Greetings from Milwaukee!  We are just under halfway through the convention, but it seems like we still have an enormous amount of work left to do before we return home on Thursday.  Today the Convention heard an essay from the Rev. Roosevelt Gray, Jr., Director of LCMS Black Ministry, on the subject of repentance, before he and a few other pastors went to the site of the “Black Lives Matter” protest a couple blocks from the convention center in order to pray with those present.  Beyond the convention essay, 6 floor committees brought business to the convention floor (in addition to elections for Secretary of Synod and regional members of the LCMS Board of Directors), but we didn’t get through nearly as many resolutions as perhaps we would have liked.

This morning’s session saw us endorse fellowship with a couple of smaller, emerging confessional Lutheran church bodies, and recognize a number of “self-governing partner churches,” which was easily the highlight of the day.  I will talk about the 6 new partner churches in a little more detail later, but for right now they are:  the Lutheran Church in Norway, Lutheran Church of Uruguay, Lutheran Church in Guatemala, Lutheran Church of Venezuela, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Almaty and the District of Almaty – Republic of Kazakhstan, and Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Republic of Chile.  Praise God for extending His kingdom, not only through the work of official Synod missionaries, but also through the support of individual LCMS congregations and through the mission work of our daughter churches (particularly the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil)!  In addition to endorsing these partner churches, we also affirmed the work which the International Lutheran Council has been doing in supporting, encouraging, and equipping confessional Lutheran Church bodies throughout the world.  In connection with this resolution we heard from Rev. Christian Ekong, President of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, about the ways in which the ILC has helped the confessional Lutheran churches of Africa to stand firm against the “religious colonialism” of the Lutheran World Federation.  Lutherans in Africa are confessional, and they want to hold fast to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, despite outside pressure!  Praise God!

Committee 13 brought a resolution to encourage and equip the Priesthood of Believers to serve God in the ways in which they have been gifted.  In essence this resolution affirms the work of district-run “Lay Leader Institutes” which equip lay people to serve the church in ways which complement the Office of Holy Ministry.

Two notes from the Committee on Structure and Administration.  First, the convention elected not to switch to a four-year convention cycle.  Second, the convention did decide to do away with the requirement that any voter for the Synod President must have attended the previous District Convention.  I do see the argument in favor of leaving that requirement—voters should be aware of the larger picture of the Synod—but the reasons for allowing flexibility (mitigating circumstances which bar a voter from attending the district convention, pastors accepting new calls, and the like) did make the change necessary.

The Committee on the Seminaries only brought a single resolution today, affirming the Scriptural and Confessional qualifications for pastors.  Considering the direction in which the culture is going, this is becoming more and more necessary for us to do.

We did talk about the issue of Ecclesiastical Supervision and Dispute Resolution, but the discussion got incredibly bogged down, by the end of 40 minutes we had nothing to show for it.  This is a very difficult issue, made all the more difficult by a new Commission on Constitutional Matters opinion stating that the current practice of allowing an appear to a Referral Panel is actually unconstitutional.  This means that between 1956 and now the CCM or Synod in Convention has said at least 3 conflicting things about this issue.  One delegate made the comment (quoting Luther) that “popes and councils can err,” and that is absolutely correct.  Which CCM opinion is correct:  the current one, or the previous one which allowed for Referral Panels?  I do think we need to act in some way (considering that the Constitution does give the Synod President ultimate ecclesiastical supervision over all members (meaning congregations and rostered workers) and officers of Synod), but at the same time I do see the argument in favor of holding off for further study.  Considering that this issue is dividing the convention so much, I wonder how it can be reconciled with our desire for Koinonia (“Fellowship”).  Please pray for the Convention as we take this matter up again before lunch on Tuesday.

The final committee for the day was the one on University Education, which introduced the “Lutheran Identity Statement” which the Concordia University System institutions wrote and adopted.  Considering the great blessings which our colleges and universities have offered to the Synod at larger, we are truly blessed to have them, and we are truly blessed by their strong stand for our theology and practice.  We also adopted a resolution recognizing Concordia University St. Paul on its 125th anniversary, as well as one allowing for the teaching and certifications of teachers trained in Classical Liberal Studies so they can be rostered to teach at our schools.

The best parts of the afternoon session were probably learning about LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces and Operation Barnabas, and then learning about our missionaries and their families.  The previous Synod Convention (2013) set a goal of doubling our number of career missionaries by this convention, from 68 to 136.  While the Office of International Mission did fall short, they only did so by 11:  we now have 125 career missionaries in the field!  Praise God!

Continue to pray for the Convention tomorrow as we continue to work through the business of the Synod.  Especially pray for harmony as we work through these contentious issues.

Let us pray:  How blessed it is when brothers dwell in unity!  We thank and praise You for extending Your kingdom throughout the world through the work of missionaries and chaplains, laypeople and clergy.  We thank You for uniting us in a common confession with one another in this Synod and with other churches around the world.  We pray as this Convention continues its work that a spirit of peace and harmony would prevail.  Though we discuss difficult issues, help us to attack the problems and not the people.  Grant unity in Jesus’ Name!  Amen.