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Delegates present reports and resolutions

Synod convention delegates concluded their work on Thursday morning by presenting, discussing, and approving reports and resolutions.

Floor committees began bringing their reports and resolutions to the convention floor on Wednesday morning. The first two resolutions were highly anticipated before the convention—resolutions to declare fellowship with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya and the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church in Taiwan.

Delegates continued to support world mission work by designating the opening worship service offering of $5,038 to WELS’ efforts for Hmong outreach in Vietnam. In addition, delegates approved a resolution encouraging congregations to schedule a mission festival, participate in a WELS Mission Journeys team, and to increase Congregation Mission Offerings to assist World Missions.

Teacher Jim Henrickson, chairman of the floor committee considering the work of the Commission on Lutheran Schools, presented two resolutions dealing with financial support for Lutheran Schools. The first resolution requests increased financial support for the 21st-Century Lutheran Principal Initiative, which helps to address the growing need for school leaders in WELS schools. The second resolution requests that the “Synodical Council give strong consideration to increased funding for the Commission on Lutheran Schools.” Delegates approved both resolutions.

Rev. Jay Bickelhaupt, chairman of the Conference of Presidents Floor Committee, presented a resolution titled “Encouraging education about the staff ministry program.” The resolution calls for the synod to publicize the staff ministry program more widely among local congregations and schools and that “congregations looking to fill vacancies or seeking to expand ministry be informed by their district president about the benefits and availability of staff ministers.” Delegates approved this resolution.

Teacher Paul Scriver, chairman of the Constitutional Matters Floor Committee, was the first chairman to present on Thursday morning. Scriver read 17 resolutions dealing with bylaw revisions. These changes were all recommended either by the Synodical Council, the Conference of Presidents, or the Board for Ministerial Education. Delegates approved all 17 resolutions.

Delegates also approved a resolution encouraging WELS members to support Martin Luther College’s two-year campaign titled “Equipping Christian Witnesses.” The campaign is focused on increasing enrollment and student financial aid as well as improving student facilities.

The final resolution of the convention looked ahead to the next synod convention in 2021. Delegates resolved that the 66th biennial convention of WELS will be held at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.

For a full list of all resolutions made at this convention, visit wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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New partners in Christ

Delegates welcomed two new church bodies—the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ—Kenya (LCMC) and the Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church of Taiwan (CLEC)—into confessional Lutheran fellowship with WELS on Wednesday morning.

Representatives from both Kenya and Taiwan were present at the convention: Rev. Mark Onunda, chairman of the LCMC, and his wife, Grace, and Rev. Peter Chen and Mr. Michael Lin from the CLEC.

“My wife and I have traveled far to be with you these few days,” said Onunda when addressing the delegates. “Our short time together will secure a lifelong partnership to advance our positions in many fields of battle.”

The LCMC, a church body of 25 pastors, 46 congregations, and between 3,000 and 5,000 members, is relatively young. Registered as an independent church body in Kenya in 2013, it formed after several of its pastors and churches broke away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya because of false teachings. This fledging church body immediately began searching for like-minded confessional Lutherans. After they made contact with WELS World Missions in 2014, Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, visited Onunda for the first time in Kenya in 2015. The Lutheran Church of Central Africa—Zambia, WELS’ sister synod, declared fellowship with the LCMC last September.

“With our blessed partnership in place, your brothers and sisters in Kenya can now attend to our most pressing challenges,” says Onunda. “We want to be aggressive in our mission work. We want to be strong in our encouragement of the pastors and congregations already in our church body. . . . There is also the pressing challenge of human need and suffering among our Lutheran people in Kenya.” This includes partnering with WELS to serve South Sudanese refugees living in Kakuma, Kenya.

The Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church (CLEC) in Taiwan started as a mission of WELS, with missionaries serving there from 1979 through 2013. The CLEC is now an independent church body.

“We are happy to be united with WELS in faith,” said Chen to the delegates. “WELS is like a mother to us.”

Chen notes that church members were unsure about what would happen to their church when the missionaries left. “When I go back, I can let my members know WELS hasn’t left us!” he says. “Now they declare we are in fellowship with each other so even if there are no missionaries in Taiwan, it doesn’t make a difference. We are one.”

Chen was also impressed by the theme of the convention, “For the generations to come.” He is training Lin to be a leader for one of the four CLEC churches. Lin will finish his training this year. “This is a good chance to pass on the whole idea of who we are and who we belong to for the next generation,” he says.

This was Lin’s first trip to the United States. He was amazed by the opening worship service. “I will go back [to my congregation] with lots of pictures and stories. I can tell them this is the way our mother church is,” he says.

The CLEC has four congregations, one pastor (Chen), and about 100 members. Three men, including Lin, are training to serve congregations as tent ministers. It is reaching out in a country of 23 million people, of which 5 percent are Christian. “Please pray for us,” says Chen.

Delegates celebrated the declaration of fellowship by joining together to sing, “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” (Christian Worship 531).

 

 

 

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Delegates approve ministry financial plan

On Wednesday afternoon, synod convention delegates approved the Synodical Council’s proposed ministry financial plan—or budget—with no changes.

“This plan balances trust that God will continue to provide with the many mission opportunities that he is placing before us,” says Rev. Steven Gabb, chairman of the Ministry Financial Plan Floor Committee.

Rev. Jonathan Schroeder, chairman of the Synodical Council’s Ministry Committee, explains that the development of the ministry financial plan is a collaborative process between the areas of ministry, synod leadership, and the Synodical Council.

“It’s that collaboration that has impressed me most during my 10 years serving on the Synodical Council,” says Schroeder. “These groups work together to develop a plan that balances resources with priorities and emerging opportunities. President Schroeder and his advisory committee bring a kingdom-wide perspective to the task.”

The Synodical Council divides the responsibility for the ministry financial plan between the Finance Committee and the Ministry Committee. The Finance Committee determines the financial support levels and the total size of the budget. The Ministry Committee then allocates the resources to the various areas of ministry.

“The hardest part of the process comes when we have to determine which initiatives or projects won’t be included in the ministry financial plan,” says Schroeder. “For each synod convention we prepare a list of unfunded priorities to show the delegates the ministry programs we could accomplish if God blesses us with more resources.”

In a separate resolution on Wednesday, synod convention delegates also passed the unfunded priority list proposed by the Synodical Council.

“WELS is financially sound and the budget is balanced,” notes Mr. Todd Poppe, chief financial officer of WELS. “The increases in support that we have forecast are modest, so ministry opportunities have been left unfilled. If God blesses us with more than we forecast, we can begin to fund items on the unfunded priority list.”

Schroeder concludes by saying, “Every year God’s people provide these amazing gifts through Congregation Mission Offerings and individual offerings. It is a high privilege to be involved in organizing how they are implemented to fulfill Christ’s mission to call the elect to faith through the gospel.”

 

 

 

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New capital campaign for Martin Luther College announced

On Wednesday evening, delegates learned about a new two-year capital campaign for Martin Luther College (MLC) called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.” This campaign will help MLC celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020.

“Our gracious Savior, who ‘is not willing that any should perish,’ is opening mission doors beyond our imagination!” says Rev. Mark Zarling, MLC president. “As the WELS College of Ministry, we at Martin Luther College want to seize these opportunities—to his glory! Now is the time for all of us to equip even more Christian witnesses to share Christ’s love with the world. This is what this campaign is all about.”

Zarling shared that the three pillars of the campaign are student recruitment, student financial aid, and student facilities.

Currently MLC enrolls about 750 on-campus undergraduate students. The goal is to have 900 to 1,000 students eager to train for gospel ministry. Zarling reminded delegates that they can help recruit students—both traditional and second-career—to pursue the gospel ministry, both by encouraging young adults they know or by submitting names of potential future students to MLC at mlc-wels.edu/go/recommend.

To help students graduate with as little educational debt as possible, MLC is working to fully fund its Congregational Partner Grant Program (CPGP) Matching Fund for years to come. Through CPGP, MLC matches dollar for dollar, up to $1,000, the gift a congregation gathers to apply to the tuition of their student at MLC. MLC has a goal of raising $3 to $5 million for this second pillar of the campaign.

Finally, MLC wants to build a new residence hall and renovate its current dormitories to meet the need of the next generation. It also wants to construct a new turfed recreation facility so that students can participate in sports year-round. “For many years, we have not had adequate athletic space—for our student body, our teams, or visiting teams. The new Knight Center will meet these pressing needs of today and help us offer expanded health and wellness opportunities tomorrow,” says Zarling.

With the support of the Conference of Presidents, WELS is looking to raise $16 to $18 million in total through this campaign. Congregations have already received information about how they can participate.

After delegates learned about how they can be involved in the campaign, MLC staff offered tours of the campus so that delegates could learn more about the campus and plans for the future.

Learn more about “Equipping Christian Witnesses” at mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

 

 

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Congregational Services presents scope of work

WELS Congregational Services comprises several areas of ministry committed to guiding and assisting WELS congregations and schools in conducting local ministry.

The Commissions on Congregational Counseling, Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Lutheran Schools, and Special Ministries all provided overviews and updates from their respective ministries.

Rev. Jonathan Hein, Congregational Services coordinator, introduced the upcoming Lutheran Leadership Conference being held January 21-23, 2020, in Chicago. The conference will feature sessions that address issues many congregations face in local ministry and congregational operations. Find out more about the conference at lutheranleadership.com.

Congregational Counseling
Congregational Counseling (CCC) helps congregations assess their needs and develop strategic plans for local ministry. They accomplish this through a Self-Assessment and Adjustment Program; Ministry, Organization, and Staffing Evaluation; and the School of Strategic Planning. The CCC is working to train circuit pastors to proactively assist congregations in doing self-assessments and setting and meeting goals.

Evangelism
Evangelism aims to instruct members on reaching out in their communities by creating a congregational outreach culture. One resource to accomplish this is the upcoming C19 program. Much like the C18 program over the 2018 Christmas season, C19 resources will be developed and available to aid congregations in their evangelism efforts over the Christmas season. For year-round efforts, a video-based online congregational evangelism kit to train congregational leadership will be available on welscongregationalservices.net by early 2020.

Rev. Eric Roecker, Commission on Evangelism director, introduced the upcoming Let’s Go initiative, planned for summer 2020. This online training program is being developed to help any Christian become a more informed gospel witness by helping to remove fears and provide tools.

Discipleship
Rev. Donn Dobberstein, Commission on Discipleship director, presented Welcome Home, an effort to care for the 155,000 WELS members who don’t attend church regularly and “welcome them home” to active church life. Every member will be encouraged to attend on this special Sunday, which can be held on October 20 or October 27. Welcome Home includes a worship series that encompasses the season of End Times as well as elder training resources to assist church leadership in compassionately and zealously meeting the spiritual needs of delinquent members.

A new stewardship program, 10 for 10, suggested to start in September, is a three-Sunday emphasis on the biblical principles of giving. 10 for 10 is designed to incorporate Bible studies into the weekly worship service over three weeks, then for the next 10 weeks to challenge members to increase giving. 10 for 10 stands for tithing for 10 weeks.

Resources for Welcome Home and 10 for 10 are available at welscongregationalservices.net.

Future priorities include focusing on strengthening families and home devotional life, anchoring young people ages 14 to 24 to their church, encouraging small groups in congregations, improving Sunday schools, and creatively approaching adult instruction.

Also announced was the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally, June 23-26, 2020, in Knoxville, Tenn. More information will be available in upcoming issues of the WELS “Together” e-newsletter.

Worship
The Commission on Worship is assisting in the development of the new WELS Hymnal, scheduled to be introduced in 2021. Rev. Bryan Gerlach, Commission on Worship director, suggested congregations start budgeting for the new printed hymnals as well as the supplemental books and digital tools.

Lutheran Schools
The Commission on Lutheran Schools (CLS) provides resources, training, and support for WELS schools and teachers. Mr. James Rademan, Commission on Lutheran Schools director, discussed the changing landscape of Lutheran elementary schools. About 15 percent of elementary students and 29 percent of early childhood students are now from families without a church home, creating a tremendous outreach opportunity. To help meet this opportunity, CLS offers the Telling the Next Generation program to assist schools in creating outreach plans.

Looking ahead, CLS is focused on recruiting and training principals and early childhood directors to help meet vacancies as well as mentoring and supporting new principals and directors. This helps mitigate the number of new graduates stepping into these roles without appropriate training and experience.

Special Ministries
Rev. Jim Behringer, Commission on Special Ministries director, said Special Ministries is about compassion, outreach, and inclusion—removing barriers that prevent people from hearing the gospel. The Special Ministries umbrella covers eight specialized areas: Mission for the Visually Impaired, Care Committee for Called Workers, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry, Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Commission on Mental Health, Health and Wellness Committee, Military Services, and Prison Ministry, which is marking 25 years of ministry.

Special Ministries invites members to sign up to help meet the spiritual needs of those impacted by incarceration, those serving in the military and their families, and families with loved ones with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Go to wels.net/refer.

To learn more about the many ways Special Ministries serves congregations and members, visit wels.net/special-ministries.

 

 

 

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Delegates complete election of committee members

One of the responsibilities of synod convention delegates is to elect members and chairmen for a variety of synod committees and boards. On Wednesday morning, delegates completed their voting, and the names of those elected were reported by the Elections Floor Committee.

Rev. John Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior, West Palm Beach, Fla., was re-elected as chairman of the Commission on Discipleship.

“I consider it a great privilege to continue to serve our gracious God in this way,” says Boggs. “As chairman of the commission, I see myself partnering with our administrator, our commission members, and Congregational Services as a whole to get resources, encouragement, and ministry tools into the hands of leaders in our congregations.”

Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of Discipleship, also appreciates this partnership. He notes, “The ministry of Discipleship is so vast. A ‘just-me-and-no-more’ style of leadership would be at best a lonely way to do ministry and at worst a horrifying waste of the members of the body of Christ, which he loaded with gifts and abilities.”

“I believe it is critical for WELS leadership to continue to involve both called workers and lay leaders serving in congregations throughout our nation and the world to be involved in helping lead WELS forward in the blessed work our God has given us to do,” says Boggs. “Working together, I believe we can better understand the challenges before us as well as plan and implement ministry tools that address these challenges. We truly can accomplish more together than by ourselves.”

The full list of election results is available at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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Ministry presentations filled Wednesday

Throughout Wednesday, delegates heard about several ministries.

Rev. Keith Free, WELS Home Missions administrator, and Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn, Board for Home Missions chairman, provided an update on the scope of Home Missions’ ministry. Home Missions has provided support for 89 new mission starts and enhancements since 2011. In 2019, the Board for Home Missions approved three new starts and one enhancement. In addition to starting new churches and providing support for mission-focused ministry enhancements, Home Missions also supports WELS Campus Ministry and cross-cultural ministries serving Hispanic, Hmong, Korean, South Sudanese, and more. Learn more about Home Missions at wels.net/missions.

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) shared the history of the synod’s publishing house, from its beginnings in 1902 to its recent move to the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in May. Rev. Curtis Jahn, vice president of publishing services at NPH, provided a look at many resources NPH offers, ranging from children’s curriculum, devotionals, adult Bible study materials, music resources, and more. Learn what NPH has to offer at nph.net.

Rev. Joel Pless from the WELS Historical Institute invited delegates to learn more WELS history by visiting the first WELS church, Salem, in Milwaukee, Wis. The WELS Historical Institute exists to preserve and present the history of WELS. It works closely with the synod archives, located at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry. Learn more about the historical institute and the synod archives at wels.net/archives.

Chairman of WELS Christian Aid and Relief Rev. Robert Hein gave an overview of the type of assistance Christian Aid and Relief provides around the world, including relief following natural disasters and humanitarian aid that supports ministry efforts of world missions and congregations in North America. Christian Aid and Relief was able to grant $466,212 for humanitarian aid in 2019 for projects such as digging boreholes for fresh water, literacy programs, and health clinics. Learn more about Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving, spoke about trends in Congregation Mission Offerings. 2018 offerings totaled $21.1 million, which was 0.7 percent below commitments and 1.2 percent below prior year receipts. 2019 subscriptions point to a decrease of 0.9 percent from 2018 actual offerings. “We thank the Lord and commend his people for these gifts and commitments,” said Lueneburg. He encouraged congregations, “When setting CMO, aim for ten percent of offerings. If at or above this goal, encourage your congregation to maintain its generous support or consider increasing it as you’re able with God’s blessing.”

Rev. Jason Hacker, pastor at Grace, Waukesha, Wis., a board of directors member for the Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG), began his presentation recognizing veterans and service members serving as delegates. The LMSG supports the needs of our military veterans and our military families of both active duty members and veterans, working closely with WELS Military Services. The goal of the LMSG is to have a liaison at every WELS congregation to provide resources and ideas to minister to service members. Learn more about the group at lutheranmilitary.org.

Speaking about the new hymnal project, Rev. Michael Schultz directed delegates to welshymnal.com for the latest updates on the project. He said 80 to 100 volunteers on 15 different committees are working on different aspects of the project. When completed, it won’t be just the hymnal, but encompass 18 different hard copy books for various elements and musical arrangements as well as worship planning software. The committee is planning to complete the new hymnal in time for Advent 2021.

 

 

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