Convention Digest

The 61st Annual Convention, held at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington, officially began on June 22nd at 9:30 a.m. with a Divine Worship Service of Convocation in which the local Pastor, the Rev. Edward J. Worley, served as the liturgist and the Conference President, the Rev. David T. Mensing, delivered the keynote sermon on this year’s Convention Motto. He chose as his text Malachi 3:1, taking as his theme: Christ, Our Divine Prophet—“The Messenger of the Covenant,” and dividing it into two parts, namely, I. As to His divine person, and II. As to His divine work.

Following the service, the first session of the convention was called to order by the President, who first appointed the standard convention committees. Then in his annual report, President Mensing expressed thanks to the Lord for His gracious blessings upon our Conference over the past sixty years. Summarizing some of what would be presented in the reports of the various committee chairmen, President Mensing highlighted “a few of the significant events that transpired over the course of the year.” These highlights included the financial subsidy given by the Conference to St. Mark’s congregation (Sauk Village, IL) and the Orthodox Lutheran Church of Ekaterinburg (Russia), the ongoing work of our seminary program, and the printing of the Concordia Lutheran and other materials by Scriptural Publications. The President also summarized the current the financial state of the General Fund and Student Aid Fund.

After the noon meal, sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Mr. Daniel P. Mensing, Seminarian. In the initial report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, the Conference Treasurer, presented the Financial Report for fiscal year 2011–2012. The report showed a beginning cash balance of $ 28,223.61 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $ 31,371.31, yielding total cash available of $ 59,594.92. Expenditures totaled $ 36,510.93, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2012 of $ 23,083.99. The report also showed a decrease in the Student Aid Fund from $ 81,152.04 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $ 59,494.80 on its closing date, May 31, 2012, due to the ongoing support of our full-time theological students. Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2012 stood at $ 82,578.79. The Treasurer mentioned that although the Student Aid Fund ended the fiscal year with much less than it began, it still has more than what had been anticipated on the basis of initial pledges. The Treasurer then distributed the Finance Committee’s Budget Worksheet for the new fiscal year, June 1, 2012 through May 31, 2013. It showed a beginning cash balance of $ 23,083.99 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $ 25,400.43, for an expected total cash available of $ 48,484.42 in the General Fund. Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $ 34,550.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications—$ 2,000.00; Ekaterinburg Subsidy—$ 9,600.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy—$ 2,400.00; St. Mark’s Subsidy—$ 6,000.00; Convention Expense—$ 1,000.00; Telephone Expense—$ 100.00; General Travel Expense—$ 2,000.00; Seminary Instructors’ Salaries—$ 9,450.00; and Miscellaneous Expenses—$ 2,000.00. In the Student Aid Fund, the estimated income for the new year totaled $ 24,980.00, with the student support expenses totaling $ 50,400.00. According to projections, the General Fund may only have approximately $ 14,000.00 at the end of the next fiscal year.

The chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, gave his report in which he referred to the work of the seminary students over this past year and emphasized how Satan will continue to try to undermine the important work of our seminary. For this reason, we must remain vigilant, prayerful, and steadfast in the Word and work of the Lord. It was mentioned that due to unusual circumstances, the coursework for the Spring semester could not be completed. The plan is to complete this work during a four-week Summer quarter and to conduct the yearly colloquy in a Pastoral Conference to be held this Fall in Oak Forest, Illinois, on October 24th and 25th.

Professor Lietz gave his interest report as a Seminary Instructor, in which he reviewed the coursework that he taught to the three students. In Dogmatics III, the divine works chiefly ascribed to the Holy Ghost were the focus of study—the creation and preservation of saving faith, justification by faith, and sanctification in the narrower sense. In Symbolics I, the three Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession were covered. During the four-week Summer session, Professor Lietz will be taking the students through the Smalcald Articles. The Symbolics coursework included the study of the confessions themselves as well as Bente’s historical introductions to the confessions. Pastor Lietz expressed his appreciation for his congregation’s willingness to allow him to divide his time and energy between his congregational work and the seminary instruction.

Professor Mensing then gave his interest report as a Seminary Instructor, in which he detailed the courses that he had taught: Church History II (the period of the Lutheran Reformation and counter-reformation through the Thirty Years’ War), Homiletics I (principles of preaching, text selection and study and sermon outlining), Exegesis of Romans (during the first semester), and Biblical Hebrew. The underlying doctrine in all of the coursework (taught by both professors) was the chief doctrine of the Christian religion, namely, Justification (the forgiveness of sins). Pastor Mensing mentioned that now all of the seminary students are married—being blessed with Godly wives. He encouraged the Conference brethren to remember our seminary (students and professors) in their prayers. In response to several questions from the floor, Professor Mensing described the anticipated preaching assignments and experience which our students can expect over the next two years, as well as the current housing situation of the three students and their families.

In a most entertaining way, Seminarian Jason Mabe contrasted his previous daily routine as a full-time engineer and part-time seminary student with his current schedule as a full-time student. He thanked the members of the Conference for their financial support that allowed him to quit his secular work and to focus his attention completely on his theological training with fewer distractions. Seminarian Mabe thanked the brethren for their prayers, especially for the fervent prayers brought to the throne of grace in behalf of his youngest daughter in her recent heart surgery and subsequent recovery. He briefly summarized the various course material that he studied this past year and expressed thanks to his professors for their patience in teaching him.

Seminarian Daniel P. Mensing followed with his interest report. He expressed thanks to the Lord for having given him this past year a Godly wife, Megan, and a dear son, Rowan. He mentioned that he happily adjusted to the new God-given responsibilities of being a husband and a father together with the challenges of being a full-time seminary student. Dan expressed his own struggles with learning the Hebrew language, and he thanked his Hebrew professor for his patience. He compared his second year course in Catechetics to the third year course of Homiletics I, in which he studied how to teach and instruct through the preaching of carefully crafted, Scripturally textual sermons.

Next, Seminarian David J. Mensing gave his report in which he mentioned that he is currently a little over half way through his seminary training; and he confessed his need for continued growth in his knowledge and understanding of Holy Scripture. The last two years of seminary training will be very important. He especially highlighted his appreciation for Symbolics I—having the opportunity for detailed study of the Lutheran Confessions. With regard to Homiletics I, he referred to the intimidating prospect of outlining, writing, and finally delivering sermons on a regular basis. He mentioned that he and his wife are expecting the birth of twins sometime in July, and he besought the prayers of the brethren for these soon-to-be-born little ones, future lambs of the Lord Jesus through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Finally, Seminarian David Mensing conveyed his heartfelt thanks to the Conference brethren for their generous financial support.

Pastor Mensing, chairman of the Editorial Committee and Editor of the Concordia Lutheran, then presented his report in which he stressed the chief work of the committee in the editing of the official organ of our Conference. Chairman Mensing stated his appreciation for the help of the other members of the committee in editing the articles submitted by our pastors. He also expressed his special gratitude to Mr. Phillip Martin—Print Shop Manager of Scriptural Publications—for his work in the layout and printing of the Concordia Lutheran. The Conference laymen were encouraged to give regular feedback to the Editorial Committee—suggesting topics for future articles and spotting any errors that might have crept into the publication but were not caught before printing.

Pastor Lietz, the chairman of the Publishing House Board of Control, began his report by thanking the Lord for mercifully granting us the printing tools used by our Conference publishing house. During this past year, Scriptural Publications provided especially our Nigerian brethren with important printed materials—printing 30 New Testaments in the Kalabari language as well as printing and sending various materials requested for the training of the seminary students in Nigeria. As its on-going publishing project, Scriptural Publications is responsible for the bi-monthly printing of the Concordia Lutheran. The chairman expressed thanks to the other members of the Committee—Mr. Phillip Martin (Printshop Manager) and Mr. David J. Mensing (Business Manager)— as well as to Mr. Martin Trusty of Peace congregation for his work in hosting, maintaining and updating the Conference website,

Mr. David J. Mensing, Business Manager of Scriptural Publications, then presented his report, which consisted in a detailed balance sheet summarizing the finances of our publishing house. The report showed a beginning cash balance of $ 3,161.04; total receipts of $ 4,256.66; total expenditures of $ 4,251.78; and an ending balance of $ 3,165.92.

The next morning, sessions began with a devotion led by Mr. David J. Mensing, Seminarian. Pastor Edward J. Worley then began his essay entitled: “Christ, Our Divine Prophet—‘The Angel of the Lord’ in the Old Testament.” His essay was divided into three parts, namely, Part I: …who spoke directly to the patriarchs; Part II: …who spoke directly to Moses and the prophets (and through them to the people); and Part III: …who speaks in the Old Testament Scriptures to us still today. In his introduction, the essayist noted how the Old Testament often uses the expression “the Angel of the Lord” in ways that show it refers to the pre-incarnate Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, by ascribing to Him titles, attributes, works, or glory that can only properly be ascribed to the Lord God Himself. Various quotations from the Old Testament, together with passages from the New Testament that support them, were cited to illustrate many instances where “the Angel of the Lord” must be taken as indicating the uncreated “Angel,” the pre-incarnate Christ, because of the clear expressions of divinity that are used with reference to that Angel. As our divine Prophet, “the Angel of the Lord” spoke directly to His people and indirectly through the written Scriptures of the Old Testament; and through these holy writings, the Divine Angel still speaks to us today. After the conclusion of the essay, discussion continued concerning different ways that the expressions “Angel of the Lord” or “Angel of God” are used in the Old Testament.

Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Seminarian Jason A. Mabe. The Vice President and chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor Lietz, then presented his committee’s report in which he summarized a meeting that took place in early January between the committee and a Lutheran assistant pastor from Sweden, Jacob Fjellander. While this meeting provided some interesting information about “Lutheranism” in Sweden, it did not give any evidence that there is a likelihood, or even a great interest on the part of Rev. Fjellander himself, that doctrinal fellowship might be achieved between his group and ours. This meeting was the only official work of the committee over the past year since no other inquiries concerning our Conference were received from other church bodies. After the report concluded, some of the pastors spoke about how consecrationism (one of the false doctrines held to by Pastor Fjellander’s group) is becoming more and more common among Lutherans who profess themselves to be “conservative” and “confessional.” Also, in opposition to the common position of many such groups, various offices auxiliary to that of the local pastor (such as assistant pastors, elders, and teachers) were explained and judged on the basis of Scripture to be man-made and not divinely instituted.

Pastor Robert J. Lietz, the chairman of the Committee on Missions, then presented his report of that committee in which he gave an update on the financial assistance that the Conference had extended again this past fiscal year to St. Mark’s congregation in Sauk Village, Illinois. By the grace of God, owing to generous contributions both from within the congregation and from other brethren in the Conference, St. Mark’s has applied this year for a monthly subsidy of only $ 500.00 from the Conference (down from $ 900.00 the previous fiscal year). Next, Chairman Lietz summarized some of the many crosses that the Lord in His grace and wisdom has laid upon our brethren in Nigeria. All of the Nigerian pastors, for example, have various levels of financial debt (because of the high cost of food and medical expenses); and, at the solicitation of the Committee, they have detailed the specific amounts needed to relieve that debt. Because of the current state of the General Fund of the Conference, instead of recommending that the Conference itself send monetary relief, the Committee is encouraging the individual congregations of the Conference to consider the needs of these brethren and to determine what can be done, coming from the congregations themselves, to send financial assistance out of love for the Savior (I John 3:16–18; 4:11). The chairman then gave an update on our brethren in Russia. Due to large medical expenses for Pastor Schurganoff, who was seriously ill this past year, an increased amount of subsidy for his pastoral salary (from $ 700 to $ 800 per month) for the next fiscal year was recommended by the Committee. In response to a request from the Committee on Missions for current information about his pastoral work in Russia, Pastor Schurganoff has agreed to send the chairman one of his sermons each month at the same time he sends his monthly report. Chairman Lietz concluded his report with a quotation from the 2008 report of the Committee on Missions that sets forth the principles of the Eighth Commandment about putting the best construction on everything, especially with regard to our Christian brethren abroad, from whom we do not always have the most up-to-date information.

When the convention took up the Election of Officers and Standing Committees, Pastor Edward J. Worley was elected President; Pastor Robert J. Lietz was elected Vice President; Pastor Paul E. Bloedel was elected Secretary; Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was elected Treasurer; Mr. Raymond Kusumi was elected Board Member at Large from the “far west”; and Mr. Erik Roe was elected Board Member at Large from the “middle west.”

The results of the elections of the “standing committees” are as follows: The Editorial Committee — Pastor David T. Mensing, Chairman and Editor of the Concordia Lutheran, together with Pastor Paul Bloedel and Seminarian Daniel P. Mensing; the Committee on Missions — Pastor Robert J. Lietz, Chairman, together with Pastor Worley and Messrs. Tim Bloedel, Stephen Richter and Tom Fedor; the Committee on Theological EducationPastor Edward J. Worley, Chairman, together with Pastor Bloedel and Messrs. Daniel Bloedel and Mark Mensing; the Committee on Lutheran Union — Vice President Robert J. Lietz, Chairman, together with Secretary Bloedel, Professor Mensing, and Seminarian Jason Mabe; the Finance CommitteeTreasurer Robert G. Bloedel, Chairman, together with Messrs. Phillip Martin, Jerry Sidwell, and Paul Natterer; and the Publishing House Board of Control — Pastor Robert J. Lietz, Chairman; Seminarian David J. Mensing, Business Manager; and Mr. Phillip R. Martin, Print Shop Manager.

On Sunday morning, the local pastor, the Rev. Edward J. Worley, again served as liturgist, while Pastor Robert J. Lietz of Oak Park, Illinois, preached the sermon based on John 1:17–18. His theme was: Christ the Divine Prophet Proclaimed the Grace of God through His Vicarious Atonement, divided into two parts: I. He redeemed us from the curse of the Law given by Moses on Mt. Sinai; and II. He proclaimed to us in the Gospel His grace and truth gained for all people. Delegates and visitors from the congregations of our fellowship then joined the members of St. Luke’s as guest communicants at the Lord’s Table to partake of the Savior’s true body and blood for the remission of their sins, for strength to lead a holier life to the praise of His grace, and as a testimony of their unity in the bond of peace.

Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor Redlin. The convention then heard the second doctrinal essay: “Our Divine Prophet: Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant in the New Testament” by Pastor Paul E. Bloedel. In his introduction, the essayist mentioned different usages of the term “prophet” and then specifically focused on the application of this term to our Lord Jesus Christ. Part I of this two-part essay set forth: “What Christ did as our Divine Prophet during His public ministry.” Following the basic Catechism description of the prophetic office of Christ, it was emphasized that, by His preaching and miracles, Jesus clearly revealed Himself to be the Son of God, the promised Messiah, and the Savior of sinful mankind. Part II of the essay focused on “What Christ is still doing today as our Divine Prophet.” The ongoing prophetic work of Christ through the Gospel and through those who faithfully proclaim it was stressed. Even though pastors today are not guided in their preaching in the same way that the Apostles were, namely, by inspiration of the Holy Ghost (I Corinthians 2:13), anyone who preaches and teaches in full accord with the Scriptures is conveying the powerful and authoritative Word of the Lord Jesus, our divine Prophet.

Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi, the Conference statistician, delivered the Statistical Report for fiscal year 2011–2012. (The specifics of this report will be available in the official Proceedings when published.)

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 Worley and Bloedel 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. Timothy Bloedel for the beautiful organ music, and to the choir of St. Luke’s congregation together with other members of the Conference under the direction of Mr. Jerry Sidwell for the choral music that enhanced the worship services; 6) Thanks to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and its pastor for hosting the convention and for their loving and generous hospitality, and thanks to the Lord for preserving among us the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace through His Word.

Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church of Oak Park, Illinois, extended to the Conference its invitation to host the 62nd Annual Convention. (Dates: Pastoral Conference: Tuesday and Wednesday, June 25 and 26; Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, June 27; the Convention: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 28, 29, and 30, 2013.) The Conference President concluded the 61st Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the singing of the Common Doxology (Hymn 644), the reading of Psalm 134, a prayer, and the customary concluding formularies.

P. E. B.