The Sixty-sixth Annual Convention, held at Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Oak Forest, Illinois, officially began on Friday, June 23rd, 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 based on John 17:17. His theme was: The Inerrancy of Holy Scripture, I. in its essence and II. in its application.
Following the service, the convention was called to order by the President, who first appointed the standard convention committees. Then, in his annual report, President Mensing thanked the Lord for His blessings over the past year. He then focused upon the duties of the various Conference committees—drawing special attention to the work of the Finance Committee in managing both the monetary contributions made to our Conference and its authorized budgeted expenditures, the work of the Committee on Missions in providing financial subsidies to three congregations in our fellowship, and the work of our publishing house (Scriptural Publications) in printing books, tracts, and the official organ of our Conference, the Concordia Lutheran.
After the noon meal, sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Pastor Lietz. The first order of business was the convention’s ratification of the action of the Board of Directors in September 2016, authorizing a “subvention” or special financial relief to the congregations in Nigeria in the amount of $ 4,000.00. This subvention was funded chiefly by a bequest from the estate of the late Miss Dolores Fritz, a long-time member of Trinity, Oak Park, Illinois. The ratification of the Board’s action was unanimous.
In the initial report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, the Conference Treasurer, presented the Financial Report for fiscal year 2016–2017. The report showed a beginning cash balance of $13,815.16 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $40,709.21, yielding total cash available of $54,524.37. Expenditures totaled $39,512.95, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2017 of $15,011.42. The report also showed an increase in the Student Aid Fund from $39,032.11 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $44,390.83 on its closing date, May 31, 2017. Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2017 was $59,402.25. The Treasurer mentioned that the Bank of America accounts have been closed; and now all of the Conference funds have been consolidated in a US Bank checking account. Chairman Bloedel reported that, upon the recommendation of last year’s Auditing Committee and of the Board of Directors, a backup signatory has now been added, namely, Pastor Worley of Seattle, who, in addition to the Treasurer, now has access to the Conference funds in any case of necessity. The Treasurer then distributed the Finance Committee’s Budget Worksheet for the new fiscal year, June 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018. It showed a beginning cash balance of $15,011.42 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) totaling $31,320.00, for an expected total cash available of $46,331.42 in the General Fund. Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $40,000.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications—$1,500.00; Ekaterinburg Pastoral Salary Subsidy—$12,000.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy—$2,400.00; St. Mark’s Subsidy—$8,400.00; Good Shepherd Subsidy—$10,800.00; General Travel Expense—$2,400.00; Convention Expense—$1,000.00; and Miscellaneous Expenses—$1,500.00. In the Student Aid Fund, the estimated income for the new year is $2,400.00. The Treasurer drew attention to the fact that, even though the projected expenditures are greater than the projected receipts, the committee feels comfortable with the proposed budget, both because of an existing cushion in the General Fund and the consistent pattern of congregations exceeding their pledges.
The Vice President and Chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor Worley, presented the Committee’s report, in which he first summarized the purpose of the committee in seeking to find like-minded Christians outside of our Conference. Over the past year, there have been no contacts or official inquiries from any church bodies, congregations, or individuals. This situation is not surprising, knowing that most church groups do not share our love for doctrinal purity and unity with which we have been blessed in our Conference; and we can expect this situation to continue and even worsen as we get closer and closer to the Last Day. During the discussion, President Mensing mentioned that he had only recently received a contact from a pastor in Kenya but that he had not yet had opportunity to confirm the legitimacy of the contact nor to respond to the inquiry.
Pastor David T. Mensing, chairman of the Editorial Committee and Editor of the Concordia Lutheran, then presented his report in which he spoke of the importance of giving faithful public testimony to the full truth of God’s Word and setting forth its perfect light in a world of spiritual darkness. Both in the official organ of our Conference, the Concordia Lutheran, and on the official Conference web page (www.ConcordiaLutheranConf.com), the pure doctrines of Scripture are clearly set forth. Because the Concordia Lutheran is not only published in hard copy but is also put on the internet, people from all over the world are able to access that content. The Editor mentioned that over the past year he, himself, needed to write extra articles that had initially been assigned to other pastors who were unable to write the articles themselves because of important congregational matters that required their attention. The Editor expressed his thanks to the other members of his committee—Pastor Bloedel (Book and Tract Editor) and Mr. Jason Mabe (Lay Member). Mr. Phillip Martin, Print Shop Manager of Scriptural Publications, was especially thanked for his work in the layout and printing of the Concordia Lutheran. After concluding his report, Pastor Mensing mentioned that the Editorial Committee, by means of a “suggestion box,” is soliciting from the convention attendees ideas for future articles. It was also suggested that the members of the Conference be surveyed regarding preferred ways of accessing Concordia Lutheran articles (possibly in a downloadable e-book format) and of possibly receiving text message alerts when new articles are available (using the same system currently used for the daily devotions). The pastors were urged to promote the newly released issues of the Concordia Lutheran in their congregations and to encourage their faithful reading.
The Chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, quoted Matthew 9:36-38, where Jesus bids His disciples to “pray…the Lord of the harvest” to supply pastors who will labor for the welfare of souls purchased with His blood and whom He sincerely desires to save through the preaching and teaching of His Word. Our need is great because we currently have no seminary students. He concluded his report with a prayer beseeching God to move men to study in our seminary and thus to become equipped to be laborers in His harvest among us. A question from the floor inquired as to whether the teaching materials developed by Professors Lietz and Mensing had been collected by the C.T.E. for future use. These materials have not as yet been gathered. It was also mentioned that even if a man, young or old, does not currently consider himself qualified to be a pastor, if he has a desire to study the Word, the Lord through that study can fully equip him for the ministry for the great benefit of the Conference in the future. Some of the Conference pastors spoke about the importance and joy of the pastoral work, which cannot be adequately expressed, but should be a frequent topic of serious conversation between pastors and their members, between parents and their children. It was also rightly emphasized that no one should be pressured or coerced to study for the ministry, but rather be encouraged to consider it and reminded that it is a most wonderful calling from the Lord (I Timothy 3:1).
The next morning, sessions began with a devotion led by Pastor Bloedel. Pastor Daniel P. Mensing then began his essay entitled: “The Inerrancy of Scripture.” In his introduction, the Essayist defined what it means that the Scriptures are inerrant, and the wonderful heritage with which we, as orthodox Lutherans, have been blessed by God. Part I of the essay focused upon “the inerrancy of Scripture in its transmission and preservation.” The Bible is unique in contrast to all other books, in that it is the very Word of God. Holy Scripture frequently testifies to its own divine authorship (both of the Old and New Testaments); and from what we know about God Himself (that He is holy and truthful), and from Scripture prooftexts (sedes doctrinae) that specifically bear witness to the fact, we know that the Bible is completely inerrant in every word and statement. In the discussion, it was mentioned how common it is for modernists to deny the absolute accuracy of Scripture in all of its parts and words, thus subtly or blatantly attacking its inerrancy as well as the attributes of God Himself. As the essay continued, the way that God conveyed His inerrant Word to man was described in detail. Through the perfect inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the prophets and apostles wrote exactly what the Lord Himself moved them to write. The Essayist emphasized that “the doctrine of Verbal Inspiration is…vital to the claim of Biblical inerrancy.” Because of time constraints, it was decided to save the remainder of Part I of the essay until Sunday afternoon.
Pastor Lietz, the chairman of the Publishing House Board of Control, read his report in which he thanked the Lord for providing our Conference with the ability to print and distribute important Scriptural content for those inside and outside of our Conference—all to the glory of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. He thanked the Print Shop Manager, Mr. Phillip Martin, and the Business Manager, Mr. Martin Trusty, for their generous contributions of time and energy in producing printed materials and in maintaining the on-line content through the Conference website. Chairman Lietz also thanked Peace Congregation for providing the space needed for the printing equipment and for paying the utility bills connected with the use of that equipment. He also thanked the Conference for this past year’s subsidy of $1,000.00. Following the chairman’s report, Martin L. Trusty, the Business Manager, presented his financial report for the fiscal year.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Rev. David J. Mensing. The Chairman of the Committee on Missions, Pastor David T. Mensing, mentioned that the congregations receiving subsidy assistance from the Conference have requested that those subsidies be continued at the following levels: $700.00 per month for St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Sauk Village, IL; $900.00 per month for Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran Church in Tucson, AZ; and $1,200.00 a month for the congregation in Ekaterinburg, Russia (including both the salary for its pastor and the rent for its worship facilities). Chairman Mensing reported that Pastor Schurganoff had recently been physically attacked specifically on account of his pastoral work. Resulting from that attack, Pastor Schurganoff’s teeth and mouth were damaged so severely that eating became very painful for him; and the cost of reconstructive surgery is projected to be about $3,000.00. The Russian government too is making his work more difficult. He has been forced to stop conducting Bible classes in the local library and may soon be required to stop holding worship services in the building they are currently renting for that purpose. Concerning our brethren in the F.L.C.N., Pastor Mensing reported that the economic situation in Nigeria remains very bad, resulting in the impoverishment of both the pastors and their laymen, and many are literally dying because they cannot afford needed medical care and treatment. Pastor Fyneface has requested some Catechisms and theological books, which Scriptural Publications is endeavoring to acquire and then to ship over or otherwise supply for their use. In the discussion following, it was suggested that the individual congregations of the Conference consider taking up a special collection to assist in defraying the cost of Pastor Schurganoff’s reconstructive surgery, inasmuch as the new Conference budget will not be able to sustain such an additional expenditure. It was also mentioned that it might be more cost effective for the Conference to buy inexpensive e-tablets, to preload them with the books needed by the Nigerian pastors in e-book format, and then to send the tablets to Nigeria, rather than purchasing and shipping the physical books.
The convention then took up the Election of Officers and Standing Committees. Pastor Worley was elected President; Pastor David T. Mensing was elected Vice President; Pastor Bloedel was re-elected Secretary; Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was re-elected Treasurer; Mr. William Bergstrom was re-elected Board Member-at-Large from the “far west”; and Mr. Tom Fedor was re-elected Board Member-at-Large from the “middle west.” Elected to the Editorial Committee: Pastor David T. Mensing, Editor of the Concordia Lutheran and Chairman of the committee; Pastor Paul Bloedel, Book and Tract Editor; and Mr. Jason A. Mabe, lay member. Committee on Missions: Pastor David T. Mensing, Chairman; Pastor Robert Lietz; Mr. Dale Peterson; Mr. Raymond Kusumi; and Mr. Michael Danyluk. Committee on Theological Education: Pastor Edward Worley, Chairman; Pastor Paul Bloedel; Mr. Daniel Bloedel; and Mr. Michael Danyluk. Committee on Lutheran Union: Pastor David T. Mensing, Chairman; Pastor Paul Bloedel; Pastor Robert Lietz; and Mr. Jason A. Mabe. Finance Committee: Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, Treasurer and Chairman; Mr. Paul Natterer; Mr. Phillip Martin; and Mr. Jerry Sidwell. 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. David T. Mensing, again served as liturgist, and the Rev. David J. Mensing preached the sermon based on John 8:31–32. His theme was: “Christ Jesus’ Comforting Pledge to His Believers,” divided into three parts: I. …freedom; II. …through knowledge of the Truth; III. …if we continue in His Word. Pastors and lay delegates, as well as visiting laymen from our congregations-in-fellowship, then partook of the Lord’s Supper as guests of Peace Congregation, for the remission of their sins, for the strengthening of their faith, and as a testimony of their unity together in the inerrant Scriptures.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor Edward J. Worley. The convention then heard the remainder of Part I of the Convention Essay, “The Inerrancy of Scripture” (carried over from the previous day), as well as Part II of the essay presented by Pastor Daniel P. Mensing. The Essayist set forth some common objections to the inspiration, and therefore also the inerrancy, of Holy Scripture; and he clearly demonstrated why those objections are not valid. Not only is it important to recognize that the inerrant Word of God was originally given by the verbal inspiration of the Holy Ghost to the Apostles and Prophets who wrote them down with their own hands (autographs) or with the help of secretarial assistants, but it is also crucial to our Christian faith in this present day that the inerrant Word of God has been miraculously preserved by the power of the Lord through the many copies in the original languages, as well as in the faithful translation of Scripture into other languages so that they couild be preached in all the world (Mark 14:9; 16:15), to every creature (16:15), among all nations (Romans 1:5; 16:26), unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Based upon comments and questions from the floor, different English translations and the manuscripts upon which they are based were discussed. The Essayist then proceeded into Part II of his essay, “The Inerrancy of Scripture in Its Divinely-Intended Use.” Only because the Bible is the verbally inspired and inerrant Word of God can we be absolutely certain that the proper use of it will always guide us to believe and to do that which is right and true. Accordingly, we look to Holy Scripture alone as both the infallible source and infallible standard of truth. The Bible includes more than thetical and antithetical statements of doctrine; there are also many historical accounts that demonstrate how the infallible truth of God was carried out in the lives of His people both in the Old and New Testaments. In discussion initiated from the floor, the point was made about how important it is for parents to use the Word of God in teaching their children and in its application to their daily lives. As the essay resumed and continued to its conclusion, the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture was emphasized as being necessary in order that the inerrancy of Scripture can be put to practical use as the infallible standard for our Christian faith and life. Even if no one acknowledges the Scriptures to be inerrant, its inerrancy stands as a fact. By the grace of God alone, we acknowledge and treasure the inerrancy of Scripture. May the Lord ever preserve His inerrant Word and its pure doctrine among us in our Conference!
Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi, the Conference Statistician, delivered the Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2016–2017. (The specifics of this report can be found in the official Proceedings when they are published and can be had also upon request.)
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 Daniel P. 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 David T. Mensing and David J. Mensing for their sermons; 4) Thanks to Pastors Lietz, Bloedel, David J. Mensing, and Worley, who provided devotions opening the various sessions of the Convention; 5) Thanks to Mr. Mark Mensing for his work in providing organ music, to Mr. John Mensing, Peace’s choir director, and to all those who participated in the joint choir with singing that was greatly enjoyed by the brethren during the convention; 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 inerrant Word. The choir director, Mr. John P. Mensing, then read an expression of thanks to all those who participated in the choir out of love for the Lord and to His glory.
St. John’s Lutheran Church of Lebanon, Oregon, extended to the Conference its invitation to host the Sixty-seventh Annual Convention. (Dates: Pastoral Conference: Tuesday and Wednesday, June 19th and 20th; Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, June 21st; The Convention: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, 2018); and this invitation was accepted with the thanks of the Convention.
The agenda having been completed, the Conference President concluded the Sixty-sixth Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the reading of Psalm 134, a prayer, an exhortation, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostolic Benediction.
—P. E. B.