Familiarity And Change
The 22nd Convention of the CLC opened with a feeling of familiarity. Delegates were greeted by familiar faces up on the gymnasium stage. Folding chairs and bleachers provided an all-too-familiar feeling (a feeling one must get accustomed to early in the week). Familiar faces and voices and laughs could be recognized among the delegates.
Along with familiar aspects, however, delegates were greeted with change. They parked in a new parking lot, entered the Fieldhouse through a new building, and ate in a new dining facility. They sang a hymn accompanied by a new pipe organ. They began to make acquaintances with new people and were no doubt placed on a different committee than that of previous conventions. The weather was cool — for a change (68 degrees F).
The theme of the Convention — We Appreciate The Means Of Grace — focused the attention of the delegates and observers on our Lord’s Gospel in Word and Sacraments, which are the vehicles the Holy Spirit uses to communicate faith and salvation to us. We not only heard about these Means of Grace, but we were partakers of them through the ministers of the Convention. Pastor Michael Eichstadt (Holy Cross, Phoenix, Ariz.) served as the Convention chaplain. He daily reminded us of the various facets of our role in the world — those who have been blessed with faith and eternal life, and have been entrusted to represent the Lord to others, through His appointed means.
The essayists each dealt with a different aspect of what it means to be a “Means of Grace church.” Pastor David Naumann (Holy Truth, Ketchikan, Alaska) delivered the first essay which focused on the role of the Means of Grace during the Reformation. The second essayist, Pastor Leroy Dux (Mt. Zion, Detroit, Mich.) presented the Gospel in Word and Sacrament in our worship life. In the third essay Pastor John Ude (Messiah, Hales Corners, Wis.) spoke on the Means of Grace and mission work.
Those of us present were highly impressed. Yes, there was appreciation for the research and presentation of the essayists. Much more than that, however, was the humble impression of humble awe that our Lord would entrust vessels of clay such as us with the use of these Means, which are such powerful, faith-creating tools of the Holy Spirit. We look forward to the publication of these excellent essays in a future edition of the CLC’s Journal Of Theology.
Gordon Radtke, retired Professor, conducted the Convention Memorial Service. Using Luke 22:61 as his text he urged us to not only remember the men — departed brothers Karl Brandle and C. M. Gullerud — but more importantly to “Remember the Word of the Lord.” Wednesday evening the Convention participants were blessed to share God’s Word and Sacrament at a communion service in the Fieldhouse. Using 1 John 1:8-9 as text Pastor Michael Sydow (Faith, Markesan, Wis., soon to be installed as ILC Professor) chose as his sermon theme: “Our Savior is Eager to Forgive Our Sins.”
Highlights Of Convention Action
The Convention heard personal reports from our foreign missionaries, Paul Gurgel and Mark Bohde, both of whom recently returned from their overseas work.
Rev. Gurgel informed us about the increasingly difficult conditions in Nigeria. In spite of this, progress is being made in our long-term goal of helping our Nigerian brethren to become a self-sustaining and self-perpetuating church body. The Lord has blessed the NCLC with the acquisition of farmland near the Bible Institute for the support of the seminary, as well as equipment for processing the harvest.
Rev. Bohde spoke of the challenges, blessings, and future opportunities of our Thailand mission. He identified two necessary ingredients for continuing the work in Thailand: A regular missionary visa and a vehicle for transportation to outlying areas of the country. Few, if any, Christian missionaries venture into these areas. We pray that God would grant continued strength to the Bohde and Gurgel families to carry out the Lord’s work in our behalf in these foreign fields.
Brief reports were also received from the CLC’s stateside missionaries who told of the progress of the work of these congregations to bear the Gospel to their communities.
Among the resolutions concerning our mission efforts were the following:
* To set up a special collection, under the auspices of the Mission Development Fund, to raise $30,000 in order to provide permanent quarters for the Martin Luther Bible Institute in India, which is under the direction of Pastor Mohan Bas.
* To increase assistance to the Church of the Lutheran Confession in India, under the direction of Pastor V. S. Banjamin, to $5,400 for the coming year. (Both Bas and Benjamin also receive support from Project Kinship for their care of orphans.)
IMMANUEL LUTHERAN COLLEGE
It was noted with thanksgiving that the four vacancies on the teaching staff of ILC have been filled. Student enrollment for the fall of 1996 is projected at 155. Hearfelt thanks were also offered to the Lord for the blessing of the new ILC Commons and Dining Hall — which has proven to be invaluable, not only for student use but also for use by Convention delegates! The total cost of the building came to just over $1 million, of which $640,000 has been collected. A detailed report on the building project was made available to the delegates.
Regarding ILC, the Convention resolved:
* That the Board of Regents create and staff a new position, Facility Manager for the campus, as soon as it is feasible.
* That the Publicity Committee for the Commons building be re-appointed to service, and be authorized to develop a videotape presentation of the ILC campus and the new ILC Commons for distribution to CLC congregations.
* That we decline an offer from one of ILC’s neighbors to purchase a small portion of the property.
As in many Conventions of the past, the CLC has once again taken up some earnest questions of a doctrinal nature. One such question pertains to the Christian’s attitude toward self. No one among us denies the dangers of the worldly exaltation of sinful pride, which is trumpeted in the modern “self-esteem” movement. However, a question remains as to what the regenerate Christian’s attitude toward self ought to be. The Convention resolved to initiate an orderly process, involving the Board of Doctrine, delegate and pastoral conferences, and finally the 1998 Convention, to address this topic.
A similar process was begun to investigate whether certain veterans’ organizations are semi-religious in nature, thus involving their participants in religious unionism. In the past our Lord has blessed the CLC with the means and the will to address such questions forthrightly, and to arrive at a resolution that is governed by His Word. We pray that He will continue, by His grace, to preserve us in His truth both now and in the future.
On Thursday evening the Lord blessed the CLC and two congregations in Colorado with a joyful resolution of past differences over doctrine. Nearly two decades ago these two congregations, along with an affiliated Lutheran church in Japan, left our fellowship over issues concerning “the third use of the Law.” On-going doctrinal discussions between the leaders of these congregations and representatives of the CLC bore fruit when a joint statement on these matters was presented to the Convention. This statement represents a settlement, on the basis of God’s Word, of any past differences or misunderstandings on these doctrinal issues. It also clears the way for a formal affiliatiion by thse two congregations with the CLC. The Japan congregation is also expected to establish fellowship ties with our church body.
When the resolution came to the floor “that we rejoice in this agreement created by the Holy Spirit,” the Convention responded with a unanimous standing vote, and then paused to sing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.” Pastor Delwyn Maas, representing the Colorado congregations, addressed the Convention, giving glory to God for His work through the Word. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Ps. 103:1-2). We do well always to remember the wonderful blessings that our Lord showers upon us, enabling us through the Gospel-motivated offerings of His people to go forward as a synod with His saving Gospel.
Still, as is often the case, the Convention struggled to accommodate tremendous needs with limited financial resources. The total CLC budget for fiscal year 1996-97 was set at $541,000. These funds will be allocated in this way: “$204,000 for Missions, $212,000 for Regents, and $125,000 for Trustees. Important non-budgetary funds which are in special need of contributions from our members include the Mission Development Fund (MDF) the Immanuel Lutheran College Improvement Fund (IIF), the ILC Student Aid Fund (SAF), and the ILC Commons Fund for Debt Retirement. In view of these many pressing needs, the Convention resolved to “direct the fall 1996 area pastoral conferences to discuss various ways of making a thorough study of Christian stewardship in each of our congregations in the following months.”
One of the difficult financial resolutions to be made had to do with the salary level of our CLC “code workers,” which includes our missionaries as well as the teaching staff of ILC. A number of previous Conventions have identified the improvement of our support for these servants as top priority of the synod.
In the reporting and resolutions this Convention recognized that we have failed to provide adequately for our called workers. Although the Convention did not meet the recommendation of the Standing Compensation Committee, it did resolve to increase base salary for “code” workers by $50 per month in July of 1996, and again by $50 per month in January of 1997. This will be done even if severe budgetary cuts must be made to accomplish it. A resolution was also made to encourage self-supporting congregations to compensate their called workers at least at this improved CLC “code” level.
As usual elections were notable for what did not happen. No campaigning was necessary or desired, and there was no wrangling between “conservative” and “liberal” factions. Our unity in the Spirit, and our confidence in the God-fearing men that the Lord has provided to serve us, are blessings that we ought not take for granted!
CLC President, Rev. Daniel Fleischer*;
Vice President, Rev. Elton Hallauer*;
Secretary, Rev. James Albrecht;
Moderator, Prof. Ronald Roehl*;
Bd. of Missions, Rev. Walter Schaller* (called servant), Mr. Peter Krafft (layman);
Bd. of Regents, Rev. Mark Bernthal (called servant), Mr. Thomas Beekman (layman);
Bd. of Trustees, Mr. Philip Radichel (layman), Rev. John Schierenbeck* (called servant).
We note with thanks to our Lord the many years of faithful service to our church body by the officers and board members who are leaving their elected posts, either to retire or to begin other areas of synod work. They include Secretary Paul F. Nolting, Bd. of Missions member Lee Krueger, Bd. of Regents member Michael Sydow, and Bd. of Regents member Marlin Beekman. We value their service to us as a gift from God, and we wish them the Lord’s blessings in their new areas of kingdom work!
“OH GIVE THANKS UNTO THE LORD!”
This past gathering of our CLC in Convention has brought many reasons for thanks. We are thankful for the time together in the Word and for the many reminders of our unique role as a “Means of Grace” church. We are thankful for the safe travel of our delegates, the comfort of our new ILC facilities, and the blessing of Christian fellowship we enjoy. But more than that we give thanks that our Lord has given us the privilege of bearing His Means of Grace to others.
As a synod we are an association of like-minded Christians across this nation. What binds us to each other is not a common blood line, nor a common culture, nor a common political viewpoint. Our partnership is grounded in the truths of God’s Word. Our Lord has blessed us with both the Gospel motivation and the material resources so that we can act in concert to bring the news of Christ crucified to our neighbors and to the world.
May the Lord give us the grace to show that our thanks are genuine by going forward as His ambassadors ourselves, and by gladly providing the necessary means for our joint program to bring the Word to the world.