By Megan K. Mertz
MILWAUKEE — As delegates to the 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) conducted the Synod’s business, more than 40 international guests participated in their own event down the hall. This was the first International Church Relations Forum organized by LCMS Church Relations at an LCMS convention.
The four-day event had its own daily schedule, which included worship, a theological presentation and significant time for discussion. Presentations delved into unity in Christ and confession; unity in the church through the Christ Child/pro-life efforts; unity in the way of worship; and the proclamation of Christ crucified as the key for the church’s unity in raising up pastors, promoting the true doctrine and sharing the diversity of God’s gifts for the common good — from mission and mercy to vocation and stewardship. Church Relations staff arranged to have translators present both to facilitate understanding and discussion during the event, as well as to prepare a manuscript of the papers for attendees to take home.
“We’ve given them a program throughout the day of being able to eat together and laugh together, to share camaraderie and stories for brotherly support,” said the Rev. Michael Frese, deputy director of LCMS Church Relations. “What some people don’t know is that the office of president and bishop can be a very lonely office. Sensitive and weighty matters often cannot be shared. But we’re bringing them together as peers to relax, be strengthened by theological presentations, share ministry issues and personal stories, and collaborate.”
“This is good that LCMS makes it possible for us to meet once in a while as brothers. That on its own is a big thing because it encourages us. We get to discuss theological issues. We get to discuss challenges that we face as church leaders,” said the Rt. Rev. S.M.A. Modise Maragelo, bishop of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. He added that he appreciates having a “little bit of free time. That’s also good. One does not have that kind of time when you are in the office back home.”
The Rev. Juan Pablo Lanterna, president of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile, said he appreciated the opportunity to talk about the secularization of society with church leaders from around the world, “since we have the same issues. Secularization is growing in Latin America too.”
Lanterna also mentioned the convention’s opening service — held July 29 and attended by well over 1,000 delegates, staff and visitors — as a highlight of his trip to Milwaukee. “The Divine Service was wonderful. I helped with the distribution for the Holy Supper. It was a big thing for me personally,” he said.
Many of the attendees, like Maragelo and Lanterna, come from church bodies with which the LCMS is in altar and pulpit fellowship. The group also included leaders from other friendly church bodies and from the five church bodies that were officially accepted into altar and pulpit fellowship earlier in the convention.
Posted Aug. 2, 2023
2023 LCMS Convention
Under the theme “We Preach Christ Crucified,” the 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod met July 28–Aug. 3, 2023, at the Baird Center in Milwaukee.
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