ELCM Presidents report to Synod
July 15, 2005
Triennium: now concluded
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
In my report for the Triennium ending in September 2002 I wrote: On September 19, 1999 the Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium of North America or ELCM was constituted in this very Church. All 14 persons present were able to fit into the kitchen area. [Duncansville facility]The Constituting Assembly consisted of the leaders of Barley Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, New Enterprise, PA; Faith Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, Duncansville, PA and myself.
When Faith Evangelical Lutheran was begun we did not know if a congregation could be planted or if planted that one could survive. It was Likewise with ELCM. We simply put our hands to the plow and did not look back other than the occasional glance which always amazed us at how far we had journeyed.
There have been no illusions. We knew (and still know) that the first decade (or more ) would be a time of fragile formation. But when Optimism has been knocked flat The Lord has been there to help us back up in order to keep our hands to the plow. This has been the oft repeated experience. We have not lost heart.
Tiny seeds are planted but it takes time to grow and become a mature and established plant. When the image of sowing and growing of the seed is mentioned many immediately think in terms of vegetable gardens. The expectation is that there will be a harvest within a short time or within a reasonable time frame.
But really the seed of the Gospel and the planting and the establishment of a Church body (as well as congregations) can take a very long and unreasonable period of time by our human standards.
Planting and establishing a Church Body is more akin to the planting and establishment of a forest than to the planting and reaping of a harvest from grain crops or from vegetable crops. Foresters think in terms of 25, 30 or 40 years in order for the seed of acorns to grow and establish as a mature Forest. I believe that this needs to be our sense of the planting and establishing of ELCM.
We really need to keep our focus centered on the Word of our God (Law and Gospel) and upon the Evangelical Lutheran Confessions set forth so clearly in the Christian Book of Concord. We need to continually guard as much as our effort will allow against being drawn to either the left or to the right. We have been committed to being Centered upon the only center that truly matters Solus Christus (Christ Alone). This has been our stance during the years of our second Triennium. May it continue to be our stance in the Triennium ahead as well as in all the Triennium s granted to us down through the years of our Lord! Amen.
Truly our Polity (which needs continual emphasis) of Consensus in Light of Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions" has served us well. The sense of balance between freedom for Congregations and on Pastors as Under shepherds of Christ has also been important. Though we may hope for greater numbers and resources for the many needs of Ministry we have held steadfast to the premise that we in ELCM do not need a certain mass of numbers of either congregations or of pastors in order to continue to stand as a truly Centrist Federation, Fellowship, and Association of Evangelical Lutheran congregations and pastors.
We have encountered many new possibilities AND we have experienced many seeming set backs but our core has held stable and been added unto.
Among the seeming set backs:
Death of Pastor Whitehead, our first Ministerium Dean
The dissolution of his little Augsburg Lutheran Mission, Hershey, PA Mission congregation.
Withdrawal of Word of God Lutheran Mission Congregation, Brooklyn Park, MN and its pastor Jeffrey Iverson to LMS-USA
The need to withdraw the official ELCM Call to Rev. John Cobb
The need to remove Rev. William Hartmann from the ELCM roster.
Transfer or withdrawals of Pastor Anthony Striffler of Colorado to the AFLC, Pastor Michael Vahle to LMS-USA, Pastor Eddie Greschel to LC-MCs Heartland District, Roger Lindler St. Pauls, Gaffney SC to LC-MC, and Pastor John Cobb, Wildwood Canada.
Actions by those we initiated contacts with (for the purpose of working together as equals on various Centrist Lutheran areas) attempting to either cut off those seeking alternative options from looking at ELCM or seeking to absorb ELCM as a whole or to absorb our individual congregations and pastors.
Discovery of actions by those thought to be close friends to disparage others from looking at joining ELCM.
Discovery of LEPC change to an ultra Hierarchical entity seeking after Apostolic succession with Lefevre Roman Catholics, et. al.
Leaving of ELCM by 2 RIEC members: with one attending an ELCA congregation and the other the former chairman of our RIEC joining a Conservative Anglican Congregation.
Cessation of participation in Claus Harms House effort even though we in ELCM had put forth a major portion of the formative effort.
Cessation of interaction with ALD/LC-MC
The death of our ELCM General Conference Executive Board Treasurer and charter member of ELCM, Mr. Jack Lindsey
Inactivity from ELCM and non support of ELCM by several of our rostered members.
These various negative challenges were hard on us but our Core held firm and steady! We say thanks be to God alone! I often described the times when some of these negatives piled up upon our hearts and minds as Winnowing times! The words of the Prophet Joel were and are firmly in my mind: ESV Joel 2:25 "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. It is curious that these words immediately precede the text from Joel that the Apostle Peter uses for his impromptu Pentecost Sermon.
We struggle to do all that we can while it is day before that night comes when no one may work and when we have done all that we possibly can then we are simply told to Stand. This stand is a little word and concept that Dr. Luther uses Here I stand [all alone if necessary]. It is really the concept of waiting patiently on the Lord! Patience is very tough to do in societies where the focus is predominantly upon becoming big and becoming larger. But we do need to keep a proper perspective that it is the Lords work to which we witness, not our own accomplishments and so in good time and in due season the little acorn or mustard seed will grow into the forest! Amen come Lord Jesus Come.
There have been hard and sad experiences in this Triennium past. But In the midst of the sadness, trials and challenges some of which truly did threaten our ongoing existence there, however, have been many good and encouraging developments. There were many joys in the past Triennium.
Among the joys and good projects :
Ordination of Pastors Tyler Dunlap, Robbie Taylor, and Terry Culler
Licensing of Christopher Hurst, Matthew Harpster
Agreement with Ashland Theological Seminary for accreditation of Courses taught by ELCM Pastors/ Licensed Ministers
Strong support from ELCM congregations for the Siberian Orphan appeal despite some questions about the appeal spokesman.
reception of Pastors Stefan Huppert of Minn; Carl Towley of Mass.
High STM academic achievement by Pastor Isaacs with MDiv and PhD degrees soon to follow.
Establishment of global ELCM family by approving and developing affiliations with India ( LFI, CSCM, LCC, and INLC) and with Kenya (ELFA). Oh what a strengthening these affiliations have truly been! These affiliations greatly multiplied the size of the ELCM family in terms of congregations and Pastors as well as in terms of sense of purpose and ongoing Mission.
Official publication of recognition of ELCM as one of the Lutheran Denominations of North America but the ELCAs 2005 Year book with a complimentary copy sent to President Steward by ELCA Secretary, Lowell ALmen.
Development of an ELCM Questionnaire for applicant pastors, Seminarians, and congregation leaders to help them determine if ELCM is an orientation they wish to pursue.
Continued and ongoing contact from individuals interested in ELCM ministry.
The successful holding of an ELCM Ministerium meeting during the Triennium with the election of a new Ministerium Dean, Pastor Russell Burr.
The Calling of Pastor Burr to be Chaplaincy enabling officer of ELCM.
St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Streetsboro, OH received into ELCM rostered congregation membership.
growing Benevolence support for ELCM by member congregations and member pastors.
The successful attainment of the goal of a $20,000.00 Reserve fund for support of Missions and congregations.
Decision to make primary focus the establishment of ELCM congregations.
Strong support for enabling the visits of Affiliate Presidents to our 2nd Triennial General Conference resulting in the visits by President Prasad and President Benerjee.
Steadfast stance that ELCM is not interested in merging with others or in being absorbed by other groupings but intends to Stand firmly as a Centrist Evangelical Lutheran Federation, Fellowship and Association of Evangelical Lutheran congregations and pastors.
When last I gave a report at the end of the Triennium I wrote: Today, just three short years since ELCMs beginning on September 19, 1999 we are still a tiny mustard seed synod of pastors and congregations but the increase has been steady and rather amazing. It is very frustrating to gather all together in one place and so the question again and again arises: will anything come of us and our efforts? Only the Lord God knows the answer
The fact that ELCM continues to exist and has now become a global family is, I believe, Gods answer made known to us. Sola Dei Gloria! Now 3 years after our 2002 Triennial - It seems that 6 years has been but a brief time past - we are still standing!
We still are in the formative period and all around us the Christian Church is in turmoil and in ferment but Thanks be to God that our little Federation, Fellowship, and Association of Centrist oriented Evangelical Lutheran congregations and pastors continues to stand and to expand.
Why has the Lord called us out and into formation? For a Purpose that He intends! This is Most Certainly True! More of his purposes and reasons will become clear as the formative years continue to unfold in the Triennium ahead. May we continue to be open to his leading and guiding ! It is most certainly true that as we keep a patient focus upon Gods Word (Law and Gospel) pointing us to Christ alone that our Gracious God will surprise us and enliven us again and again for His purpose for in truth and indeed His word goes forth from his Mouth and does not return until it accomplishes that which He purposes.
As part of my report I present to you now an excellent Power point overview of the American Lutheran situation that has been prepared by Dr. Galeziewski and indicates perhaps the reason for the Lord enabling us to continue to stand and be planted.
Pastor Roy A. Steward, President
Evangelical Lutheran Conference & Ministerium of North America, Inc.
Included with my report I share an excellent Historical overview of Lutheran Centrists in American History which was prepared by
The Rev. Dr. James Galezewski
ELCM Pastor - Aurora University Professor