By Stacey Egger
MILWAUKEE — On Monday, July 31, the second day of business at the 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), convention delegates adopted eight resolutions presented by Floor Committee (FC) 1 on National Witness.
After a brief video introducing the work of the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM), FC 1 Chairman Rev. David Nehrenz told the assembly that his committee would be bringing eight resolutions to the floor.
The committee first presented Resolution 1-01A, “To Stimulate Training for Witness.” The resolution recommends the use of Every One His Witness (E1HW) resources and encourages pastors and church workers to “inculcate a desire in people to witness” and to use existing parish education opportunities to teach “key witnessing skills.”
The Rev. Paul Meseke, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Brooksville, Fla., spoke to the resolution from the floor: “My congregation, which is a small congregation, has trained over 65 through the Every One His Witness program. … We have brought in over 25 new members because of this program. So I would encourage everyone not only to vote for this, but I would encourage every congregation in the Synod to [use] this program. It works!”
Due to technical difficulties with the voting system and delays in counting electronic votes, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison called for voice votes when possible. Res. 1-01A passed unanimously by voice vote.
Next up, Res. 1-02A, “To Aid Small Congregations and Multi-Congregation Pastors and Parishes,” directs the ONM, through the districts, to gather and share resources that provide best practices for arranging and conducting ministry as multi-congregation parishes. The resolution commends the LCMS Kansas District’s Partnership Project resources to the Synod; calls for the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to produce a report addressing “the theological and practical issues faced by small congregations and multi-congregation parishes”; and directs that this report serve as the basis for considerations by the LCMS Office of the President, Council of Presidents and Pastoral Formation Committee on “how the Synod might provide for the ongoing pastoral needs of small congregations and multi-congregation parishes.” Res. 1-02A passed unanimously by voice vote.
Res. 1-03A, “To Plant More Churches,” was presented next. The LCMS has planted 468 new churches since 2000, during which time 903 LCMS congregations have closed (including about one-third of the church plants). Recently, the Bolick Foundation — a private, Christian philanthropic foundation in Conover, N.C. — granted $2 million to the LCMS for church planting. This resolution gives thanks to the Bolick Foundation for its support; calls for the ONM to work with districts to develop and implement church planting resources and to train and support new church plants; and encourages LCMS pastors and laypeople to identify and support local opportunities for church plants. Res. 1-03A passed unanimously by voice vote.
Res. 1-04A, “To Continue to Address Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Issues,” was presented next. In response to 2019 Res. 11-03A, the ONM established the Created Male and Female Task Force to study and make recommendations regarding sexual orientation and gender identity issues. This resolution calls for the continuance of this task force with its current membership and the addition of new members as necessary. It advises the task force to conduct field research, recommend strategies to the church for addressing these issues and coordinate their implementation within LCMS entities.
After two friendly amendments were offered from the floor (one strengthening the language to ensure that field research will be a priority of the task force, and another encouraging a representative from the CTCR to be considered as an addition to the task force), Res. 1-04A passed by voice vote.
Res. 1-05A, “To Increase Mission Efforts to Immigrants and Various Cultural Groups in North America,” was presented next. This resolution calls for recognition that “the United States and Canada form a mission field with many unreached immigrants, ethnic groups, and non-Christian religious groups.” It directs the ONM to conduct research to pinpoint the locations of these groups and share the results with the districts; to “assemble an inventory of existing efforts” to witness to these groups; and to provide grants for new ethnic ministries and training for those who will conduct this mission work. It also directs Set Apart to Serve to include “Lutherans who grew up in these immigrant, ethnic, and non-Christian religious groups” among their church work recruitment focus.
An amendment from the floor, accepted by the committee, added an encouragement to the seminaries to ensure that students enrolled in specialized ethnic programs (Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology, Center for Hispanic Studies, etc.) receive financial aid equal to that received by residential seminary students. Res. 1-05A, along with the amendment, passed by voice vote.
A March 2022 Barna report indicated that 42% of pastors had considered quitting ministry in the past year, including 46% of pastors under the age of 45. Res. 1-06A, “To Direct Districts and Council of Presidents to Provide Strategic Plan for Addressing Wellness of Church Workers,” and Res. 1-07, “To Address Mental Health among Pastors and Other Professional Church Workers,” both cited this Barna study. Res. 1-06A passed by voice vote. An amendment to Res. 1-07 calling on the Synod to fund sabbaticals for pastors in small congregations failed with 60.83% voting “no.” Res. 1-07 passed with 95.59% of the vote.
Finally, Res. 1-08A, “To Promote and Commend the Synod’s Digital and Online Resources,” was brought to the floor. The resolution lists several of the “wonderful online/digital resources” that the LCMS and its entities have made available — Lutheran Hour Ministries, LCMS School Ministry’s LuthEd, LCMS Youth Ministry’s youthESource, Concordia Publishing House’s Faith Courses and the ONM’s Making Disciples for Life Resource Center — and commends these resources to the Synod for use. Res. 1-08A passed by voice vote.
Posted July 31, 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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