The 63rd 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. Paul E. Bloedel, served as the liturgist; and the Rev. David J. Mensing, delivered the keynote sermon based on Philippians 1:29. His theme was: Suffering for the Lord’s Sake is a Gift to His Dear Children, which he divided into the following two parts: (I) A gift which this world despises, but (II) a gift which we ought to cherish.
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 Worley stated that the members of our Conference have much for which to be thankful to the Lord on account of His grace and faithfulness. In particular, he focused upon the great blessing that we have been given in the successful conclusion of the seminary training of Pastors Daniel P. Mensing and David J. Mensing. Because these two men have now been called into the ministry, there are, once again, no available candidates who could be called to fill a vacancy without creating another vacancy in the Conference. Consequently, President Worley emphasized that the need for new students is still very great, just as it was five years ago when our two newest pastors first began their theological instruction. He then set forth a general plea to the men of the Conference to consider the need for future pastors and whether they would be willing to begin training in our seminary. It was stressed that even if a man does not think he is able to do that important work, the Holy Ghost is the one who equips men with the ability to be faithful shepherds of souls.
After the noon meal, sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Pastor Lietz. In the initial report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, the Conference Treasurer, presented the Financial Report for fiscal year 2013–2014. The report showed a beginning cash balance of $22,296.24 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $24,722.92, yielding total cash available of $47,019.16. Expenditures totaled $36,322.81, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2014 of $10,696.35. The report also showed a decrease in the Student Aid Fund from $38,622.61 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $33,239.47 on its closing date, May 31, 2014. Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2014: $43,935.82. The Treasurer then distributed the Finance Committee’s Budget Worksheet for the new fiscal year, June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015. It showed a beginning cash balance of $10,696.35 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $31,075.00, for an expected total cash available of $41,771.35 in the General Fund. Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $40,500.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications—$1,500.00; Ekaterinburg Subsidy—$12,000.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy—$2,400.00; St. Mark’s Subsidy—$9,600.00; Good Shepherd Subsidy—$12,000.00; Convention Expense—$1,000.00; General Travel Expense—$1,000.00; Miscellaneous Expenses—$1,000.00. In the Student Aid Fund, the estimated income for the new year is $3,600.00. The Treasurer drew attention to the fact that the anticipated expenditures for the next fiscal year exceed the anticipated pledges by almost $10,000.00. He hastened to add that there is still a cushion in the General Fund, so, for the next year, the Conference should be fine; but over the next years, the General Fund cannot be sustained unless expenditures significantly decrease and/or the contributions significantly increase. With regard to the possibility of transferring some money from the Student Aid Fund to help support the General Fund, it was suggested that this not be done (for ethical reasons, viz., that offerings for the Student Aid Fund had been contributed specifically for that purpose) without first having such action authorized by referendum of the congregations of the Conference.
Pastor Robert J. Lietz, the chairman of the Committee on Missions, presented his report in which he first gave an update on St. Mark’s in Sauk Village, a congregation currently receiving financial assistance from the Conference ($475.00 a month). Earlier this month, St. Mark’s called the Rev. David J. Mensing to serve them as Pastor, and this call was accepted. In order to help them fully support their new pastor according to God’s ordinance, St. Mark’s has requested an increase in its subsidy from the Conference to $800.00 a month for the next fiscal year. With regard to Pastor Schurganoff and his congregation in Ekaterinburg, Russia, the committee chairman reported that Pastor Schurganoff has received some assistance from his members with the cost of his apartment rental this past year. Pastor Schurganoff’s congregation is requesting that the monthly assistance from the Conference remain the same for this next fiscal year, namely, $1,200.00 a month (including both salary for the pastor and rent of the worship facilities). For the first time, our brethren in Tucson Arizona, Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran Church, are requesting a monthly subsidy of $1,000.00 in order that they may be able fully to support their new pastor, the Rev. Daniel P. Mensing. About our Nigerian brethren, Pastor Lietz reported that the FLCN pastors, thanks to the generous assistance of individual congregations in our Conference, have been able to clear all of their debts. It was also mentioned that two members from the Nigerian congregations had been kidnapped recently and then later released after a ransom had been paid. No new information has been received about the health of Pastor Fyneface, specifically concerning his on-going affliction connected with his goiter and sleep apnea.
Pastor David T. Mensing, chairman of the Editorial Committee and Editor of the C. L., presented his report in which he set forth the importance of our official organ the Concordia Lutheran and the role of the Editorial Committee in the final form of its content. He stated that, by the grace of God alone, our Conference has remained faithful to the Scriptures over the years, and this consistency is reflected in the orthodox theological articles that appear in the Concordia Lutheran. It was mentioned that this past year, when the assigned articles were not submitted, the Editor felt compelled to contribute substitute articles of his own. He also stressed that his overall workload this past year was exceptionally great (shepherding two flocks and teaching in the seminary), which resulted, in part, in the untimely appearance of several issues. The Editor expressed his thanks to the other members of his committee—Pastor Worley and Mr. Jason Mabe. The printshop manager of Scriptural Publications, Mr. Phillip Martin, was especially thanked for his work in the layout and printing of the C. L.
Pastor Lietz, the chairman of the Publishing House Board of Control, referred to the work of the Publishing House (Scriptural Publications) in printing the C. L.s every two months as well as other books and tracts. He set forth the following goals for the next fiscal year: 1) To monitor and update the Conference website on a regular basis; 2) To reprint the book, Advanced Bible History; and 3) To improve the service of Scriptural Publications in general. Thanks was expressed to Peace congregation for housing the publishing house and covering the cost of utilities connected with the facilities and the use of the equipment.
Pastor David J. Mensing, who as a Conference layman this past fiscal year was the 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 $3,345.85, total receipts of $2,703.36, total expenditures of $3,448.64, and an ending balance of $2,600.57.
Next, the Vice President and chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor David T. Mensing, presented the committee’s report, in which he stated the purpose of the committee, namely, to handle matters of potential fellowship with interested church bodies, and even to answer questions concerning our Scriptural doctrine and practice from inquiring individuals. Even though we stand ready to give an answer to all those who ask us concerning our confessional position, and even though we would be most eager and anxious to find like-minded churches and establish mutually-recognized fellowship with them, there have been no official contacts with this Committee over the past year. Based on a question from the floor, some discussion took place about two different individuals who have slandered our Conference in the past. The one, Professor Brug of the Wisconsin Synod, has somewhat admitted fault for not doing more diligent research for his book (“WELS and Other Lutherans”), though he has not yet, to our knowledge, shown the appropriate fruits of repentance. We have, for example, not seen the draft of a proposed entry concerning our Conference for the revision of Brug’s book, correcting misinformation published in his first edition.
The next morning, sessions began with a devotion led by Pastor Bloedel. Pastor Edward J. Worley then began his essay entitled: “The Joyful Privilege of Suffering for Christ’s Sake,” Part I: Suffering to be expected as necessary; and Part II: The cause of suffering for Christians is threefold: The devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. In his introduction, the essayist cited various passages of Scripture that describe the great joy that believers have in the Gospel of their Savior; and with reference to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, he pointed out that due to persecutions and sufferings on account of the Christian faith, those that do not have deep spiritual roots may lose their joy in the Gospel as well as the saving faith produced by the spiritual seed of God’s Word. It was emphasized that sufferings in this earthly life should not surprise us. All people, both believers and unbelievers, endure pain and grief in the world; but when the Bible speaks of the “cross” under which Christians suffer, it refers specifically to the scorn, persecution, and tribulation that is a direct result of their faith. Because we are aligned with Christ, we should expect to suffer the hatred of the world, as He did. While we are to bear our crosses willingly and cheerfully for the Lord’s sake, we are not to court the cross—intentionally provoking the wrath of unbelievers against us. God does not want Christians to create “crosses” either for themselves or for others. Because Satan is so vehemently opposed to the Lord our God, he also directs his violent rage against the true followers of God. The followers of the devil in the world around us will be a continuous source of persecutions against the Christians. Throughout history, the unbelievers have always tormented God’s children most bitterly. In an attempt to avoid persecutions from the world, Christians are often tempted to hide their faith and to seek to blend in with the unbelievers; and believers will sometimes give in to such temptations on account of their sinful flesh. The Old Adam is the enemy within the Christian—that part which follows the devil and is just as wicked as all the unbelievers— and thus also brings much suffering into our lives.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Rev. David J. Mensing. The chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, then gave his report in which he mentioned that, with the graduation of Daniel P. Mensing and David J. Mensing earlier this month, our seminary currently has no students. The C. T. E. plans on working with the professors to collect the teaching materials they generated over the past years of seminary instruction in order that this material might be archived for reference in the future. Pastor Worley encouraged all the pastors and laymen in the Conference to keep the seminary in their prayers and also to keep in mind men in their congregations who could be properly encouraged to study in our seminary. Discussion from the floor centered around the importance of parents encouraging their sons to think carefully about and prayerfully to consider the possibility of pursuing theological training in our seminary.
Professor Lietz gave his interest report as a Seminary Instructor, in which he began by encouraging us all to give thanks unto the Lord for His gracious blessing upon our seminary program. He then summed up the coursework that he was assigned to teach the fifth-year students, namely, Dogmatics, Comparative Symbolics, and Pastoral Theology (which he co-taught together with Pastor Mensing). He expressed thanks to his congregation (Trinity in Oak Park) for covering the utility costs associated with the classes he taught and for allowing him to have his time divided between his pastoral work and his work as seminary professor.
Professor Mensing then gave his interest report as a Seminary Instructor, in which he thanked the Lord for blessing both the teaching and the learning over this last year, which was the final year of seminary training for Daniel P. Mensing and David J. Mensing. Professor Mensing summarized the courses that he taught, namely, Homiletics III (sermon writing and preaching), Church History IV (20th century history of Lutheranism in America), and Pastoral Theology (co-taught with Pastor Lietz). He also stressed the continuing need of pastors for the future in our Conference. The most recent C. L. s were distributed, which contained a report of the graduation of the seminarians, the sermon preached by Pastor Worley at the graduation service, and also an article detailing the installation of Rev. David J. Mensing at St. Mark’s in Sauk Village.
Rev. Daniel P. Mensing began his seminary interest report by summarizing the coursework covered in the various fifth-year classes taught by both professors. He referred to the “privilege” of being able to preach in three different congregations this past year (St. Mark’s, Peace, and Trinity). He especially thanked the Conference brethren for their prayers and support; and he also specifically thanked the Conference for increasing his monthly stipend from $300.00 to $1,000.00. He has now been called by the Holy Ghost to serve as the pastor of Good Shepherd in Tucson, Arizona; and he besought the prayers of the brethren upon his future ministry. Next, Rev. David J. Mensing gave his report in which he thanked God for the many blessings received over the past year—also thanking his professors, the C. T. E., and his family for helping him in his seminary work. He focused his attention upon the fact that he has now received and accepted the call of the Holy Ghost to be the pastor of St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Sauk Village, Illinois. He thanked the Conference brethren for the support they extended to him over the past five years. He also asked that we would all remember to pray for him in his ministry going forward. At the suggestion of one of the delegates, the assembled convention arose to sing the Common Doxology.
The convention then took up the election of officers and standing committees. As officers, Pastor Worley was re-elected President; Pastor David T. Mensing was re-elected Vice President; Pastor Bloedel was re-elected Secretary; Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was re-elected Treasurer; Mr. William Bergstrom was elected Board Member at Large from the “far west;” and Mr. Tom Fedor 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 David J. Mensing and Jason A. Mabe; the Committee on Missions — Pastor Robert J. Lietz, Chairman, together with Pastor Mensing and Messrs. Dale Peterson, Steve Richter, and Tom Fedor; the Committee on Theological Education — Pastor Edward J. Worley, Chairman, together with Pastor Bloedel and Messrs. Daniel Bloedel and Mark Mensing; the Committee on Lutheran Union — Vice President David T. Mensing, Chairman, together with Secretary Bloedel, Professor Lietz, and Daniel Bloedel; the Finance Committee — Treasurer 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; Mr. Martin L. Trusty, Business Manager, and Mr. Phillip R. Martin, Print Shop Manager.
On Sunday morning, the local pastor, the Rev. Paul E. Bloedel, again served as liturgist; and the Rev. Daniel P. Mensing preached the sermon based on Acts 5:41. His theme was: Rejoicing in the Opportunity to Suffer Shame for Christ’s Name, divided into three parts: I. It is an opportunity to confess our faith before men; II. It is an opportunity to do service to our Lord Christ; III. It is an opportunity to approach the Throne of Grace.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor David T. Mensing. The convention then heard the remaining portions of the doctrinal essay: “The Joyful Privilege of Suffering for Christ’s Sake” by Pastor Edward J. Worley. The natural emotional reaction in response to suffering persecutions from the world is sorrow and grief; however, we Christians can and should also truly rejoice in the crosses we endure when we remember the good that God has designed for us through them. Under the cross, the Lord desires to draw us to Himself in prayer and directs us to His Word for comfort and guidance. It is through the Gospel that God grants strength to His believing children and helps them not only to bear the tribulations but also to rejoice in them—being assured of the Lord’s faithfulness and unchanging grace through the blood of the Redeemer. It was emphasized that the glory that awaits us in heaven, if we rightly cling to it in faith, will move us to bear the sufferings of this life most willingly in gratitude to the God of our salvation. The essayist, as well as others from the floor, gave examples from the world in which we live in this present day about how the open confession of our Scriptural stand (in matters such as abortion and homosexuality) will very quickly make us targets of persecution, even of the most vicious hatred and slander from unbelievers. It is love for God and love for our neighbor, in response to God’s great love for us in Christ, that causes us to bear faithful witness of our Christian faith before the world, no matter how much we may be called upon to suffer as a result.
The Conference Treasurer presented his final report in which he mentioned that there were no changes since the previous report. The Treasurer reminded the members of the Conference to keep a close eye on the General Fund balance in his monthly reports. Four months from now, the numbers may show enough of a change to see what kind of trend is developing.
Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi, the Conference Statistician, delivered the statistical report for fiscal year 2013–2014. (The specifics of this report can be found in the official Proceedings.)
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 Worley 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 David J. Mensing and Daniel P. Mensing for their sermons; 4) Thanks to Pastors Lietz, Bloedel, David J. Mensing, and David T. Mensing who provided devotions opening the various sessions of the Convention; 5) Thanks to Mr. Dale Peterson, Pastor M. L. Natterer, and Mrs. Karen Sinclair for the beautiful organ music during the convention; 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 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 64th Annual Convention. (Dates: Pastoral Conference: Tuesday and Wednesday, June 23 and 24; Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, June 25; The Convention: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 26, 27, and 28, 2015.)
The chairman of the Committee on Missions, Pastor Lietz, then read an e-mail that just arrived from Pastor Fyneface, in which more detailed information was given about the Nigerian congregations. Some of the older pastors are now being assisted in their work by their deacons. Warm brotherly greetings and thanks were extended to our Conference from the F. L. C. N.
The Conference President concluded the 63rd Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the singing of Hymn 14, the reading of Psalm 134, a prayer, the customary formularies, and the Apostolic Benediction.
—P. E. B.