What’s in a name?

Pastor Wade Mobley
President, Free Lutheran Schools

The AFLC Annual Conference grows on you. The original intent of the Conference was to be the “spiritual powerhouse” of our Association, said early Lutheran Free Church leader Georg Sverdrup. No matter how it is packaged, though, it looks a whole lot like a business meeting, which, because we are a free association and not a synod, is largely non-binding.

[editorial note: for more on the history of the Lutheran Free Church click here]

Annual Conference is anything but “business as usual.” Any member of an AFLC congregation can attend and vote, as can anyone who contacts the Coordinating Committee in advance to certify that they are a “like-minded Lutheran.” Nobody actually does that, but the fact that a nonmember can attend AND vote is unique in my experience.

It is difficult to invite new people to Annual Conference, as it takes a week of vacation time and a couple thousand dollars to make the trip. That said, lay member participation is essential to the future of the AFLC. So I’ll declare it for all to see: I LOVE Annual Conference, and want more people to attend.

This year’s conference was held in Eastern Pennsylvania, far from the vast majority of our congregations. Travel was difficult and expensive, but I am happy to report relatively good attendance. The retreat center was amazing, the location surrounded by rich history, and the hospitality from local congregations warm and welcoming. I hope we hold Conference there again. My only regret was that family commitments kept my wife and children from attending.

Annual Conference also provides the venue for the annual meeting of the AFLC Schools Corporation. Despite the remote location, the Schools Corporation had a quorum to conduct business. Pastor Kirk Thorson, of Sioux Falls, SD, is a good leader. He led us through necessary business in a directed manner that left room for discussion but never felt like were tarrying or rushing.

The big news coming out of the Schools Corporation meeting was a new name for our institution. We will now be known as “Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary.” We will spend the next year in a rebranding effort, and much of our promotion will be program-specific, so you will see “Free Lutheran Schools,” “Free Lutheran Bible College,” and “Free Lutheran Seminary,” depending on application. We are waiting for approval for a web site domain change, so you will hear more in the months to come.

We know that the name change is scary for some. Some point to past institutions who shifted from their Biblical focus, then changed their name and moved into obscurity. We aren’t planning to do any of that, and I hasten to point out that all of those institutions lost their theology and Scriptural identity before their name change, not after.

We think that the new name communicates who we are and what we do to a broader audience, while at the same time causing no additional confusion to our long-time supporters and alumni. We are a two-year, college-level school of the Bible and a four-year pastoral training program, all affiliated with the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, while at the same time serving some who live and serve outside the AFLC.

I think you will like the results of the name change. Please pray for your Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary. Classes- with a new group of first-year students- are just around the corner.

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