The 64th Annual Convention, held at Peace Ev. Lutheran Church, Oak Forest, Illinois, officially began at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 26th, with a Divine Worship Service of Convocation in which the local pastor, the Rev. David T. Mensing, served as the liturgist and the Rev. Edward J. Worley, Conference President, delivered the keynote sermon based on Ephesians 2:20. His theme was: The Only and All-Sufficient Foundation, which he divided into the following three questions as his parts: I. By whom is the Christian Church built?; II. How does God build the Christian Church?; and III. What is the chief doctrine of the Christian Church?
Following the service, the first session of the convention was called to order by the President, who first appointed the standard convention committees. In his report, President Worley focused upon the sufficiency of Scripture in accord with the theme for this year’s Convention. Because this attribute of Holy Scripture can only benefit us if we are rightly using the Word, the President mentioned that he considers members who are inconsistent in their Bible Class attendance to be “high-risk.” The President encouraged everyone to be present for and listen attentively to the Convention essay and mentioned that they should also prepare themselves to contribute to the discussion.
After the noon meal, sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Pastor Lietz. The chairman of the Committee on Missions, Pastor Robert J. Lietz, began his report by citing passages of Scripture that exhort us to love one another in response to God’s great love for us—loving our neighbor not only in word but in deed. He then gave an update on St. Mark’s in Sauk Village, Illinois, a congregation currently receiving financial assistance from the Conference ($800.00 a month). This subsidy is being used to help them fully support their pastor according to God’s ordinance. For the next fiscal year, St. Mark’s has requested from the Conference a slightly reduced subsidy of $750.00 a month. With regard to Good Shepherd in Tucson, Arizona, which is also being subsidized for the same purpose, the chairman mentioned that the congregation is requesting a reduction in the subsidy received from the Conference from $1,000 a month to $900 a month for the next fiscal year. Concerning Pastor Schurganoff and his congregation in Ekaterinburg, Russia, the Committee Chairman reported that there has been a slight increase in attendance at their worship services. Earlier in the month, Pastor Schurganoff informed the Chairman that the time for re-registration of their congregation is coming up, and that there is the possibility that they will be denied church registration by the Russian government—being considered a church of Western influence—and thus also be prohibited from renting a place to worship. In the mean time, the 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). About our Nigerian brethren, Pastor Lietz reported that there are currently eleven seminary students being trained by the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations in Nigeria (F.L.C.N.); but their instruction is taking much longer than had been planned. Updates were given from seven Nigerian congregations (including one that was just newly formed). Pastor Fyneface explained that his goiter has been causing him more problems with both swallowing and breathing. He is currently taking some medication to help him. Though he hopes that his goiter can be shrunk without surgery, Pastor Fyneface and his congregation are considering various options that are available. If it is decided to have the surgery performed, Pastor Fyneface would prefer not to have it done in Nigeria because of careless medical practices in that country. What our Conference and its constituent congregations can do to help the Nigerian brethren in defraying the cost of necessary surgery and care will the subject of on-going discussions this year.
In the initial report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, the Conference Treasurer, presented the Financial Report for fiscal year 2014–2015. The report showed a beginning cash balance of $10,696.35 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $40,540.50, yielding total cash available of $51,236.85. Expenditures totaled $38,903.22, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2015 of $12,333.63. The report also showed a modest increase in the Student Aid Fund from $33,239.47 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $34,251.68 on its closing date, May 31, 2015. Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2015 stands at $46,585.31. It was moved and seconded to receive, subject to audit, the Financial Report of the Treasurer concerning the past fiscal year. This motion was carried. The Treasurer then distributed the Finance Committee’s Budget Worksheet for the new fiscal year, June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016. It showed a beginning cash balance of $12,333.63 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $31,893.00, for an expected total cash available of $44,226.63 in the General Fund. Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $39,600.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications – $1,000.00; Ekaterinburg Subsidy – $12,000.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy – $2,400.00; St. Mark’s Subsidy – $9,000.00; Good Shepherd Subsidy – $10,800.00; General Travel Expense – $2,400.00; Convention Expense – $1,000.00; Miscellaneous Expenses – $1,000.00. In the Student Aid Fund, the estimated income for the new year is $2,400.00. The Treasurer drew attention to the fact that under the Lord’s blessing, the Conference is doing much better financially at the present time than at the start of the previous fiscal year. As a side note, the Treasurer requested that the brethren send him hard copies of actual receipts or bills when they are seeking reimbursement, not merely an e-mail asking for an undocumented amount of money.
Pastor David T. Mensing, Chairman of the Editorial Committee and Editor of the C. L., presented his report in which he emphasized how our official organ (the Concordia Lutheran) and also our official website (www.ConcordiaLutheranConf.com) both give consistent testimony to the true doctrine and practice according to the clear words of Holy Scripture with which the Lord has so graciously blessed us in our Conference. The Editor mentioned that on a number of occasions assigned articles did not come in on time, causing the Editor himself to write additional articles; and he apologized for not always being able to get the issues out on schedule. The Editor expressed his thanks to the other members of his committee – Pastor David J. Mensing and Mr. Jason A. Mabe – as well as Pastor Lietz who provided additional help in editing C. L. articles. The Print Shop Manager of Scriptural Publications, Mr. Phillip Martin, was especially thanked for his work in the layout and printing of the C. L.s. In the discussion following the report, it was mentioned that the most recent issues, as well as many older issues of the C. L. are available on the Conference website. While it was acknowledged that publishing the C. L. on-line (as opposed to printing hard copies) would save money, there are those who definitely prefer having the hard copies.
Pastor Robert J. 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 six times a year. He also reported that there are other projects in various stages of completion. A great deal of work has been put into the reprinting of the Advanced Bible History. The goal is to be able to republish this book within the next 12 months. Mr. Phillip Martin (Print Shop Manager) and Mr. Martin Trusty (Business Manager) have been working together on updating the Conference website with new content. Thanks was expressed to Peace Congregation for housing the printing equipment and covering the cost of utilities connected with the use of that equipment. Following the report, it was mentioned that audio and video content can be published very easily on the web (also on such sites as Youtube), and that it might be nice to publish audio readings of C. L. articles or other devotional material on our Conference site, as well as on other sites, especially for those who are sight challenged.
Mr. Martin Trusty, the 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 $2,600.57; total receipts of $1,703.24; total expenditures of $1,793.55; and an ending balance of $2,510.26.
The next morning, sessions began with a devotion led by Pastor Bloedel. Pastor David T. Mensing then began his essay entitled: “Holy Scripture—The Only Source and Norm of Christian Faith and Life,” Part I: Holy Scripture as the only Source and Norm of Christian Faith. In his introduction, the essayist focused upon a quotation from the Formula of Concord (Thorough Declaration, Part XI) in which we state, together with the confessors of old, our heartfelt intention, with the help and by the grace of God, to hold fast to every teaching of Scripture, not yielding in the least bit for the sake of earthly peace, tranquility or unity. We hold firmly and without compromise to the doctrines of God’s Word, because it alone sets forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ the perfect and only way to eternal salvation. Furthermore, as the very Word of God, the Scriptures present absolute truth and perfection in all of its words and parts, containing all that we need to know for our Christian faith and life. While the Bible does not answer all of the curious questions that humans may ask (in both spiritual and earthly matters), yet with the teachings of Holy Scripture (including both the Old and New Testaments) we are not at all lacking anything that is necessary for us to know, as the Lord God Himself has chosen to reveal that which is necessary. Not only are extra-Biblical sources unnecessary for providing supplemental spiritual information, but any and every source of religious knowledge that goes beyond or conflicts with the teachings of Scripture would only draw us away from and undermine the fully-sufficient, divinely-inspired source and norm that is Holy Writ. Discussion centered upon the prevailing tendency in society for individuals to have the “freedom” to determine what is right and wrong for themselves—arguing against the Bible as being objective truth and rejecting the application of God’s Word to them. The false sources of doctrine that are honored and followed by the Romanists (tradition) and Reformed (rationalism) were contrasted with our quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord as a secondary norm or standard that is and must always be normed by the Scriptures themselves. The essayist then focused upon three examples: The doctrines of God, Creation, and Redemption to show how the pure teachings of the Christian religion can only have Holy Scripture (not natural knowledge, human reason, or tradition) as their source and norm. Even a single passage of the Bible is fully sufficient to source a doctrine and to provide the perfect norm for correcting false beliefs. Even though a non-biblical source may happen to state a truth about God and the true religion (Acts 17:28), the truth of the point can only be established for us Christians by Holy Writ itself.
It was decided to pause the presentation of the essay to allow the other business set on the agenda for the Saturday morning session to be completed. The Vice President and Chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor David T. Mensing, then presented the committee’s report, in which he first stated the purpose of the committee, namely, to handle matters of potential fellowship with interested church bodies. Earlier in the month, the chairman received an inquiry about our Conference from an independent Lutheran congregation in Columbus, Ohio, “seeking a pastoral candidate to replace its retiring pastor.” The chairman then read excerpts from the letter he received from that congregation as well as the response that he sent to it. Sadly, no reply has been received up to this time. Some information about our Conference was also sent to four pastors affiliated with the United Lutheran Mission Association (a group that has marked and avoided the LCMS as a heterodox fellowship); but, again, no reply has been received. The Committee’s report was received into record.
In response to a request from the Conference President, an update on Pastor Emeritus David G. Redlin was given by Pastor Daniel Mensing; and Pastor Paul Bloedel gave an update on Pastor Emeritus M. L. Natterer. By the grace of God, both of these retired pastors are doing well physically, mentally, and spiritually; and they are staying active in their respective congregations.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Rev. David J. Mensing. The essay then resumed with a focus upon the fact that the primary fundamental doctrine of Redemption can only be known from the Scriptures and could never have been devised by the mind of man. The essayist quoted the well-known explanation of the Second Article as found in Luther’s Small Catechism, together with some of the many Bible passages upon which that explanation is built and firmly rests. Various ways this blessed doctrine is contradicted by extra-biblical sources were summarized. It was mutually agreed that the remainder of Part I of the essay be heard and considered in the afternoon session on Sunday.
The chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, then gave his report in which he mentioned that, because there are currently no theological students, the Committee’s main focus was centered upon collecting from the former professors the teaching materials that they had generated over the years. The chairman then led the brethren in a prayer beseeching the Lord to grant us men who are willing and eager to pursue the office of the ministry and to enroll in our seminary. During the discussion following the report, it was mentioned that not only should we encourage men to study in our seminary with our words, but also by showing our love and appreciation for the pastoral office by way of our example.
The convention then took up the Election of Officers and Standing Committees, Pastor David T. Mensing was elected President; Pastor Edward J. Worley was elected Vice President; Pastor Paul E. Bloedel was elected Secretary; Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was elected Treasurer; Mr. William Bergstrom was elected Board Member at Large from the “Far West”; and Mr. Erik Roe was elected as Board Member at Large from the “Middle West.” The results of the elections of the “standing committees” are as follows: Editorial Committee — Pastor David T. Mensing, Chairman and Editor of the Concordia Lutheran; Pastor David J. Mensing, Book and Tract Editor; Mr. Jason A. Mabe, Lay Member. Committee on Theological Education — Pastor Edward J. Worley, Chairman; Pastor Paul E. Bloedel, Mr. Daniel M. Bloedel, and Mr. Mark J. Mensing. Committee on Missions — Pastor David T. Mensing, Chairman; Pastor Robert J. Lietz, Mr. Dale Peterson, Mr. Tom Fedor, and Mr. David Jue. Committee on Lutheran Union — Pastor Edward J. Worley (Vice President), Chairman; Pastor Paul E. Bloedel (Secretary); Pastor David T. Mensing (Theological Professor); and Mr. Phillip R. Martin, Lay Member. Finance Committee — Mr. Robert G. Bloedel (Treasurer), Chairman; Mr. Paul Natterer, Mr. Phillip R. Martin, and Mr. Jerry Sidwell. Publishing House [Scriptural Publications] Board of Control — Pastor Robert J. Lietz, Chairman; Mr. Martin L. Trusty, Business Manager; Mr. Phillip R. Martin, Print Shop Manager.
On Sunday morning, the local pastor, the Rev. David T. Mensing, again served as liturgist, and the Rev. Robert J. Lietz preached the sermon based on Luke 16:29. His theme was: The Sufficiency of Moses and the Prophets, divided into two parts: I. Sufficient for our faith, and II. Sufficient for our life. Holy Communion was celebrated for the strengthening of our faith and in testimony of our God-wrought unity.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor Daniel P. Mensing. The convention then heard the continuation of Part I of the doctrinal essay: “Holy Scripture—The Only Source and Norm of Christian Faith and Life,” by Pastor David T. Mensing. The focus of the remainder of Part I (Holy Scripture as the only Source and Norm of Christian Faith) centered upon the requirement of an orthodox fellowship to have orthodox practice—consistently putting their correct teachings into practice. Orthodox “practice,” as the term is used in this context, does not refer to perfection in sanctification (as if it were possible for a person to live in perfect conformity to the Law of God), but rather refers to Christians consistently applying the doctrines of Scripture among themselves—holding each other to the standard of God’s Word and not allowing sin and error to go unchallenged or without rebuke. The Scriptures are fully sufficient to be the standard that is used for correcting error and guiding us in the way that the Lord would have us to go. For a congregation or church body to have purity of doctrine while not insisting upon orthodoxy in practice is to foster hypocrisy. Various examples were given to show the importance of having orthodox practice that consistently follows the clear teachings of Holy Writ. The essayist gave many more examples of how God wants our practice to be conformed to the perfect, all-sufficient norm of Holy Scripture. It was mentioned that sometimes people are tempted not to apply the principles of Scripture when a particular activity is not specifically mentioned by name in the Bible. After citing various ways that God’s Commandments are violated by inconsistent practice, the essayist focused, by way of example, upon the importance of putting the Doctrine of Fellowship into practice in different social situations that may come up in the life of a Christian.
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 David T. Mensing 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 Edward J. Worley and Robert J. Lietz for their sermons; 4) Thanks to Pastors Worley, Lietz, Bloedel, D. J. Mensing, and D. P. Mensing, who provided devotions opening the various sessions of the Convention; 5) Thanks to Mr. Mark J. Mensing, Mr. John P. Mensing, and all those who contributed to the organ, brass and choral music that was greatly enjoyed by the brethren during the convention [A special personal word of thanks was also expressed from the floor by Mr. John P. Mensing, Peace’s choir director, for the dedication and energy put into the worship music by all who participated in the choir and in the brass ensemble.]; 6) Thanks to Peace Ev. Lutheran Church —to Pastor and Mrs. David T. Mensing and to the other members of the congregation— 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. The motions to adopt these resolutions were all seconded and were carried unanimously.
Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi, the Conference Statistician, delivered the statistical report for fiscal year 2014–2015. (The specifics of this report can be found in the official Proceedings.)
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Seattle, Washington, extended to the Conference its invitation to host the 65th Annual Convention. (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, 2016). This invitation was unanimously accepted.
The new Conference President concluded the 64th Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the singing of Hymn 53, a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, an exhortation, and the Apostolic Benediction.
—P. E. B.