By Cheryl Magness
MILWAUKEE — The 68th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) kicked off in earnest Sunday morning, July 30, at the Baird Center (formerly the Wisconsin Center) in Milwaukee under the theme “We Preach Christ Crucified.”
But even before business officially began — signaled by the presentation of the historic Walther-Luther gavel — convention delegates, Synod leaders, special guests, volunteers and visitors had assembled twice for corporate worship: first receiving the Lord’s gifts of Word and Sacrament during Divine Service on Saturday evening, July 29, and then praying Matins together on Sunday morning.
Many convention attendees had begun arriving in Milwaukee several days earlier to set up booths in the exhibit hall and take part in pre-convention meetings. Beginning on Thursday, July 27, the Baird Center buzzed with the sounds of old friends sharing joyful greetings and new friends meeting for the first time. Then, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the main convention hall, all fell silent as the liturgist for the service, the Rev. Dr. John Berg, associate pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sheboygan, Wis., invoked the Triune God.
“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” prayed Berg. “Amen,” responded the assembly before all, with one voice, confessed their sins and asked for Christ’s forgiveness.
We preach Christ crucified
The Scripture readings for the service reflected the convention theme. As described in the service folder, Hosea 6 urges the faithful “to press on through repentance to know the Lord’s mercy in the death and resurrection of Christ, in whom we also find life and resurrection from the dead.” First Corinthians 1 reveals that what seems “foolish and scandalous” to the world “is the Christian’s highest good and most beloved sight: that the Son of God should die for our sakes.” And Luke 24 affirms that Christ’s resurrection “happened to fulfill the words and songs of Scriptures” and “fills our preaching and our songs still.”
Preaching for the service, LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison recalled Martin Luther’s words about Hosea: “God does strange things. He has Hosea pick a harlot for a wife … to invite people to repentance, [to invite] adulterous Israel to repentance.
“You have gone astray. You have forsaken the Lord. You have transgressed His Law. You have gone after other gods. You know it’s true, of every one of you. Me too.”
Harrison echoed St. Paul’s words that what the world deems foolish is the wisdom of God. “[He] makes the wisdom of the world nothing. … No matter who calls it folly … we preach Christ crucified.”
The Sacrament of the Altar was hosted by Trinity, Sheboygan. Trinity’s kantor, Dr. Samuel Eatherton, provided musical leadership, with singers and instrumentalists from area congregations serving as musicians.
The offering collected during the service will go toward the 2023–2026 LCMS National Offering, which will enable the translation of solid Lutheran resources into languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese and Korean. Including gifts given prior to convention and during opening worship, $299,315.04 has been given for this effort so that more people may read, hear and speak the Good News of Christ crucified.
Floor committees hold open hearings
Earlier on Saturday, the 12 floor committees entrusted with drafting the convention resolutions held open hearings during which they listened to the church at large speak to those resolutions. Some committees had modest attendance, even falling quiet at times as they waited for the next speaker; others had a steady stream of speakers and standing room only.
As the week goes on, the convention will remain in regular prayer, study and worship, with multiple daily prayer offices. Each day from Sunday through Wednesday, an essayist will present on one aspect of the convention theme. The Rev. Sean Daenzer, director of LCMS Worship, will serve as chaplain for the week, and Matt Machemer, associate kantor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, will serve as musician. The Rev. Peter Bender, pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, Wis., and the Rev. Dr. Jacob Corzine, vice-president of Publishing for Concordia Publishing House, will lead daily study of Luther’s Small Catechism.
“We’re very excited to have 20 minutes each day to dig deep into the catechism to learn to understand its purpose, its use in the church, and its value for all Christians as a handbook for the Christian faith and life, and as a prayer book that teaches us how to meditate upon Holy Scripture,” Bender said. Each delegate to the convention will receive a copy of the 2017 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation.
On Sunday morning at 8:35, Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) Executive Director Rev. Dr. Daniel Harmelink stood before the convention with the Walther-Luther gavel, which is normally on display in the CHI museum at the LCMS International Center in St. Louis. Harmelink then presented the gavel to Harrison, who used it to pronounce the convention officially in session.
The gavel, which has opened every regular Synod convention since 1911, was carved from wood taken from a rafter of the old Log Cabin College in Perry County, Mo. It was made in 1911 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the Synod. In addition to likenesses of Walther and Luther, the gavel holds the words of Romans 3:28: “Thus, we conclude that a man is justified without the deeds of the law through faith alone.”
As this convention begins its task, St. Paul’s words to the Romans are also for all in Milwaukee — and for those watching from a distance — who seek to preach, teach and witness to Christ and Him crucified. May the Lord bless their work in His name.
Posted July 30, 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.
There are several ways to get convention news, including: