Convention Notes from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Editor's Note: This information has been compiled from official information and reports coming out of the WELS convention. The reporter was not on site to observe the convention.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) held its biennial convention on the week of July 29–August 1. The convention was held at Martin Luther College, the synod's pre-seminary and teacher training college in New Ulm, Minnesota. The convention establishes programs, fiscal policies and goals, and broadly directs the synod's ministry and outreach plans.

According to pre-convention memoranda and news, this convention has several major issues before it in addition to its regular business and duties, but by far the issue that has generated the most interest and discussion is on the matter of which English Bible translation—if any—should be adopted for use by the synod particularly in its publications and educational resources.

The NIV 1984, the official Bible translation currently used in WELS publications, is being phased out and replaced with a new version, the "NIV 2011." A WELS' "Translation Evaluation Committee" (TEV) was created to research the NIV 2011. The same committee has also researched many other versions, including the English Standard Version (ESV) and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

In the report it prepared for the convention, the TEV outlined two options that it sees for deciding which Bible translation to use in WELS publications going forward. Option 1: WELS adopts NIV 2011 for use in materials produced by Northwestern Publishing House. Option 2: WELS does not adopt a single Bible version for use in its publications at this time. NPH uses whichever version of these three (ESV, HCSB, NIV 2011) seems best for the passage cited and the publication in which the biblical text will appear ("eclectic approach").

The 2011 convention also resolved that, as a possible alternative, the synod should consider producing a new translation by Lutherans. A "Translation Feasibility Committee" (TFC) was created to research the legal, technical, and economic feasibility of WELS creating a confessional Lutheran translation of the Bible and/or producing a study Bible with notes to accompany the translation that WELS chooses to use in its publications.

The report that the TFC submitted for the 2013 convention concludes, "Perhaps the question should not be, 'Can we do it?' but, 'Must we do it?' If the people of our synod believe that there is no existing translation of the Bible that can serve our preaching, teaching, and publishing needs, then we'd trust that the Lord would help us find the resources and overcome the obstacles to carry out what is sure to be a very challenging project. But if an existing translation or translations can serve our needs, it would save the time and expense, not to mention the potential disruption to our ministerial education system, to use an existing translation."