2010 Convention Digest

The 59th Annual Convention, held at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Lebanon, Oregon, officially began at 9:30 a.m. with a Divine Worship Service of Convocation in which the local Pastor, the Rev. M. L. Natterer, served as the liturgist, and the Conference President, the Rev. David T. Mensing, delivered the keynote sermon.  He chose as his text I John 2:19, taking as his theme the motto of our convention, The Evil of Sinful Separatism, and dividing it into four parts, namely, I. What “separatism” is, II. Why it is “sinful,” III. How it can be avoided, and IV. What benefit God Himself intends for us to reap from the “sinful separatism” of former brethren.

Following the service, the opening session of the convention was called to order by the President, who first appointed the standard convention committees.  He then delivered his annual report in which he referred to on-going “ambitious projects” such as the printing of full-length books by Scriptural Publications, the subsidy of the Ekaterinburg congregation in Russia, and assistance to the brethren in Nigeria.  Additionally, the Conference had begun the “challenging initiative” to offer full support for two new full-time seminary students.  It was mentioned that four of the Conference congregations exceeded their pledged amounts to the Student Aid Fund.  President Mensing then summarized some of the work that was accomplished over the past year—stressing particularly the work of the Committee on Missions, our Seminary, and Scriptural Publications.

After the noon meal, sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Pastor Paul E. Bloedel.  The Chairman, Pastor Mensing, then presented three specific recommendations from the Board of Directors: 1) To ratify Board actions between conventions in authorizing the Treasurer to issue emergency relief funds to needy brethren: To Pastor Nimi Fyneface in Nigeria ($4,300.00 in August and $2,500.00 in February) and to St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church ($5,000.00 in February).  2) To send an official letter from the President of the Conference to Professor John F. Brug and the chairman of Northwestern Publishing House calling their attention to libelous statements against our Conference in Brug’s book, WELS and Other Lutherans (second edition), demanding that these statements be disavowed and corrected; and to have the seminary students, together with their professors, write a detailed refutation of Brug’s claims that can be published on the Conference web site.  3) To have the Conference President direct an official letter on behalf of the Board to Western Union at its corporate headquarters (copied to its Compliance Department in Englewood, Colorado), asking them to explain and correct the current blockage of our Treasurer from using its services to send money not only to Russia and Nigeria on behalf of our Conference but even money transfers of a personal nature by the Treasurer, as this curtails our humanitarian work at home and abroad.  The ratification was approved, but drafts of the two recommended letters would be submitted later in the convention for specific approval.

In the initial report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, the Conference Treasurer, presented the Financial Report for fiscal year 2009–2010.  The report showed a beginning cash balance of $49,230.04 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $43,406.15, yielding total cash available of $92,636.19.  Expenditures totaled $50,483.47, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2010 of $42,152.72.  The report also showed an increase in the Student Aid Fund from $56,437.98 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $70,555.69 on its closing date, May 31, 2010.  Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2010: $112,708.41.  The Treasurer then distributed the Finance Committee’s Budget Worksheet for the new fiscal year, June 1, 2010 through May 31, 2011.  It showed a beginning cash balance of $42,152.72 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $27,258.75, for an expected total cash available of $69,411.47 in the General Fund.  Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $60,300.00 divided among the following items, some of which anticipated the favorable action of the delegates on specific recommendations of committees: Scriptural Publications—$3,500.00; Ekaterinburg Subsidy—$9,600.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy—$2,400.00; Nigerian Aid—$8,000.00; St. Mark’s Subsidy—$13,200.00; Archival Subsidy—$500.00; Telephone Expense—$100.00; Convention Expense—$1,000.00; General Travel Expense—$10,500.00; Seminary Instructors’ Salaries—$9,000.00; Miscellaneous Expenses—$2,500.00.  In the Student Aid Fund, the estimated pledged income for the new year is $18,720.00, with the student support expenses totaling $22,800.00.  [NOTE that the final General Fund budget adopted by the convention was lower than that originally proposed.]

Pastor Robert J. Lietz, the chairman of the Committee on Missions, divided his report into three main sections: 1) concerning our brethren in Russia, 2) concerning our brethren in Nigeria, and 3) concerning our brethren in Sauk Village, Illinois.  The chairman read a letter from Pastor Schurganoff in which he mentioned a) the serious bout with the flu for which he had been hospitalized and which resulted in serious organ complications,  and b) the mechanical failure of his computer which resulted in his sporadic contact this year.  Pastor Lietz stated the committee’s desire for Pastor Schurganoff to attend the Fall Pastoral Conference in Lebanon, Oregon, this year, and for Mr. Alex Popoff (a layman of St. John’s congregation who is fluent in Russian) to work as translator for this meeting.  Chairman Lietz then read from the “Profile of a Subsidized Congregation” that Pastor Schurganoff completed and returned to the committee on June 18, 2010.  The chairman also mentioned the work that Mr. Popoff has done (and intends to continue) in translating some instructional materials into the Russian language for the benefit of Pastor Schurganoff and his congregation.  Regarding Russia, the committee’s first recommendation requiring convention approval was that the Conference bring Pastor Schurganoff to the United States for the 2010 Fall Pastoral Conference.  (The estimated cost for this trip is approximately $2,000.00.)  The second recommendation was to send Pastor Schurganoff $500.00 to purchase a new computer.  And the third recommendation was that the Conference maintain its current level of subsidy for the congregation in Ekaterinburg (both for pastoral support and facility rental).

Concerning the congregations in Nigeria, Chairman Lietz reported that emergency aid was sent from the Conference to Nigeria in August 2009 and February 2010.  Pastor Fyneface’s eldest son, Elishama, died on June 16, 2010 as a result of liver and kidney problems and was received into the mansions of heaven by God’s grace in Christ.  Pastor Lietz also noted that Scriptural Publications recently completed a prototype edition of the New Testament in Kalabari—the native language of our Nigerian brethren— for their examination and eventual use.  The chairman then read the most recent correspondence from Pastor Fyneface summarizing the current situation in the various Nigerian congregations and among their pastors.  A great number of laymen in the congregations are unemployed now; and, consequently, a financial debt has risen among the seven pastors of the nine congregations.  The Committee on Missions recommended that the Conference send $8,000.00 to Nigeria in order to clear this debt.

Concerning the financial struggles of St. Mark’s congregation in Sauk Village, Illinois, Pastor Lietz summarized what had happened earlier this year and the $5,000.00 grant of emergency aid that was approved by the Board of Directors in February.  For this new fiscal year, St. Mark’s requested a financial subsidy of $1,100.00 per month; and the Committee on Missions recommended to the convention that the Conference grant this monthly subsidy for the fiscal year 2010–2011.  This request, together with all the other recommendations of the Committee on Missions, were adopted by the delegates in convention assembled.

Pastor Mensing, chairman of the Editorial Committee and editor of the Concordia Lutheran, presented his report in which he highlighted the committee’s work over the past year.  The primary work of this committee is the editing of the “official organ” of our Conference, the Concordia Lutheran, and of editing prior to publications any books and tracts to be printed by Scriptural Publications.  Editor Mensing expressed his gratitude for the contributions of the pastors in writing timely and edifying articles and for the help provided by the other committee members, Pastor Lietz, the Book and Tract Editor, and Seminarian Jason Mabe, the committee’s lay member, in reviewing and editing the articles submitted.  He also conveyed his appreciation for the work of the Print Shop Manager of Scriptural Publications, Mr. Phillip Martin, in the layout and printing of the Concordia Lutheran.

Pastor Lietz, the chairman of the Publishing House Board of Control, summarized the work of Scriptural Publications in the production of the Kalabari version of the New Testament, the bi-monthly production of the Concordia Lutheran, the printing and distribution of the 2009 Convention Proceedings, and the transfer of the Conference website maintenance from Mr. Lee Roller in Seattle to Mr. Martin Trusty in Chicago, who will be hosting the site without charge to the Conference.  For this new year, Scriptural Publications plans on printing more copies of the Constitution and Bylaws of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, reprinting the Advanced Bible History, and improving and updating the Conference website.

Mr. David J. Mensing, Business Manager of Scriptural Publications, presented his report, which consisted in his detailed balance sheet summarizing the finances of our Publishing House.  The report showed a beginning cash balance of $1,443.45; total receipts of $6,123.75; total expenditures of $4,774.25; and an ending balance of $2,792.95.

The next morning, sessions began with a devotion led by Pastor David G. Redlin.  Pastor Robert J. Lietz then began his essay entitled: “Sinful Separatism:  Satan’s Vicious Device to Destroy the Unity of the Spirit among True Brethren.”  In his brief introduction, the essayist referred to the way that Jesus countered and overcame the temptations of the devil in the wilderness with the Sword of the Spirit, responding with “It is written” (Matthew 4).  Holding fast to “sound doctrine” (I Timothy 1:10; II Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9) is crucial for pastors and laymen alike in order to repel the attacks of Satan.  It was stressed that “sound practice” must accompany “sound doctrine” if we are to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  In comments from the floor, it was mentioned that we need to be careful that we do not take for granted any of the passages of Holy Scripture—even those precious passages that we have heard so often.  Continuing with his essay, Pastor Lietz stressed the point of Scripture that it is the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus that moves and impels us to hold fast to His pure Word and to be diligent in the consistent application of His Word in our lives.  In the discussion that followed, the terms “doctrine” and “practice” were defined and elaborated upon as these are used in the context of the congregation and the family.  The essayist pointed out certain fruits of true zeal for sound doctrine and practice—concluding the first part of his essay with an outline of what would follow in the next four parts.

At the beginning of Part II, Pastor Lietz defined heresies as “man-produced nonsense which fights against the God-inspired teachings of the Holy Scriptures” and defined heretics as “false prophets” (Matthew 7:15; 24:11a) who, with their heresies, their lies, “deceive many” (24:11b).  The Scriptures instruct us to “mark” and to “avoid” (Romans 16:17) those who adhere to and promote false teachings, withdrawing ourselves from them (I Timothy 6:3–5).  God wants His people to be completely united on the foundation of His Word in all its truth and purity, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).  This concluded Part II of the essay.  Parts III–V were deferred to the afternoon session of the following day.

Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor Robert J. Lietz.  The Vice President and Chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor Edward J. Worley, presented the committee’s report, in which he set forth the constitutionally defined purpose of the Committee on Lutheran Union.  There were no official discussions with any church bodies over the past year.  And while there was a brief exchange of e-mails between the chairman and a Rev. William Mack, the latter objected to our condemnation of the selective fellowship in which he desires to engage.

The chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, summarized the work of the seminary students over the past year and their successful completion of their respective interim colloquies before the Pastoral Conference just prior to the convention.  He also outlined the courses to be studied over the next year by the three students, as well as the plan to join all three students together in full time study beginning in the 2011–2012 academic year.  It was noted that a layman from St. Mark’s had been attending the first-year seminary classes as an auditor, and had completed all of the course work and written exams, but without credit.  Also, as a non-matriculated student,  he had not submitted himself to the required colloquy of the pastors over the coursework he had taken.

Next came the interest reports of the two Seminary Instructors and of the three Seminarians.  In his report, Professor Lietz exhorted us to give thanks to the Lord for our three seminary students and for our seminary professors. He then described the work that he and Seminarian Jason Mabe accomplished during this past academic year in Dogmatics II (which focused on Christology) and Old Testament Isagogics (which focused on the Messianic prophecies and Gospel references in the Old Testament together with the fulfillments and parallels in the New Testament).  Professor Mensing then detailed the courses that he taught primarily to the first-year students, David and Daniel Mensing, as well as to the auditing student, Jim Bielefeldt:  New Testament Greek, Dogmatics I, Hermeneutics, Exegesis, Introduction to the Scriptures, New Testament Isagogics, and Ecclesiastical Latin (which course was also taken by the second-year student, Jason Mabe).  There was also Practicum work in the local congregation that was assigned to the first-year seminarians.  He expressed gratitude in the Lord for the sacrifices of the Conference brethren which funded financial support for the first-year students and thus allowed them to study full time without the distraction of secular work.

In his interest report, Mr. Daniel P. Mensing, one of the first-year students, described some of his experiences during the past academic year.  He expressed gratitude to the Lord for blessing him in his studies.  Dan also spoke of some of the Practicum work that he was assigned to do, which included the teaching of Sunday School.  He is looking forward to beginning his second year studies this fall.   Mr. David J. Mensing, the other first-year student, then gave his report.  He mentioned that his favorite courses were Dogmatics, New Testament Greek, and Exegesis.  Dave recalled the blessing that God bestowed upon his family in the middle of the first semester—the birth of his third daughter, Zoe.  He also noted the special work that he and his fellow seminarians performed — right at final exam time at the end of the first semester — in reproving, rebuking, and exhorting those who were sinfully separating themselves from the orthodox congregation in their midst.  Dave thanked the Conference for the generous financial support that was provided to him and his family over the past year—allowing him to study full-time without needing to divide his attention between seminary and secular work.  Mr. Jason Mabe, the second-year student, followed with his interest report.  After briefly mentioning the sad defections from Peace congregation halfway through the academic year, he summarized the content of his studies in Dogmatics II, Old Testament Isagogics, and Ecclesiastical Latin.  He expressed his gratitude for the two full-time students, and is looking forward to continuing his studies together with them.  He also thanked many of the brethren for assisting him over the past year.

The convention then took up the Election of Officers and Standing Committees.  Officers:  Pastor David T. Mensing was re-elected President; Pastor Edward J. Worley was re-elected Vice President; Pastor Paul E. Bloedel was re-elected Secretary; and Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was re-elected Treasurer.  The Board Members-at-Large were also re-elected:  Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi from the “far west” and Mr. Erik R. Roe from the “middle west.”  The Standing Committees elected were as follows:  Editorial Committee: The Rev. David T. Mensing, Chairman (Editor, The Concordia Lutheran); The Rev. Robert J. Lietz (Book and Tract Editor); Mr. Jason A. Mabe, Lay Member.  Committee on Lutheran Union: The Rev. Edward J. Worley, Chairman; The Rev. Paul E. Bloedel; The Rev. Robert J. Lietz; Mr. Daniel Bloedel.  Committee on Theological Education: The Rev. Edward J. Worley, Chairman; The Rev. Paul E. Bloedel; Mr. John F. Swanson; Mr. Mark J. Mensing.  Committee on Missions: The Rev. Robert J. Lietz, Chairman; The Rev. David G. Redlin; Mr. Alex Popoff; Mr. Dale Ellis; Mr. Michael J. Danyluk.  Finance Committee: Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, Chairman; Mr. Paul Natterer; Mr. Phillip R. Martin; Mr. Erik R. Roe.  Publishing House Board of Control: The Rev. Robert J. Lietz, Chairman; Mr. David J. Mensing, Business Manager; Mr. Phillip R. Martin, Print Shop Manager.

On Sunday morning, the local pastor, the Rev. M. L. Natterer, served as liturgist for the Sunday worship service, while Pastor Edward J. Worley of Seattle, Washington, preached the sermon based on John 6:60–69.  His theme was: “Will You Also Go Away?”  divided into four parts:  I. The sinful flesh caused many disciples of Christ to take offense at what the Savior was teaching them; II. To be and remain a true disciple of Christ is entirely the result of God’s gracious work through His Word; III. When many disciples defected and sinfully separated themselves from Christ and His Word, Christ asked, “Will You Also Go Away?”; and  IV. By God’s grace alone may you respond to the Savior’s probing question as Peter did.

Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor M. L. Natterer.  The convention then heard the remainder of the essay: “Sinful Separatism:  Satan’s Vicious Device to Destroy the Unity of the Spirit among True Brethren” by Pastor Robert J. Lietz, continuing with Parts III–V.  The title of Part III was:  “What sinful separatism is, and why it is so vital to warn against and reject it, especially in these latter days!”  In this section, the essayist stressed that those who sinfully separate themselves from an orthodox congregation despise both the Law and the Gospel of the Lord.  The point was also made that sinful separatism manifests lovelessness toward those who adhere to the pure Word of God in doctrine and practice.  Sinful separatists are guilty of idolatry when they allow any earthly consideration to pull their hearts away from following the Lord and His Word in a true-teaching church.  Because of the continuous attacks of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh within, we must not neglect to warn against the sin of separatism.  In Part IV, “The disastrous consequences of sinful separatism for the separatists themselves, for their brethren left behind, and for the church-at-large,” the essayist emphasized the point of Scripture that willful sin removes a person from the saving grace of God.  Sadly, separatists often remove their children as well from an orthodox congregation and from the unleavened Word of the Lord, through which the Holy Ghost works to create, strengthen, and preserve saving faith.  Realizing the grave spiritual danger in which they have placed themselves, those who have sinfully separated from us should be remembered in our prayers, that God would bring them to true repentance.  Separatists also present a danger to those whom they formerly acknowledged as brethren, since they may encourage others to follow their wicked example.  In the concluding section, Part V, “For the days ahead, words of comfort, encouragement, strength, and help against the devilish, fleshly, and worldly allurements of sinful separatism,” the essayist quoted many comforting passages of Holy Scripture, which he called “mighty spiritual weapons,” through which the Holy Ghost grants spiritual strengthening and a greater confidence in the Lord’s promises of protection and aid even while we endure the afflictions brought upon us by those who set themselves against us, against the Lord our God, and against His precious Word.  The essay was adopted with thanks; and, after final editing and review, it will appear in its entirety in the official Proceedings of the convention.

Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi, the Conference Statistician, delivered the statistical report for fiscal year 2009–2010. (The specifics of this report can be found in the official Proceedings.)  Without objection, Mr. Kusumi was also re-appointed as Statistician for the coming year.

In its final report, the Resolutions Committee submitted drafts of six resolutions to the Convention for its consideration and moved their adoption.  In short, the following resolutions were presented and unanimously adopted:  1) Thanks to Pastor Lietz for his edifying essay; 2) Thanks to last year’s officers for their service, and an exhortation to pray for the newly elected officers; 3) Thanks to Pastors Mensing and Worley for their sermons; 4) Thanks to the Pastors who led devotions opening the various sessions of the Convention; 5) Thanks to Mr. Stephen Bloedel and the combined choir of St. John’s and St. Luke’s for the beautiful organ and choir music that enhanced the worship services; 6) Thanks to St. John’s Lutheran Church and its pastor for hosting the convention and for their loving and generous hospitality; and thanks to the Lord for preserving to the congregations of our Conference the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace through His Word.

Peace Ev. Lutheran Church of Oak Forest, Illinois, extended to the Conference its invitation to host the Sixtieth Annual Convention, and this kind offer was unanimously accepted.  Dates: Pastoral Conference: Tuesday and Wednesday, June 21 and 22; Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, June 23; The Convention: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 24, 25, and 26, 2011).  The Conference President then concluded the 59th Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the singing of Hymn 292, a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, the customary concluding formulas, and the Apostolic Benediction.

—Rev. Paul E. Bloedel, Secretary