Grace, Mercy, and Peace

Unity of the Spirit

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“Be[ing] diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

This edition of The Evangel focuses our attention on the many important conferences that were held during the past year. There were at least 10 conferences that I attended, each of which was characterized by an emphasis on the unity of our church body. Admittedly, at the beginning of 2015, we did not plan to have unity as our annual theme. However, in hindsight it is clear that this was the plan of Our Heavenly Father. How wonderful it is to look back and see that Our Lord’s Hand was guiding us each step of the way. How encouraging it is to look forward and know that He will be guiding us each step of the year ahead!

Regional Conventions

Five of our conferences this year were Regional Conventions. During convention, each region is required to take care of a lot of business: budgets are adopted, elections are conducted, and area concerns are presented and addressed. But this year, business took a backseat. The leading item on the agenda was our unity. Before we were even aware of it, God was drawing us together! Pastors and congregations were excited about meeting. Longstanding friendships were rekindled; new friendships were made. There was strong attendance including emeriti, seminary students, and congregational pastors and delegates. Some pastors were unable to attended because of congregational or personal health. They were genuinely missed and remembered with heartfelt prayers.

Several of the conventions reviewed the historic roots of The AALC, recognizing the unity of faith and confession of our predecessor church bodies, even in the midst of their diversity in customs and traditions. Pastors and delegates reaffirmed their unity amidst diversity too. Characteristic of this emphasis was the theme selected by Pr. Nathan Hoff, Outgoing Regional Pastor of the Western Region, “Harmony with one another,” from Romans 15:4-7.

Youth, Staff, and ILC

The Youth Convention was a roaring success, with the largest gathering of AALC youth for many years. Over 300 youth and adults gathered in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado under the banner, “Victory.” The excitement of the presenters and worship leaders was contagious. Significant devotions and discussions added to an already remarkable week. Speaking personally, I had a wonderful time. I was honored to play guitar with the worship band, and was treated to my first experience of crowd surfing! Most exciting of all was to see young people who often had arrived as separated individuals, depart as dear friends in Christ.

The National Staff conducted weekly meetings and several special sessions as we attended to the needs of pastors, congregations, and the national church. Foundational in this process was a commitment by the National Staff to work as a team. Our methodology has been shaped, in some large part, by several books by Patrick Lencioni on building a leadership team.Pr. Joe Dapelo was kind enough to be my companion on a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Together, we attended the International Lutheran Council (ILC) meeting in September. The ILC is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran church bodies with unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as inspired and infallible, and to the Lutheran Confessions as a faithful exposition of the Word of God. It was wonderful to meet Lutherans from Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, the nordic countries, and the Americas. One of the most significant moments during the conference was when the participants recognized the unique significance of our united voices. At a moment when other Christians are departing from biblical values, we determined to make a unified witness to the truth of Scripture and the true declaration of Lutheran doctrine.

Pr. Joe Dapelo was kind enough to be my companion on a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Together, we attended the International Lutheran Council (ILC) meeting in September. The ILC is a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran church bodies with unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as inspired and infallible, and to the Lutheran Confessions as a faithful exposition of the Word of God. It was wonderful to meet Lutherans from Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, the nordic countries, and the Americas. One of the most significant moments during the conference was when the participants recognized the unique significance of our united voices. At a moment when other Christians are departing from biblical values, we determined to make a unified witness to the truth of Scripture and the true declaration of Lutheran doctrine.

Symposium and Pastors’ Conference

In October, I was invited to Faith Lutheran Church in Watseka, Illinois for the first annual Just and Sinner Conference. This theological symposium was hosted by Pr. Jordan Cooper and the people of Faith, Watseka. The theme, Ordo Salutis (Order of Salvation), reminded participants that our unity of confession is the bond of faith that unites Lutherans across the ages and around the world. I was invited to participate, along with Dr. Eric Phillips, and Pr. Jordan Cooper. Topics of discussion were: Ordo Salutis, Conversion and Election, Justification, Mystical Union, Sanctification, and Glorification.

The final conference of the year was the annual Pastors’ Conference. This was an absolutely fantastic event with more than 60 of our pastors and seminarians gathered on the Concordia, St. Louis campus. We had intensive study of the Epistle to Titus led by Pr. Joe Dapelo, Pr. Chris Rosebrough, and Pr. Darrel Deuel. We took a close look at the current role of the pastor in our society and in our church body, with special focus given to the biblical responsibility of pastor as teacher. Presentations were made by Pres. Rich Shields, Dr. Craig Henningfield, and myself.Times of fellowship, brotherhood, and personal care were as precious as the times of worship and study. We started our days early and often continued late into the night. Pastors were reluctant to leave conversations that were so stimulating and friendships that were so significant.

Times of fellowship, brotherhood, and personal care were as precious as the times of worship and study. We started our days early and often continued late into the night. Pastors were reluctant to leave conversations that were so stimulating and friendships that were so significant.

God has given us unity with one another: unity of faith and fellowship, and unity of ministry and mission. During this past year, we have experienced the Holy Spirit at work among us. He has gathered us together as the mystical body of Christ, maintaining precious relationships, repairing broken ones, and creating new ones. Thanks be to God for the unity of the Spirit in the body of peace that He has so graciously given to the pastors and people of The American Association of Lutheran Churches.

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