Posted by: Johnold Strey | June 16, 2010

District Convention Recap

Over the weekend, my family and I traveled to the Phoenix area for the biennial WELS Arizona-California District Convention.  The convention is held at the Arizona Golf Resort and Conference Center in Mesa, Arizona.  We began Monday, June 14, and wrapped up our proceedings on Wednesday, June 16.  I’ll offer my own perspective and summary of the convention here for those who are interested.

Opening Service

The convention began on Monday morning at 11:00 a.m. with the opening service at King of Kings Lutheran Church in Apache Junction, Arizona.  As the district’s worship coordinator, I was responsible for the opening and closing services and the devotions throughout the convention.  These services and devotions provide a great opportunity to model excellence in Lutheran worship.  My sincere thanks goes out to all of the participants who used their God-given talents to proclaim the gospel in the opening service.  Pastors Paul Rydecki (Emmanuel Lutheran Church; Las Cruces, NM) and David Salinas (St. John Lutheran Church; Victorville, CA) were appointed by the district presidium to serve as the presiding minister and preacher, respectively.  The four officers of the district presidium served as assisting ministers during the distribution of Holy Communion.  Pastor Jon Bauer (Emmanuel Lutheran Church; Tempe, AZ) was the organist, and I directed the instrumentalists and the delegate choir made up of approximately 30 singers.  Since I came with my whole family, I also recruited my wife to be a soloist.  We used “Divine Service I” in Christian Worship: Supplement as the order of worship, and included concertato settings for the main hymns in the service.

The main convention proceedings began at 1:30 p.m. at the resort.  After the district president’s report, we heard the first portion of the convention essay by Prof. Em. Daniel Deutschlander, titled, “Don’t Be Afraid! Cheer Up! It’s the Cross!”  His essay was in many ways a reflection of his recently published book, The Theology of the Cross: Reflections on His Cross and Ours available through Northwestern Publishing House.  Prof. Deutschlander presented this same essay a week earlier at the WELS North Atlantic District Convention.  Pastor Jeremiah Gumm from the North Atlantic District has included two posts (1, 2) with quotations from the essay on his blog, along with a PDF copy of the entire essay, and I invite readers to check out the excerpts found there.  I have often cited Prof. Deutschlander as I teach adult Bible classes and the like, so I was glad that a member of my congregation, our lay delegate, was present to hear his essay and to experience his precise, clear, and unapologetically Lutheran presentation. 

The rest of the afternoon consisted of reports representing various WELS entities.  Several of these reports were summaries of the contents of the Report to the Twelve Districts (RTD).  Delegates may react to the reports from the convention floor.  Floor committees meet at designated times to discuss various sections of the RTD; based on their discussion and any comments previously offered by convention delegates, these committees may present resolutions for the convention delegates to consider.

Throughout the course of the day on Monday and Tuesday, elections took place for various district offices.  The four district presidium officers were elected first.  According to the district constitution, these offices are not nominated in advance, but nominated from the floor of the convention.  After nominations were taken, our four current officers were all reelected on the first ballot: President Jon Buchholz (Emmanuel Lutheran Church; Tempe, AZ), First Vice President Steven Degner (Star of Bethlehem Lutheran Church; Santa Maria, CA), Second Vice President David Clark (Grace Lutheran Church; Glendale, AZ), and Secretary Daniel Schroeder (Risen Savior Lutheran Church; Chula Vista, CA).  After the presidium elections were completed on Tuesday morning, other district officers were also elected through the course of the day on Tuesday.

Deutschlander presentation

Tuesday’s proceedings began at 8:30 a.m. with an opening devotion.  We heard the second portion of Prof. Deutschlander’s essay and then the floor was opened for discussion.  The morning concluded with another report from the RTD and from the various district divisions of the Congregation and Ministry Support Group (CMSG), formerly known as Parish Services.  We continued after lunch with the afternoon devotion and further RTD reports.  WELS President Mark Schroeder addressed the assembly for a time on Tuesday afternoon.  He spoke to a wide range of synodical matters.  I especially appreciated his gentle but firm encouragements to uphold our confessional Lutheran identity in all of our church and synodical work.  He reminded us that church growth methodologies will always be a temptation for us, and that we need to remember that the means of grace — the gospel, in Word and sacraments — is the only true way to grow Christ’s church.  He also described the synod’s long-range plan for 2017.  The year 2017 was chosen because it will be the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.  President Schroeder explained that the synod’s long-range plan intentionally does not include specific strategies or details, but is rather intended to be a general roadmap to guide the synod’s work.  The day concluded with reports from two ad hoc committees that had been established at the previous district convention: one to deal with concerns surrounding the constitution of a congregation that wanted to join our district, and another to produce a study of and offer recommendations for “at-risk” congregations.

Wednesday was the final day of the convention.  After the opening devotion, our morning meeting consisted primarily of reports and resolutions.  Perhaps the most noteworthy discussion pertained to the previously mentioned congregation that wanted to join our district already at the 2008 convention.  The ad hoc committee that examined the congregation’s constitution recommended that the congregation be accepted into membership based on the fact that the constitutional concerns had been addressed.  However, the congregation in question and two circuit pastors presented a memorial acknowledging that there were other questions surrounding the congregation’s practices, particularly in the areas of worship and outreach, and that further study and resolutions were advisable before the congregation became a member of the district.  According to this motion, which passed, a new ad hoc committee will be appointed to study the concerns about the congregation’s practices and a recommendation will be offered no later than the 2012 district convention.

Closing service

The day and the convention concluded with a closing service on site; Pastor Michael Carr (Clovis, CA) was the preacher and Pastor James Proeber (Santa Barbara, CA) was the presiding minister.  After the sermon, the reelected officers of the district presidium were installed into their offices for the next two-year term.  The service ended shortly before 12:30 p.m., bringing the convention to its conclusion.



  1. “model excellence in Lutheran worship” — That’s what we’re supposed to do? Good thing I didn’t know that when I was just interim worship coordinator for the North Atlantic; now that I’ve been duly elected coordinator I guess I’d better get crackin’! 🙂

    Or maybe I’ll just have you do all our worship planning for us? 😉

  2. I think the North Atlantic District made a fine choice for its worship coordinator, Pastor Samelson! And I will gladly share anything we do out here with you. Blessings on your new area of service to our synod!


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