Tag Archive for: Together11182014

Seminary hosts Asian conference

From Nov. 12-13, pastors originally from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Korea attended an Asian Conference held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.

These men are the spiritual leaders and drivers of outreach to Asian peoples in North America and also overseas. Participants gathered in their respective ethnic groups to discuss plans for reaching out and expanding their ministry. Rev. Keith Free, WELS Board for Home Missions administrator, and Rev. Paul Prange, the coordinator of global cross-cultural outreach, were available to assist with those plans. Rev. Michael Hintz, director of the Commission on Evangelism, discussed ways participants might involve all the members of the congregation in outreach.

The conference wasn’t only about planning, but also about encouraging each other in the Word. Prof. Steve Geiger led a discussion on teaching adults, sharing that while some application varies from culture to culture, there are concepts, strategies, and methods that apply to everyone.

As everyone went home renewed to serve, Prof. E. Allen Sorum, says, “It is very exciting to see how the people our church body is already serving here in North America are building bridges for the gospel in many parts of our world.”

WELS VEBA open enrollment deadline

Don’t miss out! The deadline for the WELS VEBA health care plan limited open enrollment is Nov. 30. Eligible workers at WELS/Evangelical Lutheran Synod organizations that have at least one worker already using WELS VEBA can enroll.

WELS established the WELS VEBA health care plan more than 30 years ago to provide for its workers’ health care needs. About 80 percent of WELS and ELS calling bodies provide this nationwide, long-term health coverage to their pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and lay workers.

“WELS VEBA’s strength lies in the large number of workers and calling bodies across the country that join together and participate in our synod’s health plan,” says Mr. Joshua Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans. “In this way, WELS VEBA has been able to provide consistent, comprehensive benefits to our workers and their families for generations.”

To learn more about the benefits of WELS VEBA and the plans it offers, visitwww.welsbpo.net.

New direction for Muslim outreach

The Joint Mission Council (JMC), which comprises representatives from both Home Missions and World Missions who work collaboratively to meet cross-cultural ministry opportunities, has evaluated the Outreach to Muslim program and is preparing to take the ministry in a new direction.

The JMC determined it would be better stewardship of resources to focus assistance in Muslim outreach at the congregational level in areas with Muslim populations around them and to new congregations that may be started in the future in areas with high density Muslim populations. In addition, funding will be directed toward World Mission efforts in countries with Muslim populations.

With this change, the current position of Muslim outreach coordinator, held by Rev. Pieter Reid, will end on June 30, 2015. The Outreach to Muslims Committee will continue to function to assist in efforts, utilizing the expertise of Reid when possible.

Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions, says, “We’re very thankful to Rev. Pieter Reid for the 22 years of ministry to Muslims in Indonesia as well as in the United States. He and his wife, Marlys, certainly have raised our church body’s awareness about reaching out to Muslims.”

Learn more about WELS cross cultural ministries at www.wels.net/missions.

Missions opportunities in Ethiopia

Prof. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., and two South Sudanese PSI students, Peter Bur and Simon Duoth, visited Ethiopia Oct. 14 to Nov. 6 to explore new opportunities for mission outreach in Africa on behalf of WELS Missions.

One opportunity involved teaching and encouraging refugees from the Nuer tribe, who fled to Ethiopia because of civil unrest in South Sudan. Five of the local pastors contacted Bur, a South Sudanese refugee who emigrated to the United States and is now a member at Good Shepherd, Omaha, Neb., to ask for spiritual training. “These five pastors all grew up with Peter Bur in various situations. They were together in South Sudan. They were together in refugee camps in various parts of Africa. Peter was always the leader,” says Sorum. “If Peter Bur wanted to share his discovery of WELS with these five men, these men wanted to hear the details.”

At a refugee camp in Gambella, Bur and Sorum explained confessional Lutheran Christianity to these five pastors as well as to 80 others who traveled from neighboring camps. “When these pastors and their members heard the truth about Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, conversion, justification, the universal priesthood, inspiration, they were dropped jawed, over-awed,” says Sorum.

Sorum says that these men were very open when talking about doctrinal differences and wanted to hear what the Bible teaches. “These five pastors possess a humility that was rooted in their own sincere relationship with God and in their desire to serve God’s people well with the power of his true Word,” he says.

Sorum, Bur, and Duoth also met with the local government to discuss humanitarian aid needs, which include a water purification system and mobile health clinics.

According to Sorum, immediate opportunities abound to share hope through Jesus with a hurting population, which could lead to future possibilities for further outreach when these refugees return to the South Sudan. “Hundreds of thousands of people are up to their ears in human misery right now,” says Sorum. “They’re sitting in refugee camps. They can’t work, and they’re anxious to be involved in something meaningful while they’re waiting to get back into their homeland.” He says that he feels many of these opportunities can be met by working with and through Bur and other WELS South Sudanese members in the United States.

While in Ethiopia, Sorum also met with Rev. Dr. Kebede Getachew Yigezu, who contacted WELS in 2013 to discuss fellowship possibilities. Kebede has gathered a group of like-minded Christians in and near his hometown of Bishoftu, and registered the church with the Ethiopian government as the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia (LCE). The church numbers 300 members. “The members of the LCE earnestly seek membership in the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference so they can stand with and be encouraged by fellow Lutherans of the Reformation heritage,” says Sorum.

Sorum spent two weeks discussing doctrine with Kebede and LCE members and sharing seminars on leadership and preaching with students in the LCE’s college and seminary program. He also talked extensively with Kebede on his future plans for his theological program. “He’s trying to provide solid theological resources for the people of his country,” says Sorum. “These are adults who want to enhance their ministry skills. They’re interested in solid biblical teaching, and they’ve learned the LCE gives that.”

According to Sorum, there is potential to connect Kebede’s seminary program with the South Sudanese refugees who are looking for more spiritual training.

Discussion is underway to determine the next steps in working with both the South Sudanese refugees and the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia. “The Board for WELS World Missions has the responsibility of evaluating new world mission opportunities,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of World Missions. “We will be investigating the next best steps so we can move quickly to facilitate this growing partnership with Sudanese and Ethiopian brothers in the United States and Africa.”

View a slideshow from the trip to Ethiopia

Synodical Council holds fall meeting

At its fall meeting the Synodical Council (SC) adopted a first draft of the Ministry Financial Plan (budget). The initial plan calls for no planned increases in spending for each of the next two years. The decision for a “no increase” plan reflected the SC’s decision to take a conservative approach initially. Since this is a first draft, changes to the plan may still be made at the SC’s February meeting when it finalizes its recommendation that will be presented to the synod convention in July. As the SC makes final plans it will take into consideration actual mission offerings in 2014, as well as Congregation Mission Offering subscriptions for 2015.

The SC adopted a policy requiring specific SC approval if areas of ministry or synodical schools plan to spend more than what was approved by the synod convention or if they desire to add staff beyond approved levels.

The SC was briefed on the WELS VEBA health plan, especially as to how the plan may be affected by the Affordable Care Act. WELS VEBA provides uniform coverage for our workers at the same cost regardless of age. Both the SC and the Conference of Presidents desire to keep the plan healthy and viable. Doing so will provide adequate health insurance for our workers, prevent congregations with older workers from paying extremely high premiums for insurance, and will help to ensure that health insurance does not adversely affect our calling system. WELS VEBA began communicating these issues with congregations last month.

The SC took other actions, including:

  • Adopted a building fund policy to ensure that the new WELS Center for Mission and Ministry is properly maintained.
  • Re-appointed Mr. John Tappe and Mr. Kenneth Zehm to the Church Extension Fund (CEF) board.
  • Approved a change in the CEF bylaws allowing the CEF board more flexibility in making grants to the Board for Home Missions.
  • Began to assemble a prioritized list of unfunded priorities to be presented to the synod convention in July.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder