We can count many blessings within our Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod: faithful ministers of the gospel, teachers dedicated to teaching children about Jesus, thousands of faithful lay members, musicians who use their gifts to glorify God in worship—just to name a few. As Lutherans, perhaps one of the things we’re most thankful for is what God has given us through Martin Luther, who nearly 500 years ago boldly yet humbly worked to bring the church back to the true teachings of Scripture.
It was only natural, then, that we would want to celebrate the 2017 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation as a synod on a national scale. Planning for such an event has been underway for several months. The initial plan was to have a pastors’ symposium involving all WELS pastors, a national teachers’ conference attended by all WELS teachers, and a closing worship service for called workers and WELS members in the BMO Harris Center in downtown Milwaukee. You may have read about it in the 2016 Report to the Twelve Districts, in the Together newsletter, or on the synod website. You will see a mention of it in the December WELS Connection, which has already been recorded.
As details of what would be involved in such a celebration started to unfold—where we would hold it; how many people would attend; and the costs involved for the synod, for congregations, and for called workers—we could reach only one conclusion. We concluded that it not be wise stewardship of God’s gifts to hold a national Reformation 500 event as first planned. At a price tag of approximately $400,000 or more—far higher than original estimates—the President’s office, with the consensus of the planning committee, has decided to cancel this event. In addition to the costs involved, it became clear that this celebration had the potential to detract from other events planned by districts, congregations, and Lutheran high schools.
As Luther himself would ask, “What does this mean?” It means that the fall 2017 pastors’ and teachers’ conferences, as well as the annual symposium hosted by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, will be held as regularly scheduled in their normal locations throughout the synod. Details about those individual conferences will be coming from the respective planning committees. It means that we can encourage worship leaders and musicians around the synod to attend one of three National Worship Conferences next summer without taking focus away from those popular events. It means that the talented area Lutheran high school choirs won’t be asked to leave school extra days to attend an event in Milwaukee as well as the national choral festival two weeks later in Onalaska, Wis. It means that we will encourage WELS members to attend regional or area reformation worship services near them. And, in a time of budget planning that involves no increases in synodical spending, we can focus our financial resources on ministry work—spreading the gospel, helping congregations, and supporting our ministerial education schools.
Martin Luther’s reformation is certainly worthy of celebration, and we are happy that many events are being planned at the synod, district, and congregation level around the country. In addition, the Reformation 500 committee is planning to mark this important event with various publications, Bible studies, and a special movie documentary about Luther and his work. Information about these projects and events can be found at wels.net/reformation500. If your district, circuit, or congregation is planning something special, let us know and we will add it to the listings on the website.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder
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