We Preach Christ Crucified – Day 1 of the 2023 LCMS National Convention
Saturday, July 29
Contributed by Pastor Steve Heinsen
Northwest District Secretary
Several things come to mind for me when I think of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cheese, in particular fried cheese curds. Beer, especially home brews. Frozen custard. Are you noticing a food theme here of things I miss from my years growing up in the Midwest? Lake Michigan. Concordia University, Wisconsin, a school that I visited with my family when I was a junior in high school. Occasional lake effect snow in the winter. That sounds delightful with all the heat and humidity that is being experienced here at this time. You can catch a Milwaukee Brewers major league baseball game at American Family Field. Downtown, there is the Water Street District with many nightlife and entertainment options.
But for the Northwest District delegates heading across the country for the 68th Convention of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the Baird Center in the heart of downtown Milwaukee was the main gathering place. Due to the traveling distance, most of our delegates arrived Friday afternoon and evening. After a good night’s sleep, activities began bright and early this morning. It was time to formally register and then explore the Center. Old friends whom some had not seen for years were reunited. There is also a large hall set up for exhibits from many service agencies, colleges, and the two seminaries that serve our Synod.
Beginning at 8:30 this morning, open hearings from the twelve committees established for this convention began. I went to three of these meetings. I began the day with Floor Committee #6 – Pastoral Ministry and Seminaries. One major issue here was requiring districts to implement the PALS (Post-Seminary Applied Learning and Support) program from the district level instead of simply encouraging it as it currently stands. The Northwest District currently has the MAP program for new pastors that may potentially be impacted should the resolution be implemented. Several pastors from the coastal districts and mission executives spoke about the implications of making this change. In addition, the issue of training future church workers in a residential seminary setting versus a variety of other locally or district-based settings was a topic of discussion. Several delegates from the Northwest District spoke to both issues.
My next stop was Floor Committee #9 – Structure and Administration. Two issues came to the forefront at this meeting. The first was voting rights for commissioned ministers (DCEs, DCOs, teachers, and others) at Synod and District levels. This has been an issue for some time, as commissioned ministers are not allowed to serve as voting delegates at conventions. A second issue raised was switching the format of elections for selecting delegates to Synodical conventions. Currently, the order is pastor – lay delegate – pastor alternate – lay alternate. The resolution would switch that to lay delegate – pastor – lay alternate – pastor alternate. This could be a challenge in circuits with a smaller number of eligible pastors available to serve. Since all four delegates and alternates need to be from different congregations, it could make it challenging to have adequate representation provided, especially in circuits with a smaller number of eligible pastors due to vacancies or SMP pastors who are not eligible to serve.
The meeting for Floor Committee #7 – University Education drew a crowd of standing room only. The two main issues here were a reorganization of the Concordia University System and how to move forward with a situation at Concordia University Texas. Many speakers had questions about the new bylaw submissions and proposed restructuring of our Concordia Universities. Some concerns were raised concerning the legality in certain states of some of the proposed changes, as well as the practicality of enforcing these changes on several universities in diverse situations and settings. The resolution submitted calling the Concordia University Leadership to Repentance (Resolution 7-03) raised some impassioned presentations, on both ends of the spectrum. Several speakers agreed that the leadership needed to be held to account for the Concordia University Texas Board of Regents’ decision to be self-governing (but not withdraw) from the Concordia University System. Several others spoke in strong defense of the Board of Regents’ decision, stating that this difficult decision was made after numerous attempts with the Concordia University System to find a feasible solution, but were either not responded to or were denied. This will definitely be a hot topic issue on the floor of the convention.
At 1:30 p.m., all the delegates met in the convention hall for an orientation. Instructions were given on the ins and outs of how the convention would operate, including a primer on Robert’s Rules of Order, how to speak at one of the 14 available microphones, how to vote using the electronic balloting devices (and using the electronic queuing device for determining who would speak in what order), and other helpful instructions.
At 5 p.m., delegates enjoyed a banquet in the Ballroom. At 7:30 p.m., everyone met back in the main convention hall for Divine Worship with Holy Communion. More than 2,000 worshippers, voting and advisory delegates, pastors, musicians, officials, church workers, laypeople, staff, and guests – gathered to worship the Lord who has, and continues to bless us each day in our daily journey of life and faith. The gifts came this evening through His Word and receiving the blessing of the Lord’s Supper.
Divine Service 3 from the Lutheran Service Book was followed for the worship. President-Elect Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison preached with the theme, “Christ Crucified” from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 and Hosea 6:1-6. Hosea preached hard against the rampant idolatry in his day. “I will slay them with the words of my mouth.” He had Hosea marry a prostitute to share a hard visual message of just how far His people had fallen from Him. God will often do strange (to us) things to invite people to repentance. But He also never gives up on His children. May we press on to know the Lord and stick to the Christ Crucified of the Bible. The Council of (District) Presidents and other pastors then assisted in serving the Lord’s Supper to those gathered.
Tomorrow gets off to an early start, as we will have a breakfast meeting for all the Northwest District delegates, as well as delegates from the California-Nevada-Hawaii and Pacific Southwest Districts, at our hotel. The Convention Business begins right at 8 a.m. Please continue to pray for the convention itself and the delegates, that we would all be guided by the Holy Spirit in making decisions that are God-pleasing and that focus us on the mission of connecting people to Jesus.