By Cheryl Magness
Under the theme “Joy:fully Lutheran,” the 67th Regular Convention of the LCMS officially began the morning of July 21 at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla., but even before delegates gathered to conduct business, they had gathered for worship.
At the convention’s opening Divine Service the evening of July 20, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison preached on repentance and joy, beginning with the Old Testament Lesson (Ezra’s reading of the Law of Moses in Nehemiah 8) and continuing to the Holy Gospel (The Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15).
Noting the “time and energy … we squander in church, in family, in Synod,” Harrison told the assembly they were forgiven.
“Look at that altar,” he said. “See the Lamb? … Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the whole Missouri Synod — and far, far more. ” He asked, “How shall we live, then, this week? How shall we be joyfully Lutheran?”
“There’s nothing I can preach more profound than the Epistle,” he said. The Epistle reading for the service, 1 Thess. 5:14–22, contained the convention’s theme verses: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’” (16–18).
The first day of convention business included Part 3 of the President’s Report. (Parts 1 and 2 can be found in the Convention Workbook and the first edition of Today’s Business, respectively.)
Harrison summarized the Synod’s work the past triennium in the areas of ecclesiastical supervision, Licensed Lay Deacons, the Concordia University System, Concordia College Alabama, Synod finances, the sale of Synod-owned property in Hong Kon and retention. The full text of the President’s Report, Part 3, can be found in Today’s Business, Issue 3.
‘Right man for the right time’
In his report, Harrison also thanked retiring Synod First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller, who has served as first vice-president since 2010 and on the LCMS Council of Presidents for almost 20 years. Harrison commended Mueller for being “the right man for the right time,” particularly in his work on leading the colloquy process for LLDs. Mueller retires this month.
Mueller, giving the convention keynote, provided what he called a “quick dash through the heart of Lutheran theology.” “Clear, Lutheran theology points unerringly to Christ,” he said. “Christ for us is why we are ‘joyfully Lutheran.’”
The balloting for Synod president took place prior to the convention, with Harrison receiving a majority of the vote (51.76 percent) on the first ballot. The balloting for the remainder of the Praesidium took place at the convention on July 21. Elected, in descending order from first vice-president to sixth vice-president, were:
- Peter K. Lange of Topeka, Kan.;
- Dr. John C. Wohlrabe Jr. of St. Francis, Wis.;
- Dr. Scott R. Murray of Houston;
- Nabil S. Nour of Sioux Falls, S.D.;
- Christopher S. Esget of Alexandria, Va.; and
- Benjamin T. Ball of Worden, Ill.
Reflecting on his election, First Vice-President-Elect Lange said, “I am humbled and honored by the trust our Synod in convention has placed in me through this election. Through my new work, I look forward to learning about our great church body in a much broader and more comprehensive way. Please pray for me, that I bring honor to our Lord and this office in my life and work.”
Lange and his wife, Marcia, have four adult daughters. Lange will begin his new role after Labor Day.
Also elected at the convention were members of the LCMS Boards for National and International Mission, the LCMS Board of Directors, and the boards of a variety of other Synod entities and agencies.
For this triennium’s convention, floor committees proposed resolutions in the areas of National Witness; International Witness; Mercy; Life Together; Theology and Church Relations; Pastoral Ministry and Seminaries; University Education; Finance; Structure and Administration; Ecclesiastical Supervision and Dispute Resolution; Church and Culture; and Retention: Schools, Family, Youth, and Young Adults. Of particular note, delegates passed resolutions:
- Reaffirming LCMS commitment to the sanctity-of-life, a biblical understanding of marriage and gender, and the protection of children;
- Prohibiting “the affirmation or celebration of sinful behavior through clubs, groups or official campus activities” at CUS institutions;
- Condemning “the sin of racism in all its manifestations”;
- Encouraging LCMS members to recognize “their calling to see the immigrant and the stranger as their neighbor” and to remember the persecuted church;
- Committing to the promotion of residential seminary education as the preferred option for men preparing for the pastoral ministry”;
- Affirming that God created the world in “six natural days”;
- Revitalizing and restructuring the Synod’s Recognized Service Organization program; and
- Enhancing the Specific Ministry Pastor program and supporting, encouraging and expecting continuing education for pastors.
A complete listing of resolutions and vote totals is available at lcms.org/convention/resolutions.
International mission and church fellowship
A major focus of this year’s convention was a five-part presentation on the Synod’s work in international mission. The first part reviewed the 125-year history of LCMS mission work around the world, and succeeding parts included presentations on the Synod’s four international mission regions: Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eurasia and Africa.
Delegates recognized, by unanimous acclamation, altar-and-pulpit fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Belgium (ELKB) and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (ELFCD). They also endorsed the fellowship between the LCMS and the Portuguese Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELP), which was previously recognized by the Synod president.
‘A feeling of accomplishment’
Convention week in Tampa was alternately hot and rainy, with almost daily thunderstorms, but the weather did not dampen convention-goers’ joy. Connie Soso Goines, who served as the secretary for Floor Committee 1 on National Witness, called the convention “an awesome experience, a blessing, to witness … Lutheran pastors and laity working to resolve issues of the day in a Christ- centered manner. The Tampa downtown area had wonderful dining options and delightful local interest. People in the city were very friendly. I look forward to visiting Tampa again!”
Arvin Michel, lay delegate from the Denver Southwest Circuit of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District, said, “While attending a Synod convention was not on my ‘bucket list,” I do have to admit that I’m thinking of adding ‘being a delegate to a second LCMS convention’ to that ‘bucket list.’ The convention was enjoyable and exciting, a learning process with a feeling of accomplishment. All of this was highlighted knowing I was serving the Lord.”
Posted Aug. 23, 2019