Luther’s Birthday, Free Conferences, and Gas Prices

November 29th, 2011 Post by

A few weeks ago many WELS, ELS, LCMS and even some other Lutherans gathered on Luther’s birthday to have a Free Conference in the great city of New Ulm, MN (a town found in my ancestry along with the great town of Courtland just outside New Ulm -  and also a great town known for its original Civil War cannons which were not scrapped in WW1 due to hiding them from the government – didn’t want to be involved in shooting at the Kaiser).

A great interest of mine is attempting to re-establish a confessional Lutheran Synodical Conference, and these Free Conferences (like the Emmaus Conference this year) are a great step that God may use to create such a relationship between the Synods again.  These conferences are allowing our theologians to get together and discuss our problems with each other in a hopefully fruitful way (the fruit is God’s work).

With distance from Cheyenne to New Ulm being what it is, and those gas prices (drill baby drill), I was not able to attend, but many of my LCMS counterparts made it, and some of my ELS friends did as well.  Prof. John Pless, one of the respondents at the conference let me know that the papers are now available online for those of us who were not allowed to be there for the conference.  Enjoy reading them – after all Advent is a good time to do some extra reading.

The papers can be found here.



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  1. November 29th, 2011 at 14:13 | #1

    Joshua: Greetings! Why are you interested in re-establishing the Synodical Conference? I know a few other people (all pastors) for whom this is an important goal. I’m curious why is it important to you, after more than half a century to re-establish this and do you have any reason to believe that there is any serious possibility of this happening? Take care and Blessed Advent.

  2. November 29th, 2011 at 15:04 | #2

    Thanks for the mention of The Emmaus Conference, Pastor. I wish I could have made it to New Ulm as I head that it was an edifying experience, as I assumed it would be.

    Just so everyone knows, the dates have been changed for The Emmaus Conference to February 9-10. This was due to several presidential scheduling conflicts that couldn’t be avoided. Get more info at and we’re hoping to see many of you there! We’ve arranged the schedule so that people can arrive Wednesday evening and leave Friday afternoon so, East Coasters, you have no excuse!

    J. Braun
    Chairman, The Emmaus Conference

  3. Bethany Kilcrease
    November 29th, 2011 at 15:30 | #3

    There was also just a great conference on Mattias Flacius held last weekend in Minnesota. See I believe the presentations are going to be made available in book format via Magdeberg Press. The speakers were Armand J. Boehme,
    Wade Johnson, Jack Kilcrease, Oliver Olson, Steve Paulson, Donavon Riley, and Paul Strawn, so it was a nice mix of conservative ELCA, LCMS, and WELS folks.

  4. November 29th, 2011 at 15:45 | #4

    Good things to read and digest. Thanks for the info wished I had been there.

    Oh and how dare you forget Herman the German!
    Herman The German:

    Herman The German:


  5. Pastor Joshua Scheer
    November 29th, 2011 at 15:48 | #5

    @Steven Anderson #1
    I am always interested in expressing visible unity in the Church (based upon the Word, not upon human agreement). I really think that the Synodical Conference helped each respective church body while it existed. It can offer correction where self-correction fails. The LCMS really only has self-correction right now, which is visible in resolutions and blogs and efforts of groups within the LCMS to bring about a conservative reformation in it. This self-correction is not as useful as having a whole church body (like WELS or ELS) or multiple church bodies offer admonition. During the last 50 years much has been lost due to the division of the old Synodical Conference. I have also been one who has gained much with my interactions with ELS pastors. I was often a guest at their winkels in my previous parish and learned a good amount from them. One scholar, much more intelligent than I, said that each respective body has drifted in a direction that was put in place at the time of the split. We have been drifting further apart, each to its own “pet” stances.

    Will such efforts succeed? I don’t know, God knows (He will bring about true unity).

    I am very glad to see the LCMS looking to WELS and ELS for friendship again, instead of to the ELCA. NALC and LCMC with their open communion and especially women’s ordination have already declared disinterest in any sort of fellowship with confessional lutherans.

  6. Pastor Joshua Scheer
    November 29th, 2011 at 15:53 | #6

    @Andrew #4
    I only used so much room, and Herman is huge!

    And I am sure many took advantage of the fine food (and drink) at the Kaiserhoff as well.

    As I type this, I wish that Wyoming had distributors of Schell’s beer from the fine Schell’s Brewing Company brewery there in New Ulm. (they now brew my favorite beer, Premium Grain Belt).

    New Ulm happens to also be the area my relatives used to break the Volstead Act in and around, making sure that Lutherans had many a Lutheran beverage!

  7. November 29th, 2011 at 15:59 | #7

    Thanks Pastor Scheer,

    I found the Kaiserhoff food with a wash down of Schell’s beer to hit the spot in my trips to New Ulm. Not to mention the scenery of the Minnesota River valley and the New Ulm Glockenspiel to remind us of a little taste of Germany.

  8. David Moseley
    November 29th, 2011 at 16:21 | #8

    Very interesting. Looks like it would be a good idea to keep Mrs. Schroeder in our prayers as she is dealing with a physical problem which kept President Schroeder from attending.

  9. November 29th, 2011 at 16:35 | #9

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #6
    Next time in MN stop by and have a Lutheran beverage on me of the Grain Belt variety. Always stocked in my fridge especially the Nordeast. :)

    I printed off a copy of “Lutheranism as Catholic and Evangelical” and look forward to reading it tonight.

  10. Rik Eischen
    December 3rd, 2011 at 11:47 | #10

    May God bring about true unity, centered in His Word. May the Holy Spirit be active in the congregations of all of these Confessional Lutheran synods, and may He overcome the failings of human pride. Kyrie Eleison. May we discuss the text of God’s Holy Word together, and listen more than speak. May God have mercy on the church, whom is in need of forgiveness and Divine direction. “God’s Word is our great heritage, and shall be ours forever…” Lord, keep us steadfast to Thy Word.

  11. December 5th, 2011 at 02:16 | #11

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer

    I also agree that the reestablishment of the Synodical Conference or a similar equivalent would be desirable if possible – and with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) right?

    The Free Conference in New Ulm was very cordial compared to experiences I have had in the past. When I attended WLC in the 1980′s, librulmizzurisynod was a single word that everyone in the WELS knew how to pronounce. Not so much at the LFC in New Ulm. I think years back there was such incredibly tight discipline in the WELS that much of what now is ‘cutting edge’ was unthinkable (church growth, contemporary worship, televangelism) in the past, now not much so and much of what the LCMS currently has, the WELS/ELS now has too, albeit in smaller measure.

    To generalize – I think with the confessional redirection in the LCMS and the confessional drift in the WELS/ELS may make it possible for the confessionally-conscious clergy & laity in the confessional synods to find each other and treat each other better than in the past when the split was too fresh, the rhetoric too hot and the personalities who allowed it to happen were still among us and running their respective synods.

    I wouldn’t entirely write off the newly formed groups such as the LCMC, NALC, etc. too quickly either. These people are recovering liberals and while there will no doubt be some committed centrists (a contradiction in terms in my mind) and center-left types among them, others are probably on the road to recovery and will find their way to a more Biblical, confessional & liturgical frame of mind before long. It will just take time and encouragement. If however we write them off now like the LCMS & the WELS/ELS have written off each other for the last 48 years then our skepticism will become a self-fulfilling prophesy. I met several men at the New Ulm event who are LCMC and they are reading books published by Concordia & Northwestern, solid stuff like Pieper & Hoenecke.

    Maybe they have had a belly-full of the higher-critical, deconstructionist, marxist, feminist, willow creek gobbledygook that ELCA served them for the last umpteen years and are developing a new appetite for wholesome Lutheran authors and theology. I wouldn’t write these pilgrims off too hastily yet. By leaving ELCA they have obeyed the call to separate (Psm 26:4-6, 2 Cor 6:17, 2 John 9-11, Rev 18:4) from a false church – I think we should try to put the best construction on their situation for a while taking a friendly wait-and-see attitude toward them rather than toss them back to ELCA.

  12. Pastor Joshua Scheer
    December 5th, 2011 at 22:38 | #12

    @Jim McGarigle #11
    I appreciate your words concerning the new synods of LCMC and NALC. I have tried to keep up to date on them. Although publicly they say differently, in reality, the church bodies were formed to have two things:
    1. Women pastors
    2. Open Communion
    and maybe only one issue – women pastors.

    Otherwise there would have been options for them to join other Synods (like the AFLC for instance).

    That is why they had to form new synods to start with.

    God could work a miracle through them and they could come to repentance (that is my prayer), but frankly when even their leadership is filled with female clergy, it is not very promising.

    I think the LCMS, WELS, ELS all working together may be able to speak law to them to show them their continued sin.

  13. December 6th, 2011 at 11:33 | #13

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer

    I agree Pastor, those are not good things (open communion & female clergy) but we also have to remember that God raised up Charles Porterfield Krauth out from under Schmucker’s General Synod. If God was able to call these folks out of ELCA, He can still do greater things with them yet. If those are their chief sins, they have still succeeded in turning back the clock at least 24 years to where the ALC was prior to the blasphemous ELCA merger!

    Although American Lutheranism is certainly in crisis on many fronts, there is a clear confessional / conservative realignment going on. The same thing seems to be happening concurrently in Anglicanism (as recently observed by Pres Harrison). My own humble opinion is that we should accentuate and encourage the positive, pray earnestly about the negative and have an attitude of guarded optimism toward it all and look for opportunities as the Lord provides them.

    I agree that as you said,

    “I think the LCMS, WELS, ELS all working together may be able to speak law to them to show them their continued sin.”

    I also think that until we are at an utter impasse (remember these synods are still forming and they have a lot of unsettled issues) we should keep talking to them because over time some laity and clergy might find they are still in fellowship with persistent errorists and decide they would like to do better and if we keep lines of communication open while still acknowledging differences in a way that is not aloof, overly confrontational or judgmental we might be able to grow the confessional fold.

    When I was younger I grew up in a center/right ALC congregation and left it immediately for the WELS at the time of the ELCA merger. At that time I had pretty pietistic and charismatic beliefs but after attending WLC part time for a year and then Bethany Lutheran for 2 years, I had undergone a pretty thorough transformation theologically. Sitting at the feet of professors like Mark Braun, David Thompson, Erling Teigen and the late Glenn Reichwald had a curative effect on my former beliefs.

    I think if we make our colleges & seminaries (LCMS, WELS & ELS) available to eligible candidates for the ministry it could serve as a corrective for those newly forming Lutheran bodies. If we don’t the future may be fairly predictable.

    That said, God is still in control and He is greater than our flesh, our pride or our politics and He will have the final say – even if we fail, He will never fail.

    BTW, the LFC in New Ulm was great :-)

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