The 62nd Annual Convention, held at Peace Ev. Lutheran Church, Oak Forest, Illinois, officially began at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, June 28th, with a Divine Worship Service of Convocation in which the local Pastor, the Rev. David T. Mensing, served as the liturgist.
The Conference President, the Rev. Edward J. Worley, delivered the keynote sermon. He chose as his text Psalm 119:105 and 130, taking as his theme: God’s Word, Holy Scripture, Is Clear. Are You?, and dividing it into four parts, namely, I. Holy Scripture is God’s very Word; II. Holy Scripture is clear, in and of itself; III. Holy Scripture is clear especially in regard to God’s twofold purpose; and IV. Have you received the eternal benefit of God’s clear Word?
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 annual report, President Worley reviewed the purposes for which our Conference has been established as these are set forth in the Constitution of the Concordia Lutheran Conference. He also reviewed Question & Answer 186 in our Catechism (with the passages cited), dealing with the God-pleasing application of the Doctrine of the Church in the life of a Christian. President Worley stressed that according to God’s Holy Law we are all unprofitable servants; but for our great comfort, the Gospel and Sacraments give us the assurance of the Lord that all our sins are completely forgiven.
After the noon meal, sessions were opened with a devotion conducted by Pastor Mensing. In the initial report of the Finance Committee, Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, the Conference Treasurer, presented the Financial Report for fiscal year 2012–2013. The report showed a beginning cash balance of $23,083.99 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $30,306.85, yielding total cash available of $53,390.84. Expenditures totaled $31,094.60, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2013 of $22,296.24. The report also showed a decrease in the Student Aid Fund from $59,494.80 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $38,622.61 on its closing date, May 31, 2013, a decrease not unexpected since the fund as structured is intended to fund student support through the fifth year of study ending in the spring of 2014. Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2013: $60,918.85. The Treasurer then distributed the Finance Committee’s Budget Worksheet for the new fiscal year, June 1, 2013 through May 31, 2014. It showed a beginning cash balance of $22,296.24 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $24,908.00 for an expected total cash available of $47,204.24 in the General Fund. Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $38,850.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications: $1,500.00; Ekaterinburg Subsidy for Pastoral Support: $12,000; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy: $2,400.00; St. Mark’s Subsidy: $5,700.00; Convention Expense: $1,000.00; Telephone Expense: $100.00; General Travel Expense: $2,000.00; Seminary Instructors’ Salaries: $12,150.00; and Miscellaneous Expenses: $2,000.00. In the Student Aid Fund, the estimated income for the new year is $24,980.00, which, when added to the ending cash balance of $38,622.61, should be sufficient to defray the student support expenses totaling $50,400.00.
Pastor Robert J. Lietz, the chairman of the Committee on Missions, presented his report in which he first of all gave an update on the financial assistance that the Conference has extended to St. Mark’s in Sauk Village over the past fiscal year. It was mentioned that St. Mark’s had requested a monthly subsidy from the Conference of $475.00 a month; that, however, was prior to the Divine Call that St. John’s only recently sent to Pastor Bloedel, which call he has now accepted. Since Pastor Bloedel will be leaving St. Mark’s as pastor and another pastor will have to be called, the actual subsidy needed by the congregation is somewhat uncertain at present, but it may even be lowered somewhat.
With regard to Pastor Schurganoff and his congregation in Ekaterinburg, the Committee Chairman mentioned that a new law has been passed in Russia that makes it illegal for the brethren in Ekaterinburg to use a private residence to conduct their congregational services. Chairman Lietz reported that Pastor Schurganoff has been very compliant with the Conference’s request to send regular sermons (in both Russian and English) together with his monthly reports, and that his consistency in communication has been much better over the past year compared to previous ones. The congregation in Ekaterinburg is requesting an increased subsidy for their pastor’s salary over this next fiscal year; and the Committee on Missions is recommending that the Conference increase the subsidy for his monthly salary from $800.00 to $900.00, as well as giving him an extra $100.00 a month in order to help him pay off his medical debt.
About Pastor Fyneface and our Nigerian brethren in the F.L.C.N., Pastor Lietz reported that some of the congregations in our Conference (especially St. John’s) have contributed very generously to the congregations in fellowship with us in Nigeria. He also noted that, within a very short period of time, three pastors in Nigeria have died, so now there are only five pastors who are serving a total of nine F.L.C.N. congregations. There are currently 13 seminary students being trained by Pastor Fyneface, but there are no qualified candidates at present. The economy is very bad right now in Nigeria, so that three of the pastors have been able to receive only half of their normal salaries in recent months. During the discussion of the report, various concerns about the financial needs of our Nigerian brethren were addressed; and it was suggested that the Committee Chairman try to get more specifics from Pastor Fyneface concerning his own and his brother pastors’ particular needs so that these can be brought to the attention of the brethren in our Conference.
Pastor Mensing, chairman of the Editorial Committee and Editor of the Concordia Lutheran, presented his report in which he focused on the main work of the committee, namely, the publication of our official organ. He spoke of the important witness of orthodox theological articles primarily for the members of our Conference, but also for those outside our Conference who might come into contact with the C. L. The Editor stressed the importance of our various pastors writing the articles assigned to them and submitting them in timely fashion for publication. Special thanks were extended to Mr. Philip Martin, print shop manager of Scriptural Publications, for his work in the layout and printing of the C. L.s. During the discussion following the report, it was suggested that it might be nice to see some of the articles from years past reprinted in new issues of the C. L. The Editor mentioned that he is always open to suggestions from members of the Conference concerning topics that might be covered in future articles, and he earnestly encouraged the brethren to contact him regarding such.
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. Gratitude was expressed for the work of Mr. Martin Trusty in updating and maintaining the Conference website. Mr. Philip Martin, the Print Shop Manager, has been working at reprinting the three historical essays in the series documenting the slide of the Missouri Synod into heterodoxy and the formation of our Conference, as well as copies of the New Testament in the Kalabari dialect for use in Nigeria. Mention was made about the various doctrinally sound products that are available from Scriptural Publications, and how these make wonderful gifts for a variety of occasions.
Mr. David J. Mensing, 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 $3,165.92; total receipts of $2,609.50; total expenditures of $2,429.57; and an ending balance of $3,345.85.
The next morning, the Saturday sessions began with a devotion led by Mr. David J. Mensing, Seminarian. Pastor Paul E. Bloedel then began his essay entitled: “The Perspicuity of Holy Scripture,” Part I: What Holy Scripture teaches concerning its perspicuity; and Part II: Reasons why the perspicuity of Scripture is often denied. In his introduction, the essayist noted that there are a number of false opinions about the Bible (held also by many who claim to be Christians); and one of these is that the Scriptures are unclear. That opinion, however, finds no support in Holy Scripture, which consistently testifies to its perspicuity, or clarity. It was emphasized that the perspicuity of Scripture does not in any way render the pastoral office superfluous. On the contrary, the faithful pastor relies upon the Scripture’s perspicuity to do his job faithfully and directs his sheep to behold the perspicuous doctrines for themselves. The ability of natural man to have a literal understanding of the Gospel was distinguished from his complete inability, by his own reason or strength, to have a spiritual, salutary knowledge of the Gospel. It was also stressed that even though many verses of Scripture may not seem clear to an individual (due to ignorance in doctrine, vocabulary, grammar, or Biblical history), this does not change the fact that the Bible is clear in and of itself.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Seminarian Daniel P. Mensing. The convention then took up the Election of Officers and Standing Committees. Pastor Worley was elected President; Pastor Mensing was elected Vice President; Pastor Bloedel was elected Secretary; Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was elected Treasurer; Mr. Raymond Kusumi was elected as Board Member at Large from the “far west”; and Mr. Tom Fedor was elected as 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 Edward J. Worley 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; Seminarian David J. Mensing, Business Manager; and Mr. Phillip R. Martin, Print Shop Manager.
The Chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, gave his report in which he mentioned how Satan looks to disrupt and thwart our best efforts in training faithful men so that they may be prepared to receive calls into the holy ministry in our midst. He reported that there had been a controversy in which the students did not forthrightly accept clear statements dealing with the doctrine of justification (both the objective and subjective aspects). Thankfully, the Lord, through the power of His Word, graciously brought about doctrinal unity once again between the students and their professors. Each of the students has now clearly repented for all offenses given and has given clear testimony concerning his oneness in faith with us. Next, Chairman Worley read a letter of resignation written by Mr. Jason A. Mabe, in which the former seminarian expressed his gratitude for the prayers and generosity of the Conference brethren toward him over the years, but also confessed that he has at this time lost the desire for the pastoral office. So the fifth year of seminary, beginning this fall, will go forward with only two seminarians (Daniel and David Mensing).
Professor Mensing gave his interest report as a Seminary Instructor, in which he referred to the controversy among the students relating to the doctrine of justification that had grown and receded and grown again over the course of approximately a year and a half. Because of this controversy, only just recently resolved, the teaching of the courses assigned to him was not nearly as enjoyable as in past years. The courses that he taught: Church History III (the period of the 17th through the 19th centuries), Homiletics II (sermon writing and preaching), and Liturgics and Hymnology (a study of the liturgy and “treasured hymns” in our hymnal). He noted that, due to the justification controversy, the work performed by the students in these classes was very poor compared to their work in previous years of seminary training.
Professor Lietz then gave his report in which he began by stressing, on the basis of Ephesians chapter six, the importance of diligently battling the devil—using the Word of God as our trusty weapon. He also referred to the same justification controversy that was described in the previous two reports. Professor Lietz did not excuse any of the students’ sins in this matter, but he emphasized how they have since confessed their sins, and are, therefore, completely forgiven by God and all of us. Ever since Pastor Lietz was involved in a car accident (on February 14th), in which the Lord graciously protected the lives of all involved, the seminarians have been driving up to Oak Park two days a week so that Professor Lietz would not have to continue driving down to Oak Forest to instruct them. In response to a question from the floor, the practicum work of the seminary students was discussed, as well as plans for the fifth year concerning teaching and preaching assignments at the three congregations in the Chicago area—Peace, St. Mark’s, and Trinity.
Seminarian David J. Mensing began his interest report by summarizing the coursework covered in the various fourth-year classes taught by both professors. He confessed the problems he dealt with over the past year and a half and how the devil had confused his thinking in the doctrine of objective justification. He also admitted that his attitude was not always God-pleasing—that he did not always humbly submit himself to the teaching of his professors. Dave expressed his gratitude for the continued support that he has received from the brethren—particularly highlighting his gratitude to his wife, children, and professors for their support and guidance. He confessed that he absolutely does not want to strive about words to no profit and prays that the Lord help him in this regard. Finally, he besought the ongoing prayers of the brethren for the Lord’s blessing upon his seminary training and spiritual growth.
Seminarian Daniel P. Mensing followed with his interest report in which he openly confessed his sins to the brethren concerning his involvement in the controversy surrounding the doctrine of justification, admitting that he had not humbly submitted himself to the teaching of his professors in this matter but had for a long while stubbornly resisted their efforts to correct him with the Scriptures. He besought the forgiveness of his professors, the C.T.E., and all of the Conference brethren who have given him consistent support over the years. In response to the report, all of the brethren assembled assured Dan of their forgiveness and, more importantly, the forgiveness of God through the merits of the Redeemer.
On Sunday morning, the local pastor, the Rev. David T. Mensing, again served as liturgist, and he also preached the sermon based on II Peter 1:19–21. His theme was: The Perspicuity or Clarity of God’s Precious Word, divided into three parts: I. …clear as to its surety; II. …clear as to its purpose; and III. …clear as to its source.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor Redlin. The convention then heard the remaining portions of the doctrinal essay: “The Perspicuity of Holy Scripture” by Pastor Paul E. Bloedel. Various consequences of denying the perspicuity of Scripture were listed, including the encouragement of “private interpretations” (II Peter 1:20), promotion of the sin of unionism, erosion of doctrinal certainty, and the defense of beliefs and practices that violate clear Scripture passages. A tremendous blessing that we receive from the perspicuity of Scripture is real certainty of the truth concerning the doctrines of the Law and Gospel, which stand against all rationalistic opinions of men —giving great comfort and completely reliable guidance in most glorious perspicuity for the spiritual and eternal benefit of men. The entire essay was adopted with thanks to the essayist, subject to review by the praesidium and necessary polish before publication in the Proceedings.
St. John’s Lutheran Church of Lebanon, Oregon, extended to the Conference its invitation to host the 63rd Annual Convention. (Dates: Pastoral Conference: Tuesday and Wednesday, June 24 and 25; Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, June 26; The Convention: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 27, 28, and 29, 2014.)
Next, the former Vice President and Chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor Lietz, presented the committee’s report, in which he mentioned that he had been contacted by a pastor from Haiti. Upon request, this pastor submitted the doctrinal confessional statement of his group of congregations written in French; and it was translated by Pastor Mensing into English. Chairman Lietz still needs to reply with an evaluation of their confessional position and plans on doing so shortly in consultation with the newly elected Chairman. There was also a contact from a man in Romania —identifying himself as “an orthodox priest” who expressed the desire to have fellowship with our Conference. Pastor Lietz noted that he still needs to follow up with this man as well. As an aside, Pastor Lietz also mentioned that there had been a contact from a man in Russia who expressed interest in our Conference —including interest in studying in our seminary.
The Conference Treasurer presented his final report, which showed the following changes in the Proposed Budget for fiscal year 2013-2014: Tuition changing from $1,020.00 to $680.00, Total Pledges changing from $25,474.00 to $24,668.00, Total Cash Available for Budgeting changing from $47,770.24 to $46,964.24, and Student Support Expenses changing from $50,400.00 to $25,100.00. With these changes, the proposed budget was adopted by the Convention.
Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi, the Conference Statistician, delivered the Statistical Report for fiscal year 2012–2013. (The specifics of this report will be found in the official convention 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 Bloedel 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 Worley and Mensing for their sermons; 4) thanks to the seminarians and to Pastors Mensing and Redlin, who provided devotions opening the various sessions of the Convention; 5) thanks to Mr. Mark Mensing for the beautiful organ music, and to the choir of Peace congregation together with other members of the Conference under the direction of Mr. John Mensing for the choral music that enhanced the worship services; 6) thanks to Peace Ev. 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.
The Conference President concluded the 62nd Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the singing of the Common Doxology (Hymn 644), the reading of Psalm 133, and a prayer.
—P. E. B.