Greetings from Milwaukee!  Today was the first day of real business for the Convention, and we had a lot to accomplish.  Today’s business included elections for the Synod Vice-Presidents, floor nominations for Secretary of Synod, floor time for several floor committees, and our first Convention essay (presented by Dr. Lawrence Rast, President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne).

First, let’s talk about elections.  All of the incumbent Vice-Presidents were reelected, which means that Trinity won’t have to update the Regional Vice-President we pray for!  A couple of additional nominees were added to the slate for Secretary of Synod (which will be voted on tomorrow).

The first floor committee to come to the floor (other than Elections) was #2, International Mission, which brought 2 resolutions to the floor.  The first thanked God for the service of all the missionaries who have served on our behalf in the history of our Synod—a history which stretches back to the 1870s, when our first missionaries were sent to Nagercoil, India!  The other resolution encourages the congregations of the Synod to prayerfully consider the ways in which they can support our international missionaries.  Over the past 3 years the LCMS Office of International Mission has doubled its number of career missionaries, an incredible blessing both to our Synod and from our Synod to the world!  I strongly urge all the congregations of our circuit to consider the ways in which we can help to support these career missionaries, perhaps by individually or collectively sponsoring a missionary through the “Together in Mission” program.

The next floor committee was #1, National Mission, which also brought 2 resolutions (each of these committees has 6 resolutions in total, but they will both be back later).  The committee’s first resolution introduces the new “Every One His Witness” evangelism program which the Office of National Mission has been putting together.  According to Rev. Day and Rev. Harrison, this program should be ready for implementation soon (though it’s still in the final stages).  When it is out, I hope that there will be a way for our congregations to participate in it.  Second, they brought a resolution to encourage church planting using the “Mission Field: USA” initiative, which shifts our thinking about missions in America to be more in line with our vibrant interest in international missions.  Synod will work with Districts by providing resources to help the Districts to plant churches, with a goal of 150 new congregations and 18 “domestic missionaries” in the next triennium.

Though Committee 13 (Routes to Ministry) did not bring any resolutions to the floor today, Rev. Russ Sommerfield, former President of the Nebraska District and member of the committee, read a presentation laying out some of the history of the Licensed Lay Deacon issue and why it is important to both sides.  I really appreciated Sommerfield’s presentation:  on the one hand, Licensed Lay Deacons do not desire to usurp the Office of Public Ministry; on the other hand, those who express concerns with the current state of affairs are not blind to the needs of the congregations served by LLDs or “clergy elitists,” but are simply concerned for the LLDs and their congregations and for consistency in theology and practice.  We need to give thanks for the service of the many Deacons who have served over the years!  We need to acknowledge and recognize their ministry (which is the purpose of ordaining them)!  I pray that when we discuss these resolutions tomorrow, we will be able to do so in a spirit of brotherhood and charity.

President Lange’s Committee 15 (Reformation) is only scheduled for a single slot during the Convention, so they had to get a lot done in a short period of time.  First Lange introduced his daughter Kristen, who is the incoming director of the “Wittenberg Project,” who read the first resolution, commending and giving thanks for the Wittenberg Project.  It is incredible to think that the Old Latin School is the only confessional Lutheran presence in the city known as the Birthplace of the Reformation!  They also brought to our attention the Luther Documentary which was funded and produced by the three largest American Lutheran churches (LCMS, WELS, and ELCA) and which will be available for viewing in the Fall of 2017, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  This will be available for free download online and on DVD, as well as for viewing on PBS.  When it is available, I would be interested in hosting a public viewing at Trinity as part of our Reformation Anniversary celebration.  On that subject, I encourage all our congregations to check out, the website created by the Synod to help with our celebration of the Reformation Anniversary.  The committee’s penultimate resolution encourages and “commits” the Synod to read through the entire Bible during 2017 in order to grow in the Word during the 500th Anniversary celebration.  Considering that Trinity’s Family Altar already includes time for Scripture reading, I think we will try to incorporate these resolutions together as part of our Family Altar next year.  Finally, the committee encourages the study of the Augsburg Confession (the defining confessional document of what it means to be Lutheran) between 2017 and 2030 (the 500th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession), which I also encourage everyone to do.  I suppose we should note that the floor committee chaired by our District President has the distinction of being the first to conclude its business this year!

The final floor committee to present today was #3, Mercy.  Their first three resolutions commended the work of two Recognized Service Organizations—LCMS Disaster Response and LCMS National Housing Support Corporation—and three independent organizations with which the LCMS cooperates—Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Lutheran Services in America, and Lutheran World Relief.  A note on one of those RSOs:  LCMS Disaster Response is responsible for the Lutheran Early Response Team Training, and Christ Lutheran in Manhattan will be hosting a LERT Training workshop on August 13.  If you are interested, I encourage you to attend that training!

We did get through quite a bit of business today, but there is always more that needs to be done.  Continue to pray for the delegates, the committees, the people in charge of the convention, and all the convention center staff.

Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, we thank You for the many blessings that You have given to this church body.  We pray that You would bless our mission efforts, both in this country and around the world.  As You have gathered us all together in convention, so continue to gather people to Yourself in the Church.  Give wisdom and strength to all our missionaries, those serving in foreign lands and all of us who share our faith with those around us.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.