The 66th Regular LCMS Convention

LCMS ConventionIn 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.

The Future of the LCMS

Church 1How do you feel about the future of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod? A survey of LCMS people and pastors would produce a wide variety of answers to that question. They would range from excitement to apathy, optimism to pessimism, anticipation to frustration. The answers would reflect a deep love for our church, commingled with a concern about its ability to survive.

Ultimately, a church body is only as strong and healthy as the congregations and organizations that comprise it. Congregational strength can be measured in numerous ways, typically baptized or confirmed membership and average worship or Bible class attendance. Other barometers are financial, often expressed in dollars given to district, national or international mission causes.

Organizations are extensions of a church body’s identity and culture. Healthy universities, seminaries, auxiliaries, corporations and mission societies are the face of the church to a cadre of constituents who may have little if any other connection with it. Dedication and financial support to such organizations come from men and women with loyalty and sacrificial commitment.

Another indicator of health is renewal of historic mission zeal, manifested in fresh and vibrant ways. Christian people and pastors participate in local mission and service projects, food or clothing banks, ministry to the homeless or refugees, etc. Others develop a passionate interest in global mission, leading or participating in international mission, medical, dental or vision clinics, always including a component of Gospel witness and God’s forgiving grace.

Ultimately, the strength of a church body is directly proportionate to the depth of faith and holistic health of the people it serves. A congregation that focuses on the power of the Gospel in the hearts and lives of its people and provides rich, vibrant, biblically based, Christ centered, Spirit led worship opportunities, spiritual growth, discipleship and mission experiences will, under God’s grace and blessing, become a strong, healthy and vital church.

A national church body can play a vital role in the development of strong, healthy congregations and organizations. Conversely, it can also contribute to their decline.

These matters are on the minds of many, especially these days prior to the 65th Regular Convention of the LCMS, which convenes the day after tomorrow in St. Louis. Decisions made by voting delegates who represent clusters of congregations across the country will have an influence on the health and vitality of the Synod’s congregations and organizations.

Informed, evangelical decisions made by convention delegates next week could provide encouragement, support and hope to congregations and their members. Uninformed, fear motivated, suspicion driven and control seeking decisions would produce the opposite result, contributing to the apathy, frustration and disdain that in all too many cases currently exist.

Pray that God would grant convention delegates the ability to focus on the essence of our Synod’s existence: In grateful response to God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacraments, the mission of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and world. (LCMS Mission Statement)

The ability of leaders and delegates to do so is one important step in the future of the LCMS. I hope and pray that the church of the future will be one that brings the powerful, life changing message of Christ’s love to my grandchildren and their grandchildren, helping them discover that life in Christ brings value, meaning, purpose and eternal blessing.

Ecclesiastical Elections

Credit: phanlop88,

Credit: phanlop88,

This week marks a new process approved by the 2010 Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for the election of LCMS president. In previous years the president was elected by 1,200 delegates during the convention. That process will not be used this year.

This year the ballots will be cast by the pastoral and lay delegates who actually attended last year’s convention of the district in which their congregation holds its LCMS membership. The number of thusly qualified delegates is approximately 8,000. The new process provides a broader representation and brings the election much closer to individual LCMS congregations.

This year’s election will be held June 22-25. Electronic password protected ballots will be sent to all certified pastoral and lay district convention delegates, who will cast their electronic ballot within the stipulated period. If a majority vote is received by one of the three candidates nominated months ago by congregations of the Synod, the election is completed.

If no majority is achieved, a second ballot will be sent. It will contain the names of the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes on the first ballot. One of those two candidates will very likely receive a majority vote and the results will be announced a few weeks prior to the national convention in St. Louis July 20-25.

As most of us who have had the privilege of voting in any kind of election will readily testify, it’s not easy to know for sure which candidate in any election is most qualified. That’s the case with national, state and municipal elections. It’s also true of church body elections, especially at the district level and most especially at the national level.

Voters faced with casting a ballot want and need information about the candidates. Especially in this case, LCMS voters need to know if the candidates represent the perspectives, values, hopes and dreams the voters have for the future of the LCMS. Do they have the personal integrity, pastoral heart and professional experience necessary for the task? It’s not always easy to know.

Here’s my suggestion, humbly and respectfully offered. Ask your district president for his counsel. Unless the pastoral and lay delegates from your congregation did not attend last year’s triennial district convention, your congregation participated in your district president’s election. He is a trusted leader in your midst. And he knows all three nominees for LCMS president.

So, if you are one of last year’s district convention delegates who will be electing the LCMS president this week, why not seek the counsel of your district president regarding the candidates on the ballot? And if you are a delegate to the national Synod convention in July, why not seek that same counsel regarding candidates for the other officers and board members to be elected?

To assist you in that process, I’ve attached below my signature at the end of this article a list of all 35 district presidents, their office phone number and email address. I’m sure your district president would appreciate hearing from you and will be happy to respond.

If you will not be participating in either the pre-convention presidential election or the elections during the convention, feel free to forward this article to someone who will be involved in those elections. Perhaps that someone will be eternally or, at least, momentarily grateful. J

And don’t forget to pray for the blessing of our Lord on this important ecclesiastical election!

LCMS District Presidents – Spring 2013

Atlantic District 
Dr. David H. Benke
914-337-5700 x2 (O)

California-Nevada-Hawaii District
Dr. Robert D. Newton
925-245-4000/866-264-6079 (O)

Central Illinois District
Rev. Mark A. Miller
217-793-1802 x1 (O)

Eastern District
Dr. Chris C. Wicher
716-634-5111 x12 (O)

English District
Dr. David P. Stechholz
248-476-0039/800-755-9335 x20 (O)

Florida-Georgia District 
Rev. Gregory S. Walton
407-857-5556/877-457-5556 x8 (O)

Indiana District 
Rev. Daniel P. May
260-423-1511/800-837-1145 x2204 (O)

Iowa District East
Dr. Brian S. Saunders
319-373-2112 (O)

Iowa District West
Dr. Paul G. Sieveking
515-576-7666 (O)

Kansas District
Rev. Keith E. Kohlmeier
785-357-4441/800-357-4421 x200 (O)

Michigan District
The Reverend David P. E. Maier
734-665-4248/888-225-2111 x233 (O)

Mid-South District
Dr. Roger C. Paavola
901-373-1343/866-373-1343 (O)

Minnesota North District 
Rev. Donald J. Fondow
218-829-1781 (O)

Minnesota South District
Dr. Dean W. Nadasdy
952-223-2150 (O)

Missouri District
Dr. Ray G. Mirly
314-590-6200 (O)

Montana District
Rev. Terry R. Forke
406-259-2908 (O)

Nebraska District
Rev. Russell L. Sommerfeld
402-643-2961/888-643-2961 x1004 (O)

New England District
Rev. Timothy Yeadon
413-783-0131 x11 (O)

New Jersey District
Dr. Anthony J. Steinbronn
908-233-8111 x11 (O)

North Dakota District
Dr. James A. Baneck
701-751-3424 (O)

North Wisconsin District
Rev. Dwayne M. Lueck
715-845-8241/x17 (O)

Northern Illinois District
Rev. Dan P. Gilbert
708-449-3020/888-708-5267 (O)

Northwest District
Rev. Paul A. Linnemann
503-288-8383/888-693-5267 x127 (O)

Ohio District
Rev. Terry L. Cripe
440-235-2297/800-901-2297 (O)

Oklahoma District
Rev. Barrie E. Henke
405-348-7600 (O)

Pacific Southwest District
Dr. Larry A. Stoterau
949-854-3232/888-PSD-LCMS x201 (O)

Rocky Mountain District 
Rev. Allen D. Anderson
303-695-8001 x102 (O)

SELC District
Dr. Carl H. Krueger, Jr.
414-698-7208 (O)

South Dakota District
Dr. Dale L. Sattgast
605-361-1514 (O)

South Wisconsin District
Rev. John C. Wille
414-464-8100 x14 (O)

Southeastern District
Dr. John R. Denninger
703-971-9371/800-637-5723 x202 (O)

Southern District
Rev. Kurtis D. Schultz
504-282-2632 (O)

Southern Illinois District
Rev. Timothy J. Scharr
618-234-4767 (O)

Texas District
Rev. Kenneth M. Hennings
512-926-4272/800-951-3478 x250 (O)

Wyoming District
Rev. Richard O. Boche
307-265-9000 (O)