From the Desk of the District President…
LSSND as RSO of the LCMS
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are like me, you do not care for acronyms. And here I title this article with acronyms. Please forgive me!
Acronyms do make for easier writing and reading if you can keep the acronyms straight in your head as you write and read. (LSSND) stands for Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. (RSO) stands for Recognized Service Organization. (LCMS) stands for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Therefore, the title means: Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota as a Recognized Service Organization of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
This is the definition of an RSO from the LCMS website: “To extend its mission outreach, education and social ministry, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod works with independent Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) that agree to ensure their programs are in harmony with the doctrine and practice of the LCMS.” And: “Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) are 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations that are independent of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, but they operate ministry programs that foster the mission and ministry of the church. RSO organizations reach out in mercy and love to meet the needs of those who are suffering, poor, sick or lonely. They address human, social, economic, educational, and spiritual needs.”
Now, to the point of this article: The North Dakota District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod HAS BEEN (notice: the past tense; more about this later) working in conjunction with Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota for decades. A little of the history (that I know) of that partnership is that a former district president was the chairman of the board of directors of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. Also, a former business manager for the district and a district pastor were quite involved with the housing portion of LSSND.
The Board of Directors (BOD) for LSSND is comprised of the bishop and two members from the East Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) of North Dakota, the bishop and two members of the West Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) of North Dakota, and the District President (or his appointment) and one member of the North Dakota District of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Therefore, the West ELCA had three (3) BOD members, the East ELCA had three (3) BOD members, and the LCMS North Dakota District had two (2) BOD members.
Now, for the HAS BEEN: The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s Recognized Service Organization requirements are that we have an equal voice on the board of directors of an RSO. Therefore, LSSND was being asked to add another LCMS member to its board. That was causing some strife to the LSSND BOD because of the lack of financial support from the LCMS members and churches. The East and West ELCA churches and its members contributed $510,546 in the 2016-2017 year and the LCMS in the same year contributed $7082. What I saw was that even with strong participation on the BOD of LSSND by influential members of the ND District LCMS over the years our financial support was low; thus telling me that our congregations, members, and pastors were not in support of this and it wasn’t fair to LSSND for us to expect more BOD participation.
Next, dealing with some theological issues: LSSND stated that they are supportive of life and of husband and wife (male and female) and do not encourage abortion or same-sex adoption. However, they do take government funding and have to offer those services if they are asked.
Also, there has been discussion “to leave open the concept of embracing our full communion partners (defined as “those denominations the ELCA develops a relationship with based on a common confessing of the Christian Faith and a mutual recognition of Baptism and sharing of the Lord’s Supper”) to work together on projects of mutual interest and concern. *Full communion partners of the ELCA are: Presbyterian Church (USA); Reformed Church in America; United Church of Christ; Episcopal Church; Moravian Church, United Methodist Church” (LSSND BOD Faith and Public Life Committee-Minutes, April 12, 2018).
For the reasons stated above the North Dakota District of the LCMS is no longer involved with LSSND and LSSND has decided not to continue as an RSO of the LCMS.
This does not mean that we do not continue to reach out in mercy and love to meet the needs of those who are suffering, poor, sick or lonely and address human, social, economic, educational, and spiritual needs. We may continue to do this by support of LCMS World Relief, LCMS Disaster Response, individually reaching out to the neighbor in need, and support of our district missions (UND and NDSU Campus Ministry, Watford City Church start, Christ Care for Kenya Children, and Chile Mission support) who deliver God’s Word and Sacraments for spiritual needs.
This has been an article to inform you, and I leave you with these Words of God: From John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” And Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Arie Bertsch
Why do we have baptisms during church service and why is the Baptismal Font front and center?
Whenever possible, baptisms should take place in the regular worship service of the congregation. The child is being baptized into the family of Christ, of which the congregation is, and it only makes sense to have as many of the family members present as possible to witness this special event. Through baptism, the child is now a member of the congregation and the congregation’s care, prayers, and support are a valuable resource for the future of this member remaining a member.
When private baptisms become a norm in a church, the congregation is robbed of the privilege of celebrating the event, and the child is robbed of the prayers, concern, and promise of a committed church.
A congregation, along with the sponsors and parents, are making a pledge and promise to see to it that this child is brought to church to know, trust, and believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, of which this child is baptized into (Romans 6:3-5). Usually, this bringing to the church first falls on the responsibility of the parents, then the sponsors, and finally on the congregation.
Baptism is not magic. It is a gift from God. In baptism, God gives the Holy Spirit which plants the seed of faith. God then assigns the parents, the sponsors, and the congregation the task of being good gardeners. They are to nurture and water the seed of faith.
To every congregation, God is saying: “Take care of this precious gift. Do everything in your power to see that he/she grows up to know My love!” The congregation, which is made up of individuals, is especially promising, to the best of its ability, to furnish training through the continuing of the church for Worship Service, Sunday School, Confirmation, and Bible Studies. This is a commitment of individual people as a whole to support the church financially and in service for the furthering of God’s kingdom.
Concerning the second part of the question, the furnishings of a church state the theology of the church. The theology of a church is what it believes, teaches, and confesses. Baptism is a very central part of God’s grace on us. It is a gift and God’s work on us. The saving Gospel is never what we do but what God has done for us. In baptism, God has given us faith and connected us with Jesus death and resurrection. That means that we cannot die and we will be raised from the grave. What is more central than this for your salvation? Nothing!
My hope and prayer for you is that you continue to grow in the faith of Jesus Christ in whom you have been baptized and that it is ever front and center in your lives.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Arie D. Bertsch
ND District President
Every Tongue Confess
Some have asked, “What do you do as district president?” Now I didn’t take it to mean that I am doing nothing; but rather, that they had no idea what it is that I do. Well, I believe that Philippians 2:9-10 sums it up pretty accurately. It reads, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The North Dakota District pastors and congregations have called me to oversee that the ministry here in the North Dakota District of the LCMS is working towards “every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Therefore, I visit and encourage the pastors and the congregations that “every tongue is confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That is done by listening to the pastors teach and preach and seeing how the congregations are responding to that preaching and teaching.
Also, I do ordinations and installations of the pastors and commissioned workers (that God has called through the body of Christ, the congregations) to serve His people.
Another part of my position is to see that what has been decided in convention (through resolutions) is accomplished. This is half of my work. For, our district congregations and pastors have stated that we want to support missions, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Our missions to accomplish this every tongue confessing entail the campus ministries of UND and NDSU, aid to students entering church work, the mission start in Watford City, Care of Kenya Children, and mission support to Chile.
These missions of our district are in two different groups. One group is the ongoing ministries we have had in the district for as long as I can remember. They would be the campus ministries of UND and NDSU and aid to students entering church work. The other group is those resolutions we have recently said we would support and are the mission start in Watford City, Care of Kenya Children, and mission support to Chile.
The difficulty in supporting these ongoing and mission resolutions is that congregational giving to the district has not increased enough to meet those desires. Congregational giving has been a flat line for the past 20 years.
Therefore, I am visiting congregations to encourage the support of what it is we said we are going to do as the body of Christ here in the North Dakota District. I am guessing that many of you did not know the facts I have just laid out for you. So I am asking for all of you individually to help me see that these missions are financially aided. You can each help in accomplishing this by simply starting with yourself. Look at what you gave as you have been blessed by the Lord last year and challenge yourself to add a half-percent or one-percent to it. It will help your church and in turn, look at what it is that your church gives to the district. Are they at a set amount or a percentage? I would hope that they would be at a percentage as you are. It’s called “First-fruits giving.” You are only giving a percent of the “First-fruits” of what the Lord has blessed you with and the church also could look at increasing their percentage by a half or one percent. A one-percent increase of congregational giving would cover these missions we desire to support. Or, if you have a heart for more of one mission than another, you can still give it to the church labeled for that mission. Notice, that I am not stating that you take from your general offering to the church but rather that you challenge yourself to contribute more for these missions that we said we would support.
For your information: The district, in turn, gives of the “first-fruits” (38%) from the congregations to Synod.
Tami Ulland, (the district business manager) and her daughter Haley, along with my wife Doris and I went to Chile in May. We were able to see and observe the mission there to bring to you the importance of the work they are doing there and the reason for our support.
“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Tami and I are looking forward to coming to your congregation to do a presentation on all of this. Ask your pastor or group to call us. For as Paul writes to the Philippians prior to what I have been quoting, 2:1-8, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This was for the forgiveness of your sins, and where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation; your life and salvation.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Arie D. Bertsch
ND District President