By Roger Drinnon
ST. LOUIS — Nine new district presidents moved seamlessly into their roles as members of the LCMS Council of Presidents (COP), as the council considered myriad aspects of the Synod during its meeting here Sept. 19-22.
The nine newly-elected district presidents are: the Rev. Derek G. Lecakes, Atlantic District; the Rev. Dr. Jamison J. Hardy, English District; the Rev. Dr. Steven D. Turner, Iowa District West; the Rev. Peter K. Lange, Kansas District; the Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan, Missouri District; the Rev. Richard L. Snow, Nebraska District; the Rev. Andrew J. Dzurovcik, SELC District; the Rev. Scott C. Sailer, South Dakota District; and the Rev. John E. Hill, Wyoming District.
The meeting was preceded by a district-president orientation held for the nine at the LCMS International Center (IC) Sept. 17-18. The entire COP then assembled at the IC Sept. 19 for its meeting with the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM).
Commission on Constitutional Matters
In keeping with 2013 LCMS Convention Resolution 6-16A, the CCM met with the council to provide an update on Resolution 7-18, which requires that the COP, CCM and the Synod secretary give consideration to providing doctrinal training to the Synod’s reconcilers. CCM members outlined a tentative proposal that will be formalized in the coming months and then provided to the COP for consideration prior to its being presented at the 2016 Synod convention.
“These joint meetings of the council and the [CCM] are well-received as an opportunity to work together on some difficult issues,” said LCMS Secretary Rev. Dr. Raymond L. Hartwig, who also serves as the CCM secretary. “The recent meeting provided opportunity for both groups to receive and discuss together an initial proposal for a possible solution to a sensitive dispute-resolution issue.”
Concordia Plan Services update
Concordia Plan Services (CPS) President and CEO Jim Sanft provided an update on his organization for the council. He reported that the changes to the Concordia Retirement Plan (CRP) that were implemented in 2014 have resulted in the desired improvements, with the CRP on course for a full recovery in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.
Sanft went on to talk about the potential ramifications of the Affordable Care Act, specifically the provision known as the “Cadillac Tax,” which is a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost health plans set to go in effect in 2018. Sanft said CPS is working toward a strategy to address the upcoming excise tax for employees covered by CPS.
Lutheran Federal Credit Union
Amid the ongoing effort to fully establish the Lutheran Federal Credit Union (LFCU,) Tom Buuck, CEO of LFCU, thanked the council for its support during his presentation on the credit union’s development.
“Lutheran Federal Credit Union could not have seen this initiative get off the ground without the expertise and backing of [Lutheran Church Extension Fund] along with the support of Synod leadership,” he said.
Details about the timeline for full rollout of LFCU will be announced by the credit-union board and those selected to lead the new enterprise as the effort moves forward.
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin D. Robson visited the council and gave a presentation on his duties as CMO, as outlined in Synod Bylaw 3.4.3 — 22.214.171.124.
Council members learned that prior to earning his Master of Divinity at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2001, Robson experienced a broad career in corporate research and development, product management, business development, sales and consulting, with Union Carbide Corporation, Chicago, and Air Products and Chemicals, Allentown, Pa.
Robson had served as pastor of Prince of Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baxter, Minn., since 2006 and began in his new role as CMO May 13.
A day at the sem
As the council met at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, for its second day, South Wisconsin District President Rev. Dr. John C. Wille gave a presentation with discussion on the rights of congregations to call pastors and the district president’s responsibilities in that process, which include providing call lists to vacant congregations.
Council members also examined pertinent writings of church fathers on the subject, including those of the Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther in Der Lutheraner, an early Synod periodical. A compilation of those writings by Walther is available at Concordia Seminary’s online store: store.csl.edu/the-congregations-right-to-choose-its-pastor/.
The council later met with several seminary faculty members to discuss seminary-curriculum development and the formation of future LCMS pastors. Highlights of that meeting included a presentation by Concordia Seminary President Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer titled, “The Messenger of the Message.” Meyer compared and contrasted 21st-century Gospel ministry with first-century Corinth. In both ages, he explained, the character of the messenger of the Gospel (Paul then, pastors today) is critical to faithful presentation of the truth of God’s Word.
Viewing ‘The First Rosa’
Council members and seminary faculty members also had a showing of the Synod’s recently completed film “The First Rosa,” a documentary about the life of Dr. Rosa Jinsey Young — “the mother of black Lutheranism in central Alabama.”
“Dr. Young’s passionate faith made her a torchbearer of hope to people in great need — her message was that Jesus changes everything,” said Southern District President Rev. Kurtis D. Schultz. “She has passed the torch to Concordia College in Selma [Ala.]. The school is the direct result of her work and Gospel message, which is still desperately needed. A life-size statue of her will soon stand on the campus and serve as a reminder of the importance of carrying on her mission work.”
“We’re delighted in the president’s office that we were able to facilitate this, and we are thankful for [film director Rev. Dr.] Ardon Albrecht,” said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. “The film is doing so much good, giving people a vision for the possibility of service to the church, especially young people from non-Anglo communities.”
Licensed Lay Deacons
On the third day of the COP meeting, the Rev. Larry Vogel, associate executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, reported on the work of the 2013 Resolution 4-06A Task Force, for which he served as chairman. The resolution calls for the task force “to resolve questions about the service of Licensed Lay Deacons (LLDs) serving congregations of [the Synod] with the Word and Sacraments of Christ.”
Vogel provided a synopsis of the theological foundation of the task-force report, especially its understanding of the complementary nature of the “priesthood of all believers” and the office of the public ministry, and briefly described its recommendations. The 32-page report and a two-page executive summary of that report remain available for download at the “National LCMS Convention” Web page, lcms.org/convention.
Church Relations update
The Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of LCMS Church Relations, briefed the council on developments in church relations. He said informal discussions with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod continue as well as discussions with the North American Lutheran Church, and discussions have begun between the LCMS and church bodies in the Sudan and Ukraine.
“As a result of the sexuality decisions made by the [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America], the Church of Sweden and other Lutheran World Federation members, a number of churches continue to contact the Missouri Synod because of our firm commitment to the Holy Scriptures and to The Book of Concord,” said Collver. “These churches seek support in increasing their Lutheran identity and support to remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures.”
During his president’s report, Harrison called to attention some good and bad “news” as the LCMS continues to be a Bible-based counterweight to post-modern America on social issues. He said it is inspiring to see that the abortion debate is still alive 40 years after Roe vs. Wade – even among the millennial generation and other younger people in the Synod. However, he lamented that overall in America, the devastation brought about by the sexual revolution is evident everywhere and has resulted in the demise of the traditional marriage culture.
On the final day of the COP meeting, the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the Synod’s Office of National Mission (ONM), provided updates on several ONM initiatives, including “Mission Field: USA,” which is a mission effort involving domestic Network Supported Missionaries. The Synod already is working to establish churches in Brownsville, Texas; Philadelphia; and Toledo, Ohio.
Day also said LCMS Disaster Response has partnered with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League to provide disaster-response trailer grants for congregations and districts. Grant-application details are available at lcms.org/disaster.
He announced that Stephanie Neugebauer began serving Sept. 21 as director of Life and Health Ministries. Neugebauer, who holds a 2014 Master of Arts degree in Practical Theology from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, approached the LCMS about two years ago with the idea for Life Ministry’s ultrasound curriculum while working as a sonographer. Day said more than 700 copies of that curriculum have been given out so far.
He also mentioned that the ONM is working on a Synodwide evangelism program called “A Simple Way,” which could be available as early as February.
Eastern District President and COP Secretary Rev. Dr. Chris Wicher reported that 359 LCMS congregations were currently calling sole pastors, 54 calling senior pastors and 60 calling associate or assistant pastors. He also noted that since September 2014, 25 new ministries had been started, while 15 congregations had closed.
The COP next meets Nov. 16-19 in Atlanta.
Roger Drinnon (email@example.com) is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.
Posted Oct. 19, 2015