Tuesday, January 19, 2010

News from the Front

Here’s an update on the Lutheran Concerns Association Conference, which was held yesterday in Fort Wayne. I’ll hit a couple of the highlights. I’m told they will post the video on the internet, so once that’s been accomplished I’ll go back and copy a few of the many excellent quotes for you. Pastor Charlie Henrickson also live blogged as the conference went along. You can check out his report here.

My day started out on a good note, as I joined Mr. Harry Madsen and his wife Millie for breakfast. Harry is the President of Lutheran Public Radio, which brings us Issues, Etc. We compared notes on our eccentric habits of collecting books from the oddest of places. Harry also told me a few entertaining stories of his time spent in Korea during the Korean War. There’s no way I can match Harry’s stories.

I drew the lucky straw on the seating chart for the Conference, sitting at the same table as Dr. Jim Voelz (Dean of the Faculty at Concordia Seminary), Joe Strieter and his wife Alice (Joe is on the Ohio District Board of Directors), Dr. Robert Kuhn (former LCMS President), Walter Dissen (who was on the Board of Control during the Seminex debacle), and Christian Preus, Esq. (the President of the LCA).

Dr. Kuhn opened with a brief devotion, followed by Dr. Fritz Baue (Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Fairview Heights, IL) speaking on the abandonment of Augsburg Confession Article XXVIII and the pastoral office in the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (BRTFSSG). Dr. Baue’s presentation was first rate, surpassed only by his trademark bow tie.

Rev. Peter Bender (Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, WI, and Director of the Concordia Catechetical Academy) provided convention delegates with recommendations on how to prepare for the upcoming Synod Convention, and what to expect. As always with Pastor Bender, this was all nestled within the framework of Lutheran theology. What a blessing to sit among people who hold our confession dear.

Joe Strieter provided us with an excellent overview of the Transforming Churches Network, demonstrating areas where this program falls short of the mark, and offering more Scriptural prescriptions for revitalizing local congregations.

John Edson, a CPA who is the Vice Chair of the LCMS Board for Human Care Ministries, discussed Synod finances, delving into the black hole of the LCMS accounting shell game (my words, not his). He explained accounting principles such as restricted funds and unrestricted funds, and how accounting practices can make an operation which is operating in the red (i.e. the LCMS) appear to be operating in the black. His real bottom line is that in order for the Synod to return to a pattern of proper spending the tone needs to be set at the top with the President, the Treasurer, and the Board of Directors.

There was a panel discussion with Walter Dissen, Dr. Tim Rossow (Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL and head of The Brothers of John the Steadfast), Dr. Jim Voelz, and Dr. Bill Weinrich (Professor of Early Church History and Patristic Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary) on the need to continue our practice of residential seminaries (as opposed to distance learning or shifting pastoral education and formation to the Concordias). All were in agreement that both of our seminaries must remain open. I was amused by the good-natured barbs between Dr. Voelz and Pastor Rossow on the disagreements they have on the SMP program, Pastor Rossow being opposed to it while Dr. Voelz is a supporter. Dr. Voelz points out that the SMP program is a very challenging program, as well as an expensive one.

Christian Preus and Rev. Jon Ferguson (Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in St. Louis) reported further on the BRTFSSG. Each of them concentrated on a few aspects of the report, pointing out that there was no way they could begin to cover all the aspects of the report in the time allotted.

Maggie Karner, Director of Life Ministries at LCMS World Relief and Human Care, updated us on the work of WR-HC in Haiti, and offered us Pastor Matt Harrison’s greetings, who was unable to join us because of the ongoing Haiti operations.

My day finished up as I joined Joe and Alice Strieter, as well as Dr. Baue, for dinner. Again, I’m outmatched. The stories of Joe and Dr. Baue far outshine mine.

This whole day was a treat for me. If you enjoy talking theology and being among confessional Lutherans, you’ll enjoy the Lutheran Concerns Association.

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