Faith Related Q and A

» Will a WELS pastor marry, in a WELS church, a WELS member and a person who belongs to a different Christian church?
Yes, our pastors can officiate at weddings in the scenario you described. Our pastors would especially look forward to offering pre-marital counseling to the individuals planning to be married, involving them in discussions on, among other topics, the challenges that their different church affiliations can bring to their marriage. If you have more specific questions, please contact one of our pastors.

» In the Old Testament it doesn't seem clear to me that there is a heaven and hell as distinctly referred to in the New Testament. The Old Testament refers to the dead going down to the pit and it is described almost as a place of nothingness or non-life. It also doesn't seem like heaven is the clear goal as it does in the New Testament. Can you share some insight on this please?
You are observing correctly that, with regard to hell, the Old Testament writers used words that could mean “the grave,” “the condition of being dead” and “hell.” The immediate context determines how the words are best translated. Old Testament writers clearly taught that people who rejected the only true God and the Messiah he promised would experience God’s eternal wrath (Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 12:2). At the same time, Old Testament writers spoke of people enjoying God’s eternal blessings through faith in him. The writers described heaven in different ways: being at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11), dwelling in the house of the Lord (Psalm 23:6), being with God in glory (Psalm 73:24), a place of joy (Isaiah 26:19) and the enjoyment of everlasting life (Daniel 12:1-3), for example. Heaven was definitely a clear goal in Old Testament times: on God’s part and on the part of his followers. Consider how God, through the prophet Ezekiel, passionately and repeatedly expressed his desire to bless people with life rather than punish them for their sins (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11). Think of how Job “yearned” to see God after he died (Job 19:25-27). Because of the unity of Scripture, you and I can see God’s teaching about heaven and hell in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. If you are interested in reading more explanations on these topics, Northwestern Publishing offers a book that is appropriately titled Heaven and Hell: Eternal Life, Eternal Punishment.

» My relative has asked me to officiate their wedding, which I am really excited about doing for them. However, becoming certified to officiate a wedding has made me nervous as all I've seen are some online free options that don't seem to align with WELS. Does WELS offer anything to certify someone to officiate a wedding without being a pastor? Or would it be considered that I agree with all of the denomination's practices if I became certified through them?
WELS does not offer certification to enable individuals to officiate at weddings. Since governments regulate marriage, governments also stipulate who can—as agents of the government—officiate at weddings. Regulations vary from state to state. Ordination is not always a requirement. You will want to find out the requirements of the state in which you live. Your concerns about the implications of being certified through an online ordination agency are valid. In short, online ordination is a caricature of what ordination really is. If you were to take the place of an ordained pastor in officiating at the wedding of your relative, I wonder who would provide biblical pre-marital counseling for the prospective bride and groom. That counseling is so very important. Your pastor can provide guidance in this matter.

» How do I submit a song for the hymnal? (If you are still looking.) Thanks.
Submissions are still being received at this time. It is anticipated that submissions will no longer be received sometime this summer or early fall. This link will take you to the WELS Hymnal Project web site. Once there, look for the “Public Submissions” option. Be sure to look at the top of the home page for more information on the hymnal project.

» 2 Peter speaks about the new heaven and new earth. What does that mean exactly? I understand that the earth will be destroyed, but a new heaven too?
What will be helpful is understanding that “heaven” can also be translated as “sky.” Cf. Genesis 1:1. It might be beneficial to read a column in Forward in Christ that addressed a question like yours. This link will take you to that column. Your question about the future is an encouragement for us to look forward with joy and confidence to the eternal home God has promised us!

» Why do some pastors get a call so frequently? They get a call, turn it down, and then get another one like 4-6 months later? Seems to be too frequent.
From a human perspective, pastors might receive calls frequently for a number of related reasons. They might be known for their God-given gifts and their faithfulness in using them. They might be blessed with a good reputation in the church. They might offer more visible service to the church at-large, so that others—beyond the members of the congregation they serve—are familiar with them and their ministries. Numerous other factors can enter into the equation as well. Your observation of the time frame of receiving calls approximates the practice of the Conference of Presidents. The general practice of the Conference of Presidents is that if a pastor has declined a call, he will not be eligible to receive another call for approximately six months. There can be exceptions, such as a pastor receiving a call to serve in a different type of ministry (a non-parish setting, for example). We make policies like these in Christian freedom, but at the same time we strive to maintain good order in the church (1 Corinthians 14:40). I can assure you that receiving a call to serve elsewhere can be an unsettling time in life. Then again, receiving a call to serve elsewhere provides a good opportunity for a pastor to evaluate his gifts and ministry, and prayerfully determine where those gifts can best be used at that time in life. Pastors, and other called workers, who are deliberating calls put great value in the prayers of fellow Christians. So when your pastor receives a call, pray that God would enable him to see clearly where he can best serve. Pray also that he will be at peace with the decision he makes. And if declines the call and receives another call some time later, offer similar prayers.

» Professor Pope wrote in FIC this month teaching about Christ's time in the tomb. He said that Christ's soul went to heaven (paradise) immediately upon his death, while the corporeal body went into the grave. However, in the Creeds that we repeat every service we state that Christ descended into hell. The Small Catechism, section 143, also teaches the Jesus went to hell. My question boils down to which teaching is correct? Both use the Scripture as supporting their statement. I am quite confused now though I thought I actually knew something. Please expound on the teaching.
What I wrote in the Forward in Christ column and what we speak in the Creed are not at odds. Let me explain. Death is the separation of body and soul (Ecclesiastes 12:7). When Jesus died, his body remained on earth, while his soul went to heaven (Luke 23:46). The same was true for the penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). On Easter Sunday morning Jesus’ body and soul were reunited in Joseph’s tomb. The Lord—body and soul—then descended into hell to declare his victory over Satan and his forces (1 Peter 3:18-20). After that, the risen Lord appeared to people here on earth. The wording of the Apostles’ Creed can make it seem like Jesus descended into hell before his body and soul were reunited. When the Creed states that Jesus “descended into hell,” it is doing so on the basis that Jesus’ body and soul had already been reunited in the tomb. When the Creed states that Jesus “rose again from the dead,” it is referring to Jesus’ appearances to people on earth. When we speak the words of the Apostles’ Creed, we do not mean to say that Jesus descended into hell immediately after his death and burial. I hope this explanation removes some of the confusion.

» In the new heaven and new earth, who lives where?
Your question is referencing Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; and Revelation 21:1. The Bible tells us that God is preparing a wonderful, perfect eternity for us, but does not get into specifics like your question is seeking. The most important part of our eternity is that we will spend it with God. He guarantees that. Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). We will leave the details of our eternity with God in his hands, knowing and trusting that we will be the recipients of his lavish love forever (cf. Revelation 21 and 22). If you are interested, this link will take you to an article in Forward in Christ that addressed a question similar to yours.

» Could you please provide me with some insight or explanation on Revelation 4:1-11? Thank you!
While there are many details in Revelation chapter four—some of which are easier to understand than others—the overall meaning is that the apostle John was describing a vision of heaven that God granted him. In the vision, John witnessed the majesty of God in heaven. He saw the faithful people of God standing in the presence of God. He observed God’s creation giving continual, perfect praise to the Triune God. It is a magnificent scene that John describes! The wonderful thing is that you and I are not limited to reading about John’s description of heaven. Because you and I also have the promise of Revelation 2:10 (“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”), we can count on being in God’s presence when this life ends. That is because all of God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

» I was baptized and confirmed in the ELCA. I have recently become engaged to my fiancee, and she is WELS. She graduated from Martin Luther College and is now a called synod worker. I have heard from many that she is "at risk" for dating and getting engaged to someone who is not WELS and could lose her job. Is this true? I don't want her to lose her job because of me, but I am also "stuck in my ways."
If your fiancée were a student at Martin Luther College (MLC), her engagement to you would delay any assignment until the fellowship situation was resolved. That is the practice, in Christian freedom, that our church body has adopted. We have no general policy regarding single graduates from MLC who become engaged and marry while serving as teachers in our congregations and schools. Situations like that are congregational matters. Teachers contemplating marriage plans to individuals outside our fellowship will want to communicate such plans to the leadership of their calling body and perhaps also with their district president. I wish you both well!

WELS Q&A are topics that are submitted to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website.  The articles here are an automatic feed from the wels.net Q&A website.  Even though we may not have generated this contect, we are in fellowship with the WELS and generally subscribe to the beliefs of the breatheryn in the synod generating these answers.

...yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ... ~ Galatians 2:16