National Lutheran News

Revenues are down, but Wisconsin Synod presses ahead

Karl Gurgel

Karl Gurgel

The third largest U.S. Lutheran group re-elected Karl Gurgel president.

Faced with a biennial budget 10% below its already sharply reduced 2002-03 budget, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lu-theran Synod (WELS) in convention at Luther Prepa-ratory School, Watertown, Wisconsin, chose North American outreach as its top priority for the next four years. Although the present budget allows only one new North American mission in the next two years, the delegates set the direction for renewed efforts and vigorous, creative ministry.

The convention called for evangelism to be made a priority and a strategy in all WELS churches. The delegates endorsed team ministry in home missions and partnering to add more missions. Partnering is a means by which congregations and individuals will bring special offerings for specific missions. Each congregation of the synod is urged to identify opportunities for cross-cultural and multi-ethnic work. Currently, WELS helps support 243 congregations in its home missions program.

President Karl R. Gurgel, who was re-elected on the third ballot for a four-year term, said, “I’m grateful for the mission-minded direction provided by the delegates. It’s exciting to be a leader in a church that still recognizes the Great Com-mission as its mission.”

A budget of over $64 million was adopted for each year of the biennium, 2003-05. Approximately $23 million of that amount will come from special restricted funds. Already in the past year, WELS cut 11 world missionaries, 6 home mission pastors, 18 full-time professors and instructors in ministerial education, 8 full-time positions in administration, and 2.5 full-time and 10 part-time positions in parish services. Still, it was noted that without an increase in funding, areas of ministry will likely face further cuts in the second year of the current biennium. The convention, therefore, called for a concerted effort by all WELS congregations to increase their mission offerings to 10% or more of their total income.

Delegates also:

* Celebrated 50 years of gospel ministry in Africa. WELS first entered Zambia in 1953. Now the Lutheran Church of Central Africa has more than 11,000 members in Zambia and almost 40,000 in Malawi.

* Established fellowship with the Gereja Lutheran Church of Indonesia.

* Decided to take a fresh look at how the synod does ministerial education in its preparatory schools.

* Supported expanding the use of technology as much as possible to aid ministry and outreach.

* Reaffirmed compensation increases for all synodical workers that were instituted by the 2001 convention. These increases will be phased in over the next three years.

Baumler edits the WELS publication Forward in Christ.