Roegner steps down as World Mission director

Dr. Robert Roegner announced his resignation as executive director of the Synod’s Board for Mission Services, effective Nov. 16, citing his desire to return to “a more hands-on ministry.”

The board appointed Nov. 19 Dr. Thomas R. Zehnder of Baileys Harbor, Wis., as interim executive director.  Zehnder, 72, is a former missionary to Japan and served as president of the Synod’s Florida-Georgia District from 1987 to 1997.

Roegner, roegner.gif55, had served in the post since November 2001.  He was instrumental in the development and implementation of the church body’s Ablaze! movement to share the Gospel with 100 million “unreached and uncommitted people” by 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

In a Nov. 10 statement to the missions board and staff, Roegner said he has spent the past seven years using his passion for mission and reaching the lost for Christ “and being a part of the planning for the Ablaze! movement, helping to create a vision within The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and our partners here in the United States and worldwide, writing resolutions for conventions, putting together a structure within LCMS World Mission to lead this movement, giving leadership to a strategic plan that helps to accomplish successful completion of its goals,” and other duties.

“The time has come for me now to stop talking, writing, planning, and giving leadership here at LCMS World Mission and to start doing,” he said in the statement.  “The desire for me to return back to a more hands-on ministry has never been greater than in the past six-plus months.  It comes with a lot of prayer, discussion with my family and a few close friends, and a deep desire to be more engaged with the people of God in the LCMS.”

Roegner called his service to the board, staff, and missionaries “a great and yet humbling privilege,” and said he appreciated the opportunity “to be a small part” of helping the Synod and its partners worldwide “become more engaged in mission outreach through the Ablaze! movement.

“I will forever be indebted to everyone for this opportunity and the privilege that comes with this to serve God and His people.”

Roegner previously served the LCMS mission board as a missionary to Liberia (1981-90) and as area secretary for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East (1990-95).  From 1995 to 1999, he served as executive director of Lutheran Bible Translators in Aurora, Ill., and after that was senior pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Westwood, N.J.

In an e-mail memo to LCMS leaders Nov. 10, Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick noted that when Roegner took the helm, LCMS World Mission “was in a transition period,” with a budget that nearly doubled from the mid-to-late 1990s to the early-to-mid 2000s, changes in governance — from executive-led to team-led, changes in missionary duties — from church planting to leadership development, and changes in how mission work was funded — from Sunday-morning offerings to direct gifts.

During Roegner’s tenure, “World Mission was faced with a dramatic revenue shortfall requiring a significant number of missionaries to be brought home from the mission field,” Kieschnick said, adding “it is my understanding that today World Mission has been able to recover that lost number of missionaries.”

Kieschnick cited Roegner’s leadership “during this time of both growth and challenge” and his work on launching the Ablaze! initiative.

“Suffice it to say that our Synod will miss Bob Roegner’s presence and leadership of LCMS World Mission,” he said.  “His ministry will be remembered in many ways, especially his deep concern for and commitment to reach with the Gospel those who are lost, without Christ, as a response to and motivated by God’s love in Christ.

“I know you join me in praying for our Lord’s leading, guiding, and directing in Bob’s future life and ministry, and in expressing to Bob and his dear wife, Kristi, our sincere love, appreciation, and affection for their faithful service among us.”

Posted Nov. 13, 2008

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