continually pray for them. . . . They ought to attract them by all manner of gentleness, patience, pleading and care’ (What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol. 2, 683).
“• Luther’s attitude is more accurately characterized as anti-Judaism rather than anti-Semitism. His opposition was not racial or ethnic, but theological. He was targeting people who persistently and vigorously rejected the truth of salvation through faith alone in Jesus the Messiah and Savior of the world. Luther wrote harshly against the Roman pope and his theological supporters for the same reason.
“• Like everyone else, Luther was a child of his times. It’s difficult for people today to put themselves into his historical context, yet it’s unfair to judge him according to our standards of civility. Luther’s language sounds cruel, but his opponents often used similar language, and literary style of the era included harsh ridicule, name calling, and deliberate excess.
“Ultimately we must conclude that the treatise in question doesn’t represent Luther at his best. We cannot endorse or excuse what he wrote. From a historical viewpoint, it should not surprise us that he sometimes shared unacceptable attitudes of his day. What is amazing is how often he rose above his times and advocated magnificent and eternal truth, most of all the full and free gospel of forgiveness.”
Is it correct that women (regardless of whether they are single or married) in the WELS church are not allowed to vote for any matter with the church? And also, is it correct that women cannot hold any position in the WELS church that would have authority over a man? Thank you.
Much has been written on this subject and can be found elsewhere on this website. Perhaps you might be interested in receiving responses to your questions from Male and Female in God’s World: a summary of what we believe Scripture teaches about being male and female.
“The most common form of government found in our congregations (by custom but not by command of God) tends to vest final decision-making authority with the voters’ assembly. While we do not believe that all voting is always an exercise of authority, where a vote is clearly exercising the authority to give direction to others they are to follow for their good or for the good of others, there God’s people honor the calling God has given to the adult males of the congregation to exercise that authority on behalf of the family of faith.”
“When authority is being exercised in the church, God holds males responsible for exercising such selfless leading for the benefit of God’s family (1 Timothy 2:12).”
The document referenced above is a restatement of Scriptural Principles of Man and Woman Roles, the WELS doctrinal statement adopted in 1993. WELS district conventions this summer will have opportunity to provide feedback and input on the document. Individuals and groups can also provide feedback through a “comment box.” This link will provide you with the document and other information.
There are ten WELS churches in the state of Tennessee.
If you are looking for one in particular, you can use the “Find a Church/School” tab at the top of the homepage of the synod’s website on your computer or the “WELS Yearbook” section on your mobile app.
For those of us who are not tech savvy, how are we supposed to participate in worship? Many older people do not know how to access live streaming.
This is a question that you really want to address to your pastor, and your pastor needs to be aware of a question like this.
In these extraordinary days, congregations are working to develop ways of ministering to their members apart from corporate worship services and face-to-face Bible classes. While there are many resources available, some of them—as you indicated—may involve technology that is challenging for some people. That is why you want to make your pastor aware of your situation, so that other resources can be developed and offered.
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). This temporary absence from the Lord’s house helps us realize what a blessing we have long enjoyed in being able to assemble in his house for worship. God speed the day when we can meet each other there again!
Would you please explain how the readings are chosen for service? Why are some readings from the Old and others the New Testament? How come we only stand for the "gospel"? Shouldn't we stand for all the readings because it is the "word of the Lord"? Thank you for your response!!!
Probably most of our churches use the schedule of Scripture readings that you will find on pages 163-166 of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. Pages 163-165 list the Scripture readings over a three-year cycle. We are currently in “Year A” (page 163). Page 166 lists an annually-repeated schedule of Scripture readings.
Christian Worship: Manual, the “handbook” for our hymnal, provides an explanation for worshipers standing for the reading of the gospel: “The congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel. In the past soldiers put down their weapons and kings removed their crowns when the Gospel was read. Christ—his life, his words of law and gospel, his suffering, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his assignment to his Church, his promise to return—is the center of the Gospel. The faithful have waited for this moment, this reading. They stand in reverence. ” (pages 173-174)
Through the gospel lesson Jesus—the Word (John 1), the Word of God (Revelation 19:13)—comes to us. The gospel lesson relays the words and works of Christ. For those reasons, we have retained an ancient practice of showing respect and awe for the Lord and his gospel by standing. That practice of course falls into the category of adiaphora: those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. In Christian freedom, we gladly include that posture in our liturgy—as we are able.
In this time of online worship and devotions, is it now OK for women to be leading by reading the Scriptures in online devotions?
In their personal lives, God’s will is that Christians, men and women, “let their light shine” (Matthew 5:16), declare his praises (Psalm 96:3; 1 Peter 2:9) and share his word with others (Matthew 10:32; 28:19-20).
When it comes to public, representative ministry, God lays out instructions for men and women in their service to him and others (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12).
Christian congregations and individual Christians are certainly using these unusual times of lockdowns and quarantines to let their light shine and sow the seed of God’s word (Matthew 13). This spiritual activity can be one of the ways in which God is working good (Romans 8:28) through our present troubled conditions.
Obviously the two are not fundamentally opposed to each other, but does the Bible offer any general guidance as to which should predominate in the focus of planning a worship service - edification of believers in attendance or of unbelievers/"seekers" who may be visiting?
“Many pastors and evangelism committees have come to agree that the public worship of God that attracts and spiritually benefits members will also attract and spiritually benefit non-members.”
“Worship and outreach are bound together because both of them proclaim Jesus. Therefore, worship and outreach are not mutually exclusive—to be pitted against each other. Nor are they substitutes for each other—as if you could replace worship with outreach or outreach with worship. Statements like “The Lutheran style of worship doesn’t connect with the unchurched” and “Outreach has no place in worship,” both miss the point that worship and outreach are joined inseparably, because both revolve around the teaching on which the Church stands or falls.”
The question you ask requires an extensive answer, and there some good resources that address your question.
The first quotation is from Christian Worship: Manual. It contains a brief chapter on “Worship for Evangelism and Outreach.” Your church library may have a copy. It is also available from Northwestern Publishing House. The quotation is from page 109.
The second quotation is from “Worship and Outreach: A Lutheran Paradigm.” It is available from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File. The quotation above is from page 5 of the essay.
You might also be interested in another essay on the topic: “Worship and Outreach: An Observable Synergy.”
Are there any WELS congregations which worship in a "high church" style? By which I mean liturgical worship involving the traditional common service, chanting, vestments, and the like. Is contemporary worship more common? Who decides what form of worship an individual congregation follows? Thanks!
I do not have any data to pass along to you, but I can assure you there are WELS congregations that use “the traditional common service, chanting, vestments, and the like.” Those congregations may offer that style of worship exclusively or as part of a worship schedule that includes contemporary worship or blended worship.
You might be interested to know that during this past school year Martin Luther College, the WELS college of ministry where I teach, used settings of The Service from the new hymnal for its morning chapel services. Those orders of service included cantors, chanting and vestments.
You can view the services and the printed materials on the college’s website. You will have a better idea of the chapel worship experience by watching chapel services prior to March, when we were still in a face-to-face mode of education.
Congregations will make decisions on worship services that align with their setting and circumstances. Certainly, pastors and congregational leaders will serve as resource people and advisors in helping congregations arrive at decisions.
Your question is a reminder of the freedom Christians enjoy when it comes to their worship of the one true God. While ceremonial laws regulated God’s Old Testament worshipers, there are no New Testament ceremonial laws regulating corporate worship today.
Scripture of course does not address your question directly, so we need to look at scriptural principles and seek to make application from them. There is the overarching principle of selfless leading (loving head) and selfless yielding (loving helper) as men and women work together in God’s world (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Scripture makes general applications of that principle in the life of the church (1 Corinthians 14:26-40; 1 Timothy 2:1-15). We recognize from those sections of the Bible that God has entrusted the authoritative teaching and preaching of his word in assemblies of his followers to men.
Congregational leaders will need to study and apply scriptural principles when it comes to unique situations like the instruction of children with adult observers in a worship service.
A parallel question to yours is one that asks if such a practice is beneficial, constructive and wise (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23-24). That question takes us in a different direction. The entire emphasis of Christian freedom is not on what we can do. In selfless love for others, Christian freedom also underscores the choice of not doing something out of consideration for the consciences of others.
I would recommend reading a very recent restatement of “Male and Female in God’s World: A summary of what we believe Scripture teaches about being male and female.” That document, along with accompanying materials, can assist congregations working through questions like yours.
Should WELS churches take government money meant for small businesses? Church is non-profit? Is this part of separation of church and state?
One of the programs of the CARES Act was the Paycheck Protection Program. It was “designed to keep small businesses, including qualifying non-profit organizations, afloat during mandated Coronavirus Disease 2019 (‘COVID-19’) related closures.” The program provided potentially forgivable loans for small businesses, which included nonprofit organizations like churches. Each WELS congregation had the responsibility of determining whether or not to participate in that program. Below is information that WELS shared with called workers in April 2020:
“One program under the CARES Act receiving quite a bit of attention is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the PPP, certain businesses, including nonprofit organizations (which would include WELS congregations and WELS affiliated ministries) may be eligible to receive a potentially forgivable loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Generally, the loans are for the lessor of $10,000,000 or 2.5 times the 2019 average monthly payroll cost. PPP loans may be helpful to nonprofit organizations by providing money to those organizations to pay for certain qualifying expenses, such as payroll costs for called and hired workers who are still employed, mortgage and rent payments, and utility costs.
“We do not view this as a dependence on the government for carrying out ministry; rather it should be viewed as a type of restitution to compensate for financial hardships resulting from government actions to mitigate the spread of the infection.
“We also encourage all of our members to realize that financial assistance from the government is not a substitute for faithful Christian stewardship. Please remember to support your congregation’s ministry and called workers with your faithful offerings, even if you are not able to gather for worship.”
Another provision of the CARES Act provides charitable contribution incentives. That provision created a new “above the line” deduction (i.e. for taxpayers who take the standard deduction). This deduction will permit them to deduct up to $300 of annual monetary contributions.
I am a practicing WELS member and want to say thank you for having courage to answer so many questions that, in my view, are not really questions seeking understanding. They are questions designed to say "I got you" or to discredit biblical truths. Considering this, do you publish all questions submitted to this website or do you edit or throw some out because they are inflammatory or not appropriate given the mission of our church body?
Thank you for your kind words. It is a privilege to interact with and respond to questioners from around the country and the world.
I can assure you that the great, great majority of questions (95%+) submitted to the website receive responses that are also published on the website. If questioners receive a private response, it is because the subject matter is not appropriate for the website or the information provided by questioners could potentially identify individuals or congregations. Any editing of questions takes place because the submissions are lengthy or contain writing errors.
God willing, all questioners receive biblical responses that are helpful for their Christian faith and living.
A similar situation might be reading written material authored by individuals beyond our church fellowship. We would not think of that as a violation of biblical fellowship principles.
Northwestern Publishing House has numerous books written by women. The target audience is ordinarily women. It would not be wrong for a man to read those books
Someone I know recently made the comment that WELS is the only church left teaching God's Word in its truth and purity. I found her statement hard to believe considering the doctrine of the church. Her statement really bothered me for variety of reasons. So I did some research and I came across this answer on a similar topic on your Q and A page “As a church body, we do not pretend to be the only church whose teachings are entirely biblical; the kingdom of God is not limited to WELS.” How do I lovingly point this out to her?
You could share with your friend the question and answer you referenced.
You might also want to share the following excerpts from an article in Forward in Christ from a number of years ago.
“Over the years the writer has been pastor and member of a number of WELS congregations. In worshiping, these congregations never confessed their faith by saying, ‘I believe in St. Peter’s Ev. Lutheran Church,’ or ‘I believe in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.’ Instead they voiced their confession in the well-known words of the Apostles’ Creed: ‘I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian church, the communion of saints. .. .’
“It is evident, then, that the word ‘church” is used in different senses. It may mean a building where people worship, a congregation, a denomination, the whole visible church, the true believers gathered at one place, or the sum total of true believers…The visible church may have in its midst hypocrites, but the holy Christian church consists of true believers only. It is important that we note this, lest we identify any denomination as the alone saving church here on earth and thus automatically consign the members of all other denominations to eternal damnation.
“The matter of the holy Christian church is spoken of in paragraphs 1, 2 and 10a of This We Believe, Article VII.
“We believe that there is one holy Christian church, which is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16), the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23; 4:12). The members of this one church are all those who are ‘the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:26). Whoever believes that Jesus died for his sin and rose again for his justification (Romans 4:25) belongs to Christ’s church. The church, then, consists only of believers, or saints, whom God accepts as holy for the sake of Jesus’ imputed righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). These saints are scattered throughout the world. Every true believer, regardless of the nation or race or church body to which he belongs, is a member of the holy Christian church.
“We believe that the holy Christian church is a reality, although it is not an external, visible organization. Because ‘man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7), only the Lord knows ‘those who are his’ (2 Timothy 2: 19). The members of the holy Christian church are known only to God; we cannot distinguish between true believers and hypocrites. The holy Christian church is therefore invisible and cannot be identified with any one church body or the sum total of all church bodies.
“We reject any attempt to identify the holy Christian church with an outward organization.
“A close reading of the above brings out the fact that it is not our name on a membership list that assures us of being a member of God’s church. Rather, it is faith and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. God accepts us because of Christ’s work of redemption, not because of our holiness or righteousness.
“Since we cannot look in the hearts of people, we naturally ask: Is there some way by which we can determine where the holy Christian church is present? The answer of This We Believe, on the basis of Scripture, is: ‘The means of grace are … the marks of the church.’ Wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered, the holy Christian church is present, for through the means of grace true faith is produced and preserved (Isaiah 55:10,11).”
Finally, you might also share with your friend news like this that illustrates there are other churches around the world that faithfully confess and teach the truths of God’s word. It is a joy to find a common faith and enjoy fellowship with them.
God bless your conversation.
I understand that women are not supposed to educate men in the Word, only women and youth. I also understand that God wants us to spread his word to all people. If my male friend has asked me, a female, to explain our Christian beliefs and educate him on it, it feels like this is a good thing to do, but hypothetically, where is that line drawn? Say it was two male friends, three or four, that would seem to go against the teaching that women are not to educate men. I hope this made sense. Thanks.
As I understand your situation, you are trying to explain the Christian faith to others. In that regard, you are exercising your privilege and responsibility as a priest of God (1 Peter 2:9) to declare God’s praises to others. Your personal testimony to others is different from formal, authoritative teaching in the public ministry (1 Timothy 2).
Because Scripture provides us with a good deal of Christian freedom, you could probably benefit by talking to your pastor about this. By all means, do contact him if you still have concerns and questions. God bless you.
Because the wording of the Apostles’ Creed developed over several hundred years, its authorship is unknown. It is clear that the apostles did not write the creed. Rather, the creed expresses the biblical teachings of the apostles. The Apostles’ Creed offers a simple summary of the Christian faith. For that reason, it has a long history of being associated with Baptism and instruction in God’s word.
The Nicene Creed was the result of a church council that met in Nicea in 325 A.D. The Second Article of the Creed is much longer than that of the Apostles’ Creed because the council was addressing false doctrines about the person of Jesus Christ.
I contacted our synod’s national civilian chaplain and liaison to the military. He provided the following information.
The policy of the U.S. Armed Forces is to acknowledge that the control of the funeral and graveside services for a fallen active duty warrior lies with the officiant chosen by the family. In most cases, this means the pastor. The pastor may accept or decline whatever the Armed Forces offers. His decision will not be challenged.
Allowing some military presence is not necessarily mixing the roles of Church and State. As with having an American flag in the church, some presence of the American Military merely reflects the fact that government has been established by the Lord of the Church and is given as his blessing.
The amount of military presence should be determined by the pastor’s judgment of what would be God-pleasing under the circumstances.
The branch of the Armed Forces that the person was a member of will offer a number of military honors. They may include an honor guard, the presentation of the American flag to a family member “On behalf of a grateful nation,” firing a gun salute, a missing-man flyover and the playing of Taps. The honor guard may be available to carry or escort the casket from the funeral home to the church and then to the cemetery. All of this, or only pieces of this, may be offered by the military.
Some of this can take place outside of the religious setting, perhaps at the funeral home.
The pastor can choose to accept, or not accept, the offer of remarks by a military representative in the church following the funeral service.
The family will probably indicate a preference for what the military offers, but the officiant has the final say on what happens at the funeral and graveside service. The family may choose what will happen at the funeral home (as long as it is not during the funeral service held there). For a high-ranking officer, or the recipient of a medal of valor, the honor guard might be offered to stand near the casket during visitation.
If the pastor does not agree to a gun salute in connection with his graveside service, the family may request it to take place after the pastor finishes his service. That request will most likely be granted.
The bottom line is that the pastor is in control of the funeral and graveside service. The military will offer, but not demand, some degree of presence to show the appreciation by the nation. Whatever takes place before or after the funeral and graveside service is beyond the pastor’s control. That is determined by the family.
It is important to keep in mind that we are dealing an adiaphoron here: something that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. Christians thus have freedom to display or not display flags in their churches.
If a church is going to display flags (an American and a church flag) in the chancel, they would probably cause the least confusion by following the Flag Code guidelines. Those guidelines state: “When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.”
If a church is not going to display flags, they would have reason for doing so. In that regard, let me pass along information from Christian Worship: Manual, the companion book to Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal. In the chapter titled “The Worship Space,” there is this guidance: “Some churches like to include the national, Christian, and denominational flags in the chancel. While many Lutheran congregations have displayed flags of one sort or another, building committees ought to carefully analyze this tradition. Altar, pulpit, and font ‘all point to Christ,’ while national flags ‘speak not of Christ, but of the nation’ [Brugginck and Droppers, Christ and Architecture, pp. 250ff]. Especially in an age when so many Christian churches confuse the separate roles of church and state, it may be wise to place national flags in the narthex rather than in the chancel. The use of the Christian flag may promote an imprecise view of the church and false ecumenism besides. Denominational loyalty is important in a congregation, but recent history seems to indicate that it is better to teach loyalty to the Scriptures that cannot err than to denominations that can. The important work of the church body can surely be emphasized in better ways than with a flag” (pp. 85-86).
Again, because this is a matter on which Scripture is silent, congregations do well to explain clearly their rationale for whatever their particular practice in this area might be.
I am currently attending a Presbyterian church in California. I was surprised when a female gave a sermon there, and does so from time to time. She is classified as a Minister of Member Care. I always thought and believed this went against the Bible. Yet, their website defends the practice of women ministers. I'm sure you're aware of the Bible passages used by people to justify this. My concern is, am I sinning by attending this church? Why is there a dispute about the Bible's clarity on this? Are the flock of this church condemned to hell because of this practice? Thanks. This is really bothering me.
With the situation you describe, the word of God might be proclaimed, but it is done so illegitimately—contrary to the will of God. Those who are supporting a ministry like that are supporting its illegitimacy.
The Bible is clear about the service of women in the public ministry and the limitations of such service when it involves authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12). Disputes over the Bible’s teaching result when people fail to let Scripture speak for itself and interpret itself.
Acting contrary to God’s will is serious. The Bible warns that even a “little” false teaching can grow into more and more serious problems (Galatians 5:9).
Because you indicated you were bothered by your present circumstances, I would encourage you to make appropriate changes in your worship life. You want to act in faith and not with doubt (Romans 14:23).
The WELS locator can help you find one of our churches in your area, if you are interested in that. God’s blessings to you.
I have seen false teachings being preached and growing in the WELS. This not in the official doctrines or on WELS website but online. This is from pastors, leaders, and laymen. I think some have gotten away from the Lutheran Confessions and allowed growing ministries in WELS and outside WELS be the leaders in our thinking. This is not a hell fire law judgement but an observation from a concerned member. I personally dislike confrontation so keep silent, but there are issues and I am not alone in this concern. The biggest concerns are role of men and women, church worship enthusiasm, piety, communion, ministry gender roles, and growth without losing truth in purity. What can be done to stay strong to the Confessions as being correct interpretation of Scripture, yet not being swayed by culture, because I think we are?
If you identify concerns and (potential) problems but keep silent, it is likely the status quo will continue: you will have a level of concern that could include frustration, and ministries will not receive appropriate feedback.
I understand that a dislike for confrontation can prevent you from speaking up, so I would encourage you to look upon such conversations with others in a less confrontational way. Here is what I mean. Accusatory statements and the phrasing of certain questions can put people on the defensive. How we engage others in conversation can lead to calm, productive dialogues.
It is important and necessary for you and your fellow Christians to speak up when there are questions and concerns about the public ministry of a called worker. That is a practical implication of having a Berean attitude (Acts 17:11). “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) describes the way in which these conversations are to take place. There is love for the messenger of God’s word, and there is love for the word of God. That word “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Some of Martin Luther’s words are appropriate at this point. “To recognize and judge doctrine behooves each and every Christian, so much so that he is accursed who infringes upon this right by as little as a hairsbreadth. For Christ Himself has established this right by various and unassailable statements, such as Matt. 6:15: ‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing.’ He is certainly speaking this word to the people in opposition to those who teach, and He commands them to avoid false teachings. But how can they avoid them if they do not recognize them? And how can they recognize them if they do not have the right to judge them? But now He gives them not only the right but also the command to judge…
“Once the right to judge doctrine is taken away from the hearers, what can or may a teacher not dare though (if that were possible) he were worse than Satan? Conversely, if judging doctrine is permitted, aye, commanded, what can or may a teacher dare though he were more than an angel from heaven? For if this were permitted, Paul would not only rebuke Peter but would also anathematize the angels of heaven.” (What Luther Says. Volume I. Page 418)
Conversations with called workers can help those workers stay true to biblical doctrines—and the Lutheran Confessions, which explain biblical doctrines.
Certainly, pray for those in public ministry positions. The apostle Paul invited prayers on his behalf: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
As a congregational member, do what you can to ensure that your called workers have the time and resources to take advantage of continuing education opportunities. That is a way for them to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
I encourage you to follow through on these suggestions.
I am a member of a WELS church. Can I be an associate member at another synod Lutheran Church while keeping my membership intact at my WELS church?
No. Such a situation is not workable. With church membership, people commit themselves to the doctrine and practice of that church. If multiple memberships were allowed, people would be committing themselves to different doctrines and practices.
Membership in more than one church presents many challenges. One of the most practical and serious deals with the spiritual care of the individual, especially if church discipline were involved (Matthew 18:15-20). Confusion and/or disagreement over which pastor is the primary shepherd of the individual would be a natural result.
We are going to have Wine, Women and the Word meetings in church. Is there a recommendation that discourages alcohol use (other than Communion wine) in a church dedicated to the Lord?
Your question is one that the Bible does not address directly. Because that is the case, congregations will want to ask and answer questions like the following: How can we best use our Christian freedom? (1 Corinthians 10:24) If a practice is permissible, would it be wise and constructive to adopt and implement it? (1 Corinthians 10:23) Might the exercise of our Christian freedom cause confusion and/or lead people to stumble in their faith? (1 Corinthians 8:9) Will our actions bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Congregations determine and implement facility usage policies such as the one in your question. God grant wisdom and love to your congregation.
Ordination takes place after a man has successfully finished his prescribed course of study—during which he concurs with the public doctrine of the synod—and has received and accepted an initial call into the public ministry.
There are traditional (Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary) and non-traditional (Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute) prescribed courses of study.
Ordination is the rite that recognizes the fitness of the individual for the pastoral office and the divine call he has received and accepted. The rite also provides the individual with the opportunity to make public confessions of his faith and promises to conduct his ministry in faithfulness to Scripture, with the help and strength of God. Prayers for the individual and the congregation are an important part of that rite.
Hello! I had a question about absolution. In your "What We Believe" statements on "The Means of Grace," I got the impression that only Baptism and the Lord's Supper are sacraments, since it does not mention absolution. However, in Article XIII in the Apology in the Augsburg Confession, it says, "The genuine sacraments, therefore, are Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and absolution (which is the sacrament of penitence), for these rights have the commandment of God and the promise of grace, which is the heart of the New Testament." My question is this: Do you consider absolution as one of the sacraments? If so, why is it not in your "Means of Grace" section of "What We Believe"? If not, are you contradicting the Book of Concord's teaching, or is there definition of a sacrament different from yours? Thank you!
The last phrase of your last question is key to addressing your questions. Because the word “sacrament” is not in the Bible, there can be different definitions of the word.
Article XIII of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession states: “If we call Sacraments rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to decide what are properly Sacraments. For rites instituted by men will not in this way be Sacraments properly so called. For it does not belong to human authority to promise grace…Therefore Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Absolution, which the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God’s command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament.” [Concordia Triglotta, page 309] Philip Melanchthon wrote the Apology of the Augsburg Confession in 1530-31.
In his early years as a Roman Catholic, Martin Luther held to the church’s teaching that there are seven sacraments. In his early years as a reformer, he trimmed the number of sacraments to three: Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Absolution. By October 1520, with the writing of The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he no longer considered absolution a sacrament. When Luther published his Large Catechism (1529), he wrote of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as “our two Sacraments” [Concordia Triglotta, page 733].
The definition of a sacrament in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession is “rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added.” Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Absolution can fit that definition. Luther acknowledged the three Sacraments listed in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession and the accompanying definition of a sacrament.
The definition of a sacrament that Lutherans ordinarily use points to three characteristics. “A sacrament is a sacred act that Christ instituted or established for Christians to do. A sacrament is a sacred act that includes the use of earthly elements (water, bread, and wine) connected with God’s Word. A sacrament is a sacred act through which Christ offers, gives, and seals the forgiveness of sins and, so also, life and salvation.” [Luther’s Catechism. Milwaukee, Northwestern Publishing House, 2017, page 299] Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—and not absolution—fit that definition.
I hope that this clarifies matters for you.
The WELS Apache Mission includes eight congregations, one preaching station and two elementary schools. You will find further information here.
If I feel uncomfortable being around other church members who are not wearing masks (this includes the pastors), is it okay for me to avoid them? This would include me taking my daughter out of Catechism class because we both feel very unsafe and we do not want to offend others. Catechism started off with everyone wearing masks and now no one is wearing a mask except us.
As I look at church websites, I see a theme of “If you have concerns or are uncomfortable about in-person worship or Bible classes, please join us online or via our live stream.” That theme illustrates that church leaders understand the different comfort levels people currently have with congregational in-person events.
Concern for your physical health is certainly a legitimate reason for determining the way in which you and your family receive Christian education from your congregation. If you have not done so already, you will want to contact your pastors, share your concerns with them and see how your spiritual needs might be met.
Let’s all continue to pray that, God willing, we can soon return to the congregational life we enjoyed earlier this year.
It is two-fold: What training is required for one to become a staff minister? What are the typical duties a staff minister performs when serving a congregation? Thank you.
The training depends on the individual’s age and educational background. Traditional age students embark on a four-year program of general education courses, professional courses and practical experiences. Successful completion of the program leads to a Bachelor of Science degree. Students also have the option of adding a second major in education or parish music. That option adds an additional year to the program.
Older students with a bachelor’s degree can seek ministry certification by completing the theology and professional components of the program.
Students receiving training in the areas of outreach and nurture, youth work, family ministry, administration, parish care/visitation and parish education. Current staff ministers have titles such as the following: Minister of Music and Education, Minister of Family and Youth, Minister of Discipleship, Director of Christian Education, Family Minister, Director of Discipleship, Program Director, Minister of Music, Minister of Evangelism, Church Administrator, Minister of Administration, Deaconess, and Parish Nurse.
You will find further information here.
Your question addresses Christian freedom. While God specified the furnishings his Old Testament people were to use in their corporate worship life, he has left us with no such instructions. That means churches have freedom in the management of their worship space.
Historically and traditionally, Christian churches have found meaningful purpose in pulpits. As the altar points to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his holy Supper, the pulpit focuses attention on the word of God. The altar and pulpit highlight the gospel in word and sacrament.
If churches do not wish to have both a pulpit and a lectern, they can opt for an ambo. That decision also rests in Christian freedom.
One of our hymns nicely describes the significance of the furnishings in our worship spaces: “Here stands the font before our eyes, Telling how God did receive us. Th’ altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice And what the sacrament gives us. Here sound the Scriptures that proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, And evermore, our Redeemer.” (Christian Worship 529:4)
Hello! I had a question about laymen ordaining pastors in an emergency. For example, in the Soviet Union, many Lutheran pastors were killed, and laymen were left with no pastor. So, because they did not have access to one, and since the need for one was huge, they ordained their own leaders. Was this a valid ordination? If so, why? Are there verses from Scripture (or Early Church writings) that show this to be valid (either by example or by implication)? Thank you for your time.
With your question on ordination, we need to back up one step. It is a divine call that enables a person to serve in the public ministry, to serve on behalf of others (1 Corinthians 9:14; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:1-10). Ordination is “public recognition or confirmation of the validity and legitimacy of the call that was sent and accepted.” (The Shepherd Under Christ, page 49). Ordination and installation are matters of adiaphora in that Scripture does not expressly command them nor forbid them. They are certainly meaningful, significant and historic customs that include the laying on of hands (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:4; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6).
If Christians, in times of emergency as your question illustrated, call a non-theologically trained man to serve as their pastor temporarily, that is a valid call. Any ordination that followed would validate the issuance and acceptance of the call.
The Bylaws of WELS address your question.
“Section 4.60 Colloquium Committee (a) Pastors and male teachers from church bodies not in fellowship with the synod shall apply for membership by written application to the president of the district within which the applicant resides. Notice of such application shall be published by the district president at least twice in Forward in Christ and/or on the WELS website and/or by other electronic means. (b) A Colloquium Committee shall be appointed by the president. The committee shall be composed of the district president of the district in which the applicant resides, a professor from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for the colloquy of a pastor, or a professor from Martin Luther College educational track for the colloquy of a teacher, and a vice president of the synod. The vice-president shall be chairman of the committee. (c) If the applicant is approved by the Colloquium Committee, he shall be eligible for a call, and notice of such approval shall be published by the chairman of the Colloquium Committee in Forward in Christ and/or on the WELS website and/or by other electronic means.”
A portion of a Together newsletter described one pastor’s colloquy experience.
The pastor who is interested in joining WELS would first determine in which district of WELS he resides and then contact the appropriate district president. I could provide that contact information in a private response.
Regarding a question about who you would endorse for U.S. president, you gave the following response: "WELS does not endorse any candidate for political office. Doing so would be a violation of the Internal Revenue Code and jeopardize the synod’s tax-exempt status." Would it not be highly improper to let government benefits affect what the synod or its congregations would endorse or not endorse? I feel like the only thing guiding the preaching and official statements of a church body should be the Word of God. If the church, as a consequence of that, would lose various economic benefits, that's a price we as Christians should be ready to pay (Rev. 13:17).
In This We Believe, we make this profession: “2. We believe that God has given the church and the state their own distinct responsibilities. To the church the Lord has assigned the responsibility of calling sinners to repentance, of proclaiming forgiveness through the cross of Christ, and of encouraging believers in their Christian living. The purpose is to lead the elect of God to eternal salvation through faith in Christ. To the state the Lord has assigned the duty of keeping good order and peace, of punishing the wrongdoer, and of arranging all civil matters in society (Romans 13:3,4). The purpose is ‘that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ (1 Timothy 2:2).
“3. We believe that the only means God has given to the church to carry out its assigned purpose are the Word and sacraments (Matthew 28:19,20). People are converted by the Holy Spirit only through the message of law and gospel, sin and grace, the wrath of God against sin and the mercy of God in Christ. We believe that the means given to the state to fulfill its assignment is civil law with its punishments and rewards, set up and used according to the light of reason (Romans 13:4). The light of reason includes the natural knowledge of God, the natural knowledge of the law, and conscience.
“4. We believe the proper relation is preserved between the church and the state only when each remains within its divinely assigned sphere and uses its divinely entrusted means. The church should not exercise civil authority nor interfere with the state as the state carries out its responsibilities. The state should not become a messenger of the gospel nor interfere with the church in its preaching mission. The church should not attempt to use the civil law and force to lead people to Christ. The state should not seek to govern by means of the gospel. On the other hand, the church and the state may cooperate in an endeavor as long as each remains within its assigned place and uses its entrusted means.”
Endorsing political candidates is not a function of the church. Jeopardizing tax-exempt status by doing so would be irresponsible and a mismanagement of God’s gifts. What the church does is teach and encourage responsible citizenship. That includes exercising the right to vote.
The “mark” or seal in Revelation 13:16-17 is a symbolic way of denoting ownership: those people belong to the beast. Just as God’s people are symbolically marked or sealed (Revelation 7:4), so those who belong to Satan are also symbolically marked or sealed.
I am a shut in. When my pastor comes to my home and gives me Communion, should I be giving him a monetary gift?
An important word in your question is “should.” You are under no obligation to give your pastor a monetary gift when he visits you and communes you. Your congregation has called your pastor to provide exactly that service to you. If you are not able to receive the Lord’s Supper in church, your pastor is happy to offer you the Lord’s Supper in your home.
This does not mean that you cannot express your thanks—in a tangible way—to your pastor for communing you. When I served as a parish pastor and homebound members wanted to give me a monetary gift for communing them, I offered to put their gift in next Sunday’s offering plate in church. Almost without exception, those homebound members did not want me to do that. Instead, they wanted me to receive their expression of gratitude for my service to them. So, I did.
If you want to thank your pastor with a monetary gift for communing you, go right ahead. You might very well receive a little resistance from him, but persist as you will!
Your question calls to mind the attitude that Scripture directs us to have toward our pastors and others who serve in the public ministry: “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
God’s blessings to you. In these challenging days, you can take heart in God’s promise to you that you are never alone: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
What is the role of women in the Lutheran church? I belong to a small congregation and 15 and 16-year-old boys are given the right to vote and hold offices but women aren't. I can't justify the fact that God would bless some women with very high intellects and organizational skills if he did not want them to use them to his glory.
Your question requires a much longer response than can be provided here. I would encourage you to read a doctrinal statement you can find on this website: Man and Woman Roles. You would also benefit from reading Male and Female He Created Them: A Bible study on God’s loving gift of the interdependent and complementary partnership of male and female. The documents explain how men and women can use their God-given gifts in ways that are in keeping with God’s design for them. Your pastor would be a good resource for any follow-up questions.
I am interested in the WELS Church liturgy, its origins and history, and an explanation of the different orders of worship. I had hoped the People's Bible Teachings series would have published the intended title, "Christian Worship." I anticipate it will address my interest as well as a discussion of contemporary worship, choice of hymns, etc. In the meantime, are there any other resources available?
In the liturgical calendar of the Lutheran Church, is February 14 celebrated as the feast of St. Valentine? Thank you!
No. The only minor festivals that are listed for the month of February are The Presentation of our Lord (February 2) and St. Matthias, Apostle (February 24).
Hi! What is the website or pdf that shows the names of the disciplines of the theology course of the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)? What is the website or pdf that shows the names of the textbooks of the disciplines of the theology course of the seminary of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)?
The current catalog of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary lists the courses in the curriculum. You will find the catalog here. I do not have information regarding textbooks for those courses.
Your questions require more extensive responses than can be provided through this question and answer service. The Synod’s website contains good information that would be helpful for you to read. One of those resources is a doctrinal statement on Man and Woman Roles. Another is Male and Female in God’s World. God bless your reading.
If I see that my pastor is negligent in his duties every day of the week besides Sunday (always letting phone calls go to his voicemail, not calling/visiting shut-ins monthly, not having hymns and texts chosen well in advance of the service, not reviewing forms given to him to complete, not showing up for church cleaning or decorating days), do I have the right to tell him he ought to do more for our congregation? I am a single woman, and our elders and congregation president are hesitant to discuss this problem with him. I’ve prayed for him to change, but nothing has changed.
Certainly, if you have concerns about your pastor’s ministry, do speak to him. Such a conversation will enable you to pass along your observations and receive your pastor’s explanations. If conversations like this with your pastor do not bring about resolution, then there is opportunity to speak to church leaders such as the ones you mentioned. They would then need to speak to your pastor.
Because your concerns appear to be about faithfulness, let me pass along these thoughts. While God has high standards and requirements for those who would serve him in the public ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9), faithfulness is all-important (1 Corinthians 4:2). Pastors are to be faithful in their ministries and faithful in all areas of life—including their personal and family life. Congregations help their pastors when they encourage their pastors to be faithful and assist them in growing in their faithfulness.
One way of providing encouragement and assistance is through a “care committee for called workers.” I do not know if your congregation has such a committee. If you want more information, you and your congregation’s leaders can find resources here. A care committee for called workers provides a forum for regular communication between called workers and congregational representatives so that concerns such as the ones you listed can be addressed and resolved.
Continue praying for your pastor. One of our hymns contains a nice prayer for pastors and congregations. “Keep pastors faithful, strong, and true, Not working for themselves but you. Endow them with the grace they need, The lambs to serve, the sheep to feed, The precious flock to lead and guide—The Shepherd thus is glorified. May all your people faithful be And treat your pastors rev’rently And with them work and for them pray, Rememb’ring what the Scriptures say: Receive the prophet of the Lord and gain the prophet’s own reward.” (Christian Worship 548:2-3) God’s blessings to you and your congregation.
I am aware of WELS congregations applying for and accepting government PPP payments. How can this be viewed as Gospel motivated giving?
One of the programs of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act was the Paycheck Protection Program. It was “designed to keep small businesses, including qualifying non-profit organizations, afloat during mandated Coronavirus Disease 2019 (‘COVID-19’) related closures.” The program provided potentially forgivable loans for small businesses, which included nonprofit organizations like churches. Each WELS congregation had the responsibility of determining whether or not to participate in that program. Below is information that WELS shared with called workers in April 2020:
“One program under the CARES Act receiving quite a bit of attention is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Under the PPP, certain businesses, including nonprofit organizations (which would include WELS congregations and WELS affiliated ministries) may be eligible to receive a potentially forgivable loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Generally, the loans are for the lessor of $10,000,000 or 2.5 times the 2019 average monthly payroll cost. PPP loans may be helpful to nonprofit organizations by providing money to those organizations to pay for certain qualifying expenses, such as payroll costs for called and hired workers who are still employed, mortgage and rent payments, and utility costs.
“We do not view this as a dependence on the government for carrying out ministry; rather it should be viewed as a type of restitution to compensate for financial hardships resulting from government actions to mitigate the spread of the infection.
“We also encourage all of our members to realize that financial assistance from the government is not a substitute for faithful Christian stewardship. Please remember to support your congregation’s ministry and called workers with your faithful offerings, even if you are not able to gather for worship.”
Another provision of the CARES Act provides charitable contribution incentives. That provision created a new “above the line” deduction (i.e. for taxpayers who take the standard deduction). This deduction will permit them to deduct up to $300 of annual monetary contributions.
Are women allowed to hold positions of leadership (not pastor or elder) such as congregational president, treasurer, secretary, etc.? And are they allowed to vote on matters affecting the church, such as budgets or election of officers? A simple Yes or No will suffice. Thank you.
Because of the nature of the questions, it is not possible to provide a simple “yes” or “no” answer. The scriptural principle to be applied is that a woman is not to have authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12). Common application of that principle means that individuals filling the positions you mentioned have governing authority in the church and therefore are men. If a congregation were to remove governing authority from the positions of treasurer or secretary and make those positions service oriented only, it could be possible to go beyond only men filling those positions. Patient instruction would be necessary to avoid confusion and offense.
While not all voting is authoritative, establishing authoritative policies and choosing officers to exercise authority on behalf of the congregation is a responsibility of a congregation’s voting assembly.
Because I could not give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to your questions, I would encourage you to read Male and Female in God’s World. The document examines the unique callings of men and women. You can find the document here.
If the Equality Act of 2021 is passed, what are the implications affecting our Lutheran church and schools?
We will not know what the implications are until the bill, in its final form, becomes law. As with any other proposed legislation, Christian citizens will want to exercise their rights in contacting their elected representatives and relaying their thoughts and concerns.
Christians will also want to follow this instruction: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
The WELS has a practice that a non-WELS member cannot sing or accompany during a service. Why do you then allow non-WELS members who write hymns for the WELS hymnal? In my eyes there is not much difference between the words of a hymn on the page or from the mouths and fingers of a musician. Thank you for this ability to ask this question.
I am understanding your first sentence to intend to say that a non-WELS member cannot sing “in a way in which the person would be leading worship” – for example, as a soloist. With that understanding in mind, allow me to pass along the following thoughts that addressed previous questions like yours.
“Our hymnody would be very limited if we sang hymns composed only by Lutherans. For instance, we would be without ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Holy God, We Praise Your Name,’ both written by Roman Catholics. We would be without ‘Glory Be to God the Father’and ‘Your Works, Not Mine, O Christ,’ both written by a Presbyterian. We would lose ‘In the Cross of Christ I Glory,’ written by a man most people think was an agnostic. The test of a good hymn is not the denominational background of its author, but the confessional character of its text.
“The stanzas from ‘Amazing Grace’ that are included in Christian Worship speak correctly about the grace of God. If the text of any hymn (even one written by a Lutheran!) would contain doctrines that disagreed with the doctrines of the Bible, that hymn would not have been included in our book.
“We are not in fellowship with the Baptist Church because it teaches many things that disagree with the teachings of the Bible. But we do not consider the Baptist Church to be a non-Christian denomination. It should not surprise us, therefore, that a Baptist is able to write a hymn text that speaks correctly about grace, even though he may not be able to write a hymn text that speaks correctly about original sin, infant Baptism, or Holy Communion.
“The Lutheran Church has tended to consider or judge forms used for worship on the basis of their content rather than their source.”
A way of understanding this is that authors and composers present their works for use by Christians around the world. It is not as though the people who then use those hymns are stepping into the churches of the authors and composers and worshiping along with them. The same can be said about many of the musical pieces that our choirs use in our worship services.
This is a decision the church/school will need to make after they study the matter. I can pass along the following information from answers to similar questions that contained some concern and caution.
Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce what many wrongly think in the first place—that “all the church is concerned about is money.” Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce work-righteous thinking in some of the unchurched, leading them to think that “I’ve given to God, so I’ve done my duty.” Congregational fundraising in the community can undermine a church’s efforts to encourage its members to grow in their management of God’s blessings if they grow instead in their reliance on community revenue.
There certainly is a danger that fundraisers can fuel the idea that giving involves the possibility of getting or receiving something in return. It is important to keep in mind the motive for giving. It is love for God and gratitude for his love that provides the motivation for giving back to God what is his in the first place (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 4:19).
If the church/school is looking for financial support from its own constituency and not the community in any way, free will offerings can go a long way in funding a youth field trip. Congregational members can be presented with the special opportunity to give towards this cause, and God’s people will respond as they are moved. An approach like this eliminates difficulties associated with raffles and fundraising in general.
This is a comment, don't know where else to put it. Whoever wrote today's Daily Devotion (5/6/21), I want to express my gratitude to that person. It was one of the best I have seen posted! Thank you and may God bless you all richly. Google News has posted several of your articles! Accidentally saw them as I don't go there often.
Thank you for your kind words. I will pass along your words of appreciation to the author of the devotion.