Convention includes several special guests

Pastors from several sister church bodies and from other Lutheran synods attended the WELS synod convention as special guests. WELS President Mark Schroeder introduced these men to the delegates Tuesday morning.

Four of these guests are from church bodies with whom WELS will be declaring fellowship during the convention: Rev. Dr. Kebede Yigezu from the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia; Rev. Titus Tse from South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (Hong Kong); and two pastors from East Asia Lutheran Synod. More information about the fellowship declarations will be in tomorrow’s edition of Together.

Rev. Glenn Obenberger, the first vice president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), will be addressing delegates on Wednesday about our sister synod based in Minnesota. Since its formation in 1918, this church body of about 19,000 souls in 130 congregations has been in fellowship with WELS.

Rev. Michael Eichstadt is visiting from the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). Representatives from WELS, the ELS, and the CLC have been meeting over the past few years in formal doctrinal discussions to determine whether the three synods are still separated by doctrinal differences. Convention delegates will be voting whether or not to approve a statement that representatives from these three church bodies drafted that addresses the question of when church bodies in fellowship should separate if false doctrine appears. Formal doctrinal discussions will be continuing in the future.

A representative from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker, is observing the convention. Over the past five years, WELS, the ELS, and the LCMS have been meeting for informal discussions to clarify where our synods agree and where disagreements remain. Another meeting is scheduled for later this year.

Finally Rev. Michael Herbst and his son Daniel traveled from Germany to the convention. Herbst, pastor at St. Johanneskirche, Zwickau-Planitz, is thrilled to represent our sister synod the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany at the WELS convention during this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation. “I’m very thankful to be invited,” he says. He especially enjoyed the opening worship service and being able to sing and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, all believing the same thing—“one voice,” he says. Herbst will share more with delegates about the ELFK and its work to share the pure gospel in Germany in a presentation on Wednesday.




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Election of first vice president and secretary

On Tuesday morning, Rev. James Huebner was re-elected to his third four-year term as first vice president of WELS. He was first elected to the position in 2009.

“I’m just humbly grateful. It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to serve the Lord in this way, especially to be able to have the chance to work with such wonderful gifts of the church in the men who are in leadership in the church body,” says Huebner, who serves as pastor at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis.

He continues, “You know what the Word of God says about us personally and you look in your heart and know you don’t deserve to have this privilege to be in the ministry in general and then also to serve the synod. But then you thank God also for his promises that he’s going to give you the strength and the insight.”

The first vice president assists the president and serves as a member of the Conference of Presidents; as a non-voting, ex-officio vice chairman of the Synodical Council; and as an advisory member on the Commission on Inter-Church Relations.

On Tuesday, delegates also elected Rev. Robert Pasbrig as the WELS recording secretary. Pasbrig has served as synod secretary since 2005.

Elections for chairmen and members for various synod boards and commissions will be conducted throughout the convention. Look for full election results at the conclusion of the convention at




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Our great heritage

A beautiful church packed with more than 700 booming voices all passionately singing out “A Mighty Fortress” set the tone for WELS’ 64th biennial synod convention. The theme for this year’s convention is “Our Great Heritage,” a distinctive Lutheran nod to the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation being celebrated by Christians around the world this year. “Our Great Heritage” reminds convention delegates and attendees that our faith is rooted in the teachings of Martin Luther, whose mission was to teach Christians of his day, and for centuries after, that the Bible is the only true Word of God.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder presided over the opening worship service, Mon., July 31, at St. Mark’s in Watertown, Wis. Rev. Jonathan Schroeder, Faith, Sharpsburg, Ga., served as preacher, delivering a sermon reflecting on Martin Luther’s famous statement, “Here I stand.”

“If we can be known as the church that proclaims radical grace, that’s an excellent thing because that’s where the church has stood and I hope that’s where we stand in the next 500 years,” he says. “The privilege of being able to speak to the convention and being asked to share God’s Word with them, especially on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it was a wonderful honor.” The worship service can be viewed online. (Please note that the service is split between two videos, which can be found on the right-hand side of the screen.)

President Schroeder presented his “President’s Report” Tuesday morning. After discussing the state of the synod and how WELS ministry reflects principles of our Lutheran heritage, he concluded:

“As we mark 500 years of the Lutheran Reformation, we pray that God will move us to rededicate ourselves to the biblical truths that God so graciously restored to his church and which he has passed down to us as the heirs of that Reformation. In every sermon preached, in every Bible class taught, in every opportunity to share what we believe, may he enable us to know and confess that we are saved by God’s grace alone, that we receive that blessing through faith alone, and that we are sure of that truth because of Scripture alone. Holding on to that heritage, we will by God’s grace be permitted to share in the glorious privilege of serving as his witnesses, and we will have the joy of passing that heritage down to the next generations of God’s people.” The full report can be read online.

Continuing with the theme, Prof. John Brenner read the convention essay. He titled it “God’s Word is our great heritage.”

Brenner says, “Through the Reformation, God delivered some really tremendous gifts to his people, but Lutherans really have not always retained those gifts as other Christians, including Old Testament people, didn’t either. So I wanted to emphasize how great our heritage is and the fact because it’s that great, we want to do everything in our power to preserve it, but then also to share it.”

This is the second synod convention essay that Brenner had the privilege to present. He teaches systematic theology, Christian doctrine, and church history at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., where he’s served for 26 years. The essay is available to read online.




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Ministry Financial Plan steady

Tuesday morning WELS Chief Financial Officer Mr. Todd Poppe presented the state of the synod’s Ministry Financial Plan (budget) to delegates. While the ministry financial plan is well documented in the Book of Reports and Memorials (page 127), Poppe reminded delegates that while God greatly blesses our synod, the harvest fields are vast and there is work to do.

Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) are the main source of support for WELS ministry. While CMO has slightly increased, it is not keeping up with inflation, and therefore, has remained flat for about 10 years, creating an increasing strain at maintaining ministries at current levels and using up reserves.

As Poppe explains, “The proposed ministry financial plan keeps WELS on solid financial ground, but projected near-flat Congregation Mission Offerings when costs are increasing 3.5 percent could challenge WELS’ ability to maintain ministries beyond the 2017–19 biennium.”

In order to maintain existing ministry with these rising costs and flat revenue, the Synodical Council authorized a greater use of reserves in the ministry financial plan being presented for the upcoming biennium. As these reserves are drawn down, funding future ministry becomes more difficult unless offerings increase.

The Financial Stabilization Fund (FSF) continues to be sound. The FSF holds all non-CMO sources of support for one or more years after receipt, allowing for more stable financial planning. Poppe provided an update to the convention regarding that FSF, noting that since BORAM has been printed, unexpected gifts to WELS have put the FSF in a more favorable situation.

New this summer, WELS congregations, schools, and other organizations are encouraged to consider Church Mutual for organizational insurance needs. Church Mutual and WELS have joined in a group insurance program, where WELS congregations, schools, and organizations can benefit from a safety dividend, which equates to a cost savings, through Church Mutual. Poppe says, “WELS has entrusted the coverage of its buildings, property, and people to Church Mutual for more than 40 years. As we look around at our many blessings, it makes sense to protect God’s gifts in the best possible way, so that we can continue to expand ministry.”

Most notably, Poppe and President Mark Schroeder marked the retirement of the synod’s debt by shredding a copy of the debt statement. Two years ago, the synod in convention voted to launch a campaign to retire the debt early. Through God’s grace, WELS members offered their gifts to support this goal, and the debt was paid off a year and a half ahead of schedule.

To read the full financial report, view the BORAM online.




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Treptow explains Compensation Review Committee recommendations

On Tuesday morning, Rev. Earle Treptow, chairman of the Compensation Review Committee and a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., detailed the recommendations of the Compensation Review Committee. The group is a standing committee of the Synodical Council, but it took on a more active role after the 2015 synod in convention approved a resolution calling for a “thorough review” of the WELS Compensation Guidelines.

“In the early stages of the project, the committee envisioned a radical reworking of the guidelines currently in place,” says Treptow. “The more we wrestled with the issues, however, the more we recognized the excellent work that had been done in putting together the current compensation guidelines. The problem has been that calling bodies haven’t consistently applied the guidelines.”

Once the committee arrived at that realization, the focus shifted away from a complete revision toward a modification of the current guidelines.

As Treptow notes, “Much of the inconsistency in applying the guidelines stemmed from a lack of understanding. So, the Compensation Review Committee committed itself to repackaging the compensation guidelines in such a way that calling bodies would find them easier to apply. Only slight modifications were made to the current guidelines, so the financial impact on the work we do together as a synod should be minimal.”

During his presentation to delegates, Treptow showed delegates the new web-based calculator that can help calling bodies to determine a fair and equitable compensation package for their called workers. WELS Technology created this calculator to replace the existing Excel worksheet that Human Resources provides to calling bodies working on called worker compensation. This new called worker compensation calculator automates many of the tasks that previously required research and data entry by calling bodies.

Treptow emphasized to delegates, “What the Compensation Review Committee desires, above all else, is that calling bodies would approach compensation matters prayerfully, thoughtfully, and carefully. We want calling bodies, through their leaders, to think about the gospel ministry being carried out in their midst. More specifically, we want them to reflect on the responsibilities entrusted to each worker, the time that is being invested in carrying out those responsibilities, and the additional education the worker has pursued. Then the calling body can determine a salary based on knowledge of, and appreciation for, the important work the Lord’s servant is doing in its name.”

Floor Committee #8: Compensation Review is discussing the Compensation Review Committee’s recommendations and will present one or more resolutions later in this convention for consideration by all the delegates.





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