The WELS convention, by Rick Techlin

Rick Techlin, a BJS  reader  and a blogger is posting information about the Wisconsin Synod Convention (WELS) convention in Saginaw, Michigan on his blog. We will be posting periodic snippets here on the the BJS site; readers who want more frequent updates may want to visit his blog site or the WELS News Page. The convention runs M-F this week, and as stated below you can view it live on the WELS streaming site.


wels_logoThe Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) biennial convention convenes on Monday, July 27 in Saginaw, Michigan, and runs through Friday, July 31, 2009 A.D. There are many important issues at stake that will affect the future of our synod. Here are links to some important web sites and documents regarding the convention:

2009 Book of Reports and Memorials (BORAM). This document is a summary of “the business that will come before the convention.” It describes the activities, plans, and issues facing the synod; and also contains “formal requests from groups or individuals … to address specific issues.”

Final Report of the Ad Hoc Commission. This commission was charged with evaluating the synod’s problems, and making recommendations to deal with those problems. Here is a sampling of some of the recommendations along with my comments:

  • We recommend that the 2009 Synod in Convention appoint a group to bring a comprehensive redistricting recommendation to the 2011 convention.” (Page 15).

Some districts are too large for effective pastoral oversight from the District President (bishop). Shrinking the size of a large district should better enable the local District President to actively deal with false doctrine and practice.

  • We recommend that a flexible program of continuing education with standards and minimum requirements for all called workers be developed …” (Page 24).

If implemented well, this could be very beneficial. Not only would it continually stress the importance of ongoing education, but it could also help our pastors maintain their essential language skills in Greek, Hebrew, German, and Latin.

  • We recommend that the Conference of Presidents initiate a synod-wide review of key doctrines and practical issues … in an effort to foster and preserve unity in doctrine and practice.” (Page 25).
  • We recommend that the … approach to study [of doctrine & practice] should incorporate insights from church fathers, Lutheran confessional documents, [and] insights from the history and experience of the Christian church through the ages…” (Pages 25-26).

The above approach uses the Lutheran (correct) understanding of sola Scriptura that teaches that the Scriptures are able to be rightly understood, not just by our generation, but by all generations. Saint Paul wrote to the Ephesians, that in “reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.” (3:4). And Jesus promised that he would be with His Church “always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 27:20).

One of the areas of suggested study is “The Sacramental Life.” (Page 27). The report states:

Prior to the 1700s, the life of the evangelical Lutheran church was more immersed in and focused upon the sacraments as part of the Christian’s regular spiritual nourishment. German pietism in the 1700s downplayed the sacraments, and the Lutheran church has never fully recovered from pietism’s detrimental effects.

First, this study will emphasize that the gospel is primarily nourishment for the soul and not mere information. Second, this study will emphasize the very Lutheran understanding of daily baptismal awareness and Holy Communion as the tangible expression of the gospel. Third, the study will emphasize a thirst for and appreciation of confession and absolution. [Emphasis added].

– Finally, Streams will be carrying live coverage of the convention streaming over the internet.

wels_logoIn a recent article entitled, “Counting our blessings at convention time,” President Schroeder expressed thanks, that unlike the ELCA, the WELS “is committed to the truth of God’s Word in all we believe and do.” It is my prayer that God will guide the synod in convention and each congregation to make that commitment written on paper in the Book of Concord into a living commitment to do genuine Confessional Lutheranism in accord with God’s word and the best traditions of the historic Christian Church.

Kyrie eleison.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

The WELS convention, by Rick Techlin — 19 Comments

  1. “Shrinking the size of a large district should better enable the local District President to actively deal with false doctrine and practice.”

    Wow, you mean there is still a Lutheran synod that wants its District Presidents to deal with false doctrine and practice.

  2. Wow, you mean there is still a Lutheran synod that wants its District Presidents to deal with false doctrine and practice?

    Answer: By the Grace of God, Yes.

    And we’re not the only ones. Granted, after nearly 30 years of indulging the practices of the Church Growth Movement, it may appear that we’ve gone soft on doctrine, but in that time, particularly among the laity, more particularly among young men with families — and especially among those, such as myself, who have been lead by the working of the Holy Spirit out of the shallowness and confusion of pop-church Evangelicalism into the doctrinal purity of the Lutheran Confession — the false practices of CGM and the impact of those practices on sound doctrine have sufficiently grated the sensibilities of those who wish to be conscientious Lutherans, so as to drive us to Scripture and the Confessions, in order to to gain clarity and stand firm in our response against them. Among us, doctrine is life; and now the ranks of steely-eyed Confessional Crusaders are beginning to fill.

    And now we have a leader. Listen to the first 42 minutes of Synod President Mark Schroeder’s President’s Report, given Monday, July 27: 2009 WELS Convention: President’s Report

    WELS isn’t perfect. Neither is ELS. And, what the heck (as long as I’m being presumptuous), I’ll add the CLC and LCR to that list. But as Synodical church bodies, we care about doctrine, we care about practice, and we care about true Confessional unity. In our case, one of the problems has been lax oversight of the districts, particularly in the larger metropolitan areas. Reducing the size of the districts means reducing the influence of entrenched DPs in these areas, while creating new districts and providing opportunity for Confessional pastors to rise in answer to the Divine Call of district leadership. I don’t think, as some seem to disparingly put it, that we have entered a post-synodical age of Lutheranism. However, I do begin to feel the rumblings of Confessional re-alignment in America (but who knows, perhaps that’s just indigestion…).

    But getting to this point — to the brink of beginning to push back the error of CGM — has required an active laity, given the political box our conservative and Confessional clergy have found themselves trapped in. As much as we would all like to celebrate and think that the victory over error has been won, in reality, in the case of CGM in WELS, it has only officially begun. The issue has finally, and officially, been publicly raised by President Schroeder and the Council of Presidents. And they have called for Synod-wide discussion. This is no time for the laity to rest.

    Indeed, this side of physical death and the Resurrection, there will never be time for Christians to rest in the face of Satan’s onslaught of deceit. We are the Church Militant. Struggle against the deceits of Satan, the enticements of the World, and the lusts of the Flesh is what we do. How interesting that CGM assaults us as all three at once. How much of other falsehoods do the same…

    Freddy Finkelstein

  3. I don’t think, as some seem to disparingly put it, that we have entered a post-synodical age of Lutheranism.

    1. Define this post-synodicalism that you are disparaging.

    2. Cite precisely who is using the term disparagingly and how.

    Personally, I don’t think you understand the term, and that’s what’s leading you to make false statements about those who have used it.

    If WELS can clean up its church growth trash, perhaps it can then start towards adopting a scriptural doctrine of Church and Ministry, too.

    EJG

  4. Interestingly, Freddy Finkelstein writes on his own blog:

    the Sunday morning drive to the local WELS congregation has become increasingly miserable, as, having no idea what to expect anymore, I anxiously wonder, With what form of innovation or offense will I be confronted this time?

    which is a statement specifically proving that American Lutheranism is in a ‘post-synodical’ state in precisely the way that those in The Augustana Ministerium have been using (and constantly supplying the definition for and examples of) that term.

    Only in waking up to that reality is one able to navigate it and do what is best for his family’s spiritual life, etc…just as FF demonstrates, as he’s posting about the ELLC Locator at http://LutheranLiturgy.org–a site that is necessary/useful only if we are in a post-synodical era.

    EJG

  5. ECG,

    My apologies for the apparent offense. As I stated above, “I don’t think, as some seem to disparingly (sic) put it, that we have entered a post-synodical age of Lutheranism. However, I do begin to feel the rumblings of Confessional re-alignment in America…”

    You ask me to define and cite precisely who is using the term “post-synodical” disparagingly. I didn’t mean to say “disparagingly”, but horribly misspelled “despairingly,” as in “seems to disparingly (sic) put it.” The term has come up this way in personal conversation often enough that I thought to include it, above (and perhaps I shouldn’t have). The “despair” in these contexts seems to be derived from the prospect of compromising unity in either doctrine or practice in order to associate with, or of eliminating fellowship with, others outside one’s congregation.
    Is this not cause for despair? For us, it is.

    Your quote from me, above, regarding “the drive to the local WELS congregation…” is accurate. Of course, in context, “the local congregation” is one that is unknown to me personally while on business or vacation travels, and the “misery” I describe is an indication of how practice is less and less frequently indicative of doctrinal unity and integrity among us. It is, indeed, an indication of the direction things have been heading, which are in need of, and seem to be in the process of, correction. So I admitted, the situation is not perfect. But as I also intended to communicate, President Schroeder’s Report is cause for heightened optimism for Confessionals in WELS, though not cause for their retirement from continued involvement. I am optimistic.

    Again, my apologies for the misunderstanding.

    Freddy Finkelstein

  6. Freddy F, love Finkelsteinery! Rick, great post, as we have (me & my other/better half) have departed the LCMS for WELS, great info. It appears from our standpoint, we have found “our grandfather’s church”. Small area, slim pickins, tough choice. As a dad of two who are coming up for conformation, I had to make the hard choice. I/we can’t wait for the LCMS to get on the ball & come back to “their first love”. After checking the “TDM” posts here,& many others, I know I/we made the right decision for my faith & my family’s. Glad to see WELS & ELS are here at BJS too. Preserve our Truth (Sola Scriptura, doctrine, etc) & let’s remember & preserve what makes us Lutheran Belivers.

  7. If one does not know what to expect when one enters a church of a certain synod, is not the very definition of being post-synodical?

    Or put another way, regardless of which synod you care to name, is it not an oxymoron as long as one does not know what he will get in any given congregation of a particular synod?

  8. Thanks much Pastor Rossow.
    Was worried posting my comments for this. Still care for the LCMS, but they are too far down that road to get back to what they once were, and I’m not willing to wait & see. Too much at stake for me & mine. When I’ve got to pay a fee to pray, forced in study Contemplative Prayer or take a Myers/Briggs to judge my “usefullness” to the synod or local church, etc., (priviliges & honors Christ won for me), TIME TO GO. I may be a RAT/sinner, but I do know when a ship is sinking…r.i.p L.C.M.S. BTW, there goes their main goal…my $$$$ & a warm body. Thank our Lord there IS AN WELS/ELS to go to.

  9. How do confessional Lutherans in Wisconsin and the ELS view confessionals in the Missouri Synod? Are there any who are concerned about Wisconsin’s view of church and ministry, about the rejection of the Waltherian teaching they claim to represent?

  10. Ramstein,

    As a life-long member, I am glad for the WELS; but I am also grateful for the LCMS. The WELS did not produce the latest issue of the “Book of Concord,” or the “Treasury of Daily Prayer,” or the upcoming “The Lutheran Study Bible,” or for that matter the resurrected “Issues, Etc.” Also, I am aware of no similar strong organized confessional movement like BJS in the WELS.

    I attended the BJS convention in Naperville, and was saddened to not be able to attend communion when I knew that I had more in common theologically with the men there than I do with … well, some others.

    All Confessional Lutherans and all Christians need each other. We are all members of one body, the Body of Christ. As such, we need each other, and we should be able to rejoice in each others’ triumphs and console each other in defeat. I am heartened by President Schroeder’s report, not because I now believe that all is well (all is far far from well), but rather because I see the Church militant beginning to engage the enemy on a new front. Raising the banner, and charging into the fray does not a victory make; but we know that God is for us no matter whether we are there with Solomon at the dedication of the first Temple, or we are with Elijah lonely in a cave.

    May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. [John 17:23].

    Rick T.

  11. “We recommend that the … approach to study [of doctrine & practice] should incorporate insights from church fathers, Lutheran confessional documents, [and] insights from the history and experience of the Christian church through the ages…” (Pages 25-26).
    The above approach uses the Lutheran (correct) understanding of sola Scriptura that teaches that the Scriptures are able to be rightly understood, not just by our generation, but by all generations”

    That’s exciting language, but substantially the same as what Chemnitz says in Examination of the Council of Trent, Vol. 1, bottom of p. 208 to top of 209. I’ve tended, not based on firsthand experience, to think of the WELS as sectarian. Certainly I seemed often to encounter a sectarian attitude in the ELS (till my pastor and congregation were cast out therefrom and I was out of the ELS milieu). Perhaps times are changing as younger guys who cut their teeth on Sasse and Chemnitz, and even Athanasius and Irenaeus, become pastors and teachers.

  12. PS Somewhere Sasse says, “A church without patristics becomes a sect.” I think he meant something more than referring to precedents set by Pieper and George Lillegard. 🙂

  13. I must confess a certain degree of envy for a Lutheran Synod which has as a President a man who is willing to submit to Pr. Wilken and his open questioning on Issues.Etc (Issues.Etc May 27, 2009 – Lutheranism in America with WELS President Pr. Mark Schroeder.) If you have not had the pleasure of this interview, I highly commend this segment for your listening.

    In the same light, I can not but wonder how our Synodical President would fare in the same venue. I know – pigs will fly before President Kieschnick sits at a mike with Pr. Wilken – but that’s the point. President Schroeder can and did sit down and discuss Lutheranism with a Pastor from another Synod (knowing this Pr. Wilken is not one to pull punches and he did not in this interview.) Nor did the WELS President shrink from his answers nor be evasive.

    I find the new WELS logo of a Cross implanted among the world very telling when juxtaposed with the absent Cross portrayed in the LCMS “future” – Walking Together. Would that our logo clearly present Christ and the Cross as clearly as our Wisconsin breatheran have done with their choice of logo.

  14. FF,

    I’m sorry that I didn’t properly understand what you had meant.

    You write:

    You ask me to define and cite precisely who is using the term “post-synodical” disparagingly. I didn’t mean to say “disparagingly”, but horribly misspelled “despairingly,” as in “seems to disparingly (sic) put it.” The term has come up this way in personal conversation often enough that I thought to include it, above (and perhaps I shouldn’t have). The “despair” in these contexts seems to be derived from the prospect of compromising unity in either doctrine or practice in order to associate with, or of eliminating fellowship with, others outside one’s congregation.

    The thing is, among those who coined the term (The Augustana Ministerium), no despair has been indicated. We do not despair at knowing the situation, but seek and provide resources for dealing with it, including looking outside of any one particular synod for VBS or SS materials, etc. As someone (maybe you) mentioned upstream, several fine books have been printed by CPH recently. Their SS is better than it used to be, too. I would still prefer Pax Domini for both VBS and SS–especially considering how much you save by purchasing their excellent material. At any rate, this is what one is to do with the acknowledgment of a ‘post-synodical’ reality: not despair, but cultivate every avenue of procuring resources to facilitate proper catechesis and the proclamation of the Gospel, knowing that no one current synod is producing everything that needs to be produced, nor marketing only what they’d ought to.

    EJG

  15. “We recommend that a flexible program of continuing education with standards and minimum requirements for all called workers be developed …” (Page 24).

    If implemented well, this could be very beneficial. Not only would it continually stress the importance of ongoing education, but it could also help our pastors maintain their essential language skills in Greek, Hebrew, German, and Latin.

    The word “requirements” is troubling. It takes pastors out of being “Called” to being “licensed”; it moves the fundamental relationship of the pastor from being with the congregation to being with the synod.

    I’m all for continuing education, but when it makes Call and Ordination revocable, it is simply another aspect of ‘hire and fire’.

    (Of course, the term “called workers” is problematic, too, but only marginally more so for WELS than for LCMS.)

    EJG

  16. Illustribus:

    This is the first time I’ve posted on this forum, but I didn’t want to let this statement go without comment.
    I’m addressing post #13 by Dale Nelson — July 30, 2009, who wrote: “I’ve tended, not based on firsthand experience, to think of the WELS as sectarian.”

    As a life-long WELS member, I’ve heard that sort of stuff from members of the LC-MS and of liberal synods far too often. As a WELS pastor, I’ve had the privilege of studying the development of Lutheran thought and attitudes over the ages. It seems that WELS has often been demonized among many other Lutherans as if we were legalistic, reactionary, ol’ German sticks-in-the-mud, sectarian, unreasonable, undereducated, etc.

    Please let me assure you that in every way those notions are wrong!

    First, the history: The WELS did NOT break off fellowship relations with the LC-MS! We are usually accused of this, but only by people who don’t know what really happened. The WELS did testify to the LC-MS throughout the 1940s and 1950s about the errors of using the historical-critical method and the folly of moving closer to those liberal “Lutherans” who were using it. When the ELS severed fellowship ties with the LC-MS, the WELS had to decide with whom it would remain in fellowship. WELS people and pastors and professors suffered a great deal of Angst over this gut-wrenching decision. Because WELS did not also severe fellowship ties with Missouri in 1957, WELS suffered a big split as about 70 congregations followed their pastors out of the WELS. (They formed the CLC.)

    In 1959 the WELS voted not yet to break fellowship with Missouri, but to give Missouri another warning not to declare fellowship with the ALC. The LC-MS convention in 1960 buried the WELS overture in committee and never even took it to the convention floor; instead, it recommended that Missouri declare fellowship with the ALC – which recommendation was overwhelmingly approved.

    Now if my wife runs off with Joe Stud and I have too go to the courthouse to recognize legally what has in fact already occurred, namely, that our marriage has been broken, who is to blame for the divorce?

    That’s what happened between the WELS and LC-MS. After Missouri ignored her former fellowship partner WELS and ran off with Joe Stud ALC, the WELS very tearfully recognized at its 1961 convention what had in fact already occurred: Missouri had broken the fellowship.

    Wisconsin did not break off fellowship with Missouri! And WELS is by no means sectarian, neither in fact nor in spirit. We in WELS want little more than to be back in fellowship with the LC-MS – but not at the cost of one iota of doctrine. Is that sectarian?

    St. Paul said in 1Cor 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

    Faithfulness to God’s Word as norma normans, and to the Confessions as norma normata, is by no means sectarian. Insisting that the church be “perfectly united in mind and thought” is by no means sectarian. Insisting that Christians faithfully apply Romans 16:17 to “mark those who cause divisions and offenses which are contrary to the doctrine you have been taught, and avoid them” is by no means sectarian. It is faithfulness. It is confessionalism. It is loving God first, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

    “God’s Word is our great heritage, and shall be our forever! To spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor! … Lord, grant while worlds endure we keep its teachings pure….” Is that sectarian?

    We in the WELS are not sectarian in the least – and we resent as either ignorant or naive any such implications. People who say that about us simply don’t know us – nor do they understand the history of the Synodical Conference.

    I would love to visit with anyone on this (or any other) subject! However, I’m about to leave for Israel and won;t be back until September 16th (God willing).

    May the Good Shepherd gracious bless you all and the flocks to which you belong and in which you serve as shepherds under Christ!

    In His name,
    David G. Peters
    Pastor, Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church
    Union Grove, Wisconsin

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