Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) held its 2017 Fall Leadership Conference Nov. 17–19 in New Orleans, continuing its tradition of presenting the Gospel-inspired results and benefits of church extension work.
Organized around the annual corporate meeting, the conference serves as an opportunity to acknowledge and applaud all that God has done through LCEF’s partnerships with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The theme for this year’s conference was “Love Boldly.”
In his opening remarks, conference emcee and LCEF Senior Vice-President—Ministry Support Max Biesenthal noted the noble nature of “loving boldly.”
In practice, he said, “We tend to love the things we like,” such as ice cream, naps, our children, sunsets and books. “Loving boldly,” he said, challenges people to love the unlovable just as Christ has loved them.
One ministry featured at the conference was Redeeming Life Maternity Home. This home for unwed mothers in Sanford, Fla., offers a safe haven for women who may not know a pro-life Christian option is available to them.
The Rev. Ed and Sheryl DeWitt started the ministry when their unmarried daughter learned she was pregnant and knew that abortion was not an option. Their daughter shared her situation with the congregation and asked for their support — and it was given in abundance. Redeeming Life received LCEF’s 2017 Fred E. Lietz Mission Project Award.
“I loved hearing the stories of the awardees,” said the Rev. Jeffery David Nickel of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Clarence, N.Y. “It’s encouraging to hear how God is working around us, often in small, nearly invisible ways,” through His people and investors. “It’s a testament that LCEF support makes a difference in the Church.”
For his tireless and charitable work in his congregation and community, the Rev. Dennis Bartels received the Lietz Individual Ministry Award. Bartels is a 35-year veteran of Holy Cross in North Miami, Fla.
LCMS Florida–Georgia District President Rev. Gregory S. Walton said of Bartels’ generosity: “Their school feeds 400 students both breakfast and lunch. And when Irma went through Miami and the school lost power, instead of losing all the food in their refrigerators, they grilled it and gave it away.”
The awards are named in honor of Fred E. Lietz, an early church extension pioneer and LCEF’s first president.
Bold and joyful love
Speakers such as radio talk show host and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and former San Francisco Giants baseball player Dave Dravecky advanced the 2017 conference theme in their one-of-a-kind ways.
Dravecky shared the story of losing his pitching arm to cancer, relating how the bold love of friends helped him navigate that dark period of his life.
Cain spoke about the idea that “you cannot love boldly unless you are happy.” He then explained how to achieve that happiness: have something to do; have someone to love (starting with Jesus); and have something to hope for.
Cain’s point about happiness wasn’t lost on LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. Speaking at the conference Saturday morning, Harrison said, “If we cease caring for the least, the lost, the last, the disaster victim, the divorced, the struggling, the broken, we lose the soul of the Church. Bold love requires us to be joyful — joyfully Lutheran.”
Other speakers included LCEF President and CEO Rev. Bart Day; Executive Director of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz; and Concordia College—New York President Rev. Dr. John Nunes.
“Dr. Nunes’ presentation had the biggest impact on me,” said the Rev. Jason Shaw of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Jackson, Mo. “I loved his personal testimony. He removed fears that I have about changing trends in our culture and gave me hope that the best of the LCMS will survive and prayerfully thrive.”
Gathering of the Church
The conference highlighted the impact LCMS ministries are having on their communities through LCEF support. “The feeling of unity, within LCEF and the Church, is something special,” said Jeffrey Snyder, LCEF district vice-president for Montana and Wyoming.
In a servant event, hosted just hours before the conference officially started, care packages were filled for inmates at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, La.
Saturday afternoon was dedicated to LCEF’s annual meeting, which serves as an official review of the fund and current organization objectives. LCEF’s Board of Directors, officers, members-at-large, former staff, district vice-presidents and district voting delegates attended this two-hour gathering, at which George Cook, international consulting director with Graystone Consulting, shared an overview of the economy, as well as an investment market presentation.
Day reported on LCEF’s 2017 fiscal-year performance metrics; earnings distribution to the Synod and partner districts; and core initiatives for the 2018 fiscal year.
To fill a vacant board seat in the West region, members elected Dale Wagner, a retired finance executive who sat on the LCEF Rocky Mountain District Loan Committee.
Elected to fill a vacancy in the East Central region was Don Scifres, president of SmartFile in Indianapolis and a member of the LCMS Indiana District Board of Directors.
Incumbents Michael Kzirian and Mark Pieper, both up for re-election, kept their board seats.
Additionally, a vacancy in an at-large position was filled with the election of David Worthington by the LCMS Board of Directors at its November meeting.
Posted Jan. 3, 2018
I read this story with guarded caution and interest, hoping to not be disappointed. I wasn’t (disappointed). I’ll admit that, sadly, given the context of the current times in which our church seeks to carry out Christ’s imperatives, I was fearful of reading of a ‘bold love’ initiative toward the LGBT community. This would have been stylish, but not productive. Affirmed: Our church has no less love for LGBT folks than for any other population. How could we when following the precepts of Christ? At the same time, Christ’s church can never sacrifice Right and Wrong on the altar of Political Expediency. We simply soldier on in Christ’s Love.
The initiatives cited in the story are strong, timely and worthy of Thanks and Praise.
God, forgive my sins of fear and mistrust, for Jesus’ sake.