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“Behold Your God!”

Written by | September, 2018
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COVER STORY – CONVENTION REPORT

The thirty-third Convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession
was held at Immanuel Lutheran College, Eau Claire, Wisconsin on
June 21-24, 2018. The theme of the convention was “Behold Your God!”

Pastor David Pfeiffer served as chaplain to the convention, opening and closing each session with the Word of God—where we most clearly “Behold Our God!”

President Michael Eichstadt addressed the convention with his biennial report centered on that same theme, reminding us to recognize and proclaim the power of God in our homes, in our fellowship, in all the world, and in our testimony to the Truth.

The two essays that were presented further divided the convention theme into two parts:

1) “The LORD GOD came with a strong hand!” and 

2) “The LORD GOD comes with a gentle embrace!”

The first essay was delivered by Professor John Ude. 

The essay was based on Isaiah 40:9-10 (NIV):

“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God.’ See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” 

Professor Ude used several Old Testament Messianic prophecies to demonstrate our inability to help our own cause and God’s strong hand in accomplishing our goal of life eternal for us.

The second essay of the convention was delivered
by Pastor David Ude of Appleton, Wisconsin,
and was retitled: 

“Behold Your God—The Lamb’s Eye View”

In contrast to the first essay by Professor John Ude, which expounded upon the strength of God’s hands, the second essay drew our attention to the tenderness and gentle embrace of our Savior God. Our heavenly Father is both strong and gentle, perfectly exemplified by the Bible picture of the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd leads, tends, and carries His sheep. He laid down His life for the sheep only to take it up again when He rose from the dead. Our Shepherd–King now rules a Kingdom that will never end, as ongoing dispenser of grace and peace. We are with Him by faith, and He is with us in grace, holding us in His tender, powerful hands.

On Friday evening of the convention, the delegates were treated to a most encouraging report from the Project KINSHIP Committee and our foreign missionaries as they reported on the powerful work that our God is carrying out overseas. “Behold Your God!”

Elections 

The following were re-elected: 

President Pastor Michael Eichstadt

Vice President Pastor Mark Bernthal

Moderator Pastor Paul Nolting

SecretaryPastor Wayne Eichstadt

Board of Trustees Mr. Tom Lentz
Mr. Sherman Carstensen

Board of Regents Pastor John Hein

Board of Missions Pastor Nathanael Mayhew
Mr. Joel Krafft

Board of Education and Publications
Pastor David Naumann
Professor Ross Roehl

Newly elected Mr. Jay Sydow as a layman
on the Board of Regents.

Board of Education and Publications  

It was resolved to begin regular printed publication of daily devotions. The Board of Education and Publications was directed to oversee development of an online religion course beginning with updating and adding online Sunday School lessons.

Board of Regents/Immanuel Lutheran College 

The convention directed a reinstatement of the compensation plan originally approved by the 2012 Convention ($75/month increase per year and an annual cost of living adjustment). This budget increase is to be in effect for two years as long as the Reserve Fund balance does not fall below $100,000. This increase is added into the final FY19 Budget approved by the convention.

Board of Missions 

The Convention authorized the Board of Missions to begin calling a third full-time missionary. If the Lord provides a man to serve in this office, 50% of the first year’s expense will be an addition to the CLC General Fund budget, and 50% will come from the Mission Development Fund (MDF). Thereafter, a plan will be implemented to move these costs into the regular Missions’ budget within three years.

Doctrine 

“Joint Statement Regarding the Termination of Fellowship”

Much of the time at this year’s convention was taken up with discussion of the “Joint Statement”, a document submitted by representatives of the CLC, WELS and ELS as a possible resolution to one of the historic issues that has separated our fellowships—that is, what Scripture teaches concerning separation from false teachers. After debate that occupied Friday night and most of Saturday, the following resolution failed by a vote of 92 to 69: “Be it resolved that the CLC adopt the ‘Joint Statement’ Regarding the Termination of Fellowship as a scripturally sound presentation of doctrinal principles when dealing with the termination of fellowship.” The resolution that finally did pass on Sunday morning used the word “acknowledge” rather than “adopt,” as follows:

RESOLVED that we acknowledge with joy that the “Joint Statement Regarding the Termination of Fellowship” is a scripturally sound presentation of doctrinal principles when dealing with the termination of fellowship.

RESOLVED that we ask the President of the CLC to relay our hope that the talks with the ELS and WELS can continue.

RESOLVED that we aim for a final disposition of the “Joint Statement Regarding the Termination of Fellowship” at the 2020 Convention.

RESOLVED that we direct the 2019 General Pastoral Conference to discuss the “Difficulties that Remain” contained in the 2017 GPC recommendation concerning the “Joint Statement Regarding the Termination of Fellowship.”

In other work assigned to the Floor Committee on Doctrine, the declaration of fellowship with Grace Evangelistic Lutheran Church in Liberia was ratified.

The Convention directed the 2019 Pastoral Conference to review the 2017 revision of the “CLC Theses and Antitheses on the Role of Admonition in the Termination of Fellowship with Church Bodies” and to report its findings to the 2020 Convention.

THE “JOINT STATEMENT” DISCUSSION

“How do things stand now?”

After the convention, CLC President Michael Eichstadt issued the following statement:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our loving and living Savior:

One full day and portions of two other days at the recent CLC Convention were spent discussing the “Joint Statement on the Termination of Fellowship.” It was time well spent as many pastors and delegates expressed their support or concern regarding the document. The Spirit graciously led us as a body to conclude that the “Joint Statement” is scripturally sound. However, the Convention also stated that “it does not resolve all of the issues involving the doctrine of church fellowship….” The Convention provided a path forward in expressing its desire that the meetings with ELS and WELS continue with a goal of a final determination on the “Joint Statement” at the 2020 Convention.

What does this mean for us now? While we all pray that one day there might be God-pleasing fellowship with the ELS and WELS, we are not there now. The representatives of all three synods agree that in order for true scriptural fellowship, there must be complete agreement on all the doctrines of the Bible. We do not have that at this time. Our talks with the other synods have been and will continue to be outside the framework of fellowship. 

For more information, speak to your pastor. He will be happy to provide more details and answer any questions you may have.

In the Savior’s service,

Michael Eichstadt, CLC President

“What are the main differences between the CLC on the one hand, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) on the other?”

ANSWER: From the CLC perspective, the four main theological differences between the CLC and the WELS/ELS are the following:

THE FOUR POINTS

1. Termination of fellowship with false teaching church bodies. The CLC says that Romans 16:17-18 mandates separation, without delay, when a church body is “causing divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned.” The WELS/ELS claim to hold the same teaching, as evidenced by their adoption of the 2015 “Joint Statement.” However, many in the CLC say that the “Joint Statement,” though not unscriptural, is inadequate as a settlement of this issue. The document was not adopted at the 2018 CLC Convention and is still under study.

2. “In a State of Confession.” This is closely related to point one. This phrase (Latin: in statu confessionis) has sometimes been used by the WELS/ELS to declare themselves in a state of “vigorously protesting fellowship” while failing to sever fellowship ties with a false-teaching church body. The CLC says this practice is unscriptural.

3. Thrivent. Thrivent is a fraternal benefit society that offers insurance to its members and engages in extensive church work across many denominations. The CLC has identified membership in Thrivent as sinful unionism. The WELS/ELS view membership in Thrivent as a mere business transaction.

4. The role of women in society. Both the CLC and the WELS/ELS uphold the Bible’s headship principle as regards women’s role in the church and home. The WELS, however, also extends this principle to society in general. The CLC says such a teaching goes beyond Scripture.

The foregoing are the main differences that separate us, though there are other areas of concern, such as triangular fellowship, the incursion of Church Growth methods, the doctrine of church and ministry, the moment of real presence in the Lord’s Supper, and fundraising.

—Professor Paul Naumann

“If the ‘Joint Statement’ is scriptural,
why wasn’t it adopted?”

In connection with the debate on the “Joint Statement,” many were troubled by the question above. It is a good question, to which there is a simple answer: even if a statement contains nothing unscriptural, it can still be inadequate to settle the specific matter under discussion. As Edmund Reim once put it, “A confessional document may set forth nothing but Biblical truths in its various individual parts, and yet fail to meet the issue, to serve the very purpose for which it was designed.”

There are many historical examples of this. In 1529, Luther met Ulrich Zwingli at the Marburg Colloquy. The articles drawn up at that meeting were not unscriptural, yet Luther proved that they did not adequately settle the doctrinal issue of whether the body and blood of Christ are really present in the Lord’s Supper.

In the early 1900’s, Lutherans of many synods tried to settle an old controversy regarding the doctrine of election. After more than twenty years of discussions, they finally came up with a document, the “Chicago Theses,” that they hoped everyone could agree to. However, the document was ultimately rejected as a basis of union, not because it was unscriptural, but because it did not adequately settle the doctrinal issue. As one observer put it, “It is possible to read into the wording either the doctrinal conceptions of the Synodical Conference or the opposing conception.”

In 1950, the Missouri Synod adopted another document, the “Common Confession,” as a complete settlement of differences with the American Lutheran Church. But the Wisconsin Synod rejected the “Common Confession,” not because it was unscriptural, but because it had “been officially interpreted as a settlement of past differences which in fact are not settled.”

That is one reason why this year’s convention, while acknowledging the “Joint Statement” to be scriptural, nevertheless failed to adopt it: many felt that it that it was inadequate to settle the doctrinal issue concerning the termination of church fellowship that has separated the CLC from the WELS/ELS for decades.

—Professor Paul Naumann

CLC Constitution – 

The proposed change to Article V-A, allowing laymen to serve as CLC Secretary and Moderator, was adopted. The proposed change to Article VIII-B, allowing pastors emeriti to serve as conference visitors, was not adopted. A proposed change to the title and wording of Bylaw 19 was adopted, as recommended by the CLC Board of Trustees and the Standing Constitution Committee. The title of the “Auditing Committee” was changed to the “Finances Inspection Committee” to better reflect our intent and practice in Bylaw 19.

Conference Visitors – 

The Convention ratified the conference visitors as elected by their respective conferences: Great Lakes, Pastor Michael Wilke; Minnesota, Pastor Douglas Libby; Pacific Coast, Pastor David Naumann; West Central, Pastor Michael Roehl; South Eastern, Pastor Matthew Hanel.

Finance – 

The following Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) budget was adopted:

Education and Publications $15,000

Trustees $89,000

Missions $377,000

Regents $550,000

General Fund Budget $1,031,000

ILC Revenue $861,000

Total FY19 Spending Plan $1,892,000

It was resolved to enact the Trustees’ recommendation to increase retirement contributions from $170/month to $180/month beginning 1/1/2019, $190/month beginning 1/1/2020, and $200/month beginning 1/1/2021.

Membership – 

Teacher Brandan Heinze and Pastors Timothy Daub, Thomas Naumann, Samuel Rodebaugh, and Stefan Sonnenfeld were accepted as voting members of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. The dissolutions of Divine Word Lutheran Church, Spring Valley, MN and Grace Lutheran Church, Cape Coral, FL were acknowledged with regret.

Appointments for periodical editors were ratified:

Professor Paul Naumann (Lutheran Spokesman)

Pastor Wayne Eichstadt (Journal of Theology)

Pastor Nathan Pfeiffer (Ministry by Mail)

Pastor Glenn Oster (CLC Webmaster).

(A full list of appointments will be published in the convention proceedings.)

Memorials: 

The memorial regarding the joint meetings between the CLC and WELS/ELS was answered by the resolutions from the Floor Committee for Doctrine. The memorial regarding the Board of Doctrine being the sole representative of the CLC in future discussions with WELS/ELS was rejected.

The convention communion service offering was designated for the Mission Development Fund and totaled $3,147.85. The next convention is scheduled to be held on the Immanuel Lutheran College campus, June 25-28, 2020 (Thursday through Sunday).

Joe Lau is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Also contributing to this article were Pastors Wayne Eichstadt and Michael Roehl, and Professor Paul Naumann.