A New Calling

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Today marks the opening session of the 61st Convention of the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LCMS is a national church body with approximately two million members. The Texas District is one of 35 LCMS regional judicatories.

Conventions are held in each district every three years, between January and July, with the great majority occurring in June. Texas is one of 25 districts meeting this month.

One very important event at a convention is the election of a president. In a number of districts incumbent presidents are either retiring or have served the maximum number of allowable terms. Such is the case in Texas as Rev. Ken Hennings completes his fourth three year term.

Having served faithfully and with distinction, President Hennings will be replaced by a new district president to be elected this afternoon. Five men have been nominated for this significant office, which is an honor in itself. They serve the church in agreeing to stand for election and to serve if elected.

This scenario brings back memories in my life and ministry. In June 1991 – 27 years ago – my name was on the ballot for Texas District President, along with four other nominees. On the fourth and final ballot I was elected. My life has never been the same since that day.

After serving three full terms and one year of the final term in Texas, I was elected president of our national church body in 2001. Installation in St. Louis was Sept. 8, three days before 9/11. Nine years and two more elections later, I was not elected to a fourth term in 2010.

Encouraging and supporting me every step of the way was my dear wife Terry. She worked long and hard in extending hospitality to the literally thousands of people who were dinner guests in our home those nine years in office. With great joy she also loved and cared for many pastors’ wives, including the 35 women married to district presidents and the five women married to national vice-presidents.

When all this began 27 years ago we were mere kids and had absolutely no idea what life would be like in public office. That would be true of anyone elected to a responsible position of  regional or national leadership, particularly in an ecclesiastical setting.

There have been many joys and blessings, with no small amount of stress and disappointment along the way. The man elected today in Texas, with his wife, will discover those realities.

They will walk together on the often happy and fulfilling but sometimes sad and frustrating journey of service that will be their new calling from the Lord. Whichever nominee and his wife are chosen, Terry and I wish them well and will hold them in our hearts and in our prayers.

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150 Years of Blessings!

Zion WalburgThat was the theme of this past Sunday’s observation of the 50th ordination anniversaries of three retired or semi-retired men who are also active members of Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas. That’s the rural congregation of which Terry and I are active members. We’re blessed to have Rev. John Davenport as senior pastor, his wonderful wife Lynn at his side.

The three men and their wives are:

  • Bob and Jean Greene
  • Wilbern and Betty Michalk
  • Glenn and Sandra O’Shoney

These three men, accompanied and supported by their dear spouses, have served the Lord and his church faithfully in numerous capacities:

  • Bob Greene: parish pastor; President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the South; Chairman, LCMS Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance
  • Wilbern Michalk: parish pastor; mission developer; numerous circuit and district roles and responsibilities
  • Glenn O’Shoney: parish pastor; mission developer; President, Texas District LCMS; Chairman, LCMS Council of Presidents; Executive Director, LCMS World Mission

All three are graduates of Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Ill., now in Fort Wayne, Ind. Bob and Wilbern graduated in 1963, Glenn in 1962. As one can tell, their 50th anniversary celebration, clearly appreciated by all, was a bit tardy. Better late than never!

Festivities of the day included a sermon focused on:

  • Thanksgiving to God for his blessings in the lives of these six men and women;
  • Biblical qualifications for the office of overseer/pastor and the difficulty/impossibility faced by every pastor in endeavoring to fulfill them completely;
  • The calling of God for all men and women who have been reconciled to God through Christ to be Christ’s ambassadors to the world.

The services were followed by a congregational lunch, including a touch of humor in a round of “The Not-So-Newly-Wed Game.” The game allowed these couples to share with the crowd some basic information about their lives, backgrounds, marriage, children and ministry. It was a fun way to help the congregation learn about these wonderfully dedicated and committed couples!

The idea was initially suggested by my dear friend, Dr. Will Sohns. The Board of Elders did most of the planning. I just preached and presided at the NSNWG. Not surprisingly, my dear wife Terry expressed words of appreciation to Jean, Betty and Sandra, and presented each of them a long stemmed rose to match their husbands’ boutonnieres.

You may want to consider something similar for your pastor, including retired men who may not have actually served your congregation officially but are dedicated and committed members. The honorees will be appreciative, your congregation will be blessed and God will be praised!