Last Thursday, as they have for many years, Rostered Ministers of the Northeastern Iowa Synod gathered at Nazareth Lutheran for a time of learning, worship, fellowship and renewal.  Bishop Ullestad remembers that when he first proposed this idea, there was some resistance to asking church leaders to take time out during Lent.  Even now occasionally someone new will ask “Don’t you know this is Lent?”

“Yes, it is because it is Lent,” the Bishop replies.

“The Day of Renewal provides rostered ministers in our synod a day to step away from the hurried pace of Lenten schedules and responsibilities to be refreshed.”

Now most leaders in the synod recognize the value of this day and come if they can.


This year the learning was on Philip Melanchthon, the Reformer we are focusing on this year as we lift up Education and its role in Renewal.  The Rev. Dr.  Martin J. Lohrman, Assistant Professor of Lutheran Confessions and Heritage at Wartburg Theological Seminary gave two presentations, “Melanchthon the Church Leader,” and “Reading the Bible with Melanchthon.”


Melanchthon is often ignored at best and disparaged at worst because he was a more thoughtful, careful thinker and less “colorful” than Luther.  However, his contributions to the Reformation cannot be overstated.

Philip Melanchthon was an effective, gospel-centered church leader, who blended courage and wisdom in public service and fostered faith, freedom and accountability as a teacher and reformer.


The session on Reading the Bible with Melanchthon began with the influence of Humanism on how Reformers read the Bible.  Humanists of the 1400s & 1500s focused on “good literature” and studied literary devices like plot, style, theme, knowledge and application.  The reformers asked what if we bring these classic literary tools to our Bible reading.

The Bible wants to persuade hearts and minds about the gospel.

When we approach Romans, we understand that Paul knew classical rules of rhetoric, particularly persuasion, and used them in his letters.  Paul is writing to persuade his hearers.   In fact, the whole Bible can be seen as Persuasive Literature.   .  This is how Melanchthon and the reformers looked at scripture.  They expected reading the Bible to change the reader.   When you approach the text, ask yourself what does it want to persuade you?



We also got to hear from the Bishop Ullestad about what is going on in the synod and the ELCA.  Of particular concern is how few seminary graduates are available this year.  There are fewer and fewer students every year.  The good news is that the Northeastern Iowa Synod is doing a good job in encouraging leaders.  Our synod has more students in seminary now than any other synod.



The day ended with Worship and Pastor Steve Brackett preaching on the very topics touched on in our presentations.


Other highlights included lunch with the seniors at Nazareth and singing hymns with them, as well as time for rostered leaders from around the synod to reconnect.

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Download an outline of Dr. Lohrman’s Presentation


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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