The Conference of Presidents (COP) held its spring meeting in Milwaukee on March 26-28. A major portion of its meeting dealt with the upcoming assignments of candidates at both Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. At Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, 39 graduates and 23 vicar candidates will be available for assignment. The small vicar class presents some challenges, since a significant number of congregations previously receiving vicars will not receive them this year. The COP, working with the seminary and Home Missions, has identified the 23 congregations to which vicars will be assigned. At Martin Luther College, 26 men and 53 women who are able to be assigned anywhere will be presented for assignment in May.

Time of Grace update
The presidium of the Southeastern Wisconsin District, along with President Mark Schroeder, met with leaders of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to clarify how the LCMS defines and understands the Recognized Service Organization (RSO) status. The LCMS explained that the published guidelines defining the relationship are intended to be used by the LCMS in evaluating organizations for this status and that the guidelines do not require an organization to change its message or its program to comply. It was this understanding that led Time of Grace and the presidium of the Southeastern Wisconsin district to conclude that the RSO status did not represent a violation or compromise of biblical fellowship principles.

The LCMS officials also reported that they are currently in the process of reviewing the entire RSO program with the intention of developing new requirements and guidelines. From what was said, the new guidelines may include requirements that would make it no longer possible for a WELS organization to have RSO status. Once those requirements have been adopted, Time of Grace has indicated that it will evaluate what is being required and take the appropriate steps.

Plans for divine calls
Rev. James D. Liggett, the director of the Ministry of Christian Giving, has announced he will retire from full time ministry in December of this year. Rev. Carl Ziemer, director of Special Ministries, has also announced his plans to retire in October. The COP will begin calling for their replacements later this summer.

District convention ballot for Bible translation
The synod presidium has established the ballot that will be used for voting on the issue of Bible translations at this summer’s district conventions. The ballot will include four choices, including the English Standard Version (ESV), the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the New International Version (NIV11), as well as a ballot choice that would delay a final decision on which translation is to be used in synodical publications until the synod convention in 2013.

The district conventions will receive an updated report from the Translation Evaluation Committee, which has been asked to continue its work in evaluating the translations under consideration. The conventions will also receive a report from the Translation Feasibility Committee, which is considering the feasibility and desirability of producing a new translation.

Other discussions and decisions

  • The COP received a report from Prof. Richard Gurgel on the “Grow in Grace” program for continuing education for pastors.
  • The COP called for the appointment of a committee to update the 1989 COP statement on “Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage, and Malicious Desertion.” This study has been requested due to questions that have arisen over how biblical principles apply to internet usage. The updated report will be presented to the 2013 synod convention.
  • The COP will update and revise the guidelines for congregations considering the calling of semi-retired pastors for part-time ministry.
  • The COP continued its discussion regarding varying approaches to ministry and how the COP can best provide consistent guidance and oversight.
  • The COP received a report on the annual “Walking Together” emphasis, as well as the planned “Every Member Visit” to be carried out by all WELS congregations next fall or spring, as called for by the 2011 synod convention. The every member visit will center on the joy created by the gospel message and how that joy can show itself in our lives of Christian stewardship. Congregations will be provided with instructions and materials to enable them to carry out the visits using trained congregational leaders. Partial funding for this program is provided by a grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation.
  • The COP received an update on the “Let the Children Come” program. This is an effort to generate support from individuals for the construction of a new early childhood learning center at Martin Luther College.

Serving in Christ,

Mark Schroeder