Christian News in Brief (Summer 2021)

District Conventions Begin | New Day at Concordia Seminary , St. Louis | Bugenhagen Conference | Concordia System Update | Changes at CPH

District Conventions Begin

Five Districts of the LCMS are having their conventions this year, in spite of the one-year delay of the LCMS convention due to concern over Covid and governmental restrictions. The South Dakota District will meet in December of this year. Here are some brief summaries of each of the four completed district conventions:

Wyoming District – Re-elected Rev. John Hill as District President. The district passed resolutions regarding the traditional and faithful teaching on the immortality of the soul, in response to more recent changes in language in the synodical explanation of the Small Catechism. The district also authorized other overtures on key issues like communism, critical theory, feminism, and transgenderism, which will be presented for Synod convention through the District’s Pastors Conferences.

Texas District – Re-elected Rev. Michael Newman as District President. The district passed a number of resolutions, including one on the Synod studying attempts to have communion at home through the internet. The resolution in question was wisely amended to prohibit the practice in parishes until the Synod has studied it. Virtual/online communion is an innovation that has broken into the Synod through the various lockdowns and Covid measures. Both seminaries and the CTCR have already addressed the practice and advised against it. Another resolution sought to curtail the authority of the Commission on Constitutional Matters and prevent its opinions from being binding on the Synod without being ratified by the Synod.

New Jersey District – Elected Rev. Stephen Gewecke as District President. The district passed a measure opposing the current role of the Synod President in ecclesiastical supervision of the members of the Synod, on the basis that the practice conflicts with the Constitution of the Synod.

Mid-South District – Re-elected Rev. Roger Paavola as District President. The district passed a resolution rejecting the popular ideology of Critical Race Theory, as it conflicts with Holy Scripture, also rejecting those organizations and groups which use the theory.

A New Day at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

Rev. Dr. Thomas Egger is the the new President of the St. Louis seminary. The seminary has seen controversy in recent years due to diverse practices in chapel, professors advocating strange positions regarding Scripture and signing onto unionistic confessions, and even a dispute with two districts of the LCMS regarding the doctrine of creation. A new day may be coming with President Egger. New faculty are being added to the seminary. A notable change is that Rev. Dr. Jon Vieker has been called to serve as Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of Chapel and will be leaving his role as assistant to the Synod President for the task of helping restore faithful and regular practices to the chapel. As worship affects so much of what we believe, this will no doubt bear good fruit in terms of healing some of the divisions of the worship wars in the Synod by giving a proper example to future pastors.

A Conference to Help Pastors Be Better Pastors

In recent years a new conference has been taking place in Racine, Wisconsin. The Bugenhagen Conference, named for Dr. Luther’s pastor in Wittenberg, is an effort to pass on theological and practical training from parish pastors to parish pastors. The effort is not funded by Synod; the conference is instead the work of pastors and congregations. It is free for pastors and, in addition to plenary and break-out sessions on matters pertaining to being a faithful pastor, it offers a retreat and time for brotherly conversation as well. Next year, encourage your pastor to take the last week in July to go to Racine. Both he and your congregation would be blessed by it. See more info at: bugenhagenconference.org

Concordia University System Updates

The Concordia University System continues to shrink in size. The greater challenge—to be faithful in the face of the world’s constant invasion and the temptation to accept the world’s flattery—also continues. In many of our Concordias the challenge comes in under the guise of “diversity” student groups, policies, and departments. The University Presidents and Boards of Regents bear the chief responsibility for fending off the invasions and temptations.  

Concordia University, Nebraska will be installing Dr. Bernard Bull as its president this summer. Dr. Bull shows promise in his ability to faithfully handle the cultural collegiate climate which threatens each and every university of the Concordia System. 

Concordia University, Chicago has been making progress under its President, Dr. Russell Dawn, in its attempts to adopt a deeper Lutheran identity on its campus, revamping programs to be in better alignment with the faith once delivered to the saints. Lutheran Public Radio recently started a “Lutheran Identity Fund” at Chicago. 

Now-closed Concordia University, Portland continues to make the news, especially as media outlets in the Northwest see its sad case not in terms of mismanagement and financial ruin due to bad contracts for online curriculum handling, but in terms of the campus clubs which advocated for lifestyles that are not in agreement with Holy Scripture (or even nature for that matter). Hotchalk, Inc. continues to pursue its lawsuit against both the LCMS and the Lutheran Church Extension Fund over the closing of Concordia, Portland. LCEF recently purchased the Portland campus for $3 million, although that price is misleading since the purchase also included LCEF releasing its claims as a creditor for the nearly $40 million it had loaned Concordia Portland. Concordia Historical Institute has received many items of historical importance from Portland. The greater takeaway is a stark reminder of James 4:4, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” 

Concordia University, Wisconsin continues its search for a new President after the retirement of Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry this spring. The new president will have to tackle an increasing presence of the “woke” agenda on campus among faculty and students.

Concordia College, New York (Bronxville) held its last commencement this spring and will close before fall.

Changes at CPH

After last fall’s passing of Rev. Paul McCain, who had been the chief supporter of so many faithful works from Concordia Publishing House, another change has come. Dr. Bruce Kintz, who has done well at leading CPH in terms of business leadership and customer support, announced his retirement this summer. Jonathan Schultz has been appointed to serve as Interim President & CEO. A new position, Vice President of Publishing, has been created to help serve in the way that Rev. McCain had done, and a search for a new CEO is ongoing. One cannot underestimate the value in having a faithful Lutheran man in both positions.

Other Lutherans News

    The Japan Lutheran Church, a denomination begun by LCMS missionaries and in pulpit and altar fellowship with the LCMS, has functionally adopted women’s ordination at its April 2021 Convention. LCMS President Harrison has called the church body to repentance, but if they persist in defying God’s command, the matter will have to come before the Synod Convention in 2023 to recognize that, by adopting such a heresy, the Japan Lutheran Church has severed itself from Christ and also broken fellowship with the LCMS. May God work through the words of loving rebuke to restore faithfulness in Japan. 

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the LCMS, gave greetings in person to the national convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) this summer. This is the first time this has happened since the breakup of the Synodical Conference in the 1960s. Each Synod has drifted in its own direction since that time, and the differences in doctrine over key issues like Church, Ministry, and Fellowship continue to prevent any real recognition of unity. It is good that the LCMS is in conversation with synods that take the Luther Confessions seriously. Perhaps someday God will grant that there be a unity like that of the old Synodical Conference. Of course, with the introduction of the divisive practice of online communion, the ongoing struggles over closed communion, worship, the role of women, and unionism, and the failure of the Koinonia Project, the LCMS may have to focus first on internal unity before any outward efforts could bear fruit.

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Joshua Scheer

Rev. Joshua Scheer is Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, WY and Editor-in-Chief of Steadfast Lutherans.

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Christian Culture is the magazine of Luther Classical College. Visit lutherclassical.org for more information about the college.