The Church Grows Under the Cross: “Every State by ’78”
Saturday, September 7, 2019 – 10:00 AM
Leader: Professor Joel Otto
In 1961, when WELS terminated fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, there were Wisconsin Synod congregations in sixteen states. Missions had been started in Florida and California in the previous decade. World mission work had begun in Central Africa and Japan during the 1950s. But the break with the LCMS produced several crosses for the Wisconsin Synod. There were pastor and teacher shortages because of the intersynodical tensions. Some were concerned and even predicted that the Wisconsin Synod would not be able to go it alone without the support and partnership of the LCMS. Finances were a constant issue. Yet, by 1983, WELS had a presence in all fifty states. The battle cry, “Every State by ’78,” served as a goal for WELS home mission expansion over the course of two decades. This presentation will examine how the synod dealt with the crosses and, under God’s blessings, carried out a remarkable home mission expansion program during this timeframe.
Professor Joel Otto recently completed his master’s thesis, “The Church Grows under the Cross: Mission Expansion in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1929-1983.” This presentation is the topic of one of the chapters of this thesis. Professor Otto teaches church history and education at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and serves as the Dean of Students. He is also a member of the WELS Historical Institute board.