Fifty-Fourth Annual Convention Digest
MOTTO: “That there be no divisions among you.” I Corinthians 1:10
Appropriately named for the large oak trees which line many of its streets and grace its recreational areas, Oak Park, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, is located immediately adjacent to the city and only twenty minutes west of “the Loop” by rapid transit. It was the home of the innovative architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose studio and quite a few of the homes he designed are still open to visitors. Judged by many to be one of the most “livable” villages in the area —at the same time historic and genteel but also cosmopolitan and vibrant, Oak Park was the site of this year’s Fifty-Fourth Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference. Hosting the convention on the last weekend in June was Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church, the Rev. Robert J. Lietz, Pastor. Trinity’s historic sanctuary, chapel, fellowship hall and dining area provided ample room for the convention services and sessions, and for the delicious meals served by the ladies. Dear brethren from sister flocks in nearby localities —Peace (Oak Forest) and St. Mark’s (Sauk Village)— as well as from as far away as Faith in Jackson, Michigan, lent helping hands as they were able to share the burden usually borne by the host congregation alone. Guests from afar began arriving already the previous weekend; and soon pastoral and lay delegates, some with their families, as well as visitors from as far west as Seattle and as far south as Tucson, gathered as dear brethren to do the work of the Lord’s kingdom-at-large and to enjoy their God-wrought fellowship in the opening devotions, in the various services, in their joint labors, and in their Christian sociability. A blistering heat-wave with daytime temperatures consistently in the upper 90’s took everyone by surprise; but the Lord graciously granted patience, endurance, and a great deal of personal brotherly “cool” to bear with the heat.
Immediately preceding the convention itself was a two-day Pastoral Conference on June 21st and 22nd, during which the pastors heard and discussed two papers: a doctrinal paper on the use of the term περιχώρησις to describe the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ, and a practical discussion on various styles and methods used in teaching children in Confirmation classes and adults in instruction classes preparatory to communicant membership. They also discussed other purely practical matters including, in private session, cases of casuistry, that is, cases concerning which the brotherly counsel of fellow pastors is sought to confirm the orthodox application of the principles of God’s Word in situations that are fraught with unusual difficulties or special circumstances.
On Thursday, June 23rd, the Conference Board of Directors held its annual business meeting to preview the convention agenda, to hear in advance the general content of each standing committee’s report, and to draft recommendations for the special consideration of the delegates in convention assembled.
The convention itself began on Friday, June 24th, with a service of convocation at 9:30 a.m. The local pastor served as liturgist and, as Conference President, also preached an edifying keynote sermon. He chose as his text Ephesians 4:3, taking as his theme: Two Timely Reminders for Orthodox Christians, namely, I. Keep on being diligent in preserving the unity of the Spirit, and II. Keep on being diligent in preserving the bond of peace.
Following the service, the first session was called to order with a brief devotion conducted by the President. During this first brief session, the first order of business was the reception into membership, upon its unanimous application, of St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Sauk Village, Illinois, the Rev. Paul E. Bloedel, Pastor. The convention then heard the Annual Report of the President. In it President Lietz first reported on his post-convention efforts to bring Pastor Stallings of San Antonio, on the basis of God’s Word, to the recognition of his sinful separatism from our fellowship and to urge his congregation to safeguard itself against the leaven of false doctrine and practice to which Satan would have it exposed. Nevertheless, on August 12, 2004, Pastor Stallings confirmed his withdrawal of membership from our Conference; and, on September 5, his congregation followed suit, neither having set forth even one clear Scripture passage to show our position on the sinful character of the modern, worldly dance to be contrary to the Word of God. President Lietz then briefly capsulized the activities of the Conference throughout the year, including the important work of the Board of Directors between conventions, and his duties in particular. Following the report, it was committed to a special committee for review. Thereafter the Committee on Registration and Excuses reported on the congregations represented at the convention, their respective pastoral and lay delegates to be seated, and the number of votes to which each congregation was entitled. The various ad hoc convention committees were then appointed, the official agenda was adopted with several minor changes, and the convention stood in recess for the noon meal.
The afternoon session opened with a brief devotion conducted by Pastor Paul E. Bloedel of Sauk Village, Illinois. This session was then highlighted by the presentation of the PRACTICAL ESSAY, which, without objection, was read by Pastor Bloedel in the absence of Pastor Natterer, the assigned essayist, who was ill and unable to attend the convention. This essay, highlighting “What We Christians Object To in the Scouting Movement,” specified twelve statements of position with respect to Scouting and the reasons for them on the basis of Holy Scripture. The bulk of the presentation was a tract on the same topic written in the early fifties by Pastor H. David Mensing, a paper which, Pastor Natterer felt, was well worth re-visiting rather than writing a new one. While the objectionable principles of Scouting have not essentially changed over the past fifty years, most of the quotes from official Scouting literature were by this time quite outdated and in need of “refreshing” from more current sources. —The essay was interspersed with and followed by lively and edifying discussion on the floor; and it was unanimously resolved to adopt the paper with thanks to Pastor Natterer and to publish it in the Proceedings when the dated material has been supplemented with current quotations in order to make it a truly functional document concerning the Scouting movement in the 21st century.
There were three recommendations from the Board of Directors to be acted on by the convention. —The first recommendation was that the 2005 Convention ratify the decisions and actions unanimously made and taken by the Board of Directors after the 2004 Convention, including the authorization of expenditures for travel related to our brethren in Russia (including the Fall, 2004, colloquy of Pastor Schurganoff), for the remuneration of the Conference Secretary for his purchase of a replacement notebook computer, and for travel to and from the convention of delegates from a member-congregation. This recommendation was adopted, and the actions of the Board were ratified in Resolution #1 of the convention. —The second recommendation was that the Resolutions Committee draft a resolution regarding the travel expenses of pastoral and lay delegates, to the effect that this travel is properly, also constitutionally, the responsibility of each local congregation (By-Law 1, b), and that the Conference should not be expected routinely to underwrite such travel. The recommendation was unanimously adopted, and the proposal was committed to the Resolutions Committee for appropriate wording. —The third recommendation was that, for the sake of greater efficiency of both time and money, and to ensure better quality control, the entire print-medium production operation of Scriptural Publications be located at the Oak Forest facility exclusively. This third recommendation was also unanimously adopted.
The Treasurer’s Report concerning the past fiscal year, given by Robert G. Bloedel, was then heard and adopted, as was also his Initial Report of the Finance Committee with its preliminary proposed budget for fiscal year 2005-2006. The details of this budget as finally adopted on Sunday afternoon will be given later on in this summary and will also be reflected in the first Financial Report of the Treasurer to our congregations in July.
Then followed an amendment to the agenda to hear the Report of the Committee on Missions and to hold the Editorial Committee report and the reports concerning Scriptural Publications until Saturday morning. Pastor Ross Mahan, the chairman of the Committee on Missions, then first briefly reviewed Pastor Schurganoff’s situation in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and summarized the Conference’s efforts during the past year to help his congregation financially, to examine more closely his doctrine and practice in a colloquy of the pastors, and to arrange a visit of our own delegation to Ekaterinburg this coming summer. The Committee also recommended the continuation of subsidy to the Russian congregation at the same level as last year; and it also recommended our continued subsidy of St. Stephen’s congregation in Wilmot, South Dakota, which is unable fully to support its pastor due largely to a schism some years back which decimated its once sizeable membership. A recommendation to send Pastors Lietz and Mensing to Nigeria this coming January was tabled until after the Report of the Committee on Lutheran Union was heard and acted upon, including the declaration of fellowship from the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations – Nigeria.
The Saturday morning sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Pastor David G. Redlin. Thereupon the Secretary was first requested to read back the minutes of the Friday sessions for review and adoption. Pastor David T. Mensing then began his DOCTRINAL ESSAY based on the motto of our Convention, “That there be no divisions among you.” The essay was entitled “The Difference Between Scriptural Separation and Sinful Separatism.” The first part of the essay included first of all a thorough review of the concepts of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and God’s demand that His church be solidly grounded upon the Scriptures as the only sure foundation of doctrine and practice. True unity of all the brethren, the unity expected and demanded by God Himself in I Corinthians 1:10 and other passages, is therefore no “pipedream of the Holy Ghost,” as some have blasphemously labeled it, but it is entirely possible when all are perfectly agreed in the teachings of Holy Writ. Clearly, according to Scripture, “divisions and offenses,” which undermine “the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3), are caused by those who teach and practice “contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned,” writes St. Paul in Romans 16:17; and such persistent errorists are to be “avoided” so that the unity of the church is neither threatened nor destroyed. Therefore, it is not those who separate themselves from errorists who cause schisms and stumblingblocks in the flock of God; for their separation has been commanded by Holy Scripture itself. The first part of the essay was accompanied with lively discussion and wide participation on the part of the delegates and visitors. Therefore, following the mid-morning break, it was decided to continue the presentation of the essay until about 11:30 a.m.
The convention then heard a brief Report of the Committee on Lutheran Union through its chairman, Pastor Worley. He first summarized the constitutionally-mandated functions of the Committee, noting that it is charged primarily with answering inquiries from and engaging in discussions with church bodies which have shown interest in our Conference. While there were no such inquiries originating “stateside,” he was pleased to announce the Resolution on Doctrinal Fellowship with our Conference by the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations – Nigeria, dated November 13, 2004, declaring that the six congregations comprising that body have unanimously declared themselves in full agreement in doctrine and practice and thus in fellowship with us. This news was joyfully received by the convention, and the motion was unanimously carried that we thankfully receive the resolution of fellowship from the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations – Nigeria and express our gratitude in the Lord for this blessing of His grace. —The motion tabled from Friday was then re-opened for discussion, namely, that the proposed trip of Pastors Lietz and Mensing to Nigeria, tentatively scheduled for January, 2006, be approved, the chief purpose of the trip being to colloquize the Nigerian pastors trained by Brother Fyneface to determine to the best of our ability the thoroughness of their theological training, their aptness to teach the precious truths of God’s Word in their purity, and in all other respects their qualifications for the pastoral office of which they are incumbents. Additional but also extremely important purposes of the trip include a) to demonstrate our genuine interest in these now declared-brethren in the faith and our support of their efforts to endeavor, together with us, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; b) to explore effective, efficient and secure ways of facilitating communication between us and our Nigerian brethren; and c) to determine what is the best, perhaps a more economical, but above all the most secure means of transferring funds to Nigeria. Discussion was postponed for the noon meal, after which, following an opening devotion by Pastor Mensing, the motion was unanimously adopted.
The Auditing Committee reported on its examination of the books, both of the Conference Treasurer and of the Business Manager of Scriptural Publications. The committee found all the financial records to be in good order and expressed the gratitude of the Conference to its financial officers for their diligence.
Next followed the Report of the Editorial Committee regarding the Concordia Lutheran and also the editing of books and tracts in advance of printing (or re-printing) by our publishing house. Pastor Worley, chairman of the Committee and Editor of the C. L., noted that the production of the Concordia Lutheran has been a “total team effort” and that, at his request, Pastors Mensing and Lietz and laymen Phillip Martin and Ray Kusumi all worked with him to produce a carefully-crafted, doctrinally correct and edifying official periodical for our Conference; but he recognized with regret that the lay member of the Committee —this past year, Mr. Paul Natterer— needs to be better utilized and involved. The practice of getting together right after the Convention to plan out the content of the C. L. for the following year has been very helpful and has resulted in the added benefit that the contributors have their assignments in hand early-on and thus should be able to meet their deadlines in a more timely fashion. The Book and Tract Editor, Pastor David T. Mensing, has reviewed several titles over the past year. Presently three devotional titles are to be published in the coming year.
Pastor David T. Mensing, chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, reported for the committee on its proposed revision of the Conference theological training program, a task which consumed much time in revisiting, planning and adjusting our present model. He presented the Philosophy and Recommendations developed by the Committee, including its conclusion that, with no students enrolled at present, we need to include married men with families in the desired pool of prospective students. There were fourteen recommendations, the first of which set the tone as well as the chief purpose in the revisions undertaken, namely, “that we encourage ALL of our men who ‘desire the office of a bishop’ (I Timothy 3:1) to matriculate into our theological training program, regardless of whether they are single or whether they are married with family responsibilities.” All fourteen recommendations were unanimously adopted by the convention, including two which proposed amending Article IX, Section 2, of the Conference Constitution to reflect the changes adopted and to bring into full conformity with our Scriptural position the method of engaging theological instructors and of compensating them for their work. The amendment has been submitted to the member-congregations for ratification.
The convention then proceeded to the Election of Officers and Standing Committees for 2005-2006. The following were elected:
PRESIDENT: The Rev. Robert J. Lietz
VICE PRESIDENT: The Rev. Edward J. Worley
SECRETARY: The Rev. David T. Mensing
TREASURER: Mr. Robert G. Bloedel
BOARD MEMBERS-AT-LARGE: Midwest—Mr. JC Perry
Far West— Mr. Raymond Kusumi
EDITORIAL COMMITTEE: Pastor Worley, C. L. Editor; Pastor Mensing, Book and Tract Editor; and Mr. Paul Natterer, Lay Member.
COMMITTEE ON LUTHERAN UNION: Pastor Worley, Chairman; Pastor Mensing; Pastor Natterer; and Mr. Phillip Martin.
COMMITTEE ON THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION: Pastor Mensing, Chairman; Pastor Worley; Mr. Daniel Bloedel; and Mr. Stephen Bloedel.
COMMITTEE ON MISSIONS: Pastor Mahan, Chairman; Pastor Redlin; Mr. Martin Hermann; Mr. JC Perry; and Mr. Joshua Redlin.
FINANCE COMMITTEE: Mr. Robert Bloedel, Chairman; Mr. Phillip Martin; Mr. JC Perry, and Mr. Paul Natterer.
PUBLISHING HOUSE BOARD OF CONTROL: Pastor Lietz, Chairman; Mr. David J. Mensing, Business Manager; and Mr. Phillip Martin, Print Shop Manager.
At the Sunday morning service, the pastor loci, the Rev. Robert J. Lietz, again served as liturgist; and the Rev. Edward J. Worley of Seattle, Washington, preached the sermon based on II Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1. His theme was: The Lord Commands Separation. He divided the sermon into two parts: I. Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, II. …for the LORD demands a separate people, set apart for His use. Delegates and visitors from the congregations of our fellowship then partook of the Lord’s Supper together as guests of Trinity Congregation —for the remission of their sins, for the strengthening of their faith and of their walk in sanctification, and in testimony of their blessed unity in the Word of their Savior.
After a sumptuous dinner, sessions reconvened with a devotion conducted by Pastor Mahan of Jackson, Michigan, after which Pastor Mensing presented the remaining portion of the first part of his essay on “The Difference between Scriptural Separation and Sinful Separatism” He cited numerous passages, first from the Old Testament, which presented notable examples, pointed warnings, and clear directives to God’s people to separate themselves from the wicked —for His sake, for the sake of the promised Savior, and for their own sake and spiritual safety. New Testament passages as well contain similar warnings, admonitions, directives, and outright commands making separation from the wicked, from errorists, from ungodly men, from the world, and from false brethren necessary and by no means optional. In none of those passages was anything that indicated lack of urgency, permitted them to be simply ignored, applied them only to professed unbelievers, allowed for selective application, or inserted an unspecified “time element” which would in effect remove all urgency and permit inaction to replace action. There was absolutely nothing in those passages that made separation merely advisory. But the motivation to carry out Scripturally-mandated separation is and must always be the Gospel of the love of Christ, which constrains every true Christian to follow the Word and will of his God (II Corinthians 5:14). —The second part of the essay, much shorter than the first, identified what is meant by sinful separatism, namely, that which destroys the “unity of the Spirit” and the “bond of peace” which the Lord enjoins upon His people (Ephesians 4:3, etc.) and causes schisms or “splits” in the fellowship of the truth. Such sinful separatism is committed by people who, without any Scriptural reason, leave those who “continue steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:43), who by God’s grace are “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). Schisms are begun and carried out by sinful men for carnal reasons, whose fleshly mind “is enmity against God” and is therefore “minded” to act in opposition to the Word and will of God, whether deliberately and spitefully or ignorantly in self-imposed weakness. Schismatics go out from us, writes the Apostle John (I John 2:19), “that they might be made manifest [clearly revealed to all] that they were not all of us,” that they were not in “the unity of the Spirit” with us. —Following spirited and fruitful discussion which was broadly-based throughout a “packed house,” this informative and edifying doctrinal essay was unanimously adopted with thanks to the essayist, pending the usual review by the praesidium before publication in our Proceedings.
As the sessions neared their close, the delegates heard the Report of the Publishing House Board of Control in which Pastor Lietz summarized the activities of Scriptural Publications, the publishing arm of our Conference. His report included the suggestion that the members of our constituent congregations consider Scriptural Publications as the recipient of bequests from their estates as well as other gifts for this on-going and necessary work of our Conference. The activities of Scriptural Publications included this year the printing of the CL, our Sunday School materials, various tracts and confessional documents, and several book-length works. Proposed for the coming year is the publication of several more book-length works, namely, Doerffler’s Treasures of Hope and A. L. Graebner’s Outlines of Doctrinal Theology, the reprinting of the Sketch of [our] Doctrinal Position, and other forward-looking projects including improvement of the Conference Web-site, the publishing of E-books, the training of volunteers in production work, and the digitizing of the first ten years of our Conference’s Proceedings. The entire report was then unanimously adopted with thanks to the publishing staff and all those who assist in their work. The balance sheet concerning the finances of Scriptural Publications, presented by Business Manager Phillip Martin, was also adopted and received into the record.
The proposed budget of the Finance Committee was adopted, including any changes made during the sessions and updated figures: A beginning cash balance as of June 1, 2005 of $61,002.50 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $ 24,907.98, and Total Cash and Pledges Available for the Purpose of Budgeting– $ 85,910.48. Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $41,500.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications—$3,500.00; St. Stephen’s Subsidy— $8,400.00; Ekaterinburg Subsidy— $ 7,200.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy— $2,400.00; Archival Subsidy—$1,500.00; Telephone Expense—$500.00; Convention Expense— $1,000.00; General Travel Expense—$4,000.00; Ekaterinburg Travel Expense—$5,000.00; Nigeria Travel Expense—$6,000.00; Miscellaneous Expense—$2,000.00. —The convention then heard yet brief reports concerning the Seminary Bookstore, the Conference Archives, and its Web page. —The Resolutions Committee then presented eight resolutions, the first of which had been drafted as a recommendation of the Board of Directors, to wit, that, in the interest of evenhandedness and complete impartiality, the Conference be on record as encouraging the congregations to be as forward-looking as possible with regard to setting aside travel funds in advance, so that they shoulder their own responsibilities (By-Law 1, b) and not rely upon the treasury of the Conference to underwrite the travel of their pastoral and lay delegates to annual conventions. This was unanimously adopted. The remaining seven resolutions expressed thanks to all those who contributed to the success of the convention, to our spiritual edification, to our physical well-being, and to our brotherly sociability at this convention, particularly to Pastor and Mrs. Lietz and the members of Trinity Congregation, our loving hosts. —And finally, the annual report of the Conference Statistician, Mr. Ray Kusumi, was presented for the information of our people.
The convention also unanimously accepted the gracious invitation of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Lebanon, Oregon, to host the 55th Annual Convention (June 23rd, 24th and 25th, 2006), immediately preceded as usual by the Plenary Pastoral Conference on June 20th and 21st, and the Board of Directors Meeting on June 22nd. Our people are encouraged now already to mark these dates on their calendars, so that they can plan ahead to attend.
The convention adjourned at 6:25 p.m. with the customary closing devotion led by President Lietz. It had been a most brotherly and constructive meeting; and the delegates and visitors returned to their respective homes renewed in their zeal, by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit of God through the means of His grace, to be steadfast, unmoveable, with “no divisions among [them],” always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that their labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Rev. David T. Mensing, Secretary