Pastor’s Report of the 67th Convention of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod
Tampa Bay, FL
July 20-25, 2019
September 30, 2019
By Pastor Jeffrey Sippy
The 67th Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod took place July 20-25, 2019, at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla.
The LCMS national convention affords an opportunity for worship, nurture and inspiration, fellowship, and the communication of vital information.
The convention is the principal legislative assembly, which amends the Constitution and Bylaws, considers and takes action on reports and overtures, and handles appropriate appeals. It establishes general positions and policies of the Synod, provides overall program direction and priorities, and conducts business in order to provide responsible service for and on behalf of its members.
Circuits of the District elect one voting pastoral delegate and one voting lay delegate to the Convention to represent them. The Springfield Circuit elected Marilyn Haldiman and Rev. Mickey Wilkey, Circuit Visitor. On Saturday, September 28, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., the Springfield Circuit met in a Circuit Forum at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Nixa, Missouri, for a reporting of the Synod in Convention. There were 13 present, with 7 from Redeemer. It was a joyous, hopeful, and encouraging meeting.
Opening Devotion: Rev. William Marler, Trinity Lutheran Church, Springfield, MO
Pastor Marler shared an excellent devotion that traced the history of our Synod and some of the early events and individuals by which God established His Church here in America. Pastor Marler emphasized, without qualification or apology, the Synod is made up of sinners. There is nothing glorious and faithful about the Synod. Rather, the source of life, the focus of faith, the blessing of the Church, is and always has been the Lord Jesus Christ who forgives sinners and who establishes His Church around His Word and His Sacrament. We will never not be sinners. And God will never not be God.
The theme of the convention was Joy: Fully Lutheran, based upon 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, Rejoice always; pray always; give thanks in all circumstances. This is God’s Will for you in Christ Jesus.
Pastor Wilkey and Marilyn Haldiman reported on the convention. They emphasized the Synod Theme that we are Joyfully Lutheran because of God’s mercy and grace through faith in Jesus.
The Convention included a special presentation by Dr. Hebert Mueller, First Vice President, who himself is battling a brain tumor. The report was very emotional and heartfelt. Dr. Mueller stressed that even in the midst of life’s trials God is faithful. God is ever with us. God has a plan for each of us and for His Church. We rejoice. We give thanks. We pray always.
Pastor Wilkey encouraged each of us to be bold witnesses for Jesus. Each of us is empowered by God to reach out to our community and in every arena of our life, where we work, our neighborhoods and our schools. The Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod is an evangelical synod and wants earnestly, with Christ our Lord, for all to be saved and to come to His truth.
Pastor Wilkey stressed that in an era of declining church membership, and fewer men enrolling at the seminaries, and fewer people going into church work, we are to love Church, support the Church, and to reach out to others with the Good News of Jesus.
It was reported that throughout the Synod, Churches are facing serious decline and that churches and schools are closing throughout the Synod. The Church today struggles with its identity and with its mission. There is a temptation to circle the wagons and protect ourselves and preserve our heritage and tradition.
In truth, the Church has never been healthier and we are blessed to remember that our health and well-being is not in ourselves, our heritage, or our tradition, but in the Lord Jesus Christ who gave up His life to preserve each of us and His Church, the Bride, whom He loves and for whom He died!
It is to be noted that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has lost hundreds and thousands of members in recent years and under the regime of each Synod President dating back to President Ralph Bohlman. Since then, no president has boasted an increase in membership. The Rally Cry of the faithful and the Church is to stop pointing fingers and blaming others, for each person to humble himself and herself, and for all to ask, “What can I, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, do in faithful service of Jesus who says, “Go and Make Disciples of all people.”
Editorial Note (Pastor Sippy): If you yourself are not making disciples of all people, it doesn’t really matter what someone else is doing, or not. Christ has Called each of us, individually, to be His disciple and to make disciples – Joyfully, Thankfully, Prayerfully.
It was stressed that we are the Church together and that it is for each of us to love the church and foster health among us.
A strong overture was made for the mental health and well-being of each other and for all, and especially Pastors and Church Workers.
Marilyn Haldiman gave a report on the recognized service organizations of the synod (RSOs).
The Synod, again, re-stated and re-asserted its strong and historic stance on the Inerrancy of Scripture and its binding and authoritative nature on all matters of doctrine and life. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is a Biblical Church and People. The Bible is the only source of faith and life. Sola Scriptura! By Scripture alone!
The Synod, in Convention, honored and celebrated its professional church workers and the Calling God gives to each of us. The Synod in Convention encouraged each of its members to continue to recruit professional Church Workers and to love, support and care for those who have committed their lives to the service of the Gospel.
Editorial Note: Redeemer has a rich history of recruiting and supporting people in professional church work. Presently, Tim and Hope (Colwell) Mehl are missionaries in Taiwan. Joe and Rachel Highley are at Concordia Seminary, where Joe is completing his fourth year of seminary in preparation for the Office of the Public Ministry, and Rachel is completing her coursework to be a Deaconess. Michael and Abby Fox are at Concordia Seminary, too, where Michael is completing his fourth year in preparation for the Office of the Public Ministry, and Abby is a school teacher at a local Lutheran Middle School. And Elder Ken Oziah is currently preparing for enrollment at Concordia Seminary in preparation for the Office of the Public Ministry. We praise God for each of these dear souls, and we pray God’s blessing upon the prosperity of the ministry and for many souls to come to know Jesus.
Pastor Wilkey, who serves as our Springfield Circuit, noted that decline of Church Workers and the Increase of Vacancies. He commented that when he graduated from the Seminary in the early 80s there were 300 graduates between the two seminaries. Today, he notes, there are fewer than 60 graduates between the two seminaries. This is a matter for earnest prayer and the Church partnering together.
Regrettably, Ecclesiastical Supervision, is on the rise. The Church is made up of broken, hurting people. People sin. They are divided. God is Calling each of us to repentance.
The Church continues to struggle with the changing nature of communities and the national landscape. The LCMS historically is an “ethnic” church – a Germanic people, even though theologically we strive to be evangelical. We must continue to ask ourselves what does it mean to reach immigrants and the communities around ourselves, not to mention the culture in which we live – the aging, the handicapped, the mentally ill, the homosexual, the transgender, people living together out of marriage, and those addicted to alcohol, substances, and pornography. The world changes. Life changes. People change. Only Jesus and His Word remain the same. These are not easy matters but matters the church must continue to learn and struggle, and partner together in its united effort of love and care for all.
Editorial Note: Redeemer’s Mission is “We Care for all.”
The closing of Concordia University, Selma, Alabama, the Synod’s only all black university evoked great emotion, if not hurt, anger, and disappointment.
Pastor Wilkey made an ardent appeal that we all continue to reach out to our communities – and to people of other race and culture.
Marilyn Haldiman spoke to the encouragement that every member of every generation is a vital and important member of the Church, and already a disciple with the charge to make disciples.
The Synod, in Convention, historically makes a number of overtures that invite praise to God and prayer for His blessing. These are Biblical positions of our Synod that invite our praise and thanksgiving:
- Sanctity of Life
- Sanctity of Marriage
- Sanctity of family
- Sanctify of the Church, its members, its church workers
- Prayers for the Persecuted Church, Persecuted Christians, Missionaries around the world
- Anniversaries of Churches and Professional Church Workers, special organizations.
Marilyn Haldiman and Pastor Wilkey augmented their report with a number of very interesting video clips of the Convention. In the conclusion to our Circuit Forum they showed a very powerful video of a German Pastor who serves refugees in Germany. It is reported that his worship services last 3 hours! After listening to the video, and listening to Marilyn and Pastor Wilkey, it was concluded that we could all Worship for 3 hours.
It was a blessing to go to the Circuit Forum and to learn of our Synod in Convention. I pray this report is helpful. You can also go to the LCMS website and get video and report on the entire convention. God bless you. I love you very much. We are JOY: Fully Lutheran!! Joyful always; thankful always; and always praying for one another!