The 65th Annual Convention, held at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Seattle, Washington, officially began at 9:30 a.m. with a Divine Worship Service of Convocation in which the local pastor, the Rev. Edward J. Worley, served as the liturgist and the Rev. David T. Mensing, Conference President, delivered the keynote sermon based on II Timothy 3:16-17. His theme was: Holy Scripture as Sufficient for Our Christian Life, which he divided into the following three parts: I. Why it is sufficient; II. For what purposes it is sufficient; and III. To what blessed end it is sufficient.
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 Mensing thanked the Lord for His abundant grace bestowed upon our Conference over the past year—a year in which His Word has continued to be preached and taught in its full truth and purity in all of the member congregations. He drew attention to the blessing of God upon the Conference finances over the past year—allowing all budgeted expenses to be met and, through the Gospel-motivated generosity of Conference members, even adding some growth of funds. President Mensing spoke of the important work of the Committee on MIssions in providing subsidies to the congregations in Tucson, AZ, Sauk Village, IL, and Ekaterinburg, Russia; and he reported that one of those congregations has been able, under the Lord’s grace, to reduce its subsidy request for the next fiscal year. The work of the Publishing House, particularly due to the contribution of time and labor on the part of the laymen, was highlighted as being very beneficial and accomplishing much with relatively little monetary expenditures.
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 2015–2016. The report showed a beginning cash balance of $12,333.63 in the General Fund plus total receipts of $38,666.85 yielding total cash available of $51,000.48. Expenditures totaled $37,185.32, leaving an ending cash balance as of May 31, 2016 of $13,815.16. The report also showed an increase in the Student Aid Fund from $34,251.68 at the beginning of the fiscal year to an ending balance of $39,032.11 on its closing date, May 31, 2016. Total cash in all funds as of May 31, 2016: $52,847.27. 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, 2016 through May 31, 2017. It showed a beginning cash balance of $13,815.16 and anticipated receipts (including the pledges of our congregations) of $32,643.00 for an expected total cash available of $46,458.16 in the General Fund. Projected budgetary expenditures totaled $38,400.00 divided among the following items: Scriptural Publications— $1,000.00; Ekaterinburg Salary Subsidy— $12,000.00; Ekaterinburg Facilities Rental Subsidy— $2,400.00; St. Mark’s Subsidy— $7,800.00; 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 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 Chairman of the Committee on Missions, Pastor David T. Mensing, mentioned that even though in the past Missionaries-at-Large have been sent to various locations to do work in the Word with the goal of gathering together Christians in a specific locality that could later become viable congregations, in recent years there have not been any places known to the Conference for such mission stations to be established. With regard to the congregations receiving subsidy assistance from the Conference, the Chairman reported that St. Mark’s Ev. Lutheran Church in Sauk Village, IL, has been able to reduce its requested subsidy from $750.00 a month to $650.00 a month. Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran Church in Tucson, AZ, is requesting that the current $900.00 per month subsidy be continued for this next year to allow its pastor to continue living at the approximate average financial level of the members without seeking secular work. With regard to the Orthodox Lutheran Church of Ekaterinburg, Russia, the Committee Chairman reported that Pastor Schurganoff has been sending monthly updates to the Chairman, a number of sermons, and even a C.L. article that appeared in the May–June issue. The Ekaterinburg 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 the salary for the pastor and the rent for the worship facilities). About our Nigerian brethren, Pastor Mensing reported that the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations in Nigeria has suffered the loss of three pastors over the past year—one pastor defecting and joining the Pentecostals, and two other pastors departing this life through a blessed Christian death. Pastor Fyneface is active in training men to be able to fill vacancies in their conference. Pastor Fyneface reports that he and his wife are doing fine, by the grace of God, using the medication that they have available to them. He says that his goiter is still an issue (though manageable); and he is considering the possibility of seeking surgery for that goiter somewhere in Nigeria.
Pastor David T. Mensing, chairman of the Editorial Committee and Editor of the Concordia Lutheran, presented his report in which he referenced the work of the Holy Ghost through His Word, by which saving faith is created, sustained, and strengthened. The official organ of our Conference, the Concordia Lutheran, provides a consistent witness to the world of the fact that by God’s grace we still have, teach, and confess His Word in its full truth and purity. The Editor mentioned that over the past year he, himself, needed to write 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. He expressed his thanks to the other members of the committee—Pastor David J. Mensing (Book and Tract Editor) and Mr. Jason Mabe (Lay Member). Mr. Phillip R. Martin, Print Shop Manager of Scriptural Publications, was especially thanked for his work in the layout and printing of the C. L. In response to a question from the floor, it was mentioned that the C. L. is mailed gratis to the two Missouri Synod seminary libraries as well as the Wisconsin Synod seminary library.
Pastor Lietz, the chairman of the Publishing House Board of Control, read his report in which He thanked the Lord for His blessing in the work of Scriptural Publications. He drew attention to the new project, started earlier this fiscal year, of distributing daily devotions (adapted from “Crumbs,” by Carl Manthey-Zorn) that are e-mailed and/or texted to individuals who have requested them, both inside and outside of our Conference. Thanks was expressed to Mr. Phillip Martin for the great amount of work he puts in to the publishing of those devotions after they have been reviewed and edited by various pastors of the Conference. Mr. Martin Trusty, business manager of Scriptural Publications, was thanked for his work in updating and hosting the Conference website. Pastor Lietz also briefly referred to the work of Scriptural Publications in the printing of the C. L. In closing, the Chairman thanked the Conference for its yearly subsidy support of $1,000.00. A question from the floor concerning the reprinting of Advanced Bible History was answered by the Print Shop Manager (Mr. Phillip Martin), who stated that, while close, it is still not yet ready for publication.
The Vice President and Chairman of the Committee on Lutheran Union, Pastor Worley, presented the committee’s report, in which he first quoted from the Conference website, in which our Conference is accurately described as being quite small by most standards as far as the world is concerned but greatly blessed with true spiritual unity in the full truth and purity of Scripture in both teaching and practice. Next, the Chairman read from the official description of the Committee on Lutheran Union as set forth in the Conference constitution. He then mentioned that over the past year, no contacts from any outside church groups had been received by the committee. During the discussion, the Chairman noted that most people who want to know about us should not have any difficulty at all finding enough information about our Conference. Over the years in the past we have had contact with smaller groups that seem to be close to our Scriptural position in doctrine and practice; but those groups are then discovered to have some strange, fanatical positions about one thing or another that stand in the way of union based on true Christian unity and may even preclude meaningful and fruitful discussions with them.
The Chairman of the Committee on Theological Education, Pastor Worley, quoted from the Constitution in which the purpose of this committee and its joint work with the seminary faculty is described. Since there are no theological students at this present time, there has been no active seminary work over the past year. He mentioned that he is still seeking the teaching materials developed by Professors Lietz and Mensing so that their resources can be used in the future even if those professors themselves are unavailable to teach. Chairman Worley reminded all the brethren to continue to remember our seminary program in their prayers and to beseech the Lord in His mercy to move the hearts of men to desire the pastoral office, so that His Word may continue to be preached and taught among us in its full truth and purity into the future. In the discussion following the report, it was mentioned that even older men, who might study in the seminary later in life, could greatly benefit the Conference and fill potential vacancies at a time when we have no available candidates for the Reverend Ministry.
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 the Christian’s Life.” In his introduction, the essayist pointed out that this year’s convention essay is the continuation of the essay he presented last year treating Holy Scripture—The only Source and Norm of Christian Faith). Holy Scripture, because it is the verbally inspired Word of God, is the only source and standard for a Christian’s faith and life. The true Christian religion is unique among the religions of the world—it is the only religion that teaches salvation by God’s undeserved love in Christ (as opposed to the works and merits of men), and it is the only religion that is truly divine in its origin (founded upon the Word of God alone as opposed to the words of men). In the discussion, it was mentioned that the children of this world are quick to mock the teachings of the Bible and are also quick to accept the words of men whom they regard to be wise. As Christians we want to become more firmly established in God’s Word and reject every teaching of man that would draw us away from it. The essayist distinguished between the physical life that all humans have, the morally corrupt life of unbelievers, the spiritual life of faith in believers, the life of good works brought about through the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and the everlasting life that awaits us Christians in heaven. The origin of death was set forth, going back to Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. The full extent of man’s natural depravity and the Lord’s judgment of eternal damnation are not known except through the revealed Law of God. And the only way that a sinner can be saved from the condemnation he deserves is also completely unknown to man apart from the revelation of God’s grace in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was emphasized that a person is either spiritually dead or spiritually alive. Saving faith is either present in a person’s heart or it is not (there is no in-between state). There are, however, degrees in the fruits of faith, such as spiritual wisdom and understanding, confidence in God’s help, ability to resist temptations to evil, and so on; but these will be dealt with further in the second part of the essay.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Rev. David J. Mensing. The Conference Treasurer reported that due to a contribution that came in late, the following changes were made to the Budget Worksheet: The Convention Collection went from $1,123.00 to $1,223.00, Total Pledges and Other Income went from $32,643.00 to 32,743.00, and Total Cash Available went from $46,458.16 to $46,558.16.
The convention then took up the Election of Officers and Standing Committees. Pastor David T. Mensing was re-elected President; Pastor Edward J.Worley was re-elected Vice President; Pastor Paul E. Bloedel was re-elected Secretary; and Mr. Robert G. Bloedel was re-elected Treasurer. Mr. William Bergstrom was re-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.” 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 Mabe, lay member. Committee on Missions: Pastor David T. Mensing, Chairman; Pastor Robert Lietz, Mr. Dale Peterson; Mr. John Swanson; and Mr. Paul C. Luedtke. Committee on Theological Education: Pastor Edward Worley, Chairman; Pastor Paul Bloedel; Mr. Daniel Bloedel; Mr. Mark Mensing. Committee on Lutheran Union: Pastor Edward Worley, Chairman; Pastor Paul Bloedel; Pastor Robert Lietz; Mr. Phillip Martin. Finance Committee: Mr. Robert G. Bloedel, Treasurer and Chairman; Mr. Paul Natterer; Mr. Phillip Martin; Mr. Jerry Sidwell. Publishing House 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. Edward J. Worley, again served as liturgist, and the Rev. Paul E. Bloedel preached the sermon based on Romans 12:1–2. His theme was: The Mercies of God Move Us to Serve Him, divided into two parts: I. Living in God’s service is completely reasonable for us as Christians; II. Serving God according to His will means being changed from our natural, worldly way of living.
Following the noon meal, the afternoon session began with a devotion conducted by Pastor Daniel P. Mensing. The convention then heard the continuation of the doctrinal essay: “Holy Scripture—The Only Source and Norm of the Christian’s Life,” by Pastor David T. Mensing. “Sanctification in the Narrower Sense” is a term that is used to designate the work of the Holy Ghost in renewing the heart and life of the believer, so that he is able to fight against and overcome sin and do works that are pleasing to God for Christ’s sake. Such good works are evidence of a living faith and are the necessary fruit of faith. Every Christian has both the Old Man of sin and the New Man of faith. These two are opposed to each other; and the struggle between the carnal mind and the spiritual mind will continue until we are taken to heaven. If there is no such spiritual struggle in the heart and life of a person here on earth, that person is not a Christian. Even though the Law sets forth what is good in the sight of God and what is evil, and even though the threats of the Law can curb fleshly outbursts in transgression of the Law, yet it is the power of the Spirit in the Gospel (not the Law) that moves and enables Christians to do works that are truly good and acceptable before God through Jesus’ imputed righteousness. Sanctification in the narrower sense is always imperfect as far as our performance goes; but we desire to be perfect and strive after perfection in our new man. Sanctification is worked in us by the gracious and powerful operation of the Holy Ghost through the Means of Grace—the Gospel and the Sacraments. While there is no cooperation with God on the part of man with regard to his own conversion (as synergists teach), there is cooperation between God and the Christian’s new man in the performance of good works. The essayist then drew attention to the detailed definition of good works as found in our Catechism. He stressed the point that good works in the sight of God are the product of love—love for the Lord and for our neighbor in response to God’s great love for us in Christ. Perfect love for the Lord summarizes God’s requirements in the First Table of the Law; and perfect love for our neighbor summarizes God’s requirements in the Second Table of the Law. In His Law, the Lord sets forth those thoughts, words, and deeds that are sinful (which He commands us to avoid), as well as those thoughts, words, and deeds that are pleasing in His sight (which He commands us to follow in our lives). The Holy Ghost works through the Gospel to enable and move us to follow His Law, just as it is through the Gospel alone that the Spirit creates, strengthens, and preserves saving faith in a Christian’s heart. The Scriptures contain everything that we need to know in order to live in a God-pleasing way—that the Christian may be complete in his knowledge of God’s will for his life and equipped to follow it, “thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:17).
Mr. Raymond S. Kusumi, the Conference Statistician, delivered the Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2015–2016. (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 to the Convention drafts of six resolutions for its consideration and moved their adoption. In summary, 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 David T. Mensing and Paul E. Bloedel for their sermons; 4) Thanks to Pastors Lietz, Bloedel, David J. Mensing, and Daniel P. Mensing, who led devotions opening the various sessions of the Convention; 5) Thanks to Mr. Tim Bloedel for his work in providing organ music, and to Mr. Jerry Sidwell (choir director) and to all those who participated in the joint choir to the glory of God; 6) Thanks to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church—Pastor and Mrs. Edward J. Worley, Mr. Lee Roller, and 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. From the floor a recommendation was made to include in Resolution #6 special thanks to Mr. Nathan Bloedel for organizing a trip to downtown Seattle for the enjoyment of Convention guests, and thanks also to the various men who assisted the ladies in their work of preparing and serving Convention meals. Without objection, the recommended additions were included in the resolution.
Peace Ev. Lutheran Church of Oak Forest, Illinois, through its lay delegate extended to the Conference its invitation to host the 66th Annual Convention (Dates: Pastoral Conference: Tuesday and Wednesday, June 20 and 21; Board of Directors Meeting: Thursday, June 22; The Convention: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 23, 24, and 25, 2017); and this invitation was accepted with the thanks of the Convention.
The agenda having been completed, the Conference President concluded the 65th Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference with a devotion that included the singing of Hymn 53, a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, the usual and customary exhortation and formularies, and the Apostolic Benediction.
—P. E. B.