Each of WELS’ 12 districts met in convention this June, discussing local ministry topics and hearing from synod leaders on broader topics that affect the synod as a whole. Many delegates commented on how much they appreciated the time together since their 2020 conventions were canceled.
Delegates of the North Atlantic and Southeastern Wisconsin Districts elected new presidents to replace Donald Tollefson, who is retiring, and David Kolander, who stepped down as district president. Michael Seifert is now leading the North Atlantic District, and Daniel Leyrer is president of the Southeastern Wisconsin District. Both men will join the other district presidents as well as the synod president and two synod vice presidents to form WELS’ Conference of Presidents, which maintains the synod’s doctrine and practice and is responsible for funding the synod budget.
Jon Buchholz, president of the Arizona-California District, offered a rallying cry for all Christians in his report. He noted, “Has there ever been a greater need for Christians of every calling to be salt and light in the world—to be the Church? Have there ever been greater opportunities in all our congregations to see souls without hope rescued by God’s grace? There are many more lost sheep needing rescue. From the bowels of his compassion our Savior calls to them, putting his Word on your lips, giving you words of wisdom, patience, and love to speak to perishing souls in the name of our compassionate Savior. May our Savior fill us with his compassion for people who are perishing! May he give us renewed zeal, newfound purpose, ardent passion, and above all his own compassion, that wandering sheep and lost souls may know the gracious heart of their Shepherd and Savior!”
David Scharf (right), professor of theology at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., preached the opening service sermon and gave the keynote address at the Arizona-California District Convention. Here he is joined by Stephen Gabb, pastor at Hope, Los Angeles, Calif., and secretary of the district.
Delegates of the Dakota-Montana District gathered at Great Plains Lutheran High School, Watertown, S.D., for their convention. Delegates gave thanks to God that the district has been proclaiming God’s grace for more than 100 years. They also celebrated the 25th anniversary of Great Plains Lutheran High School and the dedication of the high school’s expanded facilities, including the auditorium.
The 120th convention of the Michigan District was held at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich. The theme of the convention was “Confession and absolution are good for the soul,” based on 1 John 1:9 and John 20:23. Daniel Westendorf (pictured), a professor at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, presented the convention paper, “Confession has two parts.”
More than 230 delegates attended the Minnesota District Convention at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., which began with worship at the college’s Chapel of the Christ. Dennis Klatt, pastor at Holy Trinity, New Hope, Minn. and district president, closed the convention by remarking, “God bless our plans according to his wisdom and grant us the courage to carry them out.”
The North Atlantic District includes congregations from Canada, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. WELS President Mark Schroeder offered words of encouragement to the district and gave a report on many areas of the synod’s work at home and abroad. Donald Tollefson (left), is retiring as pastor at Immanuel, Long Valley, N.J., and as the district’s president. Delegates elected Michael Seifert (right), pastor at Living Hope, Midlothian, Va., to be the district’s next president.
The theme of the Nebraska District Convention was “Serving Jesus in a world that wants to serve itself.”
Held at Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, Wis., the Northern Wisconsin District Convention focused on two presentations to help delegates consider how to reach out with Christ’s words of eternal life as America’s religious culture changes. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, discussed “Authentic Christian presence: The best path forward in a post-Christian nation.” Kurt Nitz, co-developer of WELS’ Everyone Outreach program, presented on “Congregational culture: Boost or burden.”
Coming from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, the delegates of the Pacific Northwest District Convention gathered at Evergreen Lutheran High School, Tacoma, Wash. Kenneth Cherney, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., helped delegates dig into God’s Word to find help and hope in a world where there is much suffering and confusion.
The South Atlantic District Convention was one of thanksgiving as delegates appreciated the opportunity to meet with one another. Jonathan Bauer, pastor at Good News, Mount Horeb, Wis., presented the keynote address, “Our Lutheran moment.”
The three devotions held at the South Central District Convention were led by three new mission pastors in the district—Hans Thomford, Amazing Grace, Amarillo, Texas; Andrew Westra, Christ Our Refuge, Waco, Texas; and Micah Koelpin, Our Savior, San Antonio, Texas (West Campus).
About 380 delegates attended the Southeastern Wisconsin District Convention at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis. Delegates adopted a resolution that expressed support for a plan to ask David Kolander (pictured left), who stepped down as district president, to serve as an interim assistant to the new district president, Daniel Leyrer (pictured right), to help Leyrer transition into his new work due to the large number of called workers and schools in the district. Kolander has accepted that call.
Held at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., delegates to the Western Wisconsin District Convention focused on the words of Hebrews 10:19-25 to encourage one another. Convention presentations encouraged delegates to keep gathering together for worship, education, and soul care.
Learn more about the two new district presidents elected at this year’s district conventions in “Getting to know the new district presidents.”
Contributors to this report include: AZ-CA—Michael Schroeder and Steven Gabb; D-M—John Schwartz; MI—John Eich; MN—Jeffrey Bovee and Bill Pekrul; NA—Ian Headrick and Jonathan Fischer; NW—Ronald Szep; PNW—David Birsching; SA—Newlin Schafer; SC—Caleb Schoeneck; SEW—William Carter and Matthew Schaewe; WW—Galen Riediger and Dominique Wrobel.
Volume 109, Number 08
Issue: August 2022