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Many of our readers are aware of the fact that the CLC General Pastoral Conference was held at our Eau Claire, Wisconsin school over the course of three days last June (12th-14th). Occupying most of the time, study, and discussion at this particular conference was the matter of organizations with religious elements (in general) and The American Legion (in particular).

Already in 1996 the Synod Convention had directed the pastors to take a careful, in-depth look at the scriptural principles involved; the 2000 Convention repeated the directive that a statement on The American Legion be brought to the 2002 Convention. Preparation of such a statement was the goal of the pastors at their June gathering in Eau Claire.

It will not surprise to hear that study and discussion of the topic at hand was thorough and intense. That is not unusual whenever and wherever orthodox Lutheran Christians assemble, in the fear of God, to rightly divide the Word of Truth in their study and application of the sacred doctrines of Holy Scripture.

In an opening “President’s Statement” Synod President, Pastor Daniel Fleischer, gave his fellow pastors some helpful guidance by way of personal comments and observations. In the opinion of this writer/pastor–an opinion we know was shared by many–the Statement succeeded in setting an evangelical tone for the subsequent study and discussion.

Due to space constraints, we cannot share all of the “President’s Statement” here. With permission we are sharing the beginning portion only–but a portion which will soon show why the comments were so appreciated by the pastors in conference.

Dear Brethren:

Today we are addressing something that troubles what some may call our “beloved Synod.” That is a common expression in at least one Lutheran Synod, an expression thankfully we have not heard among us, at least that I recall. Let us hope that we will not adopt that expression. Of course, everyone speaks as he will. I personally cringe when I hear the synod described as an object of affection.

That is not to say that we are not mindful of what the Lord has done in creating a fellowship among us and preserving it for over forty years. We appreciate that within the CLC we have experienced mutual strengthening, encouragement, and admonition. We appreciate that the CLC is a unique and close family. We appreciate the fact that within this fellowship we have been called and privileged to proclaim the gospel in our own country and in countries of which we would never have dreamed when the CLC came into existence. Furthermore, doors continue to be shown to us, and some of them are opening even as we are gathering this week. We do not devalue or think lightly of God’s creation. And the CLC is a creation of the Father by the Spirit. But our synod is not our “beloved Synod.” That expression lends itself to subjectiveness in doctrinal discussion that is not healthy.

The object of our affection is our God Who described Himself to Israel so often before admonishing them or reminding them that it was He who had set them in the “good land” in which they settled. The Lord has set us also in a good land. With that He had certain expectations. In the milieu of religions, in the midst of this post-Christian era–in which even Lutheranism itself has become an identification that one often is tempted to give up because of all that is said and done in its name–the Lord has created a fellowship among us in which the Word of God is received as the inspired Word without qualification, and the primary focus of our ministry is proclamation of sin and grace. Everyone here today will acknowledge without hesitation that we exist as a church as a result of grace, pure and simple–and alone. If we consider our history and all the challenges that have confronted us in forty years, we could lay our continuing existence to nothing else! Except for the grace of God, we have not measured up. Yet God is patient. The Lord does not give up easily. He does not want our light to go out!

The CLC does not exist purely for the sake of having a clean fellowship. It does not even exist to proclaim the doctrine of fellowship into the world. The commission of our Lord said nothing about fellowship. It said to preach the gospel to every creature. The Lord said to teach all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Repentance and remission of sins is to be preached into all the world. We change the emphasis of the commission if we proceed from the idea that in process of protecting the doctrine of fellowship we preach the gospel. WE MAINTAIN THE RIGHT EMPHASIS IF IN THE PROCESS OF PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL WE HOLD FAST TO THE FELLOWSHIP PRINCIPLE SET FORTH BY OUR LORD FOR OUR PROTECTION, for Jesus also said to teach them to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded us.

I believe we have maintained the balance. Nevertheless, we must be alert to the dangers of changing the emphasis in any way. If the doctrine of fellowship should become our main focus, we would very easily become legalistic. If we preach the gospel but become unconcerned about the doctrine of fellowship, we would easily become like many around us. In the process of jettisoning Scriptural practice of fellowship, they have also proclaimed “another gospel” . . . .

* JOINT ENGLISH PASTORAL CONFERENCE OF THE CLCI AND BELC (Missionary David Koenig sent us this report)

From July 19-21, 2001 we had a first for our brethren in India. We carried out a pastoral conference in English between our two sister churches with representatives from the CLC-USA also participating. There were six representing the CLCI, twelve representing the BELC, and five from the USA (Pastor Todd Ohlmann, Pastor Michael Schierenbeck, Peter Evensen, Nathan Greve, and Karl Koenig). The requisite for our India brethren was a knowledge of English. There are many other pastors other than those who attended this conference. The CLC covered the expenses of this blessed experience of study of God’s Word and fellowship.

We met at the Melody Hotel in Chennai. With the hopes for a yearly conference, next year we plan to meet at Guntur. By this conference we also hope to create more of an understanding between our two sister churches and even some cooperation in the future in some projects. Our fellowship relationship between the three church bodies manifested itself in devotions and prayers done by a variety of men of the churches instead of having one chaplain.

Jyothi Benjamin was appointed the secretary of the conference by the missionary. Two communiques were sent out signed by the two leaders of the sister churches, V. S. Benjamin and Mohan Bas, demonstrating the unity we have in our midst on the Word of God. While both churches have their own pastors’ meetings and conventions in their own languages (Tamil and Telegu), this was the first English venture.

The agenda was: “World Gospel Missions” (J. Benjamin); “Where Are We going?” [a consideration of Lutheranism in India] (Bas); “Explaining Natural Disasters in the Light of God’s Word” (Ohlmann); “The Restoration of Peter and the Meaning 0f Love” (Evenson); “A Study of Romans Chapter Seven” (Schierenbeck); “Witnessing” (Koenig); “A Study of the Universal Priesthood of All Believers” (Koenig); Presentations of the work of the Lord through the CLCI (V. S. Benjamin), and the work of the Lord through the BELC (Bas).

How pleasant and how fair for brethren to dwell together in unity! This could be an apt assessment of the conference. For the next conference in Guntur, the conference passed a motion thanking the CLC for the assistance and asking that CLC representatives also come to Guntur. Another resolution passed inviting Mark Bohde in Thailand to come.

There is so much to be thankful for when we contemplate this three-day conference. One last thing is that there were those five of our men from the USA who could be here. Fellowship is not just a word. It is a relationship of love from God to us and from us to one another. Those five volunteers demonstrated that amply so.