In its 169 year history, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has held 65 regular conventions. This weekend marks the beginning of the 66th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Three former national presidents upon whom the honorary title of President Emeritus has been bestowed are still living. Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, Dr. Robert Kuhn and yours truly were invited to send a written greeting to convention delegates. Here is the text of my greeting:
Dear Delegates and Guests, Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
As this 66th Regular Convention of the LCMS begins, I offer words of greeting, encouragement and challenge as you determine at least a portion of the future direction of our beloved Synod.
More than half a century ago the LCMS was recognized as a dynamic, evangelical leader in the United States religious community. Cutting edge endeavors like The Lutheran Hour, This is the Life, Each One Reach One, etc., emanated from a conviction that we had a message to share with the world and that doing so required more than just paying a pastor to mount the pulpit, proclaim the Word of God and praying he would succeed.
Today, some congregations experience health, growth and vitality. Others, perhaps including yours, are uncertain about the future, in many cases less than one generation away from congregational extinction.
A Synod is only as healthy as the congregations that comprise it. Recent decades have seen a steady decline in congregational membership and in dollars contributed for national and international mission and ministry through Synod headquarters in St. Louis. Institutions, including religious ones, are no longer highly respected and trusted.
In this world of complexity and confusion, it is more imperative than ever that the simple, clear, certain hope that is ours in Christ be communicated as widely and broadly, as sincerely and sensitively, as clearly and courageously as possible. We are called to proclaim the great news that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not counting our trespasses against us.” (2 Cor. 5:19)
We do so Upon this Rock, the statement of faith uttered by Peter, a man whose stalwart commitment to Christ was marred only by his notable failures. We, too, as sinful human beings, are called to repent, to confess and to rejoice in the assurance of forgiveness of sin, life and salvation through Christ our Lord.
May that assurance fill your hearts and direct your thoughts and decisions these days.