The Convention Digest

The 60th Annual Convention, held at Peace Ev. Lutheran Church, Oak Forest, Illinois, officially began on Friday morning, June 24, at 9:30 a.m. with a Divine Worship Service of Convocation in which the local Pastor, the Rev. David T. Mensing, served as the liturgist; and, as the Conference President, he also delivered the keynote sermon.  He chose as his text Ephesians 2:20, the text underlying this year’s convention motto, taking as his theme:  Sola Scriptura—The Foundation of Faith, and dividing it into two parts, namely, I. The Holy Scriptures are its Source and Norm, and II. The Savior Himself is its Object and Validation.

Following the service, the first session of the convention was called to order by the President, who first appointed the standard convention committees.  He then presented his Annual Report in which he highlighted some of the expenses that were authorized by the 2010 Convention, which exceeded the amounts of receipts.  While the financial situation of the Conference remains rather tenuous, the Lord has opened the hearts of the members to contribute generously to the work of the Conference and Seminary.  The report included an update concerning the dealings between our Conference President and Professor John F. Brug with regard to inaccurate and slanderous statements against our Conference in his recent book, WELS and Other Lutherans (second edition).  Communications with Brug have thus far seemed to be relatively unproductive and may or may not be continued in the future.

After the noon meal, sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Mr. Jason A. Mabe, Seminarian.  In the initial report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, the Conference Treasurer, presented the Financial Report for fiscal year 2010–2011.  The report showed a beginning cash balance of $42,152.72 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $40,364.68, yielding total cash available of $82,517.40.  Expenditures totaled $54,293.79, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2011 of $28,223.61.  The report also showed a increase in the Student Aid Fund from $70,555.69 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $81,152.04 on its closing date, May 31, 2011.  Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2011:  $109,375.65.  The Treasurer again mentioned, as he had reported to the 2010 Convention, that he had been blocked by Western Union last year from sending money anywhere through them.  After a letter from the Treasurer and one from the President of the Conference, Western Union, subsequent to the convention, removed the restrictions on sending money, except in the case of Russia.  Using Money Gram, however, the Treasurer is still able to send money transfers to Pastor Schurganoff in Russia.  Western Union is still being used for money transfers to Pastor Fyneface in Nigeria.  The Treasurer then distributed the Finance Committee’s Budget Worksheet for the new fiscal year, June 1, 2011 through May 31, 2012.  It showed a beginning cash balance of $28,223.61 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $27,203.00 for an expected total cash available of $55,426.61 in the General Fund.  Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $38,500.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications — $2,000.00; Ekaterinburg Subsidy — $8,400.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy — $2,400.00; St.  Mark’s Subsidy — $10,800.00; Convention Expense — $1,000.00; Telephone Expense — $100.00; General Travel Expense — $1,000.00; Seminary Instructors’ Salaries — $10,800.00; Miscellaneous Expenses — $2,000.00.  In the Student Aid Fund, the estimated income for the new year is $38,500.00, with the student support expenses totaling $50,400.00.

Pastor Robert J. Lietz, the chairman of the Committee on Missions, divided his report into three main sections: 1) concerning our brethren in Sauk Village, Illinois; 2) concerning our brethren in Russia; and 3) concerning our brethren in Nigeria.  Chairman Lietz gave an update on the financial situation at St. Mark’s in Sauk Village.  The committee recommended that the Conference grant St. Mark’s the subsidy of $900.00 a month that this congregation had requested for the 2011–2012 fiscal year.  Chairman Lietz then spoke of the situation with the congregation in Ekaterinburg, Russia, on the basis of e-mails from Pastor Schurganoff.  The physical health of Pastor Schurganoff has not been good recently; illnesses have been plaguing him and have prevented him from doing some of the work that he wants to do in his congregation and with respect to our Conference.  Because of some ambiguity in certain expressions from his e-mails, it was suggested that Pastor Schurganoff provide the Conference a detailed written description of his illness in Russian so that Alex Popoff (a layman of St. John’s who is fluent in Russian) can give a better explanation of what physical crosses he is currently enduring.  The committee recommended that the Conference maintain the monthly rental subsidy of $200.00 a month for the worship facilities of the Ekaterinburg congregation, but decrease the monthly salary subsidy for Pastor Schurganoff from $800.00 to $700.00, looking to the congregation itself to shoulder a greater proportion of its pastor’s support.  Concerning our brethren in Nigeria, Chairman Lietz reviewed the financial aid that had been sent during the past fiscal year from the Conference General Fund, as well as additional generous contributions from individual congregations of the C. L. C. to assist the Nigerian pastors in their various needs.  An e-mail from Pastor Fyneface was read, in which detailed updates concerning the nine congregations and seven pastors of the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations in Nigeria were given.  Concerning Pastor Fyneface himself, his diabetes is currently under control; and he is now taking some expensive medication that seems to be helping the condition with his goiter.  The Committee’s report was unanimously adopted, together with its recommendations

Pastor Mensing, chairman of the Editorial Committee and Editor of the Concordia Lutheran, presented his report in which he summarized 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.  He mentioned that suggestions are welcome with regard to subjects that could be treated in future articles.  Editor Mensing expressed his gratitude for the help provided by the other committee members, Pastor Lietz and Seminarian Mabe.  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, chairman of the Publishing House Board of Control, began his report by quoting from the C. L. C. Constitution concerning the purpose of the Conference publishing house.  Due to some problems with the printing equipment, which have now been fixed, Scriptural Publications was not able to complete all of the projects that had been planned.  Thanks was expressed to Mr. Martin Trusty for the work that he has done with the Conference website.

Mr. David J. Mensing, Business Manager of Scriptural Publications, then 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 $2,792.95; total receipts of $3,407.52; total expenditures of $3,039.43; and an ending balance of $3,161.04.

The Vice President and chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor Worley, presented his report in which he set forth the constitutionally defined purpose of this committee.  No official inquiries from any church bodies have been received over the past year.  It was mentioned that, if anyone knows of a potentially interested contact, he should pass this information along to the newly elected Vice President for the Committee on Lutheran Union to examine this next year.

The next morning, sessions began with a devotion led by Mr. David J. Mensing, Seminarian.  Pastor Paul E. Bloedel then began his essay entitled: “The Authority of Scripture for the Establishment of Doctrine.”  In his brief introduction, the essayist referred to false “authorities” that heterodox groups use to supplant the supreme and sole authority of the Scriptures for establishing doctrine.  The divine authorship of the Bible was emphasized in Part I as being that which gives this holy book the authority to define what is to be taught and believed by the followers of God.  The clearness, or perspicuity, of the Scriptures was the focus of Part II, in which it was stressed that the doctrines of Holy Scripture are set forth in clear words by sedes doctrinae or prooftexts, so that human interpretations of such passages are improper and constitute sinful distortions of the Lord’s clear teachings.  In the third and final part of the essay, the point was made that, because the Bible, with the authority of God Himself, presents the doctrines of the Christian faith in such clear terms, these teachings are firmly established by the Scriptures themselves and should, therefore, be accepted by all believers without doubt, mental reservation, question, or compromise.  In conclusion it was mentioned that it is both the divine origin and content of the Scriptures and God’s love for sinful men in Christ their Savior that should move us Christians vigorously to hold firmly to their authority for the establishment of doctrine.  The essay was interrupted only by a brief refreshment break and was interspersed with lively and edifying discussion.  It was also unanimously accepted with thanks to the essayist.

Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Daniel P. Mensing, Seminarian.  The chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, then summarized the work of the seminary students over the past year and their successful completion of their interim colloquy by the Pastoral Conference on the previous Tuesday.  He listed the courses that were taken this previous year as well as the courses that will, the Lord willing, be covered this coming academic year.  It was stated that the plan is for the current part-time student to join the two full-time students at the beginning of the new academic year this fall for full-time study.  The chairman also mentioned that a layman from St. Mark’s has been attending all of the seminary classes and has completed all the course work and exams as an auditor, that is, without credit.  Since all of the students will be living on a subsistence-level stipend beginning in September, the committee recommended a change in tuition from $50.00 to $10.00 per credit hour.  The report was adopted, together with its recommendation.

Professor Lietz gave his interest report as a Seminary Instructor, in which he described the course work that he taught to the two full-time students during this past academic year:  Dogmatics II (which covered the doctrines of man, sin, God’s grace, and Christology) and Old Testament Isagogics (which focused on the Messianic prophecies and Gospel references in the Old Testament together with their fulfillments and parallels in the New Testament).  The brethren were exhorted to continue praying for our seminary students in their important work.  Professor Mensing then gave his interest report as a Seminary Instructor, in which he detailed the courses that he taught:  New Testament Greek, Church History I, and Principles of Teaching including Catechetics.  There was also practicum work in the local congregation that was assigned to all three of the seminarians, which included conducting the liturgy of the mid-week Lenten services at Peace in Oak Forest.  It was reported that all of these students diligently completed the work assigned to them, receiving high marks under the Lord’s gracious blessing.  This report was unanimously adopted.

Mr. David J. Mensing, one of the full-time students, then gave his report.  He mentioned the classes that he completed under both Professors Lietz and Mensing.  Formal study of New Testament Greek has now been completed; but future course work will provide an opportunity for continued review of the language.  The material covered in Dogmatics, Church History, and Old Testament Isagogics was described as being vast but very enjoyable to learn.  Conducting the liturgy in the Lenten services as part of his practicum was highlighted as being an important and humbling experience.  Mr. Jason Mabe, the part-time student, followed with his interest report.  He referred to the courses that were taught to him this past year by Professor Mensing:  Church History I and the Principles of Teaching including Catechetics.  He mentioned that God had blessed his family with a new baby girl, Lydia, this past year and expressed his thanks for the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, by which she was made a beloved lamb of the Savior through faith.  Jason reported that Lydia was born with a heart condition that may require open heart surgery to correct, and he besought the prayers of the brethren in this regard.  He also specified some of the practicum work that was assigned to him over the past year.  In conclusion, he exhorted the brethren to remember the Conference seminary in their prayers.  Mr. Daniel P. Mensing, the other full-time student, described the classes that he took under Professors Lietz and Mensing.  Dan mentioned that the two courses taught by Professor Lietz, Dogmatics II and Old Testament Isagogics, complemented each other nicely—the ultimate focus of both being Christ.  He recounted the colloquy that he and his fellow seminarians passed earlier in the week.  Special thanks was given to his two professors.  Dan also mentioned that the Lord has now provided a Christian spouse for him; and he expressed heartfelt thanks to God for his new wife, Megan, and son, Rowan, as he anticipated their upcoming wedding in July.

When the convention took up the Election of Officers and Standing Committees, Pastor Mensing was re-elected President; Pastor Lietz was elected Vice President; Pastor Bloedel was re-elected Secretary; Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was re-elected Treasurer.   Mr. Raymond Kusumi was re-elected Board Member at Large from the far west, and Mr. Erik Roe was re-elected Board Member at Large from the middle west.  The results of the elections of the Standing Committees were as follows: Editorial Committee — Pastor Mensing, Concordia Lutheran Editor; Pastor Bloedel, Book and Tract Editor; and Mr. Jason Mabe.   Committee on Missions — Pastor Lietz, Chairman; Pastor Redlin, Mr. Alex Popoff, Mr. Steve Richter, and Mr. Michael Danyluk.  Committee on Theological Education — Pastor Worley, Chairman; Pastor Bloedel, Mr. John Swanson, and Mr. Mark Mensing.   Committee on Lutheran Union — Pastor Lietz, Chairman; Pastor Bloedel, Pastor Mensing, and Mr. Daniel Bloedel.   Publishing House Board of Control — Pastor Lietz, Chairman; Mr. David J. Mensing, Business Manager; and Mr. Phillip Martin, Print Shop Manager.  Finance Committee — Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, Chairman; Mr. Paul Natterer, Mr. Phillip Martin, and Mr. Jerry Sidwell.

On Sunday morning, the local pastor, the Rev. David T. Mensing, again served as liturgist, while Pastor Robert J. Lietz of Oak Park, Illinois, preached the sermon based on John 8:31–32.  His theme was that Sticking with the Authoritative Word of Jesus  I. assures us that we are Jesus’ true disciples; II. assures us of the truth; and III. assures us of freedom.

Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor Redlin.  The convention then heard the second doctrinal essay: “The Authority of Holy Scripture for Truly Orthodox Practice” by Pastor Edward J. Worley.  In his introduction, the essayist stressed that the authority of the Scriptures is the authority of God Himself; and this is why the Bible is the final norm, or standard, of truly orthodox, Christian practice—the consistent application of doctrine to a Christian’s life.  It was emphasized that without orthodox practice, any orthodox teaching that may be presented would only be empty lip service to the truth.  Pastor Worley stated: “Orthodox doctrine must be applied to life and cannot remain only a set of abstract principles without concrete real-world application.”  The teachings of Scripture are to be used to rebuke and correct sinful practice, and thus to bring practice into conformity with God’s truth.  On the basis of Luther’s explanation of the First Petition, the essayist made the point that God’s name is hallowed among us not only by true doctrine but also true practice, and that His name is profaned by both false teaching and sinful living.  In conclusion, a warning was given against the deceitful temptations of Satan, who works to create doubts in the minds of believers concerning what the Lord tells us in His Word.  This second essay was also accompanied by spirited and edifying discussion and was unanimously accepted with the thanks of the convention to Pastor Worley.

Mr.  Raymond S.  Kusumi, the Conference Statistician, delivered the statistical report of the Conference and its constituent congregations for fiscal year 2010–2011.  (The specifics of this report can be found in the official Proceedings of the convention to be published, God-willing, in the fall.)

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 Pastors Bloedel and Worley for their edifying essays.
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 Lietz for their sermons.
4) Thanks to the Seminarians and Pastor Redlin, who provided devotions opening the various sessions of the convention.
5) Thanks to Mr. Mark Mensing for the beautiful organ music, and to Mr. John Mensing and the choir of Peace congregation together with members of St. Luke’s and St. Mark’s for the choral music that enhanced the worship services.
6) Thanks to Peace Ev. Lutheran Church and its pastor for hosting the convention and for their loving and generous hospitality; and thanks especially to the Lord for preserving among us the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace through His Word.

St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Seattle, Washington, extended to the Conference its invitation to host the 61st Annual Convention, and this invitation was gratefully accepted.  (Dates: Pastoral Conference: Tuesday and Wednesday, June 19 and 20; Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, June 21; the Convention: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 22, 23, and 24, 2012.)  Following adoption of a motion to adjourn, the Conference President concluded the 60th Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the singing of Hymn 53, a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and the usual and customary formularies, followed by the Apostolic Benediction.

P. E. B.