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Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Christ’s love, which he demonstrated by his perfect life and by his suffering and death on the cross, is the foundation for our relationship with God, the focus of our faith, and the motivation for all we do as Christians. In that same love for sinners Christ not only lived and died to set us free from sin and guilt, but he also rose again in victory on the first Easter Sunday, assuring us that his victory is our victory and that his resurrection is our resurrection. Saved by his grace alone, we look forward to his glorious return as we proclaim the good news of what his love has accomplished.


LEADERSHIP

Although each of WELS' more than 1,200 congregations has its own spiritual leader (or pastor), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) also is united together into a worldwide organization that allows congregations to work together on joint ministries, including training pastors, teachers, and staff ministers; sending out missionaries in the United States and the world; and producing materials.

The synod in convention is the legislative body that determines the direction the organization should head to fulfill its mission of making disciples throughout the world, using the gospel in Word and sacrament to win the lost for Christ, and nurturing fellow believers for lives of Christian service. Representatives from each of the synod's 12 districts meet every other year to set the course for upcoming ministry.

The synod president is responsible for carrying out that ministry plan. Two leadership groups help the synod president. The Conference of Presidents funds and communicates that ministry plan as well as makes sure that WELS stays united in its teachings and practices. The Synodical Council is responsible for managing the activities of the synod, including coordinating ministries and determining a budget.











Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Center for Mission and Ministry

National Headquarters

At the national headquarters of WELS in Milwaukee, Wis., different boards and commissions coordinate various areas of ministry work. For example, WELS has both a Board for Home Missions and a Board for World Missions to help us reach out with Christ's love in new places around the United States and the world. The Board for Ministerial Education oversees the training of pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. The Congregation and Ministry Support Group helps WELS congregations by conducting workshops and conferences, producing materials, and offering advice. Various other groups support this work in the areas of technology, finance, communication, and gifting. More than 100 people work out of the national office.

Laypeople, pastors, teachers, and staff ministers from around the synod participate in this national work as board or commission members. They meet periodically—either in person or through teleconference—to discuss direction and goals for each area.

Four separately incorporated subsidiaries—WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc.; WELS Foundation; WELS Investment Funds, Inc.; and Northwestern Publishing House—work closely with WELS to provide resources necessary to carry out ministry work. Additionally, WELS Benefit Plans addresses the retirement and health care needs of both called and hired workers.


OUR HISTORY

"As we celebrate [our] past history, we note how the Lord has gathered us together and guided us. We may be a small gathering of believers by the world's standards. Even in comparison with other church bodies, we are small. . . . Yet we share a commitment to be faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. God gathered us to work together and blessed the faithful efforts of all those who have gone before us. We remain together to work as brothers and sisters in Christ and to proclaim the wonders of God's grace to all the world" (Together in Christ: A History of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, p. 54).


TIMELINE

1828
United Rhine Mission Society formed in Germany

1837
German mission society sends John Muehlhaeuser to serve in North America

1848
Muehlhaeuser moves from New York to Wisconsin

1850
First meeting of the new Wisconsin Synod at Granville church with Muehlhaeuser as president

1858
Synod numbers: 17 pastors
16 parish schools 
7 Sunday schools 
3 teachers

1860
John Bading becomes new synod president

1865
Seminary building dedicated in Watertown 
Synod periodical Gemeinde-Blatt appears
1868
Synod severs ties with Germany to become more Lutheran

1871
Minnesota Synod withdraws from General Council and moves to closer ties with Wisconsin Synod

1872
Ohio, Missouri, Norwegian, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota Synods hold first convention of Synodical Conference

1866
J. M. Hoeckendorf's congregation of 125 Lutherans moves to Nebraska

1878
Relocated seminary begins at 13th and Vine in Milwaukee with six students

1892
Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Synods form federation called Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States

1893
Federation adopts Apache mission effort as its world mission project

1914
English Northwestern Lutheran begins publication

1917
Merger of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Nebraska all becoming districts of Wisconsin Synod

1919
Merged synod numbers: 127,000 communicants spread throughout 698 congregations

1926
Winnebago Lutheran Academy established

1929
New home for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary dedicated


1930
Synod enters debt and financial hardship—mission work suffers

1933
Synod elects John Brenner as president

1935
Synod resolves to retire debt

1939
Subscribers to English Northwestern Lutheran outnumber those to German Gemeinde-Blatt
Synod protests LCMS ties with ALC

1949
Synod sends exploratory team to Africa

1950
First synod services in California

1952
Missionary sent to Japan

1953
Missionary team arrives in Zambia

1954
Arizona-California District added to synod

1955
First synod services in Florida

1959
Synod officially becomes Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

1961
Synod resolves to break with LCMS

1973
South Atlantic District added to synod

1983
North Atlantic District added to synod
South Central District added to synod

1995
Martin Luther College begins in New Ulm and Luther Preparatory Schools begins in Watertown


From Together in Christ: A History of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod © 2000 Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee WI. All rights reserved.

Preaching Christ Crucified! ~ 1 Corinthians 1:23