7/14/2016 12:52:57 PM
Pastor Chris Vossler
Synod Convention: Thursday
Greetings from Milwaukee! I am writing this from the lobby of our hotel, where we will be waiting for the shuttle to bring us back to the airport for our flight home. This has been an incredible experience, and I am very grateful to the circuit for giving me the opportunity to represent them here at Convention. Our final business meeting was indeed busy, but there were plenty of opportunities for humor along the way.
We began by recognizing the service of Rev. Raymond Hartwig, who served as Secretary of Synod for 18 years under 4 different Synod Presidents, and who elected not to run for reelection this year. It is incredible to think just how much Rev. Hartwig has done for the Synod, and just how challenging of a position this is. From talking to former district secretaries (such as my dad), it is a surprisingly difficult position, so we need to b extremely thankful for the work that Rev. Hartwig did.
Also today we went through all the resolutions for the committees on Worker Wellness and Life Together. Considering that the Kansas District has been on the forefront of the Worker Wellness issue since right around when I came into the District 3 years ago, it was particularly gratifying to see such interest being shown in policies and resources to assist in improving the physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness of our church workers.
We also finished working through the unfinished business from the committees on Church and Culture, University Education, National Witness, and Mercy. Something which was of great interest to me from the Committee on Church and Culture was the resolution to commend first responders and encourage our congregations and pastors to help and support them. My dad is working to become a police chaplain, and a couple of his pastor friends are also police and/or fire chaplains, so he and one of those friends actually worked with the committee in putting the resolution together. On the subject of University Education, I was glad to see the Convention working to build closer bonds between the universities and Synod so that we can avoid suffering the same fate as the Lutheran Church – Canada did when they lost Concordia University Edmonton (which went secular a couple years back).
One of the most moving moments of the business session came when the Committee on Mercy proposed a resolution encouraging the Synod to be informed about and support the Persecuted Church. I have been receiving Voice of the Martyrs for a couple years, so I have been trying to remain informed on that subject, but that is not a Lutheran publication. However, there are absolutely Lutherans who face persecution, even today. One delegate a few rows ahead of me stood up to speak about his experience of being persecuted for his faith in Sudan. He was arrested and beaten, and lost many of his teeth as a result. President Harrison also informed us that Rev. Dr. Bernahu Ofgaa (President of the EECMY) had likewise suffered persecution by being arrested, hung upside down, and whipped. And yet, this persecution has not stopped any of our persecuted brothers or dissuaded them from their confession. Instead, it has only served to grow the Church. As Rev. Ofgaa said yesterday (quoting the church father Tertullian), “The blood of the martyrs is (or waters) the seed of the Gospel.” We as a church body must pray for and offer support to our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
The final resolution of the convention was presented by the chair of the Committee on Routes to Ministry. This resolution proposed a recount of the vote a couple days ago on the subject of who has the best mustache in the Synod between President Harrison and Rev. Terry Forke (President of the Montana District). You may remember that Forke won the first vote. However, this new vote will include members from the entire Synod, and will be conducted as a fundraiser for the Joint Seminary Fund and Concordia University Church Worker Scholarship Funds. Every dollar raised for one of those funds will be considered as a vote for the donor’s candidate of choice. The goal is to raise at least $2 million dollars, and whichever candidate receives the fewest votes will have his mustache shaved off by the winner. And when the $2 million goal is reached, both of them will have their mustache shaved off by the other! We will find out more about this very soon, but when we do I absolutely encourage everyone to participate and donate to the fund of your choice.
This concludes my updates from Milwaukee. In the next week or so I will write up two more articles. One will give a short overview of what our congregations will need to do as follow-up to the Convention (short answer: we need to ratify a couple of constitutional changes at our voters’ meetings). The other will be my official report to the circuit on the Convention. I may be able to present it to each congregation, but I can’t guarantee that without knowing when voters’ meetings take place. Hopefully Mr. Ken Culbertson (our lay delegate) and I will be able to work out a good way to present our Convention experiences to the congregations.
Before leaving off, thank you again for giving me this opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as well as seeing a number of my classmates and others I know who were also voting delegates. Spending time with my parents for the third time this summer was a major highlight of the trip. Please pray for all of those who are traveling today, including especially those whose travel plans are being disrupted (again) by weather. That includes at least a couple of the New Jersey District delegates (not my parents), who have had flights canceled.
Let us pray: Lord of the Church, we thank You for gathering use together as a Synod to walk together in our shared ministry. Bless those who are charged with carrying out the mission of our Synod, and bless those who will be served by that mission. Grant safety to all those who are traveling, and bring them home with joy. We pray it for the sake and in the name of Jesus. Amen.