HOUSTON – Noting that some items in the president’s report to the 1941 Synod convention still apply, LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick-– in his report to the opening session of the Synod convention here July 15-–emphasized the need for Synod members to reach out with the Gospel to a world that has changed dramatically over 66 years.
Kieschnick quoted from the report of Dr. John W. Behnken -– the Synod’s longest-serving president to date, and once pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church here. (Trinity hosted the July 14 opening worship service for the 2007 convention.)
The theme of the LCMS triennial convention –- meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center until July 19 –- is “One Message –- Christ! His Love is Here for You!”
Using Behnken’s words, Kieschnick said what hasn’t changed are that “the church dare not brush aside the horrible realities of war with the shrug of the shoulder,” a “pronounced decline in stalwart godliness of life,” and the need for “burning passion for souls which ought to be ablaze within the hearts of every member of our Synod.”
Kieschnick spoke of a 35-year downward “slide” in baptized memberships in the Synod while the nation’s population has continued to “explode to more than 300 million people.”
“When one compares [this growth] to the impact we have made as a voluntary association of congregations, ordained and commissioned members of the Gospel in its midst, we are barely a blip on the screen of recent history,” Kieschnick told the 1,200-plus voting delegates and others.
“This ought not be! I believe that God has called us to instill within the heart of every member of our Synod a burning passion for souls -– hearts that will be ablaze with the purpose of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every hill and valley, every city, and every community in our land,” he said.
Kieschnick added this would happen –- not “doing [it] alone, [but] only by the very hand of God,” as those in the Synod:
• “come together in the power of the Holy Spirit fervently and faithfully preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments;”
• “move beyond the complacency and parochialism that have plagued us in the past;”
• “realize the great blessings God has given our Synod and the crying need … for us to share these gifts with the world;”
• “address the reality that for most of our 160 years as a Synod, we have been a confessional Lutheran church body in a mostly Christian country, while in the past few decades and certainly today we are faced with learning how to be a confessional, evangelistic Lutheran church in a largely unchurched, pluralistic, postmodern, narcissistic country…”; and
• “trust in God – overcoming our fears, ceasing our internal warfare, and willing to abandon unfaithful and unfruitful methods of the past/”
Kieschnick also recalled several topics that he covered in Parts I and II of his report this year –- printed in this year’s Convention Workbook and when he addressed floor committees as they gathered to form convention resolutions in mid-May. Those topics include agreement on Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and “our LCMS covenants of love”; doctrinal solidarity; dispute resolution; inter-Christian relationships; and “speaking with one voice, in Christian love.”
After asking what the future looks like for the LCMS, Kieschnick quoted another leader from the past -– Ronald Reagan, who said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” and that “it must be fought for, protected, and handed on [to children] for them to do the same.”
Kieschnick told the assembly, “Like freedom, any organization is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
He said, “The Lutheran Church-–Missouri Synod is a voluntary human organization, without which the Holy Christian Church on earth might very well be able to exist,” Kieschnick said. “Yet I believe God has called the LCMS into existence for a purpose that has not yet been fully accomplished. The glorious Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, proclaimed in the LCMS in its truth and purity, ‘must be fought for, protected and handed on … .’ We have the promise of Christ that even the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.”