By Joe Isenhower Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ST. LOUIS — The timing couldn’t be better.
With godly understanding of families under increasing attack in society these days, the Synod’s Board for National Mission (BNM) started work on developing family-ministry policies at its June 1-2 meeting here.
Formed five years ago in the Synod’s restructuring with the primary task of developing policy — the board already has 77 policies in hand to guide the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM) in its work.
Other topics the BNM addressed at its June meeting included monitoring how effectively its policies are being implemented. The board also heard reports and presentations from Synod leaders, ONM staff members and others.
Family-ministry policies will guide the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM) in developing and providing resources helpful to districts and their congregations that seek such help in family ministry.
Some of those 77 policies previously developed by the BNM address family-related topics — in such areas as School, Youth, and Health and Life Ministries. Also, the board was reminded at this meeting that the Synod strongly supports the biblical concepts of families in a number of other ways, including through its “Free to be Faithful” initiative and the God’s Gift of Sexuality Task Force, and by working to establish the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C.
“These concepts need to be bridged,” BNM member Rev. Dr. Alfonso “Al” Espinosa told the board, which had asked him and Carla Claussen (also a board member) to recommend how it should approach developing family-ministry policies.
“All the components of family ministry are integral in talking about sexuality, marriage, parenting and children,” Espinosa said. “These are all pertinent to a total family ministry.”
He said that he and Claussen were advising the board to consider “very pointedly three fundamental aspects” — men and women (addressing sexuality); men and women “in godly sexuality, becoming husbands and wives”; and men and women being fathers and mothers.
Espinosa also emphasized the need for the board to consider how all members of the family — fathers, mothers, children, as well as those who are single — reflect “the image of God.” In addition, he spoke of the need for individuals to understand and the church to teach the importance of the “Christian vocation” of each family member, including extended family members.
In a devotion he earlier led for the board, Espinosa stressed that “our families are under attack.” However, he said, “the Lord … has not given up on His church, but continues to pour out His Spirit that we would know His love and pursue His design, to raise up the family again … in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He will strengthen us to do so.”
ONM Executive Director Rev. Bart Day noted that although the Synod has not had a family-ministry office for the past several years, “this has been a conversation in the ONM since right after the restructure.” He said that Espinosa and Claussen’s recommendations were “much appreciated. … I think it’s very helpful and certainly within the tasks of this board to [address] policy in this direction.”
For monitoring existing BNM policies, the board formed a subcommittee with members Claussen, Linda Stoterau and Julia Habrecht to work with Synod Chief Mission Officer (CMO) Rev. Kevin Robson in developing metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of how policies are being implemented by ONM staff.
Robson, who was installed as CMO in a May 18 chapel service at the LCMS International Center here, earlier told the BNM that he was “doing a lot of listening and learning” as he begins in that position. He spoke of the “wonderful team” of LCMS staff members and said he’s “praying that under the grace of God, somehow and in some way I’ll make a contribution to our common mission.” He told the board members he “would very much appreciate your input and feedback.”
“We’re delighted that Kevin is on board with us; he’s been doing a fabulous job,” Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said in remarks to the BNM.
Harrison also thanked Day for the “wonderful way” that he had served as the Synod’s interim CMO since June 2014, while continuing as the ONM executive director.
“We face very challenging times in the church,” Harrison told the board, including in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s much-anticipated opinion on same-sex marriage, as well as financial considerations and as churches in the Global North continue to decline.
But he said that he feels “at ease” and “just thankful for the tremendous people that work around us.” He spoke of the “basically calm” 2015 district conventions that had met so far, increases in the number of LCMS career missionaries as the Synod appears to be on target for doubling their number by next year, and the dramatic growth of confessional Lutheran churches in the Global South. He also mentioned “the number-one request that we get from around the world — for help with theological education.”
“I’m very much engaged in reconnecting with the people of the Office of National Mission,” Day said to the board of his work since Robson joined the Synod staff. He also mentioned “the great job Kevin has been doing” in that time.
Day reported that ONM staff have met with staff members of several LCMS districts (four since the board’s last meeting in February) to “explore commonality with the districts about how to help them with revitalization and church planting,” which he described as “the two priorities we use as lenses for everything we’re doing in national mission.”
“We look forward to meeting with the rest of the district staffs,” he said.
Other ONM staff members making presentations to the board were:
- the Rev. Mark Wood, director of LCMS Witness & Outreach Ministry, who also serves as director of Revitalization. Wood highlighted for the board how resources his office is developing will help LCMS congregations, schools and workers “at the macro level,” including self-assessment tools that congregations can use that are tailored for their individual circumstances. Also planned are resources for laypeople to help them share their faith with those they encounter on a regular basis — including family, friends and coworkers.
- Chaplain Craig G. Muehler, director of LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces (MAF), who spoke of the many resources and avenues of support that MAF provides and facilitates.
- the Rev. Mark Kiessling, interim director of LCMS Youth Ministry, who highlighted the ways that department works to raise up youth ministry in the Synod.
In addition, the Rev. Dr. Mark Larson, director of United States Ministries for Lutheran Hour Ministries, shared with the board about the outreach work of that Synod auxiliary.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, led the board in a study of Matt. 25:31-46, especially regarding its references to “sheep and goats.”
The LCMS Board for National Mission’s next meeting is set for Oct. 9-10 in St. Louis.
Posted June 25, 2015